Symbiotic Existential


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Chris King

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0  doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.32891.23846
Part 3: Reality
Evolving Update 5-8-2021 6-2024


Contents Summary - Contents in Full



The Core

Symbiotic Existential Cosmology:

            Scientific OverviewDiscovery and Philosophy

Biocrisis, Resplendence and Planetary Reflowering

Psychedelics in the Brain and Mind, A Moksha EpiphanyThe Devil's Keyboard

Fractal, Panpsychic and Symbiotic Cosmologies, Cosmological Symbiosis

Quantum Reality and the Conscious Brain

The Cosmological Problem of Consciousness in the Quantum Universe

The Physical Viewpoint, The Neuroscience Perspective

The Evolutionary Landscape of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Evolutionary Origins of Conscious Experience

Science, Religion and Gene Culture Co-evolution

Animistic, Eastern and Western Traditions and Entheogenic Use

Natty Dread and Planetary Redemption

Yeshua’s Tragic Mission, Revelation and Cosmic Annihilation

Ecocrisis, Sexual Reunion and the Entheogenic Traditions, Song cycleVideo 

Communique to the World To save the diversity of life from mass extinction

The Vision Quest to Discover Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

The Great I AM, Cosmic Consciousness, Conscious Life and the Core Model of Physics

The Evolution of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology


A Moksha Epiphany



 Appendix: Primal Foundations of Subjectivity, Varieties of Panpsychic Philosophy



Consciousness is eternal, life is immortal.

Incarnate existence is Paradise on the Cosmic equator

in space-time the living consummation of all worlds.

But mortally coiled! As transient as the winds of fate!




Symbiotic Existential Cosmology – Contents in Full



The Core

A Scientific Overview




Discovery and Philosophy

The Existential Condition and the Physical Universe

Turning Copernicus Inside Out

Discovering Life, the Universe and Everything

The Central Enigma: What IS the Conscious Mind?, Glossary

Biocrisis and Resplendence: Planetary Reflowering

The Full Scope: Climate Crisis, Mass Extinction. Population and Nuclear Holocaust

Psychedelics in the Brain and Mind

Therapy and Quantum Change: The Results from Scientific Studies

The Devil's Keyboard

Biocosmology, Panpsychism and Symbiotic Cosmology

Fractal Biocosmology

Darwinian Cosmological Panpsychism

Cosmological Symbiosis

Symbiosis and its Cosmological Significance

Quantum Reality and the Conscious Brain

The Cosmological Problem of Consciousness, The Central Thesis, The Primal Axiom

The Physical Viewpoint, Quantum Transactions

The Neuroscience Perspective, Field Theories of Consciousness

Conscious Mind, Resonant Brain

Cartesian Theatres and Virtual Machines

Global Neuronal Workspace, Epiphenomenalism & Free Will

Consciousness and Surviving in the Wild

Consciousness as Integrated Information

Is Consciousness just Free Energy on Markov Landscapes?

Can Teleological Thermodynamics Solve the Hard Problem?, Quasi-particle Materialism

Panpsychism and its Critics

The Crack between Subjective Consciousness and Objective Brain Function

A Cosmological Comparison with ChalmersConscious Mind

Minimalist Physicalism and Scale Free Consciousness

Defence of the real world from the Case Against Reality

Consciousness and the Quantum: Putting it all Back Together

How the Mind and Brain Influence One Another

The Diverse States of Subjective Consciousness

Consciousness as a Quantum Climax

TOEs, Space-time, Timelessness and Conscious Agency

Psychedelics and the Fermi Paradox

The Evolutionary Landscape of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Evolutionary Origins of Neuronal Excitability, Neurotransmitters, Brains and Conscious Experience

The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, Deep and dreaming sleep

The Evolving Human Genotype: Developmental Evolution and Viral Symbiosis

The Evolving Human Phenotype: Sexual and Brain Evolution, the Heritage of Sexual Love and Patriarchal Dominion

Gene Culture Coevolution

The Emergence of Language

Niche Construction, Habitat Destruction and the Anthropocene

Democratic Capitalism, Commerce and Company Law

Science, Religion and Gene-Culture Coevolution, The Spiritual Brain, Religion v Nature, Creationism

The Noosphere, Symbiosis and the Omega Point

Animism, Religion, Sacrament and Cosmology

Is Polyphasic Consciousness Necessary for Global Survival?

The Grim Ecological Reckoning of History

Anthropological Assumptions and Coexistential Realities

Shipibo: Split Creations and World Trees

Meso-American Animism and the Huichol

The Kami of Japanese Shinto

Maori Maatauranga

Pygmy Cultures and Animistic Forest Symbiosis

San Bushmen as Founding Animists

The Key to Our Future Buried in the Past

Entasis and Ecstasis: Complementarity between Shamanistic and Meditative Approaches to Illumination

Eastern Spiritual Cosmologies and Psychotropic Use

Psychedelic Agents in Indigenous American Cultures

Natty Dread and Planetary Redemption

The Scope of the Crisis

A Cross-Cultural Perspective

Forcing the Kingdom of God

The Messiah of Light and Dark

The Dionysian Heritage

The Women of Galilee and the Daughters of Jerusalem

Whom do Men say that I Am?

Descent into Hades and Harrowing Hell

Balaam the Lame: Talmudic Entries

Soma and Sangre: No Redemption without Blood

The False Dawn of the Prophesied Kingdom

Transcending the Bacchae: Revelation and Cosmic Annihilation

The Human Messianic Tradition

Ecocrisis, Sexual Reunion and the Tree of Life

Biocrisis and the Patriarchal Imperative

The Origins and Redemption of Religion in the Weltanshauung

A Millennial World Vigil for the Tree of Life

Redemption of Soma and Sangre in the Sap and the Dew

Maria Sabinas Holy Table and Gordon Wassons Pentecost

The Man in the Buckskin Suit

Santo Daime and the Union Vegetale

The Society of Friends and Non-sacramental Mystical Experience

The Vision Quest to Discover Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

The Three Faces of Cosmology

Taking the Planetary Pulse

Planetary Reflowering

Scepticism, Belief and Consciousness

Psychedelics The Edge of Chaos Climax of Consciousness

Discovering Cosmological Symbiosis

A Visionary Journey

The Great I AM, Cosmic Consciousness, Conscious Life and the Core Model of Physics

Evolution of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology

Crisis and Resplendence

Communique on Preserving the Diversity of Life on Earth for our Survival as a Species

Affirmations: How to Reflower the Diversity of Life for our own Survival

Entheogenic Conclusion

A Moksha Epiphany


Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is Pandora's Pithos Reopened and Shekhinah's Sparks Returning

The Weltanshauung of Immortality

Paradoxical Asymmetric Complementarity, The Natural Face of Samadhi vs Male Spiritual Purity, Clarifying Cosmic Karma

Empiricism, the Scientific Method, Spirituality and the Subjective Pursuit of Knowledge

The Manifestation Test


Appendix Primal Foundations of Subjectivity, Varieties of Panpsychic Philosophy



The Evolutionary Landscape of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology


Fig 111: The Tree of Life merger that made us in the eucaryote endo-symbiosis (Baum & Baum 2020).


Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is fundamentally a profoundly evolutionary cosmology, in which the integrative nature of both genotype and phenotype, modified only by small mutational changes, ensures the biosphere as a whole retains unfolding climax stability over evolutionary and cosmological time scales. In a sense it is an account of a voyage, just like Darwin's voyage on the Beagle, leading to "The Origin of the Species", except that this written work is an account of a vision quest into all the subjective, physical, cultural and religious aspects of the existential reality of conscious existence in the natural universe. It is an innovative evolutionary quantum cosmology in which:


(1)   Mutations are viewed as quantum uncertain transformations following a non IID sequence which fails to converge to the probability interpretation, modulated by natural and sexual selection, rather than simple randomness (Monroe et al. (2022).

(2)  Major evolutionary transitions including biogenesis, the eucaryote endo-symbiosis and our cultural emergence.

(3) Natural and sexual selection of metazoa is mediated by an animal’s subjective conscious volition over the natural world. Sexual selection and its mutual runaway effects in a Red Queen race (Ridley 1993) have also had profound creative influences on evolution pivotal to human intelligence and cultural emergence.

(4) Modular regulatory evolution. See figs 127, 130 & 100, show that transposable elements and endogenous retroviruses which occupy nearly half the human genome, are both capable of mutational  insertion of new elements as well as having been utilised in essential symbiotic roles, complemented by supergenes (Arnold 2022).

(5) The organismic development process is also coupled to genetic evolution (evo-devo). Fig 120 shows this in homeotic gene evolution underlying segmental development across the metazoa and fig 122 also shows the approach in the evolution of the human brain as a social neuronal organism.

(6) Biospheric symbiosis: Natural and sexual selection results in the fittest biospheric symbionts, not the most competitive dominant species, exemplified by the eucaryote endo-symbiosis and multiple predator-prey and parasite-host relationships rising to climax diversity.

(7) The mutual coupling of genetic evolution to cultural  evolution, with the emergence of culture and language, has resulted in a multilevel selection paradigm in which cultural elements reinforced across generations, also influence genotype and organismic phenotype, and vice versa.

(8) Cosmological symbiosis in which gene-culture-biosphere co-evolution ensures biospheric and human survival.


Gregory Bateson (1972) viewed all three systems of the individual, society and ecosystem as together a part of one supreme
cybernetic system that controls everything instead of just interacting systems. This supreme cybernetic system is beyond the
self of the individual and could be equated to what many people refer to as God, though Bateson referred to it as Mind.


Fig 112: (left) Increase in the ratio of noncoding DNA to total genomic DNA correlates with increasing biological complexity from 0.05 in Nanoarchaeum to 0.983 in Homo. Archaea in yellow, bacteria in blue, unicellular eukaryotes in black, the fungus Neurospora crassa in light grey, plants in green, non-chordate invertebrates in red, the urochordate Ciona intestinalis in yellow, and vertebrates in dark grey. It is key to understanding how higher organisms, through to ourselves, were able to evolve, because single base pair mutations of non-coding DNA are less disruptive, as they don't have to be translated and make only a differential change to RNA and promoter binding. Complementing this, natural and particularly sexual selection is both phenotypic and conscious (Taft & Mattick 2003). This means that humans have only 2.82 times the coding genome of the amoeboid slime mould Distyostellium discoideum and 2.7 times as many genes, with only 2.0 and 1.57 as many compared with the simple roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. Evolution has thus become a symphony on largely the same genes, as is also made clear in the great gene diversification 3 bya ago in fig 128 . (Right) The deep homology of evolutionary development displays unexpected selection pathways that also stand as the proof of principle of evolution’s creativity. Mammal hairs, each of which have sensory projections to the brain, appear to have evolved from adapted reptilian proto-feathers (Yang et al. 2019) used around the mouth for sensory sensitivity as shown in the pterosaur, resulting in mammalian whiskers as in the cat and mouse, with brain structures exemplified in rodent sensory barrels (inset) resulting in co-evolution with the brain. These then appear to have spread to the bodies of most mammals as hairs. The more advanced, smaller therapsids could have had a combination of hair and scutes, a combination still found in some modern mammals. Reptilian therapsid scutes as shown on the alligators foot (top right) have also been retained in some mammals such as the armadillo (Superina & Loughry 2012). By contrast, Pangolin scales appear to have evolved from hair (Choo et al. 2016)



Five Major Evolutionary Transitions


The Origin of Life – Abiogenesis to LUCA (4.4 – 3.5 Bya)


Fractal biocosmology has already been extensively explored in the cosmology section, in which the  evolving universe is highly fecund for biogenesis and leads through a transitional phase of establishing the genetic code and protein translation eventually to arrive at LUCA, our last universal common ancestor, which may have been a progenote, a loosely interacting RNA-based system before the independent emergence of archaea and bacteria as free living cells, fig 99, whose cell membrane components are distinct, with complementary strategies, consistent with the overall time interval above (Grimm & Marchi 2018, Schopf et al. 2017).


The Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) (2.4 Bya)


Although the first life forms depended on a variety of energy sources, including chemical gradients, all ongoing life depends ultimately on photosynthesis. The first evidence for the existence of of molecular O2 in the atmosphere and ocean dates to 3.1-3.5 Bya, consistent with cyanobacterial emergence (Cardona et al. 2018, Jabłońska & Tawfik 2021). The origin of the Great Oxygenation circa 2.45–2.32 Bya coincides with the evolution of colonial multicellular forms of cyanobacteria (Schirrmeister et al. 2011, 2013), in which specialised heterocysts (Flores & Herrero 2009, Kumar et al. 2010) enable fixation of nitrogen at higher oxygen levels, by disabling photosystem II (Cardona et al. 2018). The earliest known akinetes – dormant multicellular cyanobacterial cells (Sukenik et al.2019), are preserved in 2.1 Bya chert from West Africa (Tomitani  et al. 2006). The final rise in O2 at 0.8 Bya corresponds to emergence of eucaryote algae and higher plants. Red algae have been dated as far back as  1.6 Bya (Bengtson et al. 2017).


The Eucaryote Endo-Symbiosis – LECA (2.1 – 1.5 Bya)


The eucaryote endo-symbiosis (Imachi et al. 2019) has already been discussed extensively in the cosmology section and forms the greatest evolutionary transition since the origin of life, giving rise to all complex life forms. What is pivotal about this is that it is an evolutionary  biological co-adaption to one or more symbiotic interactions between complementary species, but does closely follow the O2 increase set off by the great oxidation as a precursor, consistent with the overall time interval above (French et al. 2015, El Albani et al. 2010, Bengtson et al. 2017). The sheer scope of this transformation can be seen from fig 112 where there is a jump of 25x in total genome, 17x in protein coding genome and 8x in coding genes from the bacterium Rickettsia conorii to the amoeboid slime mould Dictyostellium discoideum, contrasting with the small coding genome expansion since of ~2.8x..


The Cambrian Radiation (541– 521 Mya)


The Cambrian radiation  corresponds to the greatest burst of  animal complexity and diversity in the evolution of life. Central to this transition is a tipping point in developmental complexity governed by homeotic genes, which evolved in single-celled eucaryotes (Derelle, et al. 2007), but reached a critical transition in the Cambrian radiation, giving rise to all the extant higher animal phyla through developmental evolution. By comparison, the previous Ediacaran  fossils show very limited complexity. It has been suggested (Fox 2016, Evans et al. 2022) that a transient rise and then fall in oxygen levels, probably due to emergence of new algae and plants, was associated with a mass extinction of Ediacaran fauna and the rapid rise of animals with active predatory behaviour and intelligence, spreading to the resulting vacant niches. This is consistent with a modern-style marine biosphere rapidly emerging during the Ediacaran and earliest followed by broad-scale evolutionary stasis (Paterson et al. 2019). The rise of land plants has been dated back to 500 Mya (Morris et al. 2018).


Human Emergence and Cultural Evolution (300 – 200 Kya)


The emergence of Homo sapiens, and the rise of human culture and technology, beginning with tool-making and then extending to agriculture and animal husbandry has both transformed the face of the Earth, and with it brought about a new paradigm of cultural evolution, driven by spoken and written language, cultural memes and the advent of social, scientific and political discourse spanning the generations. This is now running a huge risk of causing a mass extinction of the diversity of life, precipitating a potential Fermi self-extinction – the Medea hypothesis (Ward 2009), unless our species can come to collectively enter a state of biospheric symbiosis.



 The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis


This places the evolutionary view of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology as lying within the extended evolutionary synthesis (Pennisi 2008, Laland et al. 2014, Buranyi 2022), which includes  multilevel selection, transgenerational epigenetic inheritance (Felsenfeld 2014, Benetti et al. 2022, Kabacik et al. 2022), which can affect macro-evolution (Jablonka 2017), niche construction, evolvability, and concepts of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) comparing the regulatory and developmental processes of different organisms to infer how developmental processes evolved (Gerhart & Kirschner 2007). The inclusion of gene-culture coevolution augments this view, to encompass cultural reproductive processes involving memes – a concept, social process or institution that spreads from person to person within a culture and often carries symbolic meaning that can self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.


All species have evolved mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity that enable them to respond adaptively to their environments. Some mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity count as evolutionary processes in their own right. The human capacity for symbolic thought provides an inheritance system having the same kind of combinatorial diversity as does genetic recombination and antibody formation. (Wilson et al. 2014).


Culture is phenotypic plasticity that acquired its own intrinsic capacity to change and is now out of genetic control. We dont expect a flu virus to operate to our advantage, so why should we expect a mind virusalways to be in our interests? For meme advocates, not only is cultural evolution largely unconstrained by genetic pre-dispositions, but genetic evolution may itself be driven by cultural imperatives  (Laland and Brown 2002 319) .


Meme’ is the name given to such units of culture and, as some memes are more likely to spread than others, there is a new kind of evolution generated at the cultural level. Somewhat disturbingly, the selection of one meme over another may be of no advantage to the individual human being; rather the meme makes use of us in order to replicate itself. Memeticists suggest that human beings may behave the way they do not because it is in their interests but because their minds have been infected by a cultural virus. Could consciousness be little more than a collection of memes? Are the dominant world religions neither true nor even beneficial, but merely those complexes of religious ideas that happen to be best at spreading?  (Laland and Brown 2002 24)


Melkikh A (2014) proposes an extended evolutionary model of partially directed evolution, based on the learning automata theory, which includes a priori information about the fitness space. A potential repository of such prior information is the states of biologically important molecules. notes that many researchers have proposed and explored quantum properties in biology that could effect evolution and have proposed that molecular machines associated with reading DNA exhibit quantum properties.


Josephson & Pallikari-Viras (1991) note the differences between classical and statistical quantum science where results are classically or statistically determined and adaptive living systems where organisms may be able to exploit quantum nonlocality and entanglement through adaptive, rather than universal knowledge:


The first, the method of science, is to retain conformity with the demands of reproducibility and universality by the device of replacing the no longer possible strict determinism by statistical determinism. The outcome of this approach is quantum mechanics. The second, a method that is in general terms favoured by life, involves renouncing the demand for universal knowledge in favour of more specialised and purposeful adaptations to the more limited class of situations that the organism or organisms concerned is liable naturally to encounter in the course of its life.


Laland and Brown note Dawkins’ (1976) original discovery of the term:


He coined the terms replicatorand vehicleto distinguish between the immortalgenes, which are replicated each generation, and the transient, vehicular organisms that house them. The gene is the archetypal replicator, but Dawkins proposed that a new, frequently insidious kind of replicator has recently emerged on this planet, a mind virus that infects us with catchy concepts and fashionable ideas. “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.”


The word evolution itself is plagued by a spectrum of meanings. Oxford languages defines it’s scientific meaning as “the process by which different kinds of living organism are believed to have developed from earlier forms during the history of the earth” but more generally it is the gradual development of something, quoting in example: ”the forms of written languages undergo constant evolution. When we come to discuss gene culture coevolution, these two meanings will come into direct conflict. ”It’s etymology underlies this ambiguity arising early 17th century: from Latin evolutiounrolling, from the verb evolvere (evolve). Early senses related to movement, first recorded in describing a wheelingmanoeuvre in the realignment of troops or ships. Current senses stem from a notion of opening out, giving rise to the sense development’.


Charles Darwin used the word in print once only, in the closing paragraph of "The Origin of Species" (1859), and preferred descent with modification, in part because evolution already had been used in the discarded homunculus theory of embryological development and in part because it carried a sense of "progress" not present in Darwin's idea. But Victorian belief in progress prevailed (and the advantages of brevity), and Herbert Spencer and other biologists after Darwin popularised evolution.


Dawkins (1976, 1982) argued that discrete, accurately copied, long-lived replicatorsare necessary for cumulative, adaptive evolution and must have the following characteristics:


Fidelity. The copying must be sufficiently accurate that even after a long chain of copies the replicator remains almost unchanged.

Fecundity. At least some varieties of the replicator must be capable of generating more than one copy of themselves.

Longevity. Replicators must survive long enough to affect their own rate of replication.


Although these statements implicitly assume this process is cumulatively integrative over time, so that snakes do not turn into tigers, thus ensuring the stability of the biosphere over evolutionary and cosmological time scales, this is not specifically expressed and can cause problems when we are dealing with gene culture co-evolution. We know there is a deep truth to this argument because our genomes are full of transposable elements which at all opportunities seek to replicate themselves potentially at the expense of organismic mutation and/or survival. However organisms apply natural and sexual selection as whole genomes and there is more complexity to this picture. Even a simple prokaryote genome that reproduces parthenogenetically will eventually accumulate a lethal load of deleterious mutations by Muller’s Ratchet. Hence recombination between genomes is a virtually universal necessary condition, via conjugation plasmids and viruses in prokaryotes and indexed sexual recombination in eucaryotes.


