November 12th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Keep government out of mind-reading business

Editor's Note: Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D., is director of Emory University’s Center for Ethics.

By Paul Root Wolpe, Special to CNN

(CNN) - “My thoughts, they roam freely. Who can ever guess them?”

So goes an old German folk song. But imagine living in a world where someone can guess your thoughts, or even know them for certain. A world where science can reach into the deep recesses of your brain and pull out information that you thought was private and inaccessible.

Would that worry you?

If so, then start worrying. The age of mind reading is upon us.

Neuroscience is advancing so rapidly that, under certain conditions, scientists can use sophisticated brain imaging technology to scan your brain and determine whether you can read a particular language, what word you are thinking of, even what you are dreaming about while you are asleep.

The research is still new, and the kinds of information scientists can find through brain imaging are still simple. But the recent pace of progress in neuroscience has been startling and new studies are being published all the time.

In one experiment, researchers at Carnegie Mellon looked at images of people’s brains when they were thinking of some common objects – animals, body parts, tools, vegetables – and recorded which areas of their brains activated when they thought about each object.

The scientists studied patterns of brain activity while subjects thought about 58 such objects. Then they predicted what the person’s brain would look like if researchers gave them a brand new object, like “celery.”

The scientists’ predictions were surprisingly accurate.

Many scholars predicted as recently as a few years ago that we would never get this far. Now we have to ask: If we can tell what words you are thinking of, is it much longer before we will be able to read complex thoughts?

In another experiment, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, sought out a group of “lucid dreamers” - people who remain aware that they are dreaming and even maintain some control over their dreams while they sleep.

The researchers asked the subjects to clench either their right hand or left hand in their dreams, then scanned their brain while they slept. The subjects’ motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, lit up in the same manner it would if a person clenched their left hand while awake – even though the actual hand of the sleeping subjects never moved.

The images revealed that the subjects were dreaming of clenching their left fists.

Throughout human history, the inner workings of our minds were impenetrable, known only to us and, perhaps, to God. No one could see what you were thinking, or know what you were feeling, unless you chose to reveal it to them.

In fact, the idea of being able to decipher what is going on in that three pounds of grey mush between our ears seemed an impossible task even a couple of decades ago.

Now, for the first time in human history, we are peering into the labyrinth of the mind and pulling out information, perhaps even information you would rather we did not know.

Neuroscientists are actively developing technologies to create more effective lie detectors, to determine if people have been at a crime scene, or to predict who may be more likely to engage in violent crime.

As the accuracy and reliability of these experiments continue to improve, the temptation will be strong to use these techniques in counter-terrorism, in the courtroom, perhaps even at airports.

And if brain imaging for lie detection is shown to be reliable, intelligence agencies may want to use it to discover moles, employers may want to use it to screen employees, schools to uncover vandals or cheaters.

But should we allow it?

I believe not. The ability to read our thoughts threatens the last absolute bastion of privacy that we have. If my right to privacy means anything, it must mean the right to keep my innermost thoughts safe from the prying eyes of the state, the military or my employer.

My mind must remain mine alone, and my skull an inviolable zone of privacy.

Right now, our right to privacy – even the privacy of our bodies – ends when a judge issues a warrant. The court can order your house searched, your computer files exposed, and your diary read. It can also order you to submit to a blood test, take a drug screen, or to provide a DNA sample.

There is no reason, right now, that it could not also order a brain scan.

Right now, the technology is not reliable enough for the courts to order such tests. But the time is coming, and soon.

Eventually, courts will have to decide whether it is allowable to order a defendant to get a brain scan. There is even an interesting question of whether forcing me to reveal my inner thoughts through a brain scan might violate my Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

But not even a court order should be enough to violate your right to a private inner life. The musings of my mind and heart are the most precious and private possessions that I have, the one thing no one can take away from me.

Let them search my house, if they must, or take some blood, if that will help solve a case. But allowing the state to probe our minds ends even the illusion of individual liberty, and gives government power that is far too easy to abuse.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul Root Wolpe.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science • Ethics

soundoff (999 Responses)
  1. Nonimus

    The real difficulty, I would think, will be in determining reality from imagination. There are enough people already that can't make the distinction between the real world and fantasy, but as the article described there was little difference between clenching a left fist and dreaming that you're clenching a left fist.

