- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harmony (May 20, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0767926579
- ISBN-13: 978-0767926577
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith Hardcover – May 20, 2008
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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
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
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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.