Monday, 13 February 2012

Julian Jaynes

My friend and fellow blogger recently had an interview with the founder of the Julian Jaynes society.

It is all about a theory by Dr. Julian Jaynes, a nerological scientist who wrote the 'bicameral mind theory' about how the human brain has evolved. According to the theory self awareness is a recent evolutionary physiological brain change, a pressing together of the left and right hemispheres, so that the two halves of the brain can communicate.

Our ancestors would all have been schizophrenics, unable to tell what is real and what is a dream.  Because the left and right brain hemispheres would not have not communicated in the same way as ours they would say things like 'the gods said' because they really heard voices and believed in the hallucinations. Schozophrenia, according to the theory, is just primitive brain showing itself.

If Jaynes is right it is really a paradigm changing idea with implications on the modern approach to religion and the evolution of culture and civilization.  - He has many compelling arguments and has yet to be disproved.

Richard Dawkins once said of Jaynes's work: "It is ... either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius."

Thinking about physiological brain development, theology and enlightenment brought me back to this TED Talk by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroligical doctor who had a stroke and learned about enlightenment.

I also revisited the Mind and Life Institute which has a lot of really interesting research (cutting edge today) on the mind and well-being. 
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