Dawkins argued that individual genes must be seen as the units of selection in evolutionary processes within sexual populations. This is primarily because the other possible candidates, notably whole organisms and groups, do not "replicate." Stephen J. Gould in "Caring Groups and Selfish Genes" (1977), argued that by contrast genes cannot be units of selection because natural selection is not able to "see" (operate on) single genes, only on whole organisms. Lewontin (1970) had argued that natural selection at any level requires variation, heredity and differential fitness. Hull argued that people had been packing into one concept, "unit of selection," criteria associated with two distinct and equally important roles:

Replicator: an entity that passes on its structure largely intact in successive replications.

Interactor: an entity that interacts as a cohesive whole with its environment in such a way that this interaction causes replication to be differential.


Wilson DH et al. (2014) in noting that humans possess great capacity for behavioural and cultural change, but our ability to manage change is still limited have set out to sketch a basic science of intentional change centred on evolution, introducing a further set of concepts related to cultural evolution:


The human capacity for symbolic thought provides an inheritance system having the same kind of combinatorial diversity as does genetic recombination and antibody formation. Taking these propositions seriously allows an integration of major traditions within the basic behavioral sciences, such as behaviorism, social constructivism, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary psychology, which are often isolated and even conceptualized as opposed to one another.


In this sense, a network of symbolic relations that regulates behavior is like a genotype that produces a phenotype. We will call it a “symbotype” to stress the comparison. Like genotypes, symbotypes evolve based on what they cause the organism to do, regardless of the direct correspondence between the mental and environmental relations. As an example, religious and superstitious beliefs might not correspond directly to anything that exists in the real world, but they might still be favored by selection, based on the behaviors they motivate in the real world.  … The term symbotype refers not to a single cultural trait but rather to a given set of symbolic relations, which results in an entire suite of phenotypic traits (the phenotype). The term does not presuppose any particular proximate mechanism for the symbotype and does not assume that the phenotype can be atomized into independent traits. Obviously, a great deal of future research will be required to clarify the concept of the symbotype, but it differs importantly from the concept of a meme.


Wilson et al. then cite informational recombination as a key generator of variety, that we have seen in the context of integral genetic evolution. While this is true, it goes little or no way towards establishing the integral stability over long time scales of such processes:


Genotypes, symbotypes, and antibodies share something else almost infinite variety, based on the recombination of their elements. Much as x genes with two alleles at each locus result in 2x combinations, each potentially producing a different phenotype for selection to act on, a human symbolic system consisting of a few handfuls of object®signrelations will be able to derive thousands of combinations, each potentially resulting in a different phenotype for selection to act on (Deacon 1998).


This provides Wilson et al. with their primary thesis that humans have evolved a “quantum leap” in our elaborate capacity for open-ended behavioural and cultural change:


However our symbolic inheritance system and its combinatorial properties arose, the result was a quantum jump in our capacity for open-ended behavioral and cultural change. The best way to see this is by standing back from the treesof single scientific studies to see the forestof human evolution. A single biological species spread out of Africa to inhabit the globe, adapting to all climatic zones and occupying hundreds of ecological niches, in just tens of thousands of years. Each culture has mental and physical toolkits for survival and reproduction that no individual could possibly learn in a lifetime. Then the advent of agriculture enabled the scale of human society to increase by many orders of magnitude, resulting in mega societies unlike anything our species had previously experienced. The human cultural adaptive radiation is comparable in scope to the genetic adaptive radiations of major taxonomic groups such as mammals and dinosaurs (Pagel & Mace 2004). What else is required to conclude that humans have an elaborate capacity for open-ended behavioral and cultural change?


In this they implicitly acknowledge that not only does the cultural milieu not necessarily optimise natural evolutionary fitness in the biosphere, but that natural fitness cannot now even be defined as an entity in its own right:


It is important to stress that the cultural inheritance system does not entirely supersede the other inheritance systems. …  Moreover, the four inheritance systems genetic, epigenetics, learning, and symbolic thought have been interacting with one another throughout our history as a species. Genetic evolution and cultural evolution have been shaping each other for a very long time. It is therefore incorrect to say that cultural evolution serves to maximize genetic fitness, as if the latter can be defined without reference to the former.


So we come back to the central question – how does the advent of cultural evolution enhance or diminish that capacity of Homo sapiens to survive on evolutionary time scales in the closing circle of the evolving biosphere?


Because the concept of symbotype bears a superficial resemblance to the concept of meme (Dawkins 1976), a brief comparison is in order. The term meme is sometimes used broadly to refer to any cultural trait. More narrow usages suggest that cultural traits resemble physical genes in various respects, such as functioning as replicators,having a physical form inside the brain, or having the capacity to spread at the expense of their human hosts (Aunger 2002; Blackmore 1999). The most recent treatments of cultural evolution recognize the need for a term that describes cultural traits at the phenotypic level; but these treatments depart from other specific concepts that have been associated with the term meme. In particular, it is possible for the replication of cultural traits to be a systemic process without the need for gene-like replicators (Henrich et al. 2008; Laland & Brown 2002). The concept of evolution without replicatorsapplies even to genetic evolution (Godfrey-Smith 2000).


They hint at a deep analogy between genetic and cultural evolution:


The human capacity for symbolic thought provides an inheritance system having the same kind of combinatorial diversity as does genetic recombination and antibody formation. Taking these propositions seriously allows an integration of major traditions within the basic behavioral sciences, such as behaviorism, social constructivism, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary psychology, which are often isolated and even conceptualized as opposed to one another.


This merely highlights a deep analogy between cultural ‘inheritance’ and the recombinational complexity of genetic, antibody systems and symbolic thought, but this is not a model for evolution but simply sexual recombination, leaving aside gradual evolutionary change on cosmological time scales due to mutation and selective advantage. Only when we have informational systems which can (1) replicate, (2) be subject to incremental change that is subject to phenotypic differences and selection and (3) the capacity for recombination can we establish a sustainable evolutionary paradigm.


Their answer thus leads to a series of troubling questions regarding not only the lack of a comprehensive integral evolutionary paradigm of gene-culture co-evolution but to the emergence of forms of “evolution” with neither replicators, nor integral stability, and not only in cultural evolution alone, but in genetic evolution as well.


Heinrich et al. (2008) state:


While we agree that the existence of replicators is sufficient for cumulative adaptive evolution, they are not necessary. Any process of cultural transmission that leads to accurate replication of the average characteristics of the population will work. Accurate replication at the level of the gene (or meme) will have this effect, but accurate at the population level can arise for other reasons as well. … Highly accurate, unbiased, genetic replication allows minute selective forces to generate and preserve adaptations over millions of years. Error prone cultural replication, [of one of two mental representations], even when correctedby a conformist bias [a group choosing the most common option found in the group], imposes modest, but still significant forces on the cultural composition of the population. Similarly, blending inheritance [e.g. in which an average result not actually present in the set of instances] rapidly depletes the variation in a population necessary for selective processes like prestige-biased transmission to have an effect. But, because the inferential processes that underlie cultural transmission are noisy, it is likely that they can maintain lots of variation. However, this also means that they are likely to create evolutionary forces that act to change the mean, and thus compete with selective forces.


Laland & Brown (2002) take issue with the concepts of replicator versus vehicle, in the context of cultural evolution:


The approach, advocated by Hull (2000) [38], is to describe as replication all cases in which information is passed along largely unchanged regardless of whether the substrate is a brain or artefactual. Replicators are distinguished from interactors (loosely synonymous with Dawkins’ ‘vehicles), which are the entities that exhibit adaptations, but are characterized by a loss of information.


They also deal with the continuous interactive aspects of cultural evolution:


A major question mark against memes, to which both Dawkins and Dennett allude, is whether they have sufficiently high copying fidelity, or accuracy of reproduction. When discussing meme fidelity Dawkins confesses here I must admit that I am on shaky ground(1976, p. 209), and he acknowledges, as an example, that his ideas published in The Selfish Gene resulted from a blending of Triverss and his own memes. Similarly, Dennett (1995 355) asks: ‘Isnt one of the hallmarks of cultural evolution and transmission the extraordinarily high rate of mutation and recombination?. If memes are constantly passed on in altered forms, can they be described as replicators? This looks quite unlike the particulate, virtually error-free copying of gene translation. At first sight, meme evolution appears so fluid, subject as it is to continuous mutation, blending of memes, and cross-fertilization between lineages, that it is difficult to see how it could generate complex adaptations analogous to the vertebrate eye or hand.


There are at least two counterarguments that have been put forward. The first was expressed most clearly by Dawkins:

It is possible that this appearance of non-particulateness is illusory, and that the analogy with genes does not break down. After all, if we look at the inheritance of many genetic characters such as human height or skin colouring, it does not look like the work of indivisible and unblendable genes. (1976, p. 209). The second counterargument is that, while every version of a meme varies from one person to the next according to each individuals personal experiences, all memes have a core element that is shared knowledge.


Godfrey-Smith (2000) critiques the classical concept of the replicator in the light of a series of criticisms including those of developmental systems theory:


Criticism of the Dawkins/Hull replicator is found in the work of Paul Griffiths and Russell Gray (1994 298), who are among the proponents of "developmental systems theory" (DST) as a general approach to development and evolution. According to Griffiths and Gray, the replicator/interactor distinction is the product of a "dichotomous" view of evolution and development, where the "dichotomy" involves an illegitimate division between two fundamental types of developmental causes, the "genetic" and the "environmental." Griffiths and Gray claim that the standard replicator/interactor distinction is a "projection into evolution" of dichotomous views of development. … The developmental systems theorists argue that the only thing which actively replicates or reproduces itself is the entire life cycle. They also argue that the life cycle is the relevant unit for evolutionary theory: "the prime unit of evolution (unit of self- replication) is the developmental process, or life cycle." We should conceive evolution as the "differential replication of developmental processes/life cycles”.


He then applies Lewontin’s  formulation for Darwinian evolution which does not specifically cite a replicator:


Let us approach this point via Lewontin's formulation of the recipe for Darwinian evolution (1970). Evolution requires a population in which there is variation in phenotype, differential reproduction on the basis of phenotype, and heredity of the traits associated with differential reproduction. Heredity is conceived as a correlation between parents and offspring. As Lewontin says, it does not matter how the correlation is achieved, so long as it exists.


In Lewontin's 1970 discussion, the term "unit of selection" has a simple and thin sense -- the units are just the entities in the population which satisfy his three conditions. These "units" need not be replicators, because in a sexual population there can be a great deal of difference between parent and offspring. Yet if parent and offspring are correlated -- if parent and offspring are more similar than randomly selected pairs of individuals in that population -- then evolution by natural selection can occur. The requirement of heredity in traits affecting fitness is weaker than a requirement that there exist replicators, and heredity is all that is needed for evolution.


The principle of integral evolutionary change is thus reduced to the simple root of heredity [39], much as in Gregor Mendel’s (1866) work. But this studies hybridisation and is thus about indexed recombination across a single generation and thus gives no theoretical model for integral evolutionary change that ensures stability over the cosmological time scales required for avoiding a Fermi paradox extinction.


This is inadequate and symbolises the entire dilemma of memetic cultural evolution being called evolution at all, because the foundation of evolutionary viability on cosmological time scales is the gradual cumulative change of what Darwin called "descent with modification", now known to be caused by intermittent mutational changes at a low level each generation, enabling the genomes of a species to survive on a population scale combined with natural and sexual selection that is the process occurring on cosmological time scales, that has allowed the biosphere to evolve without Fermi paradox, caused by short-term instability. Recombination, as associated with cross-fertilisation of ideas is a single step process to offset Muller's ratchet and provides non of the graduated change to maintain cumulative evolutionary synchrony between evolving species.


The only way this can be resolved to ensure biospheric and human survival is gene-culture-biosphere co-evolution, in which cultural memes acknowledge the cosmological necessity of human genetic and cultural evolution maintaining overall genetic fitness of the biosphere over such cosmological time scales.




Sexual Selection is a Conscious Creative Process


Sexual selection is a conscious process driven by subjective perception and volition.  In spiders, birds and humans the female, who because of a much higher parenting investment in eggs and mammalian pregnancy , frequently  evolves forms of conscious choosiness that require a male to be able to fulfil diverse physical and behavioural demonstrations of ability, as a genuine indicator of fitness. These exemplify some of the most creative aspects of evolution that have also had a pivotal influence in human intelligence and cultural emergence (see fig 131), where astute female reproductive choice driven by extreme sexual polarisation of reproductive investments in humans due to the demands of human pregnancy. This is the hand of the "Great Mother of All Living" declaring that the evolution of the entire Tree of Life is natural and partly driven by subjective conscious perception and volition. It is sealed in our genes and in the most ancient layers of the Earth’s crust. She leaves her signature in the rocks, in the fossils, in the genetic sequences and in the free flowing phenotypes of organismic regulation. There is no way this founding story of our becoming, the core creation myth of our very existence, can be undone. 


Fig 113: Sexual selection in birds and spiders. Sexual selection is almost universally consciously engendered, while natural selection is only partially so, because some natural selection factors are inanimate, while other animate interactions with predators and prey and social interactions are consciously based.  Sexual selection enables the female who has to invest much more in eggs than the male evolves to use creative conscious perceptual means to assess genuine indicators of male genetic and/or parenting fitness. This can lead to a runaway Red Queen  effect (Ridley 1993), driven by female reproductive choice evolving to become more choosy, as male adaptions become more attractive resulting in beautiful bird plumages (Prum 2017, Jabr 2019). How beautiful they have become attests to the fact that the female bird perceives it and demands it in the same kind of detail we find spell-binding. Top row: the Superb Lyre bird, which in addition to having a mesmerising tail and bridal veil like the peacock (lower right), is required to literally mimic every sound (1, 2, 3, 4), from other birds to chainsaws and construction sites to a squalling baby seducing the female with every sound in the universe surrounding them. Lower left, the Satin bowerbird courtship involves complex two-stage cues in female reproductive choice (Robson et al. 2005).  Male South African Weaver Birds similarly construct elaborate hanging nests which avoid predators, to attract mates (fig 141). Lower centre: Peacock spider courtship. The male courts a vey choosy female by titillating every sense –  vivid peacock tail fan, sonorous vibrating abdomen and semaphore waving third legs amid increasing excitement. This shows how consciousness realises itself through sexual selection.  The male has to carefully signal with his hairy mid legs from under her leaf to seduce her willingness to mate, rather than eat him, before fertilising her with his palps. These spiders are tiny and have even tinier brains as the inset on a human finger shows. See also spider signalling to itself in a mirror and REM rapid eye movements in sleeping baby spiders.


Here follow the essential principles:


(1) The natural conclusion of evolutionary biology is that conscious evolution began with the eucaryote endo-symbiosis freeing the cell membrane for quantum sentience and social signalling, so we have to understand how natural selection works seamlessly with consciousness in amoebo-flagellates because they conserved conscious volition for a billion years before brains evolved.


(2) One can take a materialistic view that single celled eucaryotes are just sophisticated automata but that flies in the face of the fact that the same excitation processes in them occur in our neurons and phagocytes. In particular, cellular sentience is at the quantum level sensitively detecting small electrochemical fluctuations, light, physical oscillations and chemical orbital effects corresponding to our existing senses. Moreover a transition would take such responses from procaryote genetic operons to non-linear responses to edge of chaos excitations, justifying the notion of conscious perception. Moreover organisms like Dictyostellium show distinct transitions from the free swimming cellular form of volition to resonant coordinated organismic behaviour in the worm stage of fruiting, showing collective resonant excitation and decision-making characteristic of conscious volition.


(3) Natural selection has to operate at the genetic level and the only way conscious volition can directly influence genetics is through reproductive choice, so conscious evolution becomes the province of sexual selection while environmental natural selection is a mix. This becomes clear in vertebrate and mammal behaviour where sexual selection is the climax process determining evolution of the brain.


(4) This is strongly exemplified in humans, where the female parenting strategy delivering live young via a risky pregnancy and long-term lactation and child rearing is in stark conflict with the male sewing wild oats strategy and the emergence of human intelligence appears to have resulted from neither sex having the upper hand, requiring each to run a red queen evolutionary race of genetic and social intelligence to survive, interrupted only recently by the patriarchal imperative due to male paternity uncertainty.


(5) The key implication is that it is volition and reproductive decision-making and its support in healthy survival in nature that drives what is not just conscious evolution but volitional evolution.


The fact that human culture doesn't yet recognise the huge significance of sexual selection underscores humanity's failure to appreciate conscious volitional evolution, exacerbating the error of materialistic neuroscience failing to recognise conscious volition at all.


Evolutionary Origins of Neuronal Excitability, Neurotransmitters, Brains and Conscious Experience


The discussion of psychedelics in the previous chapters brings us back to a fundamental question. Why does the brain use neurotransmitters such as serotonin in such characteristic ways to do with emotion, wakefulness and sleep, vigilance and reward? This takes us back all the way to the emergence of life and potentially to the cosmological relationships defining the biomolecules, from ATP to RNA, and the various biological amino acids and their elementary amines such as tryptamine and dopamine. The elementary neurotransmitter types, many of which are fundamental amino acids (glutamate, glycine, GABA), or amines derived from amino acids (serotonin, dopamine, histamine, epinephrine) have primordial relationships with the membrane, as soluble molecules with complementary (+) charge relationships with the hydrophilic (–) ends of the phospholipids. Glutamate and GABA are prominent components of both the Tagish Lake and Murchison carbonaceous chondrites and stardust aerogels from the tail of comet Wild 2 , clear evidence for a prebiotic cosmological status. As the two key excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the human brain, which are also key in myxamoeba fruiting body aggregation, demonstrating their strong conservation, this also gives human consciousness a cosmological foundation.



Fig 114: Murchison amino acids. Biological blue shades. Neurotransmitters red shades.


Tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is generated, plays a key role in the transfer of electric charge in the earliest forms of photosynthesis. In Rhodobacter sphaeroides, there are 39 tryptophan residues surrounding the porphyrin centre. Initiation of the electron transfer reaction by excitation results in a transient change in the absorbance at UVB, near the peak of the tryptophan absorbance band. To make serotonin from tryptophan, oxygen is needed, and in the earliest geological times the Earth's atmosphere had little oxygen. Thus, serotonin is made specifically in unicellular systems capable of photosynthesis and the cellular production of oxygen. Consequently serotonin is up to 100 times more plentiful in plants and animals have ceased to synthesise tryptophan, depending on plants for their supply. This relationship with light continues to this day in human use of melatonin to define the circadian cycle and serotonin in wakefulness and sleep, with light deprivation causing depression through serotonin.


Fig 115: (Left) Evolutionary tree of the human G-protein linked receptors (Fredriksson et al. (2003), with examples highlighted in color. On the α branch are amine receptors - serotonin 5HT1A and 5HT2A, dopamine D1, and D2 (DRD1, DRD2), adrenergic α2a (ADRA2A), muscarinic acetylcholine (CHRM2), trace amine TAR1, as well as rhodopsin (RHO) and encephalopsin (OPM3). On the glutamate branch are metabotropic glutamate mGluR2 and GABA GABBR1. On the β branch is oxytocin (OXTR) surrounded by vasopressin receptors and Ghrelin. On the γ branch are opioid κ and μ (OPRK1, OPRM1). Olfactory (Zozulya et al 2001, Billesbølle et al. 2023) and the non-rhodopsin receptors are linked to their respective points on the rhodopsin family tree.


The fundamental components of the G-protein coupled receptor system, including the canonical GPCR itself appear to go right back to LECA the last eucaryote common ancestor, as they are shared across all major eucaryote branches (Mendoza et al.). From the gene diversity for serotonin receptors, the 5-HT1a receptor is estimated to have evolved 750 million to 1 billion years ago, before the muscarinic, dopaminergic and adrenergic receptor systems (Peroutka & Howell, Peroutka, Walker et al) and long before the Cambrian radiation defining multicellular animals.


As noted by Natoh (1973), "the ionic mechanisms for electrogensis are basically identical to those in nerves, muscles, and receptors of metazoan organisms".  Wan & Jékely (2021) describe the ancestral repertoire of eukaryotic excitability and discuss five major cellular innovations that enabled its evolutionary origin, including a vastly expanded repertoire of ion channels, the emergence of cilia and pseudopodia, endomembranes as intracellular capacitors, a flexible plasma membrane and the relocation of chemiosmotic ATP synthesis to mitochondria, which liberated the plasma membrane for more complex electrical signalling involved in sensing and reacting.


