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Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired for Faith, Hope, and Love Paperback


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Spiritual Evolution: How We Are Wired for Faith, Hope, and Love + Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study + Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767926587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767926584
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Vaillant believes that humans are hardwired for positive emotions and that those emotions are essential to survival as a species. Defining spirituality as a combination of love, hope, joy, forgiveness, compassion, faith, awe, and gratitude that binds people together (“Spirituality is more about us than me”), he argues that it has a biological basis. Inspired by the “relatively new” scientific disciplines of ethology (animal behavior) and neuroscience and using prayers, poetry, and song lyrics to illustrate his points, Vaillant explores the evolution of language and the development of human brain function, discusses the differences between right and left brain hemispheres, and examines the mammalian limbic system. He comments on the often exceedingly slow maturation of human culture and in the last chapter discusses the differences between religion and spirituality. Written in an accessible, jargon-free style, this is a thoughtful, compassionate, and hopeful survey of how far humanity has come and how far it still has to go on the cultural-spiritual continuum. --June Sawyers --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Praise for Spiritual Evolution

“George Vaillant is a poet, a visionary, and a scientist. This book is the culmination of a fifty-year project that revolutionized our view of human development and now may revolutionize our view of religion and spirituality.”
—Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., author of Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism

“At last—an explanation of spirituality from an evolutionary perspective that does justice to both. With his tremendous breadth of experience and personal wisdom, George Vaillant is the perfect spiritual and scientific guide.”
—David Sloan Wilson, author of Darwin's Cathedral

"More than a scientific defense of faith, George Vaillant's book is a moving account of his own intellectual quest, through science, for a spiritual view of human evolution and experience. Clearly a labor of love and a needed antidote to recent attacks on religion. An important book."
—Melvin Konner, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Tangled Wing

Spiritual Evolution is a truly outstanding book, an exquisite weaving of science and spirituality focused on the positive emotions. The result is a wonderful synthesis of material leading to a compassionate and empowering conclusion about the future of humanity. A must-read for everyone who has considered the intersection between spirituality and the human person.”
—Andrew Newberg, coauthor of Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief

“In this inspirational and scientifically brilliant essay on human nature, Dr. Vaillant defends the love, hope, joy, compassion, awe, forgiveness, and faith that together form our naturally evolved spiritual essence—an essence enlivened by religion at its best, and distorted by religion at its worst. He draws on a lifetime of heralded literary, scientific, spiritual, and medical insight to write the one prescription that can dispel our shadows of confusion and help heal the world.”
—Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., coauthor of Why Good Things Happen to Good People

“With uncommon lucidity, balance, and scholarship, George Vaillant draws brilliantly from neurobiology, social science, human developmental psychology, and the wisdom of the great writers and thinkers to clarify and illuminate the positive emotions such as love, compassion, and altruism that elevate humankind and may yet save it.”
—Irvin Yalom, M.D., author of Love’s Executioner

More About the Author

George E. Vaillant, M.D., is a psychoanalyst and a research psychiatrist, one of the pioneers in the study of adult development. He is a professor at Harvard University and directed Harvard's Study of Adult Development for thirty-five years. He is the author of Aging Well, Triumphs of Experience and The Natural History of Alcoholism, and his 1977 book, Adaptation to Life, is a classic text in the study of adult development. He lives in Orange California, but works part time at Massachusetts GenealHospital.

Customer Reviews

Excellant book on theories of spirituality.
Autumn Silverwolf
If you want to read just one good book about spirituality, I highly recommend George Valliant's (2008) Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith.
Dale Floody
I'm doing a report on this book for a collge paper.
matthew

