Darwinian Reincarnation

My paper on the evolution of reincarnation (published in the Journal for Near-Death Studies in the year 2000) is online.  If I had it to write it again now, I would do it differently.  Many things have changed in the 12 years since it was published.

The title is: “The Structure and Function of Near-Death Experiences: an Algorithmic Reincarnation Hypothesis”.

Role of Religious and Mystic Experiences In Human Evolution

“The Role of Religious and Mystic Experiences In Human Evolution: A Corollary Hypothesis for Neurotheology” is online.  Here is the abstract:

“The adaptive value of maintaining a portion of our population subject to religious, mystic or spiritual experiences is discussed. An evolutionary mechanism, which may be unique to humans, is posited in which all humans have the neural pathways supporting mystic experiences, but only a small  portion of our population experiences them. Those that do will display signs and personality traits that are associated with temporal lobe electrical lability or sensitivity. These traits motivate behavior that benefits their social group. The cognitive and affective styles displayed by mystics ensure that multiple perspectives are expressed during collective decision‐making processes. The perspectives mystics offer their societies increase the variation within the human “ideational pool”. These perspectives improve their chances for advantageous choices in times of threats or opportunities. Such an adaptation, producing variety in problem‐solving skills, might be the source for the exceptionally wide range of personality types found within our species.”

Spiritually-inclined people think differently than others, and their unique ways of seeing things ensures that there were always a few people in each of our early social groups that expressed a spiritual perspective.  The article also says that there are two primary drivers for spiritual experiences – the left amygdala and the right hippocampus.  The left amygdala is more social, confident and ‘outward’ in its functions, and when it’s exceptionally excitable in a person, they are more likely to see things that way.  When the right hippocampus is more excitable, the person will be more introspective, cautious, and given to solitude.  The personality types that arise from these two structures may not fit into the ‘personality types’ modern psychology recognizes, but the behaviors they facilitate will certainly have played a role in our evolution.

This article seeks to take take neurotheology beyond beyond the brain itself, and extend it into its evolution.  The experiences neurotheology explains are not enough – the evolution of the brain, along with its capacity for spiritual experiences, has a place, too.  Neurotheology is a new field, and this article is an attempt to bring a touch of evolutionary thinking into it.