Fig 116: Left: Heptahelical rhodopsin receptor in the G-protein coupled family creates a photosynthetic H+ ion gradient in Halobacteria provides voltage gradient excitability and ATP to power the cell. Centre:  Complement of signalling systems found in Naegleria gruberi (Fritz-Laylin et al. 2010), a free-living single celled bikont amoebo-flagellate, belonging to the excavate group Heterolobosea that diverged from other eukaryotic lineages over a billion years ago, which include some of the most primitive eucaryotes such as Giardia and Trichomonads. Nevertheless it is capable of both oxidative respiration and anaerobic metabolism and can switch between amoeboid and flagellated modes of behaviour, regenerating complete centrioles and flagellae de novo (Fritz-Laylin & Cande 2010). The Naegleria genome sequence contains actin and microtubule cytoskeletons, mitotic and meiotic machinery, suggesting cryptic sex, several transcription factors and a rich repertoire of signalling molecules, including G-protein coupled receptors, histidine kinases and second messengers including cAMP. Apoptotic cell death essential for maintaining multicellular integrity also arose with mitochondrial endosymbiosis (Kaushal et al. 2023), is promoted via the mitochondria, occurs also in single celled eucaryotes (Madeo et al. 1997) and originated in bacterial protection against phages (Koonin & Aravind 2002, Kibby et al. 2023). Lower left Dictyostellium discoideum (a) individual cells eating bacteria, (b) aggregation wave front of cAMP, (c) aggregating to form slugs, (d) slugs, each containing 1000 or so individual amoeba, swimming purposefully and making individual chemotactic decisions coordinated through coherent membrane excitability also showing they can merge and separate, (e) fruiting body and (f) sexual synctium with multiple nuclei, pink (Bloomfield et al. 2019). Lower right:  Choanoflagellate  cells forming an ancestor of animals, at the transition from single celled organisms to colonies have conserved the amoeboid-flagellate switch (Brunet et al. 2021. Below: The colonial form Choanoeca flexa can invert the colonies in a similar way to tissue layer folding in early animal embryogenesis (Brunet et al. 2019).


This places the emergence of receptor proteins and their neurotransmitters as occurring before the multicellular nervous systems, as cell-to-cell signalling molecules essential for survival, and positive and negative responses to nutrition and danger. The need for multimodal molecular messengers thus arises from the need for cells to have a variety of signalling molecules modulating key motivational and aversive aspects of survival strategy.


It also explains that neurotransmitters originated from direct signalling pathways between the cell membrane and gene expression in the nucleus of single cells, highlighting why changes in gene expression such as that of egr-2 in psychedelics may be central to psychedelic neurotransmitter action, rather than just flow-on excitation. It has also been suggested that key enzymes in neurotransmitter pathways may have become ubiquitous through horizontal gene transfer from bacteria (Iyer et al).


This ancient origin is confirmed by the fact that receptor proteins, second signalling pathways and key neurotransmitters are known to occur widely in single-celled protists. Both Crithidia and Tetrahymena contain norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin (Blum 1969). The ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena pyriformis (Brizzi & Blum, Essman) and flagellated Crithidia fasciculata (Janakidevi et al) utilise serotonin, and the former also metabolises dopamine and epinephrine (Takeda & Sugiyama, Nomura et al). Tetrahymena pyriformis also has circadian light-related melatonin expression (Kohidai et al). In Tetrahymena, intracellular concentrations of serotonin and dopamine vary inversely during logarithmic and stationary phases of growth. These substances are released into the extracellular milieu, probably in response to elevated intracellular Ca2+, where they can increase intracellular levels of cAMP. Evidence that GABA could play a similar role comes from the finding that treatment with diazepam, a GABA receptor ligand, elevates the growth rate of Tetrahymena (Lauder 1993). Tetrahymena utilises histamine, serotonin, epinephrine, melatonin, and triiodothyronine can be found in it, as well as peptide hormones, such as insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, epidermal growth factor, endocannabinoids, endorphins and c-AMP and GMP.  Thus signalling molecules in single celled eucaryotes appear to further long-term adaption through cross-generational epigenetic changes (Csaba 2014). 


Trypanosoma cruzi could be induced to differentiate by increased cAMP levels that resulted from addition of epinephrine (González-Perdomo et al). Species of Entamoeba secrete serotonin and the neuropeptides neurotensin and substance P (McGowan et al) and release and respond to catecholamine compounds during differentiation from the trophozoite stage into the dormant or transmissible cyst stage (Eichinger et al) and Plasmodium falciparum malaria replication can be blocked by 5HT1a agonists (Locher et. al). Acetyl-choline and its G-protein coupled receptor have been found in acanthoamoeba (Baig & Ahmad 2017, Baig AM, et al. 2018). This heightens the dual role of such molecules in both intra- and inter-cellular signalling, just as acetylcholine is both a neurotransmitter and induces the secretion of insulin in humans. Elements of the protein signalling pathways, such as protein kinase C, essential to neuronal synaptic contact originated close to the eucaryote origin (Emes et al. 2008, Ryan & Grant 2009). Likewise the Dlg family of postsynaptic scaffold proteins, which bind neurotransmitter receptors and enzymes into signalling complexes originated before the divergence of the vertebrates and arthropods (Nithianantharajah et al. 2012).


Consequently the major neuroreceptor classes have a very ancient origin, with the 5HT1 and 5HT2 families diverging before the molluscs, arthropods and vertebrates diverged, close to the level of the founding metazoa. Sponges, with only two cell types, express serotonin (Wayrer et al) and have been shown to have the critical gene networks to generate synapses, in a pre-coordinated form (Conaco et al). Coelenterates already have all the key components of serotonin pathways, involved in signalling by sensory cells and neurons, despite having only a primitive nerve network (McCauley, Umbriaco et al).


Aggregation of social myxamoeba such as the slime mould Dictyostelium discoidium (video), under exhaustion of food supply, is mediated by by cyclic-AMP, also utilising glutamate and GABAb receptors (Taniura et al. 2006, Anjard & Loomis), forming first a motile slug and then forming a fruiting body via reciprocal serotonin and monoamine oxidase A (maoA) activity (Halloy et al, Goldbeter, Taniura et al, Baskar, Mani & Hyde). MaoA, which degrades serotonin, confers the fate of an organiser to the Dictyostelium tip. Once a tip has formed, serotonin contributes to tip dominance. It inhibits further tip formation, and thus ensures the mound retains the size determined during the earlier developmental stage. This relationship between serotonin and MAOa is precisely retained in humans, as exemplified in MAO inhibitor anti-depressants. The slug motions, including phototaxis, follow a distinct dynamical process from individual amoeba responses (Schlenkrich et al. 1995), indicating a separate collective organismic excitation protocol.


These cells have forms of both short and long-term memory formation (van Haastert 2021, Kuipers 2023), and this collective organism can be sexually diverse. D. discoideum has three different mating types which can mate with any two different sexes. Heterothallic mating occurs when two or more amoebae of different mating types fuse during aggregation to form a multinuclear synctium, which then breaks apart forming binucleate cells leading to one or more giant zygotes, which then release cAMP to attract other cells, engulfing them cannibalistically which serve to encase the whole aggregate in a thick, cellulose wall to protect it. Inside the macrocyst, the giant cell divides first through meiosis, then through mitosis to produce many haploid amoebae that will be released to feed as normal amoebae would. This means that the collective organism is sexually diverse, just as we are.  It also means that a sexually diverse but significantly related population engages in sacrificial behaviour for the benefit of the species because the individuals forming the stalk die and do not get to produce spores. In related D. purpureum the slug stage in genetically mixed colonies separates into slugs containing a majority of closely related individuals to avoid cheating (Mehdiabadi et al. 2009). The fact that synctium formation leads to cells having up to three mitochondrial genotypes, when three sexual strains fuse, suggests sexual fusion could have evolved by the endosymbionts to ensure their survival, controlled later by sperm-ovum fertilisation to avoid cytoplasmic genetic warfare. Serotonin thus plays a key role in enabling developmental organisation of reproduction conducive to the survival of the collective sexual organism, rather than individual amoebae.


Both serotonin and external cAMP  as well as glutamate and GABA are thus involved in social signalling, mediated by external G-protein linked receptors, despite the fact that in mammals cAMP is an intracellular second-signalling molecule. GABA promotes the release of the peptide SDF-2 which induces spore formation. Glutamate acts via the metabotropic glutamate receptor DdmGluPR as a competitive inhibitor of GABA functions mediated by a GABAb-like receptor and is also able to inhibit induction of sporulation by SDF-2. Lack of glutamate expression delayed aggregate formation and impaired chemotaxis toward cAMP. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that DdmGluPR diverged after the mGluR family-GABAb receptors split but before mGluR family divergence (Anjard & Loomis 2006, Milne & Devreotes 1993, Tanura et al. 2006).


About a third of wild-collected D. discoideum also engage in the symbiotic "husbandry" of bacteria, allowing the "seeding" of the food source at the location of the spore dispersal, which is particularly valuable if the new location is low in food resources. Colonies produced from the "farming" spores also show the same behaviour when sporulating. Some bacteria are sequestered in double membrane bound phagosomes where they are protectively isolated but not consumed. The amoebae preserve their individuality and each amoeba has its own bacterium. Symbiotic farming has a cost benefit trade-off: Those colonies that do not consume all of the prey bacteria produce smaller spores that cannot disperse as widely. In addition, much less benefit exists for bacteria-containing spores that land in a food-rich region, explaining why an ongoing minority of colonies do this (Brock et al. 2011).


Fig 117: Above: Changes in extracellular electric potential of D. discoideum pseudoplasmodial slug  (fig 116) moving on the substratum (Kitami 1988).  Below: VAMP homology between Dictyostellium and humans (Bennett et al. 2008).


Just as humans and slime moulds share the same basic neurotransmitter pathways, human phagocytes and Dictyostelium  share the same pathways for bacterial assimilation and defensive protection (Dunn et al. 2017). This is reflected in the homology of human and myxamoebic SNARE protein VAMP7, or SYBL1 (Bennett et al. 2008), involved in both endosomal vesicle transport and target cell killing by natural killer cells. Syntaxin 7, syntaxin 8, Vti1 and VAMP7 form an an active SNARE complex for early macropinocytic compartment fusion in Dictyostelium (Bogdanovic et al. 2008). Syntaxins drive fusion of synaptic vesicles containing v-SNAREs. and interact with voltage dependent calcium and potassium channels. The myxamoebic versions  likewise have sequence homologies with human versions.


Fig 118: Ichthyosporeans Filasterians and Chonaoflagellates  have genes for proto-synaptic proteins having extensive evolutionary homology with metazoan and vertebrate (human) synaptic proteins Dlg/PSD-95, Homer and Shank. In single-celled species they are associated with aggregation processes, just as human synaptic protein Dlg/PSD-95 is also active in septate junctions in skin cells (Burkhardt & Sprecher 2017).


Studies of protists that are close relatives of metazoans, like the ichthyosporean Creolimax fragrantissima, the filasterean Capsaspora owczarzaki and the two choanoflagellate species Monosiga brevicollis and Salpingoeca rosetta possess proto-synaptic proteins synaptic protein homologs although they never developed synapses and neurons that may interact with other proto-synaptic proteins in organisms with no synapses and neurons, in a very similar manner as observed in neurons. Their genomes encode for Dlg/PSD-95, Homer and Shank. Vesicle membrane proteins (e.g. Synaptophysin and Synaptogyrin), proteins involved in exocytosis (e.g. Complexin), and signaling (e.g. CaMKII) are also present in the genomes C. owczarzaki and choanoflagellates. Moreover, voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels were identified in the genomes of choanoflagellates (Liebeskind et al. 2011, Burkhardt & Sprecher 2017).

In metazoans with synapses and neurons, synaptic proteins are functionally diverse and fulfil different roles in other cell types. This seems to be the case for nearly every synaptic protein found in vertebrates. For instance, Dlg/PSD-95 functions as a scaffolding protein and clusters iGluRs to the plasma membrane of postsynapses, but the same protein is an important component of septate junctions in epithelial cells. The protein Homer, which is expressed in the nucleus and binds both to Flotillins in choano-flagellates and to astrocytes in vertebrates highlighting that many proto-synaptic genes may be pleiotropic.


Brunet & Arendt (2016) have explored the incidence of action potentials and Na/Ca ion channels and associated the incidence of action potentials in single celled eucaryotes as stemming from the activation of the eucaryote flagellum. The eucaryote kingdom is divided at or close to the base by the unikont/bikont division of one or two flagella, with animals and plants on opposing branches. Both of these broad groups bear flagella and have action potentials. Close to the root excavata such as Naegleria are known to possess flagella (fig 116). From this point of view excitability including that leading to action potentials is an ancestral feature of flagellated energetic protists. The amoeboid-flagellate switch is also conserved across the choanoflagellates, leading to metazoa (Brunet et al 2021).


Fig 119: Both action potentials (AP) and Na/Ca ion channels capable of delivering them are widely spread across the eucaryote tree, leading to the notion that the founding ciliatedeucaryote possessed action potentials. Notably Dictyostellium lacks flagella and has graded membrane potentials (Brunet & Arendt 2016).


Wan and Jékely (2020)  note that fast reaction escape responses  of ciliated eucaryote cells such as Paramecium (Schlaepfer & Wessel 2015) to potential threats from illumination changes or mechanical disturbance are usually induced by action potentials – unidirectional electrical pulses involving fast, regenerative changes in membrane potential. They state that while all cells display some electrical activity, phylogenetic evidence suggests that the capacity to propagate action potentials may have been an ancestral eukaryotic trait supported by LECA.


Brunet & Arendt (2016) advance an evolutionary hypothesis for the origin of the depolarizationcontractionsecretion (DCS) coupling, the functional core of animal neuromuscular circuits. They argue that such fast reactions may have emerged in response to accidental membrane damage and sudden calcium influx. Based on calcium-triggered membrane depolarization, they infer that the first action potentials evolved alongside the membrane of sensory-motile cilia, with the first voltage-sensitive sodium/calcium channels enabling a fast and coordinated response of the entire cilium to mechanosensory stimuli. From the cilium, action potentials then spread across the entire cell, enabling global cellular responses such as concerted contraction in several independent eukaryote lineages. In animals, this process led to the invention of mechano-sensory contractile cells. These gave rise to mechano-sensory receptor cells, neurons and muscle cells by division of labour and can be regarded as the founder cell type of the nervous system.


A precursor of synaptic transmission occurs in choanoflagellates, where the cells of some species aggregate to form colonies. In these colonies, the cells move water past the colony by beating their flagella. Each of these cells can release transmitters that act on receptors in nearby cells to produce movements of the whole colony (Kristan 2016). At the transition to multicellularity, the fresh water sponge Spongilla lacustris has 18 distinct cell types. Synaptic genes were active in a few of these types, which were clustered around the spongesdigestive chambers called secretory neuroid cells. X-ray scans revealed that neuroids send out long arms to modulate the activity of choanocytes holding the flagella that drive the sponges high-flow filter feeding currents. They do not have actual synapses but illustrate the evolution of cells specialising in modulating the activity of others (Musser et al. 2021).


Also originating with LECA are key transcription factors responsible for initiating transcription and hence gene expression. Fig 120(1) shows the full spread of these factors across eucaryote diversity, with a large paneucaryotic core  complemented by further evolution of TF’s in unikonts, holozoa (animals and amoebas), metazoa (higher animals), fungi, algae and higher plants.


Fig 120: (1) Transcription factors, including homeobox motifs in homeotic genes are widely distributed across the eucaryotes, indicating an origin with LECA (de Mendoza et al. 2013). Separate groups have also evolved in plants animals and fungi. Short terminal repeats representing about 5% of human DNA appear to act as mutable transcription factor "wells" flanking core regulatory sequences that allow a population of transcription factors to collect TFs to effect modulated gene control (Horton et al. (2023). (2) Related homeotic genes are involved in segmentation of both arthropods and vertebrates and also occur in plants (4). (3) Evolutionary tree of homeodomains shows these arose in single celled eucaryotes and diversified in metazoa, fungi and plants (Derele et al. 2007). A more recent study Mantica et al. (2024) comparing insects and vertebrates analyses founding gene complexes in the ancestor of all bilaterians demonstrating the diversity of function arising from early genome duplications. Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) compares the developmental processes of different organisms to infer how these evolved. It is composed of multiple core evolutionary concepts. (1) Deep homology is the finding that dissimilar organs such as the eyes of insects, vertebrates and cephalopod molluscs, long thought to have evolved separately, are controlled by similar genes such as pax-6 (see fig 154). These genes are ancient, and highly conserved among phyla; they generate the patterns in time and space which shape the embryo, and ultimately form the body plan of the organism. (2) Species do not differ much in their structural genes, such as those coding for enzymes; what does differ is the way that gene expression is regulated by the toolkit genes. These genes are reused, unchanged, many times in different parts of the embryo and at different stages of development, forming a complex cascade of control, switching other regulatory genes as well as structural genes on and off in a precise pattern. This multiple pleiotropic reuse explains why these genes are highly conserved, as any change would have many adverse consequences which natural selection would oppose. New morphological features and ultimately new species are produced by variations in the toolkit, either when genes are expressed in a new pattern, or when toolkit genes acquire additional functions. Transposable elements facilitate this through modular regulatory changes in how the toolkit is expressed.


Likewise, the homeodomains (Bürglin & Affolter 2016) originate at or close to the LECA root (Derelle et al. 2007), occurring for example in trichomonads and more diversely in amoebozoa and establishing separate new branches in metazoa, fungi and plants. These provide a genetic skeleton for developmental adaption of higher organisms through regulatory changes of morphogenesis leading to evolution of organismic phenotype of major phylla in constrained forms of regulatory evolution leading to among other branches to the brains of vertebrates, mammals, primates, apes and humans in the processes outlined in fig 120.


A multicellular transition point occurs in Cnidaria such as hydra, where the nervous system is an undifferentiated neural net, yet hydra displays innovative and intuitive multiple modes of locomotion as shown in fig 256, and cnidaria are fully-capable of associative learning (Botton-Amiot, et al. 2023, Bielecki et al. 2023). This attests to the idea that the neural net is self-organising society of sentient amoebo-flagellates , rather than the neurons being relatively trivial integrators , and the neural net / brain design is the causative definer of intelligent consciousness The emphasis thus remains on cellular rather than network intelligence alone (Ford 2009, 2010, 2017).


We thus now turn to higher organism and particularly human brain development. Late in the fourth week, the neural tube develops three distinct bulges that correspond to the areas that will become the three major divisions of the brain: forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. Not until the end of week 5 and into week 6 (usually around forty to forty-three days) does the first (chaotically) excitable electrical brain activity begin to occur. During weeks 8 to 10, the cerebrum begins its development in earnest. Neurons proliferate and begin their migration throughout the brain. The frontal and temporal poles of the brain are apparent during weeks 12 to 16, and the frontal pole (which becomes the neocortex) grows disproportionately fast when compared with the rest of the cortex.


Fig 121: Fetal brain development (Konkel 2018)  and emergence of resting state activity by fMRI (Schöpf et al. 2012).


The very early leading role in brain development of serotonin expression is laid bare by its sequential expression and elaboration from very early stages and is consistent across vertebrate species.  In early mouse embryos, 5-HT derived from the maternal-embryonic circulation activates different 5-HT receptors to control the proliferation, migration, gene expression, and morphogenesis of neural-crest and neural crest-derived cells (Buznikov et al. 2001). 5-HT signaling molecules such as enzymes responsible for 5-HT synthesis and breakdown, 5-HT receptors and the 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) are already expressed in the brain before 5-HT neurons are born (Witteveen et al. 2013).


The development of serotonin-containing neurons has been extensively studied in a number of animal species, including rat, chick, nonhuman primate, and human. In all species studied the highest functional status of the serotonin system is reached early in development, and adult levels of the system are actually much lower than in the younger animal. Serotonergic neurons are first evident by 5 weeks of gestation  and increase rapidly through the 10th week of gestation. By 15 weeks of gestation, the typical organization of serotonin cell bodies into the raphe nuclei can be seen. Serotonin levels increase more slowly throughout the first 2 years of life and then decline to adult levels by 5 years of age. The early arrival of serotonin into target regions, ahead of other monoamines, may regulate the ingrowth and terminal development of other monoamines, in particular dopamine. Because serotonin regulates the maturation of target areas, the amount of serotonin that grows into an area becomes key for further development” (Whitaker-Azmitia 2001).


GABAergic neurons likewise appear early in the development of embryonic brain and spinal cord. GABAergic fibers, apparently ascending from the spinal cord, project through regions of brainstem, midbrain and forebrain where serotonergic, dopaminergic and peptidergic neurons are being generated. An example of trophic signalling between neurons and glia also occurs in the serotonergic regulation of the calcium-binding protein S100, which functions as a serotonergic and GABAergic growth factor in the embryonic brain stem (Lauder 1993).