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By William Clark on October 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you are ready to explore new discoveries connecting spirituality and neuroscience, and have an expert collect them, summarize them and make them not only readable but meaningful, read this book.
As the jacket cover of this terrific book says, "Dr. Vaillant lays out a brilliant defense not of organized religion, but of man's inherent spirituality." He finds that the positive emotions of love, joy, hope and forgiveness are rooted in the evolution of the human brain. He predicts that our spiritual evolution will continue, and quotes published research in neuroscience and related fields that support this idea.
His writing is informative, clever and witty, filled with humanity, compassion, and the wisdom of a scholar with a deep commitment to understanding how the tapestries of human connection and spirituality are interwoven.
He is justifiably well-known for scholarly publications derived from his direction of the Harvard study of adult development for 35 years, his work in alcoholism, and his willingness to integrate diverse points of view.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Intuition_Gal on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Here is what will happen to you when you read George Vaillant's Spiritual Evolution:
* During the chapter "Joy," you may cry as you feel Joy. During the chapter "Love," you will want to call home to say Hi.
* You will be pulled in by personal stories from the Study of Adult Development, and how these men have come around to positive emotions and spirituality.
* You will be inside a colossal head fake - a situation in which you're learning but it seems like you're playing.

In Spiritual Evolution, Vaillant does something amazing: he makes the reader feel the emotion in the chapter about that emotion - Joy, Love, Compassion, Awe, and more. Imagine having a book in which you could reach for the emotion Joy just by opening that chapter again. This is the psychoanalyst at his best - he has bottled the emotions. Furthermore, he's bottled them by connecting your curiosity about how the mind works with your love for Emily Dickinson. It's the best kind of learning when it feels like play. Imagine having a book that you open up, and Vaillant on the other side says, "Let's play."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. J. Cronlund on October 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Spiritual Evolution is really a book about what binds us together. Religions have historically done some great things, but have also spread violence and segregation in the name of truth. Vaillant's heart-filled and wise book addresses what is universally good and true about all spiritual practice, and does so in a way that will inspire you to spread love, joy, and forgiveness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dale Floody on May 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to read just one good book about spirituality, I highly recommend George Valliant's (2008) Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith. Vaillant is a research psychiatrist (which means the book is crammed with neurobiology) and directed Harvard's Study of Adult Development for 35 years. His conception of spirituality revolves around the eight positive emotions that involve human connection. He argues throughout that prosocial behavior is part and parcel of natural selection, that positive emotions both promote and follow prosocial behavior, and that this process occurs in the limbic and parasympathetic systems and the amygdala (rather than in conscious, cognitive thought processes), and that humanity is moving (from an evolutionary perspective) in the direction of greater spiritual (prosocial) interaction.

Vaillant would argue that spirituality defies rational, cognitive description. Vaillant's final chapter, entitled "The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality", is primarily a fascinating discussion of Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA"), which he concludes is mostly a spiritual rather than a religious program. AA certainly has its detractors, but it has also helped an awful lot of people to maintain sobriety, and Vaillant's discussion of the spiritual aspect of the program was most interesting. Given my emphasis on the importance of humor, I was also pleased to note his comment that AA meetings tend to be filled with laughter and humor (although, beneath it all there is a "deadly seriousness"). Excellent book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Eduardo Perez on January 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I finished my reading and this is really an amazing book, for it states in one place many things about spirituality and positive emotions that you may have heard about here and there or seem to be intuitive, but are not linked to any formal scientific knowledge. Here you may the links that were missing, or at least the first step to bring spirituality, positive emotions and science closer together.
It puts in black and white many ideas about religion and spirituality. I think the last chapter is the best, but you will not feel it if you have not read the other ones.
It's always good to read and meditate about positive emotions, it helps in keeping them alive! Useful for my spiritual journey. Helps understanding goals and means.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Beth DeRoos HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The book is a wonderful example thanks to the author, that when one studies people from around the world, even if they are of a different belief or religion there are things that they all have in common. This is NOT about religion, far from it. The author writes so well about how cultures have evolved and as wisdom is discovered and put into place that history itself changes.

And we are reminded that religion often if not always, requires some 'leader' or dogma, whereas a universal spirituality can be as simple as sitting on a mountain top and sensing something bigger than ourselves, with no name, has created or allowed all we see to be created.
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