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.
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
Wow - a great book from a legend in the field of psychological and well being research. Vaillant has really outdone himself with this book. Read morePublished 14 days ago by Doug H.
As a "Buddhist/atheist/humanist I have strong suspicions and negative experiences with organized religions. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dave Shumway
Highly qualified work in lay-person-accessible style; enlightening and welcome and needed.Published 5 months ago by retro
Refreshing viewpoint after all the fruitless is-evolution-true-or-not propaganda. After reading this I still don't have faith - but I'd like to ;-)Published 12 months ago by leuka
Well written and scientifically based thoughts on an important matter.Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Vaillant brings great insight born of experience and education to this topic. His work acknowledges the contribution of both science and the religious to the spiritual way of life.Published 23 months ago by Mark F. Marshall
I think this is an important book that can extend the appreciation of science and spirituality. Well reasoned and well written. I have recommended it to many friends.Published on June 16, 2013 by Perry Pascarella
A thought provoking read which deserves 4 stars however to find the in-line notes were not hyperlinked shows Amazon still does not understand the concept of eBooks. Please fix thisPublished on April 5, 2013 by M.T.
It is difficult to bring clarity to the difference between religion and spirituality, but he has done it. Read morePublished on February 4, 2013 by jcrafts