Cells of the serotonergic raphe nuclei are generated early in the embryonic rat brain, prior to most of their target cells. As soon as they are formed, these neurons begin to send axons rostrally, where they soon encounter their earliest targets (e.g., dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra). The ability of 5-HT to regulate development of its target cells may be mediated by specific 5-HT receptor subtypes. It has been demonstrated that prenatal exposure to pCPA, or the general agonist 5-methoxytryptamine (5-MT), alters the postnatal expression of 5-HT receptors in rat brain. A recent in situ hybridization study has revealed that embryonic monoamine neurons and other neuronal populations affected by in utero exposure to pCPA express mRNA transcripts encoding 5-HTlc and 5-HT2 receptors. Moreover, the [psychedelic]  5-HT1c/2 agonist DOI promotes growth of cultured embryonic brainstem 5-HT neurons and mesencephalic dopamine neurons.


Fig 122: (1, 2) Neurogenesis and cellular migration up the glial scaffold to form the cortical layers (Agirman et al. 2017, Paridaen & Huttner 2014, Liu et al. 2023). (3) Serotonin interactions in the mature brain between the Dorsal Raphe and mPFC (Celada, Puig & Artigas 2013). These are also activated I embryogenesis and mediate the organisation of the layered cortex through the Cajal-Retzius cells. Inset: Dopamine and Noradrenalin inputs to dlPFC (Thiele & Bellgrove 2018). (5) Pyramidal cells are complex oscillating cells which have receptors for multiple neurotransmitters in diverse locations from dendrites to the cell body and axon. (6) Connectome of axonal pathways in the brain emphasise its integrated embryonic development as an adaptive cellular process.


5-HT neurons located in the rostral raphe cluster extend profuse axon tracts into the fore- and midbrain. A distant target of the ascending 5-HT projection system within the forebrain is the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). The mPFC is the seat of our highest cognitive abilities and known to be involved in attentional processes, working memory and behavioural flexibility. In rodents, the developing 5-HT-positive fibers reach the mPFC, where they initially innervate the marginal zone and the subplate, before massively innervating the cortical plate proper. The 5-HT fibers, found within the marginal zone of the mPFC, are thought to contact Cajal-Retzius (CR) cells, cortical layer I cells secreting the glycoprotein reelin crucial for the correct layering of the cortex (Witteveen et al. 2013). Serotonins key function as a organiser of brain development in humans, may thus explain why fetal alcohol syndrome may be precipitated by embryonic serotonin depletion (Whitaker-Azmitia et al. 1996). The 5-HT2a receptor develops more slowly than the 5HT1a. The peak of the 5-HT2A receptor is earlier than the 5-HT2C receptor and the receptor is functional by postnatal day 7 in the rat hippocampus. This time period is too late to influence differentiation, however the receptor may play a role in branching, terminal sprouting, synaptogenesis, and mitogenesis. The role of both the 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors during development suggest that the 5-HT2A receptor acts to release glucose from glial cells and to increase Ca2+ levels in neurons.


These actions destabilise the internal cytoskeleton, promoting fluidity and result in cell proliferation and apoptosis, resulting in structural instability. By contrast, the 5-HT1A receptor  increases the release of S100β from astrocytes and reduces the levels of cAMP in neurons, promoting an acceleration of differentiation produced by enhancement and stabilisation of cytoskeletal formation, neuronal rest and stability. The 5-HT2 receptor can be referred to as a programmable receptor. Events during development may affect the number, affinity, or function of these receptors in the adult brain. Both prenatal and postnatal stress to the mother significantly increases the number of 5-HT2 receptors in the offspring, even after they have become adults (Azmitia 2001).


Serotonin neuronal autoregulation spans major metazoan phyla from molluscs, through arthropods to vertebrates as well as the human brain:


Serotonin appears to autoregulate development of cultured 5-HT neurons, and can initiate and autoamplify its own synthesis in hypothalamic cultures. Evidence for an autoregulatory role of 5-HT in vivo comes from the observations that Drosophila mutants incapable of 5-HT synthesis, and adult snails depleted of 5-HT, exhibit aberrant growth of serotonergic axons. Similar effects are seen in rats treated prenatally with the 5-HT receptor agonist 5-MT. Taken together, these studies indicate that altered levels of 5-HT may affect development of the serotorergic system in developing brain. Serotonin also inhibits its own growth through the presence of serotonergic receptors on serotonin terminals possibly 5-HT1b. Thus, serotonin regulates not only the development of target fields, but also its own development” (Whitaker-Azmitia et al. 1996).


This picture confirms that the role of serotonin in nervous system development is strongly conserved from amoebozoa to humans and signals the existence of an ancient conserved regulatory system that evolved in single celled eucaryotes  to secure survival of the collective organism, still similarly expressed in us to regulate development. This provides an evolutionary basis for neurodynamic networks to have retained these developmental characteristics, enabling entheogenic serotonin receptor agonists to alter the emotional dynamics of the networks of the ego attuned for organismic and kin survival to promote collective survival, experienced as union the with mind at large. It is also consistent with consciousness emerging at the level of the eucaryote cell.


The developmental paradigm outlined in fig 122 also underlines the fact that the entire network architecture of the brain is the result of a developmental social interaction between specific cell types of neural epithelial cells differentiating into glial and neuronal cell types, which then, in a coordinated sequence, undergo a dynamic state of cell migration where differentiating cells use the glial scaffold to locate their cell bodies in the appropriate places in the cortical layers before sending out dendrites and axons to make contact with the cell types with which they will eventually form the functional brain’s global network.


Cell migration to achieve this has to occur on multiple fronts. In radial migration, Neural stem cells proliferate in the ventricular zone lower in fig 122 (1, 2). The first postmitotic cells to migrate from the preplate become Cajal-Retzius cells and subplate neurons, migrating by somal translocation. The cells are bipolar and attach the leading edge of the process and the soma is then transported by nucleokenisis, via a microtubule "cage" around the nucleus elongating and contracting in association with the centrosome to guide the nucleus to its final destination. Radial fibres (radial glia) can translocate to the cortical plate and differentiate either into astrocytes or neurons. Somal translocation can occur at any time during development. Subsequent waves of neurons split the preplate by migrating along radial glial fibres to form the cortical plate. Each wave of migrating cells travel past their predecessors forming layers in an inside-out manner, meaning that the youngest neurons are the closest to the surface. It is estimated that glial guided migration represents 80-90% of migrating neurons. Most interneurons and Cajal-Retzius cells migrate tangentially through multiple modes of migration to reach their appropriate lateral location in the cortex. Many neurons migrating along the anterior-posterior axis of the body use existing axon tracts to migrate along in a process called axophilic migration. An example is GnRH- expressing neurons, which make a long journey from their birthplace in the nose, through the forebrain, and into the hypothalamus. Neurophilic migration involves the migration of neurons along an axon belonging to a different cell type. Gliophilic migration is the migration of glia along glial fibres.


The resulting picture is that the entire global network structure of the mature nervous system has arisen through the intelligent strategic activity of individual glial and neuronal cells responding to morphogenic, cell identifying and neurotransmitter clues. There is obviously a genetically based adaptive program in play to achieve this, but the resulting complexity is vastly higher than the complexity of the human genome, so it has to take place through individual cells responding intelligently to the cellular signals in their immediate environment. The conscious biological brain remains the most ecosystemically complex diverse "computational" system in the universe and the only one capable of subjective conscious awareness, recent studies of the mouse brain (Yao et al. 2023) and human synaptic proteome (van Oostrum et al. 2023) show vast diversity with no less that 5,300 types of neuron and neuroglia in the with 1015 synapses over 1010 very complex non-linear neurons with up to 105 different synapses involving multiple receptor types on each. This is general natural intelligence at the molecular level, at cosmological climax.


As the nervous system matures and active excitable network communication arises, edge of chaos excitability forms a dynamic inducer of network connectivity and synaptic adaption, working through the sensory systems from the outside in, with the retina, modulating the input nuclei such as the lateral and medial geniculate in the thalamus and finally the cortex. This means that the notion of the mature brain as simply a synaptic network where the cells are simple functional modules summing up synaptic inputs and encoding these inputs in an action potential firing rate are gross trivialisations of the neurons and glial cells, whose interactive intelligence has been responsible, not just for ongoing adaptive brain states, but the entire structure and function of the nervous system. There is no evolutionary sense in their regressing to a McCulloch-Pitts zombie state having intelligently generated the entire brain.


The idea of the brain as simply a biological neural network of summative synaptic units with thresholds and long term weighting adjustments is thus a highly incorrect simplification, while the idea of the brain as a social network of participating highly intelligent cells both causing the entire fabric and it collective activity in conscious mental states is the correct one and the one that remains informative about all forms of adaption, learning and memory in which the human brain is involved. Likewise the idea that the neurons are just cellular automata while the networked brain somehow has emergent conscious from its network complexity is a Zeno’s paradox fallacy. Nuclear functions, including genetic and epigenetic modification have been cited as a basis of long term memory whose basis lies in existing cellular memory processes (Miller et al. 2010, Yu et al. 2011, Bernstein 2022).


Fig 123: Electrical and biochemical synapses.


Critical to this is the fact that even the brains of humans consist of an intimately coupled society of intelligent amoebo-flagellate cells communicating via the same neurotransmitter molecules that single-celled eucaryotes use to engage social signalling to ensure the survival of the collective organism. While  both ionotropic and metabotropic  neuro-receptors and modulators, based on chemical neurotransmitters, form the principal  interactive longitudinal network pathways,  electrical synapses using gap junctions have also evolved in metazoa (Söhl et al. 2005, Purpura 2014, Martin et al. 2020). But these have not evolved to replace the dependence on biochemical synapses, showing the latter have, throughout multicellular evolution remained essential to organismic survival. The brain has thus, even given the where with all to do so, never evolved to become a purely electrochemical neural net that could be adequately modelled by artificial electrical neural net processes. Electrical synapses do have complementary roles to biochemical synapses, enabling fast resonant activity maintaining synchrony, especially in lateral connections, e.g. in the retina (Trenholm & Awatramani 2022), enabling volume transmission (diffusion through the extracellular space of neurotransmitters that reach remote target cells) and generating electrical fields that are capable of influencing the excitability of nearby neurons. Gap junctions can also pass smaller molecules such as ATP and second messengers, so they are not exclusively electro-chemical. They are also bi-directional, while biochemical synapses are unidirectional. Mixed function chemical and electrical synapses also occur.


The final aspect of this is that the process is not just cellular but is a dynamic fractal from the quantum level to the global brain state. It is operating using wave phase coherence in feedback between continuous and discrete signalling and it is operating at the edge of chaos (King 2014, Teuscher 2022), so its dynamical properties are in a state of self-organised criticality at the quantum level. It is thus in a state of sustained causal uncertainty.


There can be no comparison between the conscious mammalian brain and any externally designed artificial neural net, because the biological one is intelligently designed from the cell up, through the development process, rather than having an externally imposed serial structure, as in a convolutional neural networks, or even random neural nets approximating cerebral circuits, which lack the fractal functionality, thus making machines with subjectively conscious volition, improbable to untenable (Ricci, Cadéne & Serre 2021, Schaeffer, Khona & Fiete 2022, Feather et al. 2023). Artificial neural nets do not currently possess any of the the edge of chaos phase coherence sampling dynamics of the neurodynamic brain.


Fig 124: Upper a convolutional neural net is an externally designed serial causal chain where convolutions of the image are first formed and then a multilayer neural net is entrained on the data to produce a pattern discriminator. The neural nets are simple Hebbian nets connected in series. Lower: An experiment to measure net memory capacity in simple neural nets by iterative synaptic modification designed to have rough quasi-random connections modelled on brain neural networks, tested on active field overlap α (Suárez et al. 2021).


Deep and Dreaming Sleep Across the Animal Evolutionary Tree.


Human sleep runs in cycles descending into deep non-REM States characterised by deep slow waves and periodically rising with increasing frequency during the night to shorter phases of REM (paid eye movement) sleep, where the brain activity closely resembles the waking state but the body is largely paralysed. This is when the rich phases of dreaming occur.


A collection of theories of REM and non-REM sleep have attempted to associate dreaming phases with memory consolidation processes – through specific patterns of neuromodulatory activity and electric field potential oscillations, slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep support system consolidation and synaptic consolidation, respectively. During deep sleep, slow oscillations, spindles and ripples - at minimum cholinergic activity - coordinate the re-activation and redistribution of hippocampus-dependent memories to neocortical sites, whereas during REM sleep, local increases in plasticity-related immediate-early gene activity - at high cholinergic and theta activity — may favour the subsequent synaptic consolidation of memories in the cortex (Diekelmann & Born 2010,  Stickgold & Walker 2007). Studies show that people perform better at memorisation tasks when they have had a good episode of REM sleep. The direction and amplitude of rapid eye movements during REM sleep disclose gaze shifts in the virtual world of REM sleep, thereby providing a window into the cognitive processes of the sleeping brain (Senzai & Scanziani 2022). Researchers studying mice have found a causal relationship between REM sleep and memory consolidation (Boyce et al. 2016). The memory enhancements of sleep also appear to be specifically targeted at memories the individual perceive to have future relevance. The mere expectancy that a memory will be used in a future test determines whether or not sleep significantly benefits consolidation of this memory. (Wilhelm, et al. 2011). However, although we often forget our dreams consistent with memory reprocessing taking place, if we are awakened immediately from REM sleep, or our sleep is disturbed, we can often remember complex dreams in their entirety, or even become aware enough to realise we are dreaming and enter a lucid dreaming state.


Deep non-REM sleep has also been associated with consolidation of synaptic connections. Sleep after motor learning promotes the formation of postsynaptic dendritic spines on a subset of branches of individual layer V pyramidal neurons. Such neurons activated during learning of a motor task are reactivated during subsequent non–rapid eye movement sleep, and disrupting this neuronal reactivation prevents branch-specific spine formation (Yang et al. 2014). More generally sleep appears to consolidate motor learning at the burst levels attained immediately after training (Nettersheim 2015). It has also been found that sleep re-calibrates homeostatic and associative synaptic plasticity, believed to be the neural basis for adaptive behaviour, in humans (Kuhn et al. 2016). It has been found that in young people sleep spindles remain in synch with large slow waves, which may enable the prefrontal cortex to encode memories being transferred from the hippocampus, leading to consolidation. In older people disruption of this synchrony appears to lead to loss of memory consolidation during sleep (Helfrich et al. 2017).


Fig 125: Left stages in the human sleep cycle. Top right: Variations in mammalian daily length of sleep. Lower right: Sleep like torpor in Panurginus and inverted Cnidarian.


There is wide variation in the sleep between mammal species. For example a giraffe only sleeps an average of 1.9 hours, both chimps and orangutans sleep longer than humans 9.67 and 9.11, while a tiger slumbers for 15.5 and an armadillo 20.4. As well as depending on metabolic rates, sleep periods, which extend to both the vertebrates and arthropods, can provide a protective role, keeping animals, which are either nocturnal or diurnal, out of the sight of predators during their inactive hours. The extent of the REM phase also varies widely between mammal species. Animals with big brains for their body size need a significantly higher percentage of REM sleep, supporting a role in intelligence and cognitive function (Lesku et al. 2008). Humans have atypically short sleep compared with closely related primates and pack an unexpectedly higher proportion of REM sleep within a shorter overall sleep duration, and do so by reducing NREM sleep, rather than increasing REM. (Nunn & Samson 2018). Notably cetaceans sleep a single cortex at a time, rather than the whole brain to enable swimming.


Fig 126: REM sleep in cats, and jumping spiders


More recent research has highlighted REM phases of sleep running far down the evolutionary tree. They are noted in zebra fish (Leung et al. 2019).  Jumping spiderlets have been filmed going through periods of quiescent sleep hanging on a thread, interspersed with short periods of eye movement and leg twitching characteristic of mammalian REM sleep (Rößler et al. (2022). Furthermore, cephalopods, including octupi and squids have been shown to likewise have periods of active sleep in which rapid changes in skin colouration appear to coincide with an active dreaming state (Iglesias et al. 2019Medeiros et al. 2021) coinciding with a perceived series of encounters as shown in the fig below. This raises intriguing questions about the fundamental role of dreaming consciousness throughout the animal tree despited highly divergent brains of molluscs, arthropods and vertebrates, hinting at a universal form of consciousness in all animal life forms.


Fig 127: Changes in skin colouration in an octopus indicate a dream involving rising from the ocean floor (dark transition) and hunting and eating camouflage.


The Evolving Human Genotype: Developmental Evolution and Viral Symbiosis


To gain an empirical view of how these various evolutionary factors play out in practice, we now turn to examining in detail the evolutionary processes of replication and selection as they apply to our own species.


The double stranded human genome consists of some  base pairs, including only  ~21,000 protein-coding genes making up around 1% of the genome. More than 80% of the human genome has some active biochemical activity. Although it is currently unknown whether all of this DNA contributes to cellular function, the majority can be transcribed into RNA. Nearly 20 percent of the genome is associated with DNase hypersensitivity or transcription factor binding, identifiable with regulatory regions, of which more than 4 million have been identified (Zhao 2012).


Many of these protein coding genes, including the nuclear core metabolic genes arising from the endosymbiotic

-proteobacteria that became our mitochondria, first evolved in the great archaean expansion 3.2 billion years ago (David & Alm 2010), so that the phenotypic evolution of higher organisms has become a regulatory symphony orchestrating the expression of these genes and later homeotic morphogenetic genes that arose with the first metaphyta in ever more evolved regulatory relationships, through natural and sexual selection based on animal survival and reproduction.


As Gerhart & Kirschner (2007) note:


Regulatory change acts on the repertoire of unchanging core processes to select subsets, which are then externally selected upon. The burden of creativity in evolution, down to minute details, does not rest on selection alone. Through its ancient repertoire of core processes, the current phenotype of the animal determines the kind, amount, and viability of phenotypic variation the animal can produce in response to regulatory change. Thanks to the nature of the processes, the range of possible anatomical and physiological variations is enormous, and many are likely nonlethal, in part simply because the processes have been providing ‘‘useful’’ function since pre- Cambrian times. Phenotypic plasticities, both those evokable by environmental change and those developmental adaptabilities not evocable, are rich sources and favored paths of variation requiring little regulatory change.


Fig 128Tree diagram of the birth, transfer, duplication and loss of key genes in the redox and electron transport pathways,
in a founding burst of gene evolution between 3.3 and 2.7 billion years ago (David &
Alm 2010).


This brings us to the selfish gene part, which invokes an extraordinary symbiotic evolutionary story over very long time scales. Around 46% of the human genome consists of transposable genetic elements (TEs) and endogenous retroviruses, which can take on a selfish life of their own. The evolutionary distribution of these elements in the human genome is illustrated in fig 100. TEs can be separated into two major classes: DNA transposons and retrotransposons. DNA transposons, making up ~3% of the human genome, can excise themselves from the genome, move as DNA and paste themselves into new genomic sites. Although they are currently not mobilising in the human genome, they were active during early primate evolution, until ~37 million years ago. Retrotransposons duplicate via transcribed RNA intermediates that are reverse-transcribed and inserted at new genomic locations. They consist of two groups, with and without long terminal repeats (LTRs). Human LTR elements are endogenous retroviruses which account for ~8% of the genome, most inserted in the human genome >25 My ago, and their activity is presently very limited in humans, if occurring at all. Nevertheless, HERV-derived transcripts and proteins have been detected in healthy and diseased human tissues, and HERV-K, the youngest, most conserved family, is able to form virus-like particles (Bannert & Kurth 2004). By contrast, the vast majority of human TEs result from the present and past activity of non-LTR retrotransposons, typified by LINE-1 (or L1), Alu and SVA elements, that collectively account for about one third of the human genome. These are the only TEs unequivocally shown to be currently active in humans, as demonstrated by de novo insertions causing genetic disorders (Cordaux & Batzer 2009), including loss of the tail in apes (Xia et al. 2024).


There are >500,000 L1 copies in the human genome, resulting from their continued mobilisation for the past 150 My. L1 elements constitute ~17% of the human genome. There are >1 million Alu copies in the human genome, resulting from their continued activity throughout the past ~65 My.  Alu elements have no coding capacity and are, therefore, non-autonomous TEs – “a parasite’s parasite”. Instead, they borrow the processes encoded by L1 elements. There are ~3,000 SVA copies in the human genome, resulting from continued activity throughout the ~25 My of hominid evolution. SVA elements are non-autonomous TEs mobilised by the L1 machinery. Before the autonomous L1 element and its Alu parasite expansions, the genome experienced the autonomous L2 element and its MIR parasite. The current rate of Alu and L1 retrotransposition has been estimated as one insertion every 20-200 births in humans.


We now investigate the ecology, parasitism and symbiotic implications of transposable elements. TEs are not randomly distributed. The genome may be viewed as an ecosystem inhabited by diverse communities of TEs, which seek to propagate and multiply through parasitism, cooperation, and competition. Many elements have evolved mechanisms to target specific loci where their insertions are less detrimental to the host but favourable for their propagation. The success and diversity of TEs in a genome are shaped both by properties intrinsic to the elements as well as evolutionary forces acting at the level of the host species (Bourque et al. 2018 and ensuing paragraphs).


