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Getting Scientific with Religion:A Darwinian Solution... Or Not?

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Introducing non-Darwinian mind as a nonaptation (raw materials of evolution) I argue that Darwinian mind evolved from non-Darwinian mind through the evolution of desire and aversion. The subject position within Darwinian mind is Darwinian self and is inherently selfish. However the cathexis whereby the subject prioritises motivations of desire and aversion is not an inherent property of mind. Instead it is proposed to be an adaptation, a predisposition to respond to pleasant/unpleasant sensations with desire/aversion. This explains why self-sacrifice and disengagement from desire/aversion are the sine qua non of serious commitment to the spiritual path, i.e. Darwinian self and desire/aversion are two sides of the same coin and erosion of one is erosion of the other. Thus, through self- renunciation and suspension of desire/aversion the seeker passes from adaptive selfish Darwinian mind towards nonaptive selfless non-Darwinian mind. But Darwinian mind automatically resists this transcendence by intensifying motivations of desire/aversion thereby explaining the extreme difficulties of the spiritual path. A theoretical distinction is made between evolved Darwinian 'morality' (self-serving 'unselfishness'), 'Darwinian' morality (genuine unselfishness) and amoral non-Darwinian kenosis (selflessness). These distinctions make it easy to disentangle scientific and religious jurisdictions on morality with important implications for both religious ethics and science's view of spirituality. All in all, the nonaptive theory of spiritual mind offers a unified solution to age-old problems which have been uncomfortably shifting this way and that in the interstices between biology, psychology, theology and philosophy.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: UCT/MRC Medical Imaging Research Unit, Dept of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Observatory 7935, South Afric, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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