    "You can't deny that you are thinking of bombing an airplane, because we see by your brain scan that you are."
    "But I'm only thinking about that because you are asking me about bombing a plane."
    "How convenient..."

    November 14, 2011 at 10:54 am |
  2. Tim

    The problem is, the government doesn't have the self control to stop at terrorists.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • John Richardson

      The gov't doesn't have the self-control to stop itself from BEING terroristic in many, many respects.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Bob Jones

      They will see how "usefull" this tech is and use it for other, less ethical and non-ethical things.
      They will, just wait and see.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  3. Willy

    I suppose it would be better than water boarding a terrorist to get information that could save a lot of lives. But of course , if you read a mind and find they are innocent then they deserve an apology or compensation or something. I do think the 5th admendment would apply in America.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  4. PB

    That's kind of scary, I'm not gonna lie. Such technology can be really malevolent in the wrong hands.
    But, what if you could prevent a 9/11 scale attack by using it on a captured terrorist, and without resorting to torture?

    I don't know. Once you open that can of worms, who knows what can happen. I guess I'm against it.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  5. Sangeetha

    As a neuroscientist, I can tell you that it will be decades before the government can read the minds. These tecnhnologies are excellent for research but they will never come to the point where they can actually tell what you are thinking.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Samantha

      As a futurist, I am skeptical of your ability to forsee into the future infinitely far.

      Never say "never" with just an appeal to yourself as the authority.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Nonimus

      You both have valid points.
      Reading thoughts is very complex and is still a long way off, if ever.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Willy

      If they can do such a thing then I hope they will first try to effectively cure biologically based mental illness such as Bi-polar and schizophrenia. Even I, a layman know the human brain is massively complex.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Matthew

      Which is it then, decades or never? I would file "decades" under the category of "soon".

      November 14, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Bob Jones

      I disagree with you.
      Only partially.

      We can't read thoughts NOW... but 50 years down the line? Maybe not even 50? Who knows?
      If you had asked someone 50 years ago what would be in 50 years, things now wouldn't have even been imagined by people back then.

      You can't say never. That's a recipie for failure.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  6. palintwit

    Maybe we could read Sarah Palin's mind and see what her plans are for 2016. Will she run or won't she ? Or more books, maybe. Or a new bus !!

    November 14, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • John Richardson

      First, you'll need an electron scanning microscope to locate her brain.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Nonimus

      I'm sorry, Sarah who?

      November 14, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • jay

      No need to scan your open space!

      November 14, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Bob Jones

      ...Really?..... REALLY?!

      Of all the people on this planet to brain scan.... out of EVERYONE.... you pick Sarah Palin?!
      Are you serious?

      Brainscanning Sarah Palin would be at the BOTTOM of my list. Why would I care about anything she thinks or says?
      Come on, you can pick someone FAR more interesting than Sarah Palin to peek into the mind of.
      Honestly.. I'd rather brain scan Stephen Hawking.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  7. lol

    you can read my ass you Nazi fascists

    November 14, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  8. MC in TX

    I think this is all wishful thinking. I am certain that the laws and the courts will prevent mind reading for some time when this technology matures. But as with everything else, that will only be temporary. Probably it will start with the government and the public realizing how much public safety can be enhanced by scanning the minds of potential criminals to determine their intents or past actions. Ultimately everyone will become apathetic about it as it becomes recognized that such technologies can rapidly become difficult to patrol as they proliferate. How quickly all that will occur is a question but thinking it won't happen some day is unrealistic.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Chuckles

      Self-fulfilling prophacy much? I disagree that we have to accept that fact that mind reading will become part of the environment and social fabric we live in, at least to the degree that you seem to think it will progress to. The real question I have for you is, do you agree with the minority report style way of thinking that if someone even thinks about committing a crime it's as bad as comitting the action itself? I mean, there have been times where I've had murder on my mind because of blind rage, or boredom or whatever, but I would never, repeat NEVER act on those impulses and I know that, so should I be detained for a murder that I didn't committ?

      November 14, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  9. JIm

    I agree 100%. Our mind is the only place we truely have privacy from the outside world. Once it's been violated, that privace can never return. And anyone who thinks that 'the government' will not use it for it's own purposed is sadly mistaken!