To survive in evolution, TE expression needs to strike a balance sufficient to promote amplification, but not so vigorous as to lead to a fitness disadvantage for the host offsetting the benefit to the TE. TE-encoded enzymes are naturally suboptimal for transposition  and why some TEs have evolved self-regulatory mechanisms controlling their own copy numbers. A variety of host factors are also employed to control TE expression, which includes a variety of small RNA, chromatin, and DNA modification pathways, and sequence-specific repressors such as KRAB zinc-finger proteins. However, many of these silencing mechanisms must be at least partially released to permit developmental regulation of host gene expression programs, particularly during early embryonic development. For example, genome-wide loss of DNA methylation is necessary to reset imprinted genes in primordial germ cells. This affords TEs an opportunity, as reduced DNA methylation often promotes TE expression. There is is also a large body of evidence supporting the idea that horizontal transposon transfer is a common phenomenon that affects virtually every major type of TE and all branches of the tree of life, in addition to endogenous vertical transfer in organismic reproduction.


TEs are an extensive source of mutations and genetic polymorphisms. More than 99.9% of the ~500,000 L1 copies are no longer mobile due to various forms of mutations and truncations. It is estimated that each person carries a set of ~100 active L1 elements, mostly young insertions still segregating within the human population. TEs are associated with genome rearrangements and unique chromosome features. Transposition represents a potent mechanism of genome expansion that over time is counteracted by the removal of DNA via deletion. The rate at which TEs transpose, which is in part under host control, is an important driver of genome evolution.


Fig 129: (Left) LINE-1 RNA mediates binding of Nucleolin and Kap1 to rDNA, promoting rRNA synthesis and ESC self-renewal.

(Right) Pseudogene-mediated production of endogenous small interfering RNAs (endo-siRNAs). Pseudogenes can arise through the copying of a parent gene (by duplication or by retrotransposition). (a) An antisense transcript of the pseudogene and an mRNA transcript of its parent gene can then form a double-stranded RNA. (b) Pseudogenic endo-siRNAs can also arise through copying of the parent gene as in a and then nearby duplication and inversion of this copy. The subsequent transcription of both copies results in a long RNA, which folds into a hairpin, as one half of it is complementary to its other half. In both a and b, the double-stranded RNA is cut by Dicer into 21-nucleotide endo-siRNAs, which are guided by the RISC complex to interact with, and degrade, the parent gene's remaining mRNA transcripts. The mRNA from genes is in red and that from pseudogenes is in blue. Green arrows indicate DNA rearrangements (Sasidharan R, Gerstein M 2008 Protein fossils live on as RNA Nature 453/5 729-32). 


To replicate down the germ line L! elements are preferentially expressed in both germ-line tissues and steriodogenic in mice (Branciforte and Martin 1994, Trelogan and Martin 1995). L1 RNA transcripts are generated in several stages of spermatogenesis including leptotene, and in the primary oocytes of females poised at prophase 1 and predominantly become expressed after fertilisation in embryogenesis (Lyon et al. 2010). Most insertions are in somatic cells leading to somatic mosaicism and only a small subset in germ line cells. This could enable somatic stress to have a potential effect on translocation in the germ-line which might enable forms of genetic adaption in long-lived species such as humans (King 1985, 1992). Conversely the SRY-group male determining gene SOX has been found to regulate LINE retrotransposition (Tchénio et. al. 2000).


L1 is highly expressed during early development and plays essential roles in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and pre-implantation embryos. L1 RNA acts as a nuclear scaffold that recruits Nucleolin and Kap1/Trim28 to repress Dux, the master activator of a transcriptional program specific to the 2-cell embryo. It is required for Dux silencing, synthesis of rRNA, and exit from the 2-cell stage (Percharde M et al. 2018).


L1 elements have also been found to replicate in neural progenitor cells in both the mouse and human and copy numbers have been found to increase in the hippocampus, and in several regions of adult human brains, when compared to the copy number of endogenous L1s in heart or liver genomic DNAs from the same donor. The authors comment that these data suggest that de novo L1 retrotransposition events may occur in the human brain and, in principle, have the potential to contribute to individual somatic mosaicism (Coufal et. al. 2009).


L1s were found to be able to mobilise in mammalian neural progenitor cells (NPCs) isolated from adult rat hippocampus (Muotri et al 2005). During development, neurons migrate from the proliferative zones as hippocampus and subventricular zone toward the surface of the brain to form six distinct histological layers and establish new neuronal networks. Thus, L1-associated mutations occurring in progenitor cells could potentially change the cellular phenotypes in the nascent neurons. L1 retrotransposition was found in the striatum, cortex, hypothalamus, hilus, cerebellum, ventricles, amygdala, and hippocampus. Estimates from human hippocampus, were respectively 13.7 and 6.5 somatic L1 insertions per neuron and glia, respectively. More recently the L1 insertion rate in both neurons and glia from hippocampus and frontal cortex of three healthy individuals was 0.58–1 events per cell. What seems to be certainly clear is that neuronal cells are more permissive for L1 retrotransposition than other cell types in the human body  (Macia & Muotri 2017).


Although L1 elements do not have viral infectivity, lacking the envelope genes of retroviruses, there are recorded cases of horizontal gene transfer of L1 elements between species (Ivancevic et al. 2018). The line related bovine B element which also helps replicate a population of alu-like elements, has made multiple interspecies transfers from predators (snakes) to their prey (frogs) through a variety of parasites (Adelson et al. 2009, Kambayashi et al. 2022).


The use of next generation sequencing has provided additional insights into the L1 role in the mammalian brain, which demonstrate that is indeed made of a mosaic of genomes. Mice in running wheels had threefold more L1 retrotransposition than mice in sedentary environments. In human, the expression of L1 retroelements has been linked to several psychopathological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD). MECP2, a protein involved in global DNA methylation, along with the transcriptional factors Sox2 and HDAC1, is known to form a repressor complex on the L1 promoter region, controlling L1 neuronal transcription and thus retrotransposition. Mutation of MECP2 in humans causes Rett syndrome (RTT), a progressive neurological disorder being considered part of the autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Terry & Devine (2020) note aberrantly high levels of L1 expression and retrotransposition in Human Neurological Disorders. The activated L1s act as alternative promoters for many protein-coding genes involved in neuronal functions, revealing a hominoid-specific L1-based transcriptional network controlled by DNA methylation that influences neuronal protein-coding genes (Jönsson M et al. 2019).


Ivancevic et al. (2016) have traced the evolutionary tree of L1 back to the founding eucaryotes as L1 elements occur in both plants and animal phylla spanning vertebrates, arthropods, and molluscs such as octopi where L1 transposition has specifically been associated with high-intelligence where transcription and translation measured for one of these elements resulted in specific signals in neurons belonging to areas associated with behavioural plasticity (Petrosino et al. 2022). L1, along with DNA transposons and LTR retroelements are ubiquitous across the arthropod kingdom (Petersen et al. 2019).


Similarly inactive L1 elements have been found to be 'boosters' of one X chromosome in collapse of one of the two X chromosomes in somatic lines that happens in female embryogenesis (Lyon 2000). A subset of young LINE-1 elements, however, is expressed during X inactivation, rather than being silenced. Such LINE expression requires the specific heterochromatic state induced by Xist. These L1s often lie within escape-prone regions of the X chromosome, but close to genes that are subject to X inactivation, and are associated with putative endo-siRNAs small interfering RNAs that silence transposable elements. L1s may thus facilitate XCI at different levels (Chow et al. 2010).


A number of key coding and non-coding RNAs are derived from TEs. Although usually detrimental, there is growing evidence that TE insertions can provide raw material for the emergence of protein-coding genes and non-coding RNAs, which can take on important and, in some cases essential, cellular function. A spectacular example of deeply conserved TE-derived genes are Rag1 and Rag2, that catalyse V(D)J somatic recombination in the vertebrate immune system. Both genes, and probably the DNA signals they recognise, were derived from an ancestral DNA transposon around 500 million years ago.


Fig 130: Left: Telomerase containing an ancient relative of TE reverse transcriptase shows a deep evolutionary link with all retroelements. Centre: The arc gene involved in retrovirus like particles in neural plasticity arose independently from gypsy elements in both mammals and Drosophila. Right: Syncytin essential for the placental membrane has been incorporated across mammals, some marsupials and a placental lizard from retroviral Env genes.


One of the most intriguing examples of TE domestication is the repeated, independent capture of ERV env genes, termed syncytins, which are involved in placentation by facilitating cellcell fusion and syncytiotrophoblast formation.  These multinucleated cells originate from fetal trophoblasts and constitute the boundary layer between maternal and fetal tissue. The major functions of this layer include maternalfetal exchange and the maintenance of immunologic tolerance toward the developing fetus (Bannert & Kurth 2004). Notably, one or more such syncytin genes have been found in virtually every placental mammalian lineage where they have been sought, strongly suggesting that ERVs have played essential roles in the evolution and extreme phenotypic variability of the mammalian placenta (Lavialle et al. 2013, Cornelis G et al. (2017).


Another example of a viral-sourced activity re-purposed for host cell function is provided by the neuronal Arc gene, which arose from the gag gene from a LTR retrotransposon domesticated in the common ancestor of tetrapod vertebrates. Genetic and biochemical studies of murine Arc show that it is involved in memory and synaptic plasticity and has preserved most of the ancestral activities of Gag, including the packaging and intercellular trafficking of its own RNA (Pastuzyn et al. 2018, Nikolaienko et al. 2018).


Unlike prokaryotes, eucaryote protein-coding genes are interspersed with non-coding introns between the exons that constitute functional pieces of the coded protein which have to be excised before translation. Introns allow for alternative splicing to produce different proteins and enable evolution to be modular and to recombine exons into new proteins, so they are a crucial part of eukaryotic genomes, but their origins are poorly understood. Some lineages exhibit large-scale gains in introns extremely rapidly. This is consistent with a type of element, introners, that create copies of themselves that insert into many genes across the genome, which evolved convergently from many distinct genetic elements, most are consistent with DNA-based transposable elements, and they are disproportionately common in the genomes of aquatic organisms where horizontal genetic transfer is more common (Roy et al. 2020, 2023, Gozashti et al. 2022).


TEs can donate their own genes to the host, and they can also add exons and rearrange and duplicate existing host genes. In humans, intronic Alu elements are particularly prone to be captured as alternative exons through cryptic splice sites residing within their sequences. L1 and SVA (SINE/VNTR/Alu) elements also contribute to exon shuffling through transduction events of adjacent host sequences during their mobilisation. In both mice and humans, the placenta utilises SINE elements (Alu and B1) to form ds-RNA to modulate the immune system in pregnancy to induce type III interferon to avoid viral disease while not inducing rejection of the embryo(s). By pretending it's under viral attack, it keeps the immune system running at a gentle, steady pace to protect the enclosed foetus from viruses that slip past the mother's immune defences (Wickramage et al. 2023). The reverse transcriptase activity of retroelements is also responsible for the trans-duplication of cellular mRNAs to create processedretrogenes in a wide range of organisms. The L1 enzymatic machinery is thought to be involved in the generation of tens of thousands of retrogene copies in mammalian genomes, many of which remain transcribed and some of which have acquired new cellular functions. This is a process still actively shaping our genomes; it has been estimated that 1 in every 6000 humans carries a novel retrogene insertion.


TEs also make substantial contributions to non-protein coding functions of the cell. They are major components of thousands of long non-coding RNAs in human and mouse genomes, often transcriptionally driven by retroviral LTRs. Some of these TE-driven lncRNAs appear to play important roles in the maintenance of stem cell pluripotency and other developmental processes. Many studies have demonstrated that TE sequences embedded within lncRNAs and mRNAs can directly modulate RNA stability, processing, or localisation with important regulatory consequences. Furthermore, TE-derived microRNAs and other small RNAs processed from TEs can also adopt regulatory roles serving host cell functions. The myriad of mechanisms by which TEs contribute to coding and non-coding RNAs illustrate the multi-faceted interactions between these elements and their host.


TEs contribute cis-regulatory DNA elements and modify transcriptional networks. Cis-regulatory networks coordinate the transcription of multiple genes that function in concert to orchestrate entire pathways and complex biological processes. There is now mounting evidence that TEs have been a rich source of material for the modulation of eukaryotic gene expression. TEs can disperse vast amounts of promoters and enhancers transcription factor binding sites, insulator sequences, and repressive elements As TE families typically populate a genome as a multitude of related copies, it has long been postulated that they have the potential to donate the same cis-regulatory module to wirebatteries of genes dispersed throughout the genome. An increasing number of studies support this model and suggest that TEs have provided the building blocks for the assembly and remodelling of cis-regulatory networks during evolution, including pathways underlying processes as diverse as pregnancy, stem cell pluripotency, neocortex development and innate immunity.


We now turn to the overall mutational load of all these processes. Xue Y et al. (2009) set an even lower limit examining the Y chromosome of  mutations/nucleotide/generation, giving 90 per haploid genome.  Harris & Pritchard (2017) note that due to the combined action error correcting genes, mutation rates are extremely low in humans – about one point mutation per 100 MB or about 60 genome-wide per generation. Give only 1% coding this would imply only around 0.6 coding mutations per generation consistent with the raw assumption of around 0.5.


Feusier J et al. (2019) have provided the following retrotransposition rate estimates for Alu elements, one in 40 births, is roughly half the rate estimated using phylogenetic analyses of one in 20, a difference in magnitude similar to that observed for single-nucleotide variants. The L1 retrotransposition rate is one in 63 births and is within range of previous estimates (1:201:200 births). The SVA retrotransposition rate, one in 63 births. While these are more disruptive or retrogene TE insertions, the rates of both are broadly consistent with a viable mutational load under integrative mutational change accompanied by sexual recombination.


This picture has shown us a comprehensive view of how the organismic human genome succeeds in maintaining a balance with its “selfish” TEs, in which feedback between TE transposition, host repression and a wide array of symbiotic evolutionary manifestations have resulted in a co-evolutionary scenario in which the TEs have become (or have always been) essential complements of the host nuclear genome, providing us with the capacity for passing the two cell embryo stage, enabling placental development, contributing to neural plasticity and learning and the very basis of our antibody immunity.


The Evolving Human Phenotype: Sexual Evolution, the Heritage of Sexual Love and Patriarchal Dominion


In “The Woman that never Evolved”, Sarah Hrdy (1981) conveyed a previously unrecognised view of the primate female in the span of her transition to humanity:  we are introduced to our nearest female relatives: competitive, independent, sexually assertive primates who have every bit as much at stake in the evolutionary game as their male counterparts do. These females compete among themselves for rank and resources, but will bond together for mutual defense. They risk their lives to protect their young, yet consort with the very male who murdered their offspring when successful reproduction depends upon it. They tolerate other breeding females if food is plentiful, but chase them away when monogamy is the optimal strategy. When promiscuityis an advantage, female primates—like their human cousins—exhibit a sexual appetite that ensures a range of breeding partners. From case after case we are led to the conclusion that the sexually passive, noncompetitive, all-nurturing woman of prevailing myth never could have evolved within the primate order.


Human evolution and cultural emergence has thus been marked by a strong influence of female reproductive choice, amid mutual mate choice, accompanying a long slowly developing childhood. This is consistent with our closest sister species, chimps and bonobos having a mix of female exogamy and male clan dominance in chimps, and powerful alpha females in bonobos, where sexual evolution of the clitoris has led to frequent female-female socio-sexual bonding (Fielder & King 2004 A). The eschewing of overt estrus in favour of menstruation in humans, combined with a degree of lunar and menstrual synchrony also leads to female reproductive choice operating strategically to offset male reproductive domination and threats of male infanticide.


Fig 131: Above Left: Chimp, bonobo and human penises compared. Both chimp and bonobo penises have penis bones and neuro-sensitive penile spines (one shown inset top left) with a very short copulatory period. The human penis is notably larger and testes smaller than chimps. Below Left: Bonobo and human clitoris. Bonobos have a large clitoris enabling female-female erotic contact but like chimps have an overt estrus (below centre). The human clitoris is smaller but highly sensitive with more nerve endings than the human penis. Centre and Right: Human pregnancy is a very significant risk and investment to the human female, involving risks of giving birth to a large head, travail vulnerability in late pregnancy, followed by years of breast feeding and early child rearing of a dependent infant. Male and female reproductive strategies are thus examples of sexually antagonistic co-evolution (Fielder & King 2004 D) in which males try to avoid paternity uncertainty by controlling female sexual choice leading to the sex wars and patriarchally driven sexual dominance. Female reproductive choice is thus essential to human evolution to counterbalance this effect. Centre: Infrared imaging of female sexual arousal is accompanied by blood flow to the labia and clitoris just as it is to the penis. This is central to the nature of human courtship and bonding between the sexes.


Indeed human sexual evolution, perpetual socio-sexual receptivity accompanied by ecstatic female arousal, the foregoing [40] of overt oestrus in favour of menstruation, the need for human males to demonstrate genuine indicators of genetic fitness, both in a large penis lacking the penile bone of the great apes, and in hunting and social prowess, consistent with XY sex chromosome inheritance, complemented by lunar phasing and menstrual synchrony, attest to an evolutionary emergence of Homo sapiens strongly influenced by female reproductive choice (Fielder & King 2004).


Evidence for such archaic patterns is evident in the practices of founding human cultures, from 19th century accounts of ‘Hottentot’ women refusing sex unless meat is provided, through the Hadza to the Sandawe “twerking” rites by the light of the full moon (King & Fielder 2004 B), sometimes referred to as the “sex strike” (Knight 1991, Power & Watts 1996, King & Fielder 2004). Intense female clitoral orgasm, perpetual sexual receptiveness outside menstruation, the growth of female fatty breasts and neotonous features indicating fecundity and youthfulness and the loss of penis spines and bones, with growth of a large erectile penis in males, also attests to mutual sexual selection in humans enhancing both female sexual attractiveness and males having to give a genuine indicator of genetic fitness during sex.


The emergence of super-intelligence in humans has also been associated with the “mating mind” (Miller 2000), in which men display their genetic prowess in hunting and their social skills in music, story-telling  and social humour, while the women make astute social choices of who to get pregnant with, given a mix of good genes and resourcing required to bring up a human infant. Machiavellian social intelligence for strategic bluffing, is also evident in intelligent species, from capuchins to humans. Female sexual selection is consistent with XY sex chromosome inheritance, where the large X chromosome is unique in males but chimeric in females due to double X being toxic, except in the germ line (Turner 1996). This provides a context for males to demonstrate intellectual and social prowess due to their unique X whose genes may also serve reproductive choice in females. The X chromosome contains multiple genes linked to brain function and development, some of which are rapidly evolving, giving support to this idea.


My joint work with Christine (Fielder & King 2004) “Sexual Paradox: Complementarity, Reproductive Conflict and Human Emergence” set out the thesis that the emergence of human culture and super-intelligence arose from a reproductive prisoners’ dilemma of sexual selection game theory where neither sex had the upper hand in terms of their own highly asymmetric reproductive strategies, causing a peacock’s tail Red Queen race of mutual sexual selection for culture and intelligence, centrally mediated by astute female reproductive choice, in a context of mutual mate choice to enhance family stability. Because of the very high costs to mammal females due to having to invest in live birth, the female reproductive strategy is highly skewed towards careful parenting investment. By contrast mammalian male strategies are strongly skewed to fertilising as many females as possible. Hence only 3% of mammalian species are socially monogamous, although not genetically so, due to covert ‘cheating’ by both sexes. Humans are at an extreme for mammals, because of the high risks of delivering a large-headed baby, often as a single offspring, long periods of lactation and child care in a slowly-growing infant, requiring increasing cultural education put these asymmetries at an extreme, leading to sexually-antagonistic co-evolution, manifest in existential conflicts of personal interest. This then becomes the process of sexual selection that is fixing the intellectual benefits of the emergence of language and culture we will see in the next section. It is a view confluent with evolutionary psychology, which we support, as giving expression to evolutionary sexual selection conducive both to human emergence and intelligence, and also to strongly pro-social influences of love consistent with long-term emergent stability.


This is partly underpinned by some beautiful aspects of mammalian sexual chromosome evolution. Mammals have an ingenious sexual genetic scheme to align sexual selection with the effects of the honest egg and the cheating sperm. The female XX and male XY means that the male is haploid X and the female diploid XX. The haploid state provides for maximal selective advantage, because there is just one 'pure' copy of each gene on this entire chromosome, not two interacting copies. When the female embryo begins to divide about the 10 to 20 cell stage, in each somatic cell i.e. apart from the germ-line sex cells, one or other X randomly collapses. So a female brain is single X, like the male, but with a difference - it is a mosaic of cells of two genetic X-identities, those of her father and mother, as in the picture of the tortoise-shelled cat. The male by contrast is endowed with one pure maternal X-dose. When he is good he is very very good - but when he is bad he is singularly retarded. There are at least 8 forms of X-linked male mental retardation because the X chromosome, the hemizygous 'haploid' X is carrying several key genes for brain development at the spearhead of human evolution (Turner 1996).


There are 221 known human genetic defects that can cause mental impairment, some 10% of which reside on the X chromosome, even though it carries less than 4% of known human genes and the complete sequence of the X chromosome (Ross et al. 2005), confirms that an unusually large number of its genes code for proteins important to brain function. Estimates of the increased likelihood of a deleterious mental impairment gene being on the X-chromosome range from 1.9 times through 4.3 times (Inlow & Restifo 2004) to 7.2 times (Zechner et al. 2001) giving it a pivotal role in the evolution of human intelligence. Researchers have also found that in some traits linked to intelligence, such as verbal skills and good social behaviour, male twins were more alike than female twins indicating X-linked genes in which the females are chimeric (Loatet al. 2004).


In our species, where intelligence and social skills are central to success, genes on the X chromosome seem to have evolved rapidly to provide us with the necessary brain power (Check 2005). An explanation goes as follows. As the X and Y diverged from a common autosome pair they each began to accumulate autosomal genes. Ultimately the X and Y diverged to the point where most X genes cannot recombine with Y and become recombined only in female oogenesis. This makes the X one of the most stable in the mammalian genome, for two reasons. Firstly because the genes are expressed in almost exclusively haploid form in males, who have lost the corresponding Y genes, they need to be more strongly conserved according to Muller's ratchet theory. Secondly, mutation rates are much lower in females who produce a relatively small number of primordial eggs early in embryogenesis, as opposed to males, who produce vast numbers of sperm throughout life.


The stability and inheritance of the X may have paradoxically exposed X genes to more intense pressure to evolve. As genes became transferred between chromosomes, those involving intelligence that became transferred to the X become exposed to acute sexual selection by females because in males, the X chromosome genes get a chance to shine, or to fail miserably, each time they pass through the male line. Because a male carries only one copy, any new mutations are revealed in all their glory.


Many of the genes on the X chromosome associated with human brain function seem to have distant relatives with different functions in other vertebrates, such as chickens and fish (Kohn et al. 2004). So in boosting our cognitive abilities, the X chromosome seems to have co-opted a diverse range of existing genes, rather than evolving a new set of genetic sequences for the purpose, posing a paradox of conservatism amid rapid change.


In some instances, geneticists have pinpointed genes on the X chromosome that still seem to be in the process of adopting new roles in the brain. For instance, a gene called JARID1C seems to be evolving from a similar gene called JARID1D, which is found on the Y chromosome. If men inherit a damaged version of the JARID1C gene on their single X chromosome, they develop mental disabilities. The fact that the healthy Y chromosome version cannot compensate for its defective cousin hints that JARID1C is becoming more crucial to the brain as it evolves (Jensen et al. 2005).


Fig 132: (Left) X-linked tortoise-shell gene variation demonstrates X-mosacism in a female cat on a scale where the brain would also be chimeaeric.  The confinement of this phenomenon to female felines combined with an elusive contracted genetic element in female somatic cells, the Baar body, was the trigger for Mary Lyon (2000), the discoverer of mosaic X-inactivation to make the discovery (Jegalian and Lahn 2001). (Top right) Darwin Family tree (Turner 1996). His grandfather was the founder of Wedgwood Pottery and his cousin, Galton, was a prolific writer and the founder of the Eugenic movement. The pedigree shown in the figure was said, at the beginning of the century, to indicate that genius is a Y-linked dominant, but it could equally well be explained by X linkage. Charles Darwin received Joshua Wedgwood's X chromosome and therefore his intelligence through his mother (11-3), and Erasmus Darwin's brilliance having reappeared in Francis Galton via his mother (11-7), rather than his father. Mary Howard (1-3), was also related to the Galtons. (lower right) Human X and Y chromosomes.


When the occasional man gets the pure benefit of a fortuitous X complementing his other good brain genes on the diploid chromosomes he may thus become a genius. The irony is that the male never can transmit this heritage to his sons. It is always the maternal X that goes to the son, because to be a son he must have got the paternal Y. Females are thus the progenitors of male prodigies, but the prodigies are doomed ducks. This is the sacrificial saga of the sex gene. The only hope for a male genius is to have daughters! By contrast, females can fortuitously give direct birth to male geniuses. This doesn't mean only males display creative genius. Neither does it deny the capacity of culture and education to mediate natural differences.


A revolutionary idea is that female genes encouraging female sexual selection for intelligence are strongly linked to genes for high intelligence selected for in the male. Early in human evolution, researchers suggest (Zechner et al. 2001), females developed a preference for intelligent males. According to the theory, the genes for super-intelligence and for the preference of intelligent males were closely linked, and so were inherited together. And because superior intelligence also aided survival, the process wasn't kept in check by natural selection — unlike other sexually selected characteristics such as the peacock's tail, which makes its bearers more vulnerable to predators. These X-linked genes then ran away together without any limitation by natural selection, because of the adaptive advantage of intelligence.


Laland’s treatment of sexual selection is a glaring omission in terms of its pivotal role, all the more anomalous, given Darwin's own founding (1871) title on human emergence – “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”. When Laland does briefly touch on sexual selection in passing, it is only a brief reference with no implications articulated either for our emergence as a super-intelligent species, or for the effects of our epoch of 'civilized' culture for better or worse:


Even if human mating preferences are learned, socially transmitted, and culture specific, sexual selection will still result. Indeed, culturally generated sexual selection was found to be faster and more potent than its gene-based counterpart. ... experimental data shows that humans copy the mate choice decisions of others, which can lead to the social transmission of preferences for particular characteristics in the opposite sex. ... Given the pervasiveness of cultural influences on human mating preferences, social transmission may exert a powerful influence on the selection of secondary sexual characteristics and other physical and personality traits.


By contrast with the mating mind, his notion of mere social copying of sexual fashion in any of its kinky voyeurisms, provides absolutely no reassurance of any evolutionary benefits for cultural evolution on human sensibility.


Fig 133: A human reproductive bottleneck in Y-chromosome diversity began about 10,000 years ago and continued for several millennia (Karmin et al. 2015). Inset shows 11 independent areas of primal agriculture discovered.


We now move on to much more troubled times. With the transition from the gatherer-hunter phase to the neolithic, the human genetic record (Karmin et al. 2015) shows a profound collapse in Y-chromosome diversity absent in maternal mitochondrial DNA tree. This resulted in the reproductive sex ratio falling from a historical sex ratio of 2 females to each male due to some men not reproducing, while other males had the resources or cunning to sire children with more than one woman, to an effective 17 females to 1 male. Rather than simply being an agricultural Genghis Khan effect of potentates, an explanation for this extreme genetic skewing has been proposed in terms of extreme competition between patrilineal kin groups in the neolithic, preceding and leading into the emergence of major urban cultures, wiping out whole Y-chromosome clades through male genocide and abduction of the females (Zeng, Aw & Feldman 2018).


Jin, Jiyan, Azadi.

Zan. Zendegi. Azadi.

Femme, Vie, Liberté.


אישה, חיים, חופש

नारी, जीवन, स्वतंत्रता.

Woman, Life, Freedom.

Frau, Leben, Freiheit.

Γυναίκα, Ζωή, Ελευθερία.

Женщина, Жизнь, Свобода.


Kvinde, liv, frihed.

Wahine, Ora, Tikanga.

Mujer, Vida, Libertad.

பெண், வாழ்க்கை, சுதந்திரம்.


여자, , 자유.



This period was then succeeded by the rise of patriarchal societies (Lerner 1986, Sanday 1981) supported by patriarchal religious imperatives that sought to inhibit forms of cultural matriliny in which women brought up children with their maternal family, in favour of patriarchal kinship and reproductive attitudes repressing female reproductive choice in favour of paternity certainty, leading to 4000 years in which the natural paradox between human female and male reproductive strategies, essential for fertile genetic evolution were suppressed in favour of male rights to control womens choices of sexual partner, pregnancy and autonomy, often by oppressive and violent means, from stoning for adultery applied selectively to women who didn’t cry out, through female genital mutilation, including infibulation, enforced veiling, loss of independent ownership rights over land and assets, loss of educational and financial independence, enforced chaperoning of women by their male relatives, and judged half the value of a man in law.


Fig 134: "Woman, Life Freedom": Islam in particular manifests four key aspects of oppressive injustice against women prejudicial to human redemption and survival. Left: a verity of restrictive burqas and niqabs from Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Top centre: Afghanistan. A one-eyed burka, denying a woman binocular vision because two eyes would be too seductive to men. Top right: Egypt: Female genital mutilation, condoned in Islam because Muhammad is said to have said "Reduce but do not destroy", which clitorectomy and particularly infibulation, destroys. Lower row: Stoning in Iran and Afghanistan viewed by a crowd of men:, because Muhammad is said to have tried a Jewish woman for adultery using Deuteronomic law outmoded since before the time of Jesus. Afghanistan. Bride burning. Far right: Iranian women, intentionally shot in the eye by the morality police, for protesting the imposition of the hijab. Top: Ghazal Ranjkesh: "Our victory is not here yet but it's close". Bottom: Elahe Tavokolian "You aimed at my eyes but my heart is still beating. Thank you for taking the sight from my eye which has opened the eyes of so many people. Iranian security forces are targeting women at anti-regime protests with shotgun fire to their faces, breasts and genitals, according to interviews with medics across the country. Doctors and nurses said they first observed the practice after noticing that women often arrived with different wounds to men, who more commonly had shotgun pellets in their legs, buttocks and backs. Systematic society-wide patriarchal religious repression of female reproductive choice is evolutionary suicide, unparalleled in other mammals, where, outside sexual coercion by marauding male bands, female reproductive choice is integral to courtship and essential for long-term evolutionary survival.


All of these practices spanning dominant cultures across all continents and spanning all major religions are contrary to the evolution of super-intelligence, love and sexual choice and the future of culture, the biosphere and human survival.


The Evolving Human Phenotype 2: Past and Future Evolution of the Brain and Human Intelligence


There is clear evidence for increasing brain size and intelligence, as primate evolution has proceeded from monkeys to apes, and finally humans. Genetic studies have found a number of intriguing improvements in neuronal brain structure in the evolution of Homo sapiens from higher apes.


An outstanding example has been the FoxP2 transcription factor gene (Enard et al. 2002), whose mutations can give rise to severe selective language impairment and appears to be associated with fine motor coordination of the larynx. Mutations in this gene are rare, but there has been a double mutation in this gene and the paucity of 'silent' neutral mutations which don't change the protein suggested it was a very recent change, later than 200,000 years ago, which has swept through the population by conferring a major selective advantage. However the evidence for a selective sweep involving FoxP2 is no longer supported by a more extensive study by the original team (Atkinson et al. 2018) and is now known to be shared by Denisovans and Neanderthals, taking it back to at least 600,000 years ago before Homo sapiens and these lines diverged.


An indication of a key genetic switch which may have led to the increasing brain size of the Homo line has come from investigation of the gene family SRGAP2a,b,c, (Dennis 2012) involved in neocortex maturation, which is present in only one copy in chimps as well as other mammals, but has undergone three duplications in humans, the first daughter copy 3.4 million years ago around the time evidence of Australopithecus tool use seems to have occurred, and the second 2.4 million years ago around the time Homo is believed to have split off from Australopithecus and the third about 1 million years ago. The effect of the duplications of truncated copies appears to be that the duplications form a more complex regulatory system, which partially inhibits the action of the the original, leading to a slower growing, larger brain with more complex ramified neurons, which can also migrate more rapidly during embryogenesis, leading to design features consistent with a larger more complex brain (Charrier et al. 2012). Several other brain genes may also prove to be duplicated in humans complementing this discovery.


Fig 135: (Left) A The evolution of SRGAP2, showing the four human genes and the counterposed effects one maturing dendritic spines and another encouraging the formation of more immature spines resulting in a more complex expression. B: Splice variant duplication ARHGAP11B with unique tail enhancing basal progenitor mitosis and neocortical expansion (green). (Right) Evolution of NOTCH2NL and its affect on neurogenesis


A human-specific gene may be responsible for human neocortex expansion due to a single nucleotide change, which introduces a new splice variant. Neocortical neurogenesis involves two main classes of neural progenitor cells, apical progenitors (APs) and basal progenitors which are better suited for maximising neuron production. Accordingly, the evolutionary expansion of the neocortex is associated with an increase in the generation of BPs. The gene ARHGAP11B, which promotes basal progenitor amplification and is implicated in neocortex expansion, arose on the human evolutionary lineage by partial duplication of ARHGAP11A, which encodes RhoGAP. However, the lack of 55 nucleotides in the mRNA, which leads to loss of RhoGAP activity by GAP domain truncation also results in addition of a human-specific amino acid sequence. The 55 nucleotides are deleted by mRNA splicing. Hence, a single nucleotide substitution underlies the specific properties of ARHGAP11B that likely contributed to the evolutionary expansion of the human neocortex (Florio et al. 2016).


A set of three nearly identical genes found only in humans, NOTCH2NL, appears to play a critical role in the development of our large brains (Fiddes et al. 2018). These are found exclusively in humans and appeared between 3 and 4 million years ago, just before the period when fossils show a dramatic increase in the brain sizes of human ancestors. These genes belong to an ancient family of NOTCH genes, discovered in fruit flies and named causing notched wings. The human-specific genes were derived from NOTCH2, one of four mammalian NOTCH genes, through a duplication event that inserted an extra partial copy of NOTCH2 into the genome in an ancient ape species that was a common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas. The partial duplicate was a nonfunctional pseudogene, versions of which are still found in chimp and gorilla genomes. In the human lineage, this pseudogene was revived when additional NOTCH2 DNA was copied into its place, creating a functional gene. Gene conversion was likely responsible for repairing a non-functional version of NOTCH2NL. After it was repaired, but before we diverged from our common ancestor with Neanderthals, NOTCH2NL was duplicated several times, resulting in four genes. Three of the four are active genes that direct the production of truncated versions of the original NOTCH2 protein. A complementary team (Suzuki et al. 2018) also focused on NOTCH2NL because of the importance of its ancestral gene, NOTCH2, in signalling processes that control whether cortical stem cells produce neurons or regenerate more stem cells. And they found that artificially expressing NOTCH2NL in mouse embryos increased the number of progenitor stem cells in the mouse cortex and can substantially expand the population of cortical stem cells, which in turn generate more neurons, a feature expected to distinguish between human and non-human cortical neurogenesis.


The role of micro RNAs which bind to mRNAs and thus are able to initiate a coordinated array of regulatory changes have been implicated in the differences in evolutionary rates of change between humans and chimps. Constitutive gene expression divergence is comparable between humans and chimpanzees. However, humans display a 3–5 times faster evolutionary rate in divergence of developmental patterns. Such accelerated evolution of human brain developmental patterns is twice as pronounced in the prefrontal cortex than the cerebellum, preferentially affects neuron-related genes, and does not depend on cis-regulatory changes, but might be driven by human-specific changes in expression of trans-acting regulators. Developmental profiles of miRNAs, as well as their target genes, show the fastest rates of human-specific evolutionary change. miR-92a, miR-454, and miR-320b are possible regulators of human-specific neural development (Somel et al. 2011).


Brain size has swelled from the 500cc of Australopithecus. Homo erectus and his alter-ego Homo ergaster, went from a 750cc brain to 1250cc. The emergence of modern Homo sapiens, is accompanied by a slight decrease in brain size from an average of about 1500cc to 1400. Although this is well within the range of human variation between 1100 and 2000cc, it does suggest that some form of compactification has taken place. One view of this is that the development of culture and language has made it cognitively easier for the brain to assimilate the world around us. Another suggested  (Ridley 2003 34) is that a reduction of aggression may be accompanied by a more neotonic physiology (tending towards embryonic form), as is noted comparing womens slightly smaller brain sizes than men, made up for by a higher proportion of grey matter neurons.


Fig 136: Variations in brain size, with a focus on a recent decrease DeSilva et al. (2021).


However, brain size is only an overall measure of brain complexity and intelligence and the size of the brain has both grown and shrunk in the lead up to the present. An important measure is the relative contributions of grey matter consisting of cell nuclei and white matter consisting of connecting axons.  Zhang &  Sejnowski (2000) have established a universal scaling law between grey matter and white matter of the cerebral cortex consistently spanning several orders of magnitude in brain sizes across the mammalian kingdom, arising from an evolutionary requirement for compact arrangement of long axonal fibres.


ders, Steinmetz & Jäncke (2002)  show that among people today, brain size correlates negatively with proportion of grey matter. Women have smaller brains with proportionately more grey matter so their white matter is relatively more efficient. Larger brains have a lower proportion of grey matter so their white matter was bulkier and relatively less efficient and their grey matter wasn’t much larger as might appear from brain size.


As expected, we found a significant sex difference for the absolute volumes of total brain, grey matter, white matter and CSF, with greater volumes for men. Relating these compartmental volume measures to brain volume resulting in proportional volume measures revealed a higher proportion of grey matter in women. No significant sex differences were found for white matter and CSF proportions. However, when the influence of sex was partialized out by regression analyses, brain volume explained 40-81% of the  variance of the absolute grey matter, white matter and CSF volumes. Performing these regression analyses for the proportional volume measures revealed that brain volume explained ~16% of the variance in grey matter proportion. Interestingly, the correlation between brain volume and grey matter proportion was negative, with larger brains exhibiting relatively smaller proportions of grey matter. … We suggest that brain size is the main variable determining the proportion of grey matter.


This finding lends moderate support to the idea that some of the recent reduction in brain size could be due to evolving changes to improve the efficiency of axonal circuitry because (a) a larger brain is slower because the axonal routing takes longer, (b) there is a continuing selective pressure against unnecessary brain size, because of the metabolic load of a larger brain which already consumes 40% of the glucose metabolism and (c) because of a large brain size causing greater risks to the baby and mother during delivery.


There are many possible causes to explain such a reduction, changes in body size, diet, domestication reducing aggression. However, there is another major factor that may contribute and that is the negative effect of culture on brain size due to collective intelligence reducing the need fo individual intelligence. DeSilva et al. (2021) note:


Reduction in brain size may not compromise cognitive performance if intelligence is an attribute of the society rather than the individual. Galton first described that the accuracy of decision making by human groups could exceed that of any individual group member. This concept of collective intelligence has since been elaborated in studies ranging from insects to humans. If brain production, maintenance, and operation costs are metabolically significant, then collective intelligence may reduce demands for neural tissue to support individual cognitive capabilities.


We suggest that group cognition lowered the demands for neural architectures required to support some aspects of individual intelligence and decision making. This effect may have become even more pronounced with the advent of writing ca. 5000 years ago, which falls within the estimated 95% CI for the pronounced reduction in Holocene human brain size (Fig 136). During human history, social groups became larger, social interactions more frequent, social networks more complex, and tracking relationships more demanding. A rise in sociocultural complexity was not due to particular individuals becoming more intelligent and culturally skilled, but because of the emergence of collective intelligence resulting from a growing population of interconnected humans and interacting human groups. As group size increases, interactions with a dynamic and exceedingly complex social landscapes result in increased demands on the brain. However, because of the metabolic demands of the brain, there may be limits to feedback loops between social network size and brain structure. If group decision-making generated adaptive group responses exceeding the cognitive accuracy and speed of individual decisions and had a fitness consequence, then human brain size may have decreased as a consequence of metabolic cost savings.


Population size expanded dramatically with the advent of agriculture, beginning 10 kyr and grew exponentially from an estimated five million to over 100 million by 3000 years ago. This increase in population coincided with deterioration in individual health and increases in infection rate, pathogenic load, and virulence. It remains possible, then, that the high energetic cost of a heightened immune response, might have been a factor in Holocene brain reduction. In fact, Crabtree (2013a, b) proposed this immunity-for-intelligence trade-off in his controversial “Idiocracy Hypothesis,” though this idea has been criticized on the basis of flawed assumptions (Kalinka et al., 2013; Mitchell, 2013). Gowdy and Krall (2013) draw parallels between the ultrasocial human superorganism, complete with division of labor and “economic organization around surplus” that arose in the Holocene and the sociobiology of agricultural eusocial insects, including some ants and termites.