    November 14, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • The Government

      Youve already lost. We have already destroyed your mind's ability to understand when to use "it's" and "its". Its true. And we fuzzify the pertinent condolences to your fat wife.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Matthew

      Youve already lost. We have already destroyed your mind's ability to understand when to use "it's" and "its". Its true. And we fuzzify the pertinent condolences to your fat wife.

      To "The Government": Were you intentionally getting "it's" and "its" confused in your own reply as some sort of irony? The original poster used "it's" properly as a contraction of "it is." Where you should've done the same, you instead used the possessive "its". I'm guessing you were just being ignorant and, quite ironically here, arrogant in correcting someone when you were actually the one needing some better education.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Matthew

      On second look, both of you are jacked up. (((sigh)))

      November 14, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • The Government

      Matthew, we know where you live. Stop trying to look in your neighbors window. Its where we live.

      November 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Matthew

      Now I am all jacked up. Its true.

      November 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  10. Emma

    awh sheeeit, you know they got technology right now that is mind-blowing to us. they just keep a secret, like everything else.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • TR6

      That’s right! And they have the bodies of aliens in hanger 51 that they won’t admit to either and big foot is on the payroll of the CIA

      November 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • The Government

      That's Elvis in area 51. We are the aliens.

      November 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  11. Jeff B

    How about we hook the politicians up to this technology every time they talk to us. Imagine a press conference with a pol being asked a question, and we can look at his real thoughts! Things would change in Washington pretty darn quickly.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Brandi

      Haha that is a GREAT idea.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • The Government

      We're not getting enough signal strength. Turn up the electromagnets on Perry's head. Oops.

      November 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Bob Jones

      The entire field of politics would become like a ghost town if that was the case.
      Noone would apply for work there, simply put.
      It's a good way to get rid of politics though!
      Maybe that would make way for a much better system than "Government".
      Sorry "The Government", we know where you live.. and we're gonna come find you and neuter your ability to lie to people.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  12. NotOkieDokie

    When it comes to the roles and responsibilities of Government, we rightly harken back to the intentions of our founding fathers and the more perfect union they envisioned. I am confident that they would find the idea of government monitoring citizens thoughts as tyrannical, just as they did taxation imposed without representantion, and military occupation by the British. Lest we not forget that our government came together to "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare (not fund it and call it "Welfare"), and secure the blessings of LIBERTY to ourselves and our posterity..." You don't have to be a Libertarian to think monitoring peoples thoughts is absolutely crazy to suggest or pursue.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  13. Quickwhatsacoolname

    Can you read my mind yet? If you can, I don't apologize in the slightest.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  14. ok....?

    What the crap is this?

    November 14, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • I'm The Best!


      November 14, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Eliavaa


      November 14, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  15. OrionStyles

    What is missing is the context of the associated "experience" the scanner is reading.
    There is no uniform continuity on context in a brain scan between people.

    Imagine you were a toddler and your house burnt down. There would be a recessed "stress" memory later on as an adult that does not rise to the conscious level every time they see something such as the associated emergency vehicles. Yet when you put it under a brain scan. "So... can you please explain why this area of the brain lights up when we show you a police car? What did you do? We know you're guilty!" (even though you would get the same response from a fire truck or ambulance)

    These underlying stress memories are also cutting edge neuroscience, showing up in brain scans, and are proving that psychology is very shallow when it comes to getting at the root of an emotional issue. That is to say there can be some deep and buried associated memory chain that makes no sense when you approach it from "top-down" analytical point of view (think of this as working backwards to find the problem, which is what psychology does). Yet is makes perfect sense if you can see the chain of experiences from childhood to adulthood, which is something that is nearly impossible.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Chuckles

      I think you're missing the point. Clearly what we currently have wouldn't be admissable in a court of law even in the most corrupt and morally bankrupt parts of the world. Right now the most we can do is prod part of the brain with images and see what lights up. However scientists have also been able to start getting imagery from the brain as well, to project thoughts onto a screen, which implies a lot more. Instead of just saying a string of words and seeing what lights up on the brain, which tells you nothing, you would be able to say "firetruck" and then be able to project the image of a burning childhood home onto a screen. This tech is in its infancy, which is an understatement, but we've broken that barrier which means sometime in the future we can start perfecting the art of hooking a brain to a scanner and literally watch someones memory of an event.