Crabtree (2013a, b) cites the large number of X-chromosome genes, each of which results in clinical intellectual disability (ID) as an unstable chain of genes, rather than a robust self-compensating network, making the human genome vulnerable to the loss of any of them:


Perhaps the most effective way to estimate the number of genes in humans that are needed for full intellectual function is to rely on studies of X-linked intellectual deficiency (XLID). Because males have only one X chromosome, the effects of X-chromosome mutations cannot be rescued or compensated for by the second copy, in contrast to mutations on other chromosomes. Present studies indicate that mutation of about 215 intellectual deficiency (ID) genes on the X chromosome give rise to XLID and/or emotional disability [1,2]; this represents about 25% of the genes on the X chromosome. Of these, 86 have been characterized and do not seem to be neomorphs (a gain of inappropriate function). This gives a conservative estimate that about 10% of all human genes are implicated in intellectual function. Because mutation of any one of these genes can give rise to intellectual disability, it can be concluded that they do not operate as a robust network, but rather as links in a chain, failure of any one of which leads to intellectual disability. The X chromosome does not appear to be enriched for genes required for intellectual development, and therefore we can extrapolate that between 2000 and 5000 genes are needed for intellectual and emotional function.


Crabtree (2013c, d) has responded vigorously to his critics (Kalinka et al., 2013; Mitchell, 2013). His extension to 2000-5000 ID genes in the whole genome is likely a moderate overestimate because he assumed the X-chromosome was representative of the entire genome, however there are still a very large number of genes involved, so the concern remains real. In fact the X-chromosome does have between 1.9 and 4.3 times as many ID or MR (mental retardation) genes, which in turn attests to a pivotal role for astute female reproductive choice in selecting for super-intelligence cited in the previous section. Hence the repression of this, under patriarchal culture, is very likely to be having a deleterious effect on human intelligence.


A novel test, in which Inlow J & Restifo L (2004), distributed unmapped MR disorders proportionately across the autosomes, failed to eliminate the well-known X-chromosome overrepresentation of MR genes and candidate genes:


It has been proposed that the human X chromosome contains a disproportionately high density of genes for cognitive ability. This proposal generated controversy as well as speculation concerning possible underlying evolutionary mechanisms, including the intriguing suggestion that female mate selection for high male intelligence helped accelerate the rapid rise of human cognitive abilities (Turner 1996; Zechner et al. 2001). Opponents, however, argued that all X-linked recessive mutations are simply easier to map and identify because their phenotypes are revealed in hemizygous males. Countering this view is an analysis (Zechner et al. 2001) showing a 7.2-fold X-chromosome bias for MR genes, whereas genes causing common morphological phenotypes  have, on average, only a 2.4-fold X-chromosome bias.


To take this question one step further, we asked whether the apparent X-chromosome overrepresentation among the molecularly identified human MR genes  [of around 4.3 times] would disappear if we accounted for the plausible possibility that numerous autosomal loci are “hiding” among the unmapped MR genes. We attempted to overcome the ascertainment bias that favors identification of X-linked genes by making simplifying assumptions that maximize the estimate of autosomal MR genes and minimize the estimate of X-linked MR genes. Even when these very conservative (i.e., biased toward autosomal) assumptions are used to estimate the chromosomal distribution of the unknown MR genes, a 1.9- fold overrepresentation of MR genes on the X chromosome remains. This result supports the hypothesis that the X chromosome contains a disproportionately high density of genes influencing cognitive ability.


Crabtree cites the cultural hive mind we have created, in which selection for individual intelligence is blunted in favour of collective intelligence, as well as demands of urban living in terms of immune competition as a result of epidemic diseases as contributing to intellectual decline:


When might we have begun to lose these abilities? Most likely we started our slide with high-density living, which was enabled by the transformative invention of agriculture. Selection may have begun operating on resistance to the diseases that naturally grow out of high-density living, switching the pressure from intelligence to immunity. It is also likely that the need for intelligence was reduced as we began to live in supportive societies that made up for lapses of judgment or failures of comprehension. Community life would, I believe, tend to reduce the selective pressure placed on every individual, every day of their life. Indeed that is why I prefer to live in such a society.


Several considerations could mitigate the validity of the argument that intellectual and emotional fitness are slowly decaying. For example, genes required for intellectual and emotional function could be needed for early development or even fertility, and would thus be maintained through selection. … Another common counter-argument is that we are under constant selection for our intellectual traits. Intellectual capacity and emotional stability have mating advantages that would reduce the rate at which mutations affecting these traits become fixed in our genome. This is true, but I fear does not take into account the extreme selection required to maintain traits dependent upon thousands of genes with reduced heritability. A hunter–gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his/her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate. Clearly, extreme selection is a thing of the past.


Gawdy & Krall’s (2013) thesis is particularly stark, invoking a “hive mind” superorganism status for a human culture heading towards self-extinction:


The current geological epoch has been dubbed the Anthropocene—the age of humans. We argue that the roots of the Anthropocene lie in the agricultural revolution that began some 8000 years ago. Unique human psychological and cultural characteristics were present in our distant hunter–gatherer past, but in terms of the biophysical impact of our species, agriculture represented an unequivocal and decisive evolutionary break. With the transition to agriculture human society began to function as a superorganism functioning as a single unit designed by social natural selection to produce economic surplus. Where environmental conditions were permitted, early human agricultural societies followed the same pattern as a few social insects and exhibited explosive population growth, complex and detailed division of labor, intensive resource exploitation, territorial expansion, and a social organization favoring the survival and growth of the supergroup over the well-being of individuals within the group. Similar economic forces lie behind ultrasociality in social insects and humans—increased productivity from the division of labor, increasing returns to scale, and the exploitation of stocks of productive resources. Exploring the evolutionary mechanisms behind ultrasociality offers insights into the growth imperative that threatens the stability of the earth's life support systems.


Fig 137: Overall Flynn effect begins to decline with marked falls
in word and arithmetic scores (Sundet et al. 2004)


Does this currently mean we have already incurred a significant loss of intelligence? Possibly not but probably a loss of some forms of intelligence related to individual survival. The Flynn effect (Sundet, Barlaug & Torjussen 2004) is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores that were measured in many parts of the world over the 20th century. Test score increases have been continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to the present. For example, a study published in the year 2009 found that British children's average scores on the Raven's Progressive Matrices test rose by 14 IQ points from 1942 to 2008. There are numerous proposed explanations of the Flynn effect, such as the rise in efficiency of education and better diet, along with skepticism concerning its implications. Some research suggests that there may be an ongoing reversed Flynn effect (i.e., a decline in IQ scores) in Norway, Denmark, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and German-speaking countries, a development which appears to have started in the 1990s.


Bratsberg & Rogeberg (2018), analysing the effect in Norway, state that the Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused and that the trends are not due to a changing composition of families, and that there is at most a minor role for explanations involving genes (e.g., immigration and dysgenic fertility) and environmental factors largely fixed within families and that their influence is negligible compared with other environmental factors. Therefore the Flynn effect provides no reassurance that the underlying genetic basis of human intelligence is not under atrophe.


The outstanding difference between humans and all other species is the emergence of human culture. This introduces new kinds of challenges. Humans are a highly social species, so survival in the jungle has been overtaken by survival in the concrete jungle of human affairs. In many ways this is just as challenging, because Machiavellian intelligence, both creates many social niches and also creates chains of prisoner’s dilemma paradoxes of survival.


But it is also clear that human culture is providing services that are significantly blunting strong selection for individual intelligence on a wide demographic footing. Previously to survive in gatherer-hunter society while cooperating in small bands, the inability to survive in the wild and fend for a family would result in demise. In technological society the diverse intelligence skills required for all aspects of individual survival have been reduced to a much simpler set of options of being trained for a specific and sometimes menial action set, e.g. in an industrial process or routine office role. Human mate selection is no longer driven by astute females seeking brainier males, but macho brawn in the patriarchal mould, with female reproductive choice actively and violently repressed by the religious patriarchy as well.


We are thus fooling ourselves to think we are biologically more intelligent purely on the basis of the culture that we have co-evolved with. We have been overtaken by our own culture. All the products of culture we see, from the pinnacles of scientific discovery, to the elaborate technological processes that have enabled the digital age and a landing on the moon, have not arisen from an increase in individual intelligence, but chain reactions of discovery and manufacture in which a series of small insights create a technological process which then becomes automatically replicated to produce items, from heart-lung machines to cell phones, which we now depend on and can barely comprehend how to use, let alone understand how they are made, or how they work.


Climax Mammalian Intelligence


We are keenly aware that we are more intelligent than apes, but when we examine the brains of elephants and dolphins and whales, which form the climax of intelligence of the Proboscidea and Cetaceans, their brain structure and complexity looks anatomically and physiologically very similar to, or even surpassing that of human brains.


While the large brains of elephants are dominated by cell numbers in the cerebellum so that, while their CNS numbers are much higher than humans, their cortical numbers are lower, however the same is not true for cetaceans. Mortensen H et al. (2014) note:


Possessing large brains and complex behavioral patterns, cetaceans are believed to be highly intelligent. Their brains, which are the largest in the Animal Kingdom and have enormous gyrification compared with terrestrial mammals … we estimated the total number of cells in the neocortex of the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) brain. For the first time, we show that a species of dolphin has more neocortical neurons than any mammal studied to date including humans. We found that the long-finned pilot whale neocortex has approximately 37.2  × 10^9 neurons, which is almost twice as many as humans, and 127 × 10^9  glial cells.


Fig 137b: (Left) Spread of mammal brains . The mammalian cortex folds more extensively with the volume of thalmo-cortical axons requiring increasing folding to compensate for the basal brain network volume, although primates have a superior ratio of cortical neurons to brain volume (inset fig138b). This is partially compensated for by smaller mammals also having smaller pyramidal neurons by a packing factor close to the square root of the linear size. E.g. a human is about 25 times as tall as a mouse is long and its pyramidal neurons are 1/2 the width, packing 4 times as many into the same cortical area. Hence the mouse actually has more cortical neurons for its relative brain volume than humans (fig 138b) although its cortex is smooth. (Right) Avian (1, 2) and human brains (3-6) compared for pallium/cortical neuronal structure (Güntürkün et al. 2021). Both have a layered structure but in birds this extends all the way to the striatum, while in mammals it occupies only the superficial cortex (1-4 mm mean 2.5 mm), overlaying massive white matter axons. (5) shows Nissl staining to show cell bodies in the visual cortex and (6) Golgi staining to show axons.


There is no basis to the notion that the spread of other mammals have inferior biological intelligence to Homo sapiens. The cerebral cortex is an evolutionary adaption shared by stem and all crown mammal species, with larger brains commensurately more folded to maintain proportionality between the area of the cortex and the increasing volume of basal brain connections. There are no dumb and smart mammals, but simply mammals displaying conscious intelligence, adapted to their ecological roles. What distinguishes humanity is the intervention of language and culture, as externally derived memetic processes, ultimately from the possession of fingers and opposable thumbs, enabling niche manipulation shared by founding primates. Smaller mammals have smoother cortices but similar relative numbers of cortical to basal brain neurons.


Fig 138: Left: Biological intelligence is not revealed or reliably measured by cultural complexity. Brains and cortical neurons of African elephant, Bottlenose dolphin and Human. Centre: Diverse whole brain and cortical neuronal numbers. The blue and yellow macaw forebrain neuronal density 1.9bn is comparable with the pigtail macaque 2.5bn, despite its brain weight being only 20.7g compared with 106g. Inset: The cockatoo and galago each have a brain weighing 10g but the cockatoo has 1.147bn cortical neurons, 54% of the whole brain, compared with 0.226bn in the galago representing 24% of the whole brain in both galago and human.



The key difference between humans on the one hand and elephants and dolphins on the other is human culture, both as language, which I contend in the next section has a strong cultural component as a memetic virus conferring rapidly evolving semantic efficiency; and niche and tool construction, which results in the civilisation that makes us think we are far more intelligent than the rest of life. This is a form of human exceptionalism that is deleterious to our survival.


Elephants have no fingers and no toes and can’t use tools, except with their highly evolved trunks, so it's hard for them to make any kind of records. All cetaceans have the same problem – no limbs at all and no way of making traceable records, so dolphins spend all their time playing sex games, of love and war and have very high intelligence but that’s the limit of their culture and memes are really difficult to come by. Studies of the linguistic basis of cetacean clicks and songs remain uncertain how far these differ from other kinds of animal communication (Eskelinen et al. 2016, Janik 2013, King et al. 2021, Ryabov 2016).


We aren't necessarily more biologically intelligent than elephants and dolphins, except that our line of evolution resulted in fingers, tools and niche construction, and a tear away process of memetic cultural evolution, in which grunts and mothers crooning to their babies resulted, through finely tuned human vocal articulation, just as our use of fingers, resulted in complex language taking over our brains from the outside, as conceptual cultural memetic "viruses" and produced the kind of world we now live in, complemented by our tools and the trappings of village and then urban culture, which is now reducing us to troglodytes of our own making, unless we protect the biosphere.


In fact we can see as parents just how easy it is for language to become established because Homo has another unique physiological invention” that is as significant as fingers and thumbs were to the first primates – the absurdly expressive human voice box. There is evidence from Homo erectus and ergaster of this evolving long before human culture (Fielder & King 2004). Recordings of ape calls show just how different we are in terms of vocal semantics, although semantics is obvious in primate expressive behaviour eg. Capuchins in fig 158a. Monkeys, such as Vervets have functionally referential alarm calls (Price et al. 2015), but only marginally in apes such as chimps (Slocombe & Zuberbühler 2005). These abilities go back to the lemurs (Walton & Kershenbaum 2019), suggesting humans may have retained expressive vocal traits socially, as well as opposable fingers and thumbs.


We are NOT “hard-wired” for semantic language. It is a rapidly evolving cultural virus” we communicate, as Kirby and Christiansen (2003, Christiansen & Chater 2008) make clear next section. When we first taught our kids, we said “no” and stopped them and then we said “mama” and “papa” and pointed to each of us just as mother pumas do, to teach their cubs to hunt by example. That is where our kids immediately grasped the elusive concept of “semantic” meaning and it was all over, from there, bar the endless chatting since. Neither are ape kids so different from human kids in terms of family dynamics. Just as the fingers made technology, so the human voice box, paradoxically by a loos rather than a gin of function, lost its air sacs and vocal membranes, allowing our larynx to produce stable, harmonic-rich phonation, ideally highlighting formant changes that convey most phonetic information (Nishimura et al. 2022). The chimp cry right, shows chaotic non-linear bursts, which obscure phonetic communication. Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language thus followed simplification of our laryngeal anatomy. In turn this has bootstrapped linguistic culture and rational thought, by reverse cultural viral memetic takeover – par excellence, by languages themselves as adaptive representational systems! Thus the combination of fingers and accurate harmonic vocalisation, rather than being a super-intelligent elite, seem to be key to the birth of human culture and human super intelligence.


What is the Future Spearhead of Conscious Evolution?


Comparing humans, dolphins and elephants,  we have seen that what distinguishes humans is not just their large brains but their phenotypic ability to give expression to tool use and to thus design new ecological niches exploiting the natural habitat and the species it contains, through processes such as gathering and hunting, and the generation of social cultures associated with language, particularly between mothers and their babies and young children as the key to developmental intelligence, then used widely in the social group to establish and maintain trusting relationships.


This would justify the focus on Homo sapiens itself as the key dominant species in whose evolution the future of biospheric evolution has become entwined, except for the crippling and potentially fatal flaw that human exploitation of the biosphere has become not only a threat to the biosphere as a whole through habitat exploitation, wilderness degradation, wild species destruction, climate crisis, and pollution, not to mention the risks of nuclear warfare, but has also become an ever more brittle instability for humanity itself, due to increasing dependence on technology to drive our ever longer and more tenuous food distribution chains, and our energy demands to keep an increasingly complex global society, prone to multiple tipping points of urban food supply break down, international conflicts arising from increasing scarcity of resources, epidemic disease due to a single large fluid mass society, and the debilitating effects of climate and biodiversity crisis itself. This is now becoming compounded by increasing dependence on unsustainable forms of artificial intelligence, prone to even more brittle break down in the event of any disruption to the social system.  This leaves our species completely vulnerable to any major disruption, from an asteroid or cometary strike, through a large magma eruption like that that gave rise to the Deccan traps, severe climate overheating tipping points with loss of the polar albedo  and others. It raises the question of whether Homo sapiens has a viable evolutionary future, or whether the biosphere may need to depend on simpler more prolific species, with faster genetic turnover and adaption and shorter reproduction times, from rodents, to cockroaches, or even single-celled eucaryotes, as an ultimate future option for biospheric survival.


In New Zealand Aotearoa, because of its evolutionary isolation the region had no apex mammal predators and only small reptiles, some bats and flightless birds, such as the iconic kiwi, which are now ravaged by rodents, mustelids and possums, meaning that humans have had to take on the burden of becoming apex predators of feral introduced invasive species. One can then ask the question is it worth saving such exceptional species, because species extinction is after all a natural consequence of evolutionary change, as well as new species emergence. But this isn’t about any fundamentalistic naturalist agenda of protecting dumb wild animals, but the entire future of conscious existence on our beloved blue-green planetary paradise we are putting a stake. However any form of intervention to allow species extinctions involves a tortured and complex decision because survival of the biosphere depends not just on an individual species’ reproductive success but on how a climax ecosystem generates robustness to sometimes apocalyptic planetary environmental crisis through the sheer diversity of its interacting niches. It becomes a perilous game to cast lots on evolution itself to try to sustain it from the consequences of human devastation. But are there some species, however threatened, that are really essential?



Fig 138b: Top left: Juramaia a eutherian placental fossil from 160 mya ago in the Jurassic period (Luo et al. 2011) followed by Eomaia 125 mya (Ji et al. 2002). Top right: Dryomomys, 55 mya after the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, the most primitive primate known from good fossil material. The first known primate fossil, Purgatorius, dating from 65 mya, known only from isolated teeth and jaw. The earliest primate from molecular clocks dates at 90 mya but adapted to take into account fossil evidence it dates to 81.5 mya, well before the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction (Tavare et al. 2002). Lower row: slender loris, mouse lemur and tarsier.  Right: Brains of (a) mouse, (b) tarsier, (c) marmoset, prosimian (d) ring-tailed lemur and (e) slow loris. Anthropoid (f) rhesus monkey,, (g) lar gibbon (h) chimp and (i) human. All primates display cortical folding homology, with greater folding in the larger species to preserve cortical surface to brain volume ratios (Brain Museum). Lower right: Comparison of the log ratios of cortical neurons to brain volume and total neuron count in elephant, lion, pig, capybara, human, chimp, rhesus, gorilla, mouse and marmoset. These show mice and marmosets, despite their smooth brains and small size, share optimal cortical/brain ratios, even compared with humans. In addition mouse CA1 pyramidal cells are only half the dimensions of human ones (top-right) so neuronal densities in small animals are higher (Benavides-Piccione et al. 2020). Small primates are thus ideally placed to evolve compact highly intelligent brains by comparison with other mammalian families. Opposable thumbs for grasping objects are widespread in primates, with strepsirrhine pro-simians having pseudo-opposable thumbs (lower far right). Darwinius masillae, an Eocene primate fossil between prosimian and simian, had hands and feet with highly flexible digits featuring opposable thumbs and halluces (Franzen et al. 2009). The brain to body ratio is high in primates, with rhesus macaques having a similar figure to humans.


Traditional fossil records suggest the mammalian radiation of the dominant placental species occurred only after the dinosaur extinction, implying it took an astronomical intervention to result in the mammalian dominance, primate emergence and hence human evolution, rendering any notion of humanity as a hot evolutionary target capricious. However it is clear the earliest mammal ancestors arose long before this, some 225 mya ago, as small shrew-like species living off small organisms, such as insects (Novacek  1997). There has been continuing debate between molecular clock evidence suggesting an early diversification and fossil evidence existing only since the demise of the dinosaurs. The current picture remains controversial but a picture is emerging of an early genetic origin with little phenotypic diversification in the Jurassic-Cretaceous epoch of the dinosaurs, although the stem and crown placental groups had become established, followed by rapid phenotypic diversification after the dinosaur extinction, as diverse new niches became available (Tavare et al. 2002, Ji et al. 2002, O’Leary et al. 2013, Luo et al. 2011, Halliday et al. 2019, King & Beck 2020), thus explaining the discrepancy. Primates become key for their fingers complementing their brains that became key in human tool use, and cultural emergence, so primates remain key future evolutionary targets.


The most “primitive” primates are the wet-nosed strepsirrhines, consisting of the lemurs of Madagascar, galagos (bushbabies), pottos from Africa, and lorises from India and southeast Asia. Many of the species living today are endangered due to habitat destruction, hunting for bushmeat, and live capture for the exotic pet trade. Strepsirrhines are behaviourally diverse, although all are primarily arboreal (tree-dwelling).  In the warmer Eocene there were many species which have become extinct, in our cooler climates, so they could diversify in a warmer world heading back toward Eocene temperatures provided we protect them now. The sister dry-nosed group of haplorhines, including Tarsiers are also targets. Otherwise, in a cataclysmic planetary crisis, we are back to rats and mice.