      November 14, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • rowan48

      its not a total suprise here. theyre policing everything else. from where and who we spend our time with, to the drugs we take and the foods we eat. and we allow it. follow it as gospel. as long as no one calls the government on it , this will become gospel too.case in point, tobacco. first there were warnings o the package, then there were places you could not smoke, then the taxes, now the complete irradication of it. now there is talk of putting warnings on certain foods. how long before this follows the same path? and how long before people are given coupons to get their alloted portions of these evil foods per month? sounds like orwell to me. but lol big brother is certainly here.were watched and listened to all the time.no warrants needed. this is just another step toward total control, and were allowing it. i for one would rather be free than have this imaginary "safety" we have now.

      November 14, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Chuckles


      So I'm a little confused here. Are you angry that the government is trying to get rid of tobacco because of its harmful effects? Keep in mind that tobacco not only hurts the user, it also effects everyone else around them, and that's when it becomes a public safety concern that the government has the right to step in on. As for the dangerous foods your speaking of, all I can say is I guess you're angry that the government wants to keep its citizens healthy? We don't live in a socialist or facist state and an orwellian future isn't on the horizon because the govenment limits some freedoms. We live in a free society where if the overwhelming support or rejection of a specific law or statute is made clear, the government has to follow the will of the people or else there will be problems. Before sounding the alarm on government being big brother, think for a second how much the government actually directly effects your life and limits freedoms.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Chuckles The tobacco tax amounts to a hugely regressive tax on the poor and the money isn't cycled back into anything that would particularly improve their lives, but just flushed down the general funds toilet of states and nations that, despite levels of taxation that would make a medieval serf cringe, manage to go bankrupt w/o solving a single social issue of note.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Chuckles


      I'm not saying the tax is right or that the government is using the funds received from the tax correctly, I'm just merely stateing that we are trying to phase out tobacco use because of the effects it has on the user and the people in the immediate vincinity. Also, the government misuse of funds is no secret or big revelation, but regardless of how the governent uses funds, someone is going to be angry.

      I guess I'm slightly confused by your post and I hope you clarify, are you saying that because of the misues of the funds, we should abolish the tobacco tax, or that we should reform it? I have personally seen what the tax and smoking restrictions have done and the effect its had on my way of living so I would say that it might have been a completel success, but it has, to a degree solved a social issue. Because of the taxes and limited areas in which to smoke, I've had more than a couple of people give up cigarettes, not simply because of the health benefits but mostly because of the expense and energy it took to find a place in which to smoke especially during the hottest and coldest days.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Chuckles Sin taxes are much to be preferred over brutal prohibitions, but without clear limits on how the funds raised can be used, they are really just confiscatory taxes aimed at culturally marginalized people. You can make the internet so difficult and expensive that people will give it up and there are people who would love to do just that. It's easy to get all warm and fuzzy about taxing someone else's "sin".

      November 14, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Chuckles

      Honestly, I view specifically the tobacco tax as more than just taxing someone else sin, it's protection for me and my loved ones. Tobacco hurts more than just the user and although I agree with you on its face that sin taxes are only good in the eyes of the non-users, in this specific instance tobacco has proven to have ill effects and can cause death in non-users, which is a bigger problem. Honestly, I advocate for the legalization a lot of drugs to a certain degree. marijuana for instance I don't think should be illegal but should have the same tax as tobacco does today for the same reasons. People should have the option to do what they want with their bodies, as long as it doesn't harm others.

      I should also clarify I don't consider myself a libertarian by any means, but I can agree with them on this singular issue.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • John Richardson

      It's clear that heavy smoking and heavy exposure to second-hand smoke are significant health problems, but the data have always been ambiguous with light smoking and light exposure. The classic data that started the war on smoking showed many extra fatalities by heavy smokers at all age groups, not as many for light smokers and indeed light smokers outliving non-smokers among higher age groups. It's even clearer for the much sin-taxed alcohol. Light use of alcohol has demonstrable health benefits, but the prohibitionary inclination amongst zealots pretending to be health advocates all but stifle all discussion of it.

      Hey, I have reason to believe that I was addicted to nicotine by second hand smoke. I didn't smoke (except for a few "secret trial" cigarettes in adolescence), but my father smoked and I was exposed to a lot of smoking while in college. When I went away for a summer in Germany between my junior and senior years, I continued not to smoke but then, out of the blue, had a major nic fit that led me to walk about a mile to a train station in the middle of the night to buy cigarettes. And that started a long period of off again, on again, sometimes heavy, sometimes light smoking that ended a little over six years ago. So I do understand that the very nature of smoking makes it something that one can't completely keep to oneself. But the taxation levels considering who is still more likely to smoke and where the money goes does trouble me a lot. Puritanical self-righteousness seldom leads to great social policy and I think it'll become more and more clear over the coming years how far from totally enlightened the modern anti-smoking movement has been in many, many ways.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Chuckles


      I see you're point, but I think you're asking for the government to get to granular where it is near impossible to do so. Targetting only heavy drinkers and smokers and taxing them more rigorously seems not only near impossible to do, but doesn't address the problem, I think, as much as just an overall tax on booze and tobacco. In the end, what got you to quit smoking after the 6 year stint? I was fortunate that the only times I was around intese smoking was my grandmother, which really grossed me out and so I can never pick up a cigarette without thinking of her and grossing me out.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Chuckles Well, actually a light drinker or smoker will pay LESS tax than a heavy drinker or smoker and I suspect that for everyone who's quit either, a lot more have cut back. So far, so good. But these taxes still clobber the poor, tend not to do anything FOR the poor and have become more than high enough to inspire quite a bit of black market activity already. Just wait and see how bad it gets as governments refuse to lighten up on their own addiction to $$$ and things start rip roaring on the black market. Meanwhile, people have long been systemically misinformed on the dangers of heavy vs moderate vs light use of nicotine, tobacco and pretty much ALL drugs. How much less misery would there be if marijuana were on a par with tobacco and nicotine? Even unprocessed coca leaves have been used in moderation by indigenous people in South America without apparent horribly ill effect. It's the highly processed stuff that causes trouble,

      It may be hard to get granular, but it pays dividends.

      Anyway, the end to my smoking about 6.5 years ago was the by product of going off one antidepressant that tended to increase craving and staying on just one that, by itself, tended to decrease it dramatically. The pleasure just evaporated. I'm still off nicotine, but no longer take any antidepressants. As even my psychiatrist back then speculated, the issue of chronic depression I seemed to be suffering from turned out to an issue of chronic exhaustion due to sleep disorders that continue to challenge me, but no longer clobber me like they once did!

      November 14, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Chuckles


      There's some fault in your logic. A light smoker and drinker will in fact pay less than a heavy drinker or smoker, but not specifcally a lower tax, just less money because they buy the product less. It would be near impossible to approach each individual customer and classify them as a light or heavy drinker/smoker on each individual purchase and then tax accordingly. The only way to create an overall tax that targets users no matter how often they actually consume the product. Also, I don't think the tax is imposed specifically to help the poor and funnel money back to them. That may be a good idea, however it was created for deterrance, not to alleviate poverty.

      As for your analysis on the black market, I'm leaning towards agreeing with you, but black market items really only work for something that's prohibited, not just highly taxed, you're thinking of more grey markets that trade these products but are still quais-regulated by the overall market.

      November 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Right, strictly speaking, it's a gray market. But cigarette smuggling is already big business. IF the push towards less and less tolerance continues, however, we will have a black market that makes the current drug black market look like a minor thing. Despite this and despite the fact that the health arguments against heavy use and exposure don't extend to light use and exposure, several people in the so-called health care industry have called for a total ban. Not many, but some, and the overheated rhetoric that makes it sound as if anyone who has ever caught a whiff of a cigarette is all but doomed to the cancer ward tends to increase the odds of this society repeating the grievous mistakes it made with alcohol and then all sorts of drugs.

      You are correct that there is no tax specifically on heavy use. But it also does remain the case that the lighter your use, the lighter your tax burden, not per item, but overall.

      It's a bit credulous of you to say that the tax is meant as a deterrence, Like all taxes, it is meant first and foremost as a money grab and the lack of constraints on where the money goes and who it helps tells all. It does have some deterrent effect, I'll grant you. But government's first concern is always self-perpetuation and self-aggrandizement.

      November 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  16. Colin

    I would hate the thought of somebody reading my mind and putting me on trial. It must suck to be a Christian, given that they believe some mind-reading sky-god watches them and reads their minds every hour of every day of their entire lives, the whole time gathering evidence for their ultimate judgment at the Pearly Gates.

    Hmmm, does that sound a little more like a slight case of projected delusional paranoia than reality, or is it just me?

    November 14, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • Chris

      Delusional paranoia? I think not. What exactly is your psychological description of YOUR understanding of how our universe was created? Delusional creationism?

      November 14, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • sumday

      So many times people like you have mocked Christians and their belief in a God. It's not possible to do this or that so God couldn't possibly be real. Then as science progresses it is PROVEN that God could do everything he claimed. God can't read minds, yet science is showing that it can be done, teleportation is impossible yet science showed it was possible. As a matter of fact through entanglement a being could be on the other side of the universe and at “real time” know what is going on here, even influence thing over here. You might not want to accept or believe in "God" but that doesn't diminish the extremely likely hood that there is other life in this universe that could be (and probably is) way more intelligent than humans. Every rant against religion and God is more and more being shown/proven that scientifically those things are scientifically possible. To deny "God"/a creator is to really say there is no possibility of any other intelligent life in this universe- (now who sounds foolish?). To even admit that there is the possibility of other intelligent life in this universe would mean that you could not dismiss the possibility of a creator or God who could be all those things claimed about God.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Chuckles


      I can't even begin to count the fallcies you used in your argument to support the existance of god, but I'll begin with saying science has not dismissed the possibility of telepathy, or teleportation nor the existance of a god, thats just what your pastor has told you. Atheists on the other hand dismiss the unlikelyhood of a magical diety that is floating somewhere around space reading 7 billion minds at once. No one claimed the impossibility of telepathy, its the impossibilty of a being using natural telepathic powers to read 7 billion minds at once and have an interest in each and every one of them, saavy?

      Most atheists won't don't absolutely reject the idea that there was a creator, it'sjust highly unlikely akin to there being a real santa claus who travels around the world in a single day and delilvers presents to everyone. Sure, with theories and improbabilities santa might exist and do all that, but chance are probably not, same with the god of the bible.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ sumday
      So your god is an alien race that built humans from scratch, or maybe influenced evolution and is reading everyone's mind and influencing things through quantum entanglement? So we're basically just a big experiment? Interesting, I'd believe that before I believed in a single being living forever and creating the universe. Still no place for souls or an afterlife though.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • John Richardson

      @sumday The advances (for better or worse) of science vindicate your ridiculous mythology? Not a chance!

      November 14, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  17. Yayo

    about 90% of you commenting on this article are already part of this government study. It's called Facebook and it is a very dangerous tool. You give your thoughts and ideas to every aspect of your life without force. Trust me...Big Brother is watching and taking notes.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:24 am |
    • BNB42

      The Egyptian government study on facebook failed miserably!

      November 14, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  18. Chuckles

    After reading the article this article seems WAY to premature to be taken seriously, not to mention that it only having one reference to god, random to be tossed onto the belief blog.

    My thoughts on the matter however is that mind reading is something science is working towards and there's no reason why, if we have the technology, it shouldn't be applied in a specific situation.

    For instance, which is more likely to get a crriminal to not lie when he/she's under oath? Placing your hand on a bible and people taking your word for it, or being able to get an instant brain scan and tell if someone is thinking about something else or not. This is like a polygraph on steroids and yet I don't see anyone raising any objections about the ploygraph here.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  19. James

    Surprisingly as an Atheist this article has less to do with religion and more with Ethic's. I Fear Corporation's using this tech to help advertising more than government. Simply because government would see a push from the people Questioning The Ethics and Purpose as well as the Pit fall's and fallouts of using the technology. (Think your god we don't live in Communist Russia)

    November 14, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • TR6

      Any attempt at finding truth in a politicians mind is like searching for gold in a septic tank

      November 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  20. I'm The Best!

    This is further proof that there is no such thing as a soul. All thoughts and all decisions are contained inside your brain. Souls are not real

    November 14, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • Tim

      You're a cartoon, right?

      November 14, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      No, I'm a real boy.
      ....who has no free will and no soul, just like everyone else. And without a soul there can be no afterlife so I guess I'm also godless, just like our universe

      November 14, 2011 at 10:56 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.