Implications for the human future, Where could this end up for humanity?


1. Going down the Hive-Mind Rabbit Hole


How far do we want to go down the road of becoming a smaller-brained hive-minded species dependent on our brittle unstable, implicitly unsustainable, machine technology to survive? Given that we are extremely maladapted to the survival of the biosphere in a form that is likely to sustain us long term, this seems to be a terminal Fermi demise.


2. Violating our Evolutionary Paradigm


Human super-intelligence and cultural emergence appears to have occurred in a context of astute female reproductive choice complemented by mutual mate choice. The patriarchal epoch exemplified by Eden asserts an overthrow of this to achieve male paternity certainty. This has resulted in all sorts of negative selective pressures. The current situation is girls of reproductive age not making astute reproductive choices because the media and the group culture preaches a doctrine of macho males and awed females getting laid that is mindless patriarchal fantasy and intelligence suicide. The history of the last 10,000 years already described in the previous section shows diverse manifestations of this. It is deleterious for an XY chromosomal species with a massive polarisation of reproductive risk and investment to culturally repress astute female reproductive choice. Religions are the prime offender and need to be exorcised for their sins, but also the notion of males driving culture reinforced by militarisation and the dominance of men in strategic decision making. This is also a recipe for a downhill slide into oblivion.


3. Biological Intelligence vs Cultural Chain Reaction: Will we split into two species?


The discussion has been on two issues (a) Human brain size changes and (b) are humans the most intelligent species? Most people who claim humans are the most intelligent species, are doing so on the basis of product of cultural chain reaction, but they are denying the influence of culture and claiming it is based on our biological intelligence. These comments are simply reinforcing the fact that we are becoming more and more dependent on cultural chain reaction processes in which many humans contribute a small amount of intelligence to accumulative manufacturing processes as a hive mind and the results look stunning but don’t in any way represent the ongoing demographic level of biological intelligence across the human population as a whole.


Fig 139: The 1-D CA rule 110 is a universal computer (Chen et al. 2012, Cook 2004). How intelligent is it?


If you glance at the cellular automation on the right, you will see a system having no intrinsic intelligence, simply a rule. The 1-D cellular automaton with decimal rule 110, taken from my CA Mac app is able to do incredibly complex things, because it's a universal computer. Give it the right (static) initial conditions, it can produce any result a digital computer can do, including states much more complex than its initial conditions. Its binary code is 01101110 for the eight possible previous three cell states of 0/1. I.e. 111 –> 0 110 –>1 etc. But is it “intelligent"? It’s “natural” intelligence is no more than its binary code plus the arrows above, but its “cultural" intelligence is unbounded above except by np-complete problems that are computationally intractable.


The failure of human society to recognise that cultural production of complexity is not a direct function of individual human biological intelligence on a demographic footing, but of increasingly automated processes that could lead to AI takeover, not because AI got so smart, but because we got so dumb on a demographic basis. Sexual selection involves endless recombination, so unless we form an elite and bifurcate into two species by selective breeding in an equally dystopian Handmaid's Tale, one smart and inventing the technology and the other dumbed down, living like ants, so we are again in serious trouble. Better to merge symbiotically with the biosphere as living beings and actually survive.


Gene-Culture Co-Evolution


(a) The Emergence of Language


The emergence of spoken language has been associated both with female gatherers talking about their relationships down the grape vine while on gathering forays, when the men were out on a hunt, the only sounds of which were disguised animal signals, and with mothers speaking to their babies (Hrdy 2003). Animal studies have also suggested social empathy as a catalyst (Erard & Matcic (2018).


Selective scenarios for the emergence of natural language are bounteous. Language evolved to facilitate cooperative hunting. Language evolved as a costly ornament that allows females to assess male quality. Language evolved as a substitute for the  grooming exhibited by other primates when groups got too large. Language evolved to promote pair bonding, to aid mother-child communication, to gossip about others, to expedite toolmaking, as a tool for thought, or to fulfill countless other functions or  purposes (Laland 2017 176).


While the basis of language has veered from hardwired concepts such as universal generative grammars, and a battery of cerebral toolkits specifically to articulate and interpret spoken word, based on Broca’s and Wernicke’s language areas, there is no good rationale why a purely genetic and natural selection process in the absence of the evolutionary effect of language itself can provide an explanation. This leads to gene-culture co-evolutionary theories (Kirby & Christiansen 2003, Laland & Brown 2002, Pinker 2010, Deacon 1998, Christiansen & Chater 2008), in which language itself becomes a kind of  meme-like parasite provocateur transforming human intelligence, exploding our ecological niches and giving rise to the phenomenon of culture.


[James] Hurford argues that language evolution needs to be understood as a combination of both biological pre-adaptations – that is, biological changes that may not be adaptive by themselves – and learning-based linguistic adaptations over generations. He points to several possible biological steps prior to the emergence of language: pre-adaptations for the production of speech sounds (phonetics), for organizing the sounds into complex sequences (syntax), for forming basic and complex concepts and doing mental calculations with them (semantics), for complex social interaction (pragmatics), and for an elementary ability to link sounds to concepts (symbolic capacity). Once humans were language-ready with these pre-adaptations in place, language systems would have grown increasingly complex due to the process of transmitting language across generations through the narrow filter of children’s learning mechanisms (Kirby and Christiansen 2003).


We argue that [universal grammar] UG could not have arisen either by biological adaptation or non-adaptationist genetic processes, resulting in a logical problem of language evolution. Specifically, as the processes of language change are much more rapid than processes of genetic change, language constitutes a “moving target” both over time and across different human populations, and, hence, cannot provide a stable environment to which language genes could have adapted. We conclude that a biologically determined UG is not evolutionarily viable. Instead, the original motivation for UG – the mesh between learners and languages – arises because language has been shaped to fit the human brain, rather than vice versa. Following Darwin, we view language itself as a complex and interdependent “organism,” which evolves under selectional pressures from human learning and processing mechanisms (Christiansen & Chater 2008).


Laland (2017) highlights the vast difference in vocal fluency that casts humans and monkey species distinctively apart from the relative paucity of such communication in higher apes:


When the natural communication systems of primates are examined, for instance, no straightforward increase in complexity from monkeys to apes to humans is observed. Many researchers characterize great ape communication systems as more limited in range than those of monkeys. For example, monkeys, but not other apes, have functionally referential alarm calls, although whether monkey calls are truly referential like human language remains contested. This particular ape-monkey difference makes biological sense. Great apes are larger and stronger than monkeys, and hence are less vulnerable to predation. Apes almost certainly didnt evolve referential alarm calls because they had comparatively little to be alarmed about. Indeed, there is little that is learned at all in the vocal communication of nonhuman apes.18 Apes do possess gestures to initiate play, for instance, or when infants signal they wish to be carried—many of these gestures have learned elements. However, apes seemingly do not use their gestures referentially, nor do their gestures exhibit any symbolic or conventionalized features.


Laland ties this to the very earliest phase of human increase in brain size associated with tool-making:


The latest thinking on the evolution of early Homo suggests that increases in brain size were coupled with increased toolmaking and stone transport, dietary expansion, and greater developmental plasticity (the flexible adjustment of development to environmental conditions). This means that there would be plenty to teach, because our hominin ancestors subsisted on a broad omnivorous diet and were reliant on a large number of extractive foraging and tool-using skills. This period in human history was the dawn of cumulative culture, when our ancestors first began manufacturing stone tools, using the flakes to butcher carcasses for food and in a variety of other ways. In other words, it was the beginning of the phase in which (according to our analysis of the evolution of teaching) cumulative culture would help make teaching widely adaptive. Here, then, is a setting in which teaching among close relatives could be beneficial across a broad range of contexts.


In his chapter on the evolution of intelligence, Laland cites the following six factors as key to evolution of human intelligence grouped in three categories, constituting "cultural drive" in turn shaping human genetics:  (a) social (social learning, tactical deception) (b) technical (tool use, innovation) and (c) ecological (extractive foraging, diet depth). These are combined into the notion of "primate g" which effectively becomes general intelligence.


Here he has essentially broadened the competitive notion of Machiavellian intelligence, which he still accepts is central, with other obvious mechanisms of feedback including social copying, tool use and foraging, placing an emphasis on social learning, particularly high-fidelity copying, in relation to group size and long generation times, noting that primate longlevity correlates with social learning rather than general intelligence.  While acknowledging the role of Machiavellian intelligence, Laland’s lack of awareness of the pivotal role of sexual selection in promoting both intelligence and a loving pro-social society, noted in the previous section raises the question over the assumed benefits of cultural evolution over the sexual selection aspects gatherer-hunter evolutionary psychology, which has sustained us over longer time frames and left a clear imprint in our sexual physiology and pursuit of sexual love.


The crucible for the early language evolution Laland invokes, rather than the small-brained Australopithicenes, with a cranial volume of some 450 cc similar to other apes, would appear to be the major push made by Homo erectus and his alter-ego Homo ergaster, went from a 750cc brain to 1250cc close to our own average size of around 1400cc. Analysis of erectus skulls and the discovery of a hyoid bone involved in speech vocalisation is also consistent with an increasing use of language in erectus (Broadfield et. al. 2001), complementing a 1.6 million year old Homo ergaster skeleton, which does have some evidence of Broca's area (Taylor 1996 41).


Dunbar (2022) has a more precise analysis of the features and timing:


Speech requires two key capacities: the ability to produce long exhalations without having to take a breath and the capacity to control the articulation space in the mouth and upper throat by altering the position of the jaw, tongue and glottis. These are under the control, respectively, of the thoracic nerves in the upper chest and the hypoglossal nerve in the base of the skull. … Three other anatomical markers are of interest for speech. One is the position of the hyoid bone that anchors the top of the larynx to the base of the tongue. In monkeys, apes and human infants, it lies high in the throat (which allows them to breathe and swallow at the same time without drowning themselves), but after weaning it drops low in the throat in humans (as a result, adults cannot drink and breathe at the same time). This low position is what allows us to produce certain vowel sounds, and vowels are crucial for human language. The other two indices are components of the inner ear, and hence our ability to hear fine distinctions in others’ speech. These are the area of the base of middle ear bone known as the stapes and the size of the cochlea (the curled-up organ in the inner ear), both of which determine the range of sounds that can be heard. … In fact, these five anatomical markers all appear to switch from primate- like to human-like with the appearance of archaic humans (Homo heidelbergensis) some 500,000 years ago.


Henrich (2017) demurs on the role of teaching in the emergence of language in his review of Laland's book:


I worry that it may overestimate the centrality of teaching and language for social learning, especially early in human evolution. My concern arises from the fact that, although teaching—broadly defined—does exist in some form across diverse societies, most of the research on pedagogy, parenting, and socialization derives from populations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD). In contrast to small-scale societies, WEIRD people rely heavily on intense verbal tuition, positive feedback, and active instructional interventions (3). This bias may skew our understanding of the role played by direct tuition and verbal scaffolding in cultural transmission. Further, numerous social norms, rituals, and technical skills are culturally transmitted without teaching or language (4), especially in small-scale societies.


Henrich (2016) argues that the secret of our success comes from culture, with cultural evolution and genetic evolution driving one another. The result of an immense period of this gene-culture co-evolution is not a "really smart, though somewhat less hairy, chimp", but "a new kind of animal" which has arrived because it is "better to be social than smart". The big difference between baby humans and chimpanzees is not in mastering abstract ideas, like quantity or causality, but that we are "prolific, spontaneous and automatic imitators, even willing to copy seemingly unnecessary or purely stylistic steps”.


Humans are adaptive cultural learners who acquire ideas, beliefs, values, social norms, motivations, and worldview from others in their communities. To focus our cultural learning, we use cues of prestige, success, sex, dialect, and ethnicity, among others, and especially attend to particular domains, such as those involving food, sex, danger, and norm violations. .. Humans are status seekers and aware strongly influence by prestige. But what's highly flexible is which behaviors or actions lead to high prestige. The social norms we acquire often come with internalized motivations and ways of viewing the world (guiding our attention and memory), as well as with standards for judging and punishing others. People's preferences and motivations are not fixed.


Darwin, the founder of the evolutionary approach, speculated that language was potentially an invention (1904 60): "Man not only uses inarticulate cries, gestures and expressions, but has invented articulate language, if indeed the word invented can be applied to a process completed by innumerable steps half consciously made". Morten Christiansen questions the need to invoke a Chomskian generative grammar. Instead, he argues, language has adapted to utilise more general cognitive processing capacities that were already part of our ancestors' brains before language came along. Among these, he focuses on 'sequential learning' - the ability to encode and represent the order of the discrete elements in a sequence. This ability is not unique to humans: mountain gorillas, for example, use it in the complicated preparation of certain spiky plant foods, where a sequence of tasks is required to remove the edible part. Language, he says, is a 'non-obligate mutualistic endosymbiont' - a kind of evolutionary structure like a 'symbolic virus'. Kirby suggests our brains are not so specifically designed for language and that we appear to be biologically adapted to language because language which evolves much faster than biology has culturally adapted to us, gaining semantic power and representational efficiency as it evolves. It also provides a common explanation for both spoken and written language which has evolved too recently to have arisen from long-term genetic evolution.


Introducing their approach, Kirby and Christiansen (2003 ) note:


There are an enormous number of communication systems in the natural world (Hauser, 1996). When a male Tu ́ngara frog produces “whinesand chucksto attract a female, when a mantis shrimp strikes the ground to warn off a competitor for territory, even when a bee is attracted to a particular flower, communication is taking place. Humans as prodigious communicators are not unusual in this respect. What makes human language stand out as unique (or at least very rare indeed) is the degree to which it is learned.  From a design point of view, it is easy to see the advantages of providing instructions for building mechanisms for language acquisition rather than the language itself. Human language cannot be completely innate because it would not fit in the genome. Worden (1995) has derived a speed-limit on evolution that allows us to estimate the maximum amount of information in the human genome that codes for the cognitive differences between us and chimpanzees. He gives a paltry figure of approximately 5 kilobytes. This is equivalent to the text of just the introduction to this chapter. Finally, we look at the implications of our work for linguistic and evolutionary theory. Ultimately, we argue that linguistic structure arises from the interactions between learning, culture and evolution. If we are to understand the origins of human language, we must understand what happens when these three complex adaptive systems are brought together.


A meme impels its bearer to broadcast it, and it mutates in some recipients: a sound of a word, or a phrase is randomly altered. Perhaps, as in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, the audience of the Sermon on the Mount mishears the Blessed are the peacemakersas Blessed are the cheesemakers.The new version is more memorable and comes to predominate in the majority of minds. It too in mangled by typos and speakos and hearos, and the most spreadable ones accumulate, gradually transforming the sequence of sounds. Eventually, they spell out, Thats one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. I think youll agree that this is not how cultural change works. A complex meme does not arise by the retention of copying errors. If selection does not explain complex design in cultural evolution by itself, then it is of no importance. This is mistaken. There is no doubt that as people acquire and modify beliefs, ideas and values the variation that is generated can be highly non-random, and these non-selective processes shape cultural variation. But so what? Selection occurs anytime there is heritable variation that effects survival or reproduction (transmission).


Various lines of evidence support such optimisation of representational and cognitive efficiency in existing languages. For example dependency length minimisation, in which words which depend on one another come closer in a sentence than random (Futrell et al. 2015), makes it easier to recognise meanings in both spoken and written sentences, although the efficiency of existing languages varies widely. Widely used languages such as English have evolved to simplify changes of tense, person, gender and number to avoid complex conjugation and declension of verbs and nouns. There is also evidence that the root of languages might be partly iconic rather than the arbitrary relationships between sound and meaning of traditional linguistic theories, so that words indicating slowness, descent or negative emotions have a falling pattern of intonation while those with the opposite have a rising one, like down as opposed to up. "Splash" provides a good example of a word whose spoken sound mimics its natural sound.


Fig 140: Evolutionary tree of the Indo-European languages

(Gray & Atkinson 2003).


Languages as different as Danish and Hindi have evolved in less than 5000 years from a common Proto-Indo-European ancestor (Gray & Atkinson 2003). Yet it took up to 200,000 years for modern humans to evolve from archaic Homo sapiens. The latest estimates of the oldest skulls discovered, from the Omo river by Richard Leakey are 196,000 years (McDougall et. al. 2005). Pinker (2003) notes steps of this type in the experiments of Martin Nowak's group in establishing both sequential symbols such as vowels and consonants to form a word and positional syntax in which words describing single events give way to active characterisation of a type of event. Both are adaptive responses to informational crisis as a large number of symbols each associated with a single context or event involves too many similar symbols to adequately discriminate one from another. The emergence of such structures could in turn have enabled the semantic enfolding of the rational mind. Reading written language is clearly such an adaption of visual pattern recognition and other skills.


Corballis (2002) suggests language arose from a selective convergence of these diverse attributes to give rise to semantic language, possibly also accompanied by a convergence of other faculties such as mental perspectives of others, consistent with an early common origin of click sounds (p 106). Gestures like the shrug are also ancient responses, while smiles, and snarls with all their dimensions from appeasement to tooth threatening exposure go all the way back through our primate relatives. Laughter is an example of a central chaotic and explosive emotional response to contradiction, or surprise, which is suggestive of an ancient origin, earlier than language as we know it, in sharing emotional reactions, which also appears to have a basis in sexual courtship and family bonding:


"Women laugh most in the presence of men they find attractive.

Men are the leading laugh getters, women are the leading laughers"

Robert Provine


The advent of semantic exchange would place a huge new evolutionary burden on all areas of the cortex by exploding time, space and society into an historical process in which more and more contexts, individuals and situations came to be named and hence distinguishable from one another. Such a language involution would then place a burden of selection on larger brains which could handle the new and diverse complexities of a world imbued with historical and semantic meaning requiring slowed foetal development and a new awareness of social and sexual relationships and their implications. We can see the germ of this complexity in ape societies, such as grazing gelada baboons, where there are a host of cries indicating all manner of interactions, from courtship, through male competition, to emotional 'social contracts' of mutuality, reciprocation, aggression and reconciliation, as well as group warnings about predators. Among these, sexual courtship and competition are both very strong and also very subtle fleeting yet highly focused influences, as a glance at a female macaque inciting an extra-alpha 'safari' coupling behind the alpha males' backs indicates. 


This is also broadly consistent with the fact that brain processing about lexical semantic information

still appears to be a striking advantage for experience-based representational structures (i.e., encoding information about sensory- motor, affective, and other features of phenomenal experience), with little evidence for independent taxonomic or distributional organisation (Fernandino et al. 2022).


This approach to the emergence of language also supports a general role for Machiavellian social interactions, with a core emphasis on reproduction and sexual selection driving the burgeoning complexity of semantic language, consistent with both Geoffrey Miller's sexual selection ideas and honesty and deceit in wider social contracts. Consistent with this view is the fact that the sneakiest monkeys have the largest brains (Byrne & Corp 2004). Dunbar (1996) suggests that, as neocortical size increases, more subtle social and political strategies, such as tactical deception come into play. As a result, lower-ranking individuals are able to find loopholes in the social dominance hierarchy. Their special cognitive capacity makes them able to improve their reproductive success, in spite of lower rank - in line with the Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis (Whiten and Byrne 1988, 1997). Boehm (1999 182) comments that the political invention of egalitarian society during this process enabled such individuals to forgo or invoke strategies of social deception, suggesting that lower ranking coalitions bluffed or forced their way, as male coalitions of chimps can do, to form large, stable and purposeful coalitions which are at the root of our social egalitarianism, politics and morality.


Laland (2017) brings this whole thesis back to its foundation in gene-culture co-evolution:


I described how the manufacture and use of stone tools may have played a vital role in human evolution by generating coevolutionary feedback between cultural practices and genetic inheritance, and thereby contributed to the emergence of language. Our tool knapping study supported the hypothesis that a gene-culture coevolutionary dynamic between tool use and social transmission was ongoing in human evolution, starting at least 2.5 million years ago and continuing to the present. Indeed, this entire book is one long advocacy for the significance of evolutionary feedback that encompasses a cultural drive mechanism initiated by natural selection that favored accurate and efficient copying. That selective feedback propelled the evolution of cognition in some primate lineages, and ultimately was responsible for the awesome computational power of the human brain. That propensity was fashioned by millions of years of gene-culture coevolution.


(b) Niche Construction, Habitat Destruction Gene-culture Co-evolution and the Anthropocene


Niche construction is a concept from the extended evolutionary synthesis, where species not only exist within an ecological niche existing in the natural environment, but by their own activities alter the niche to promote their own survival. Niche construction can provide both physical and cultural extensions of a species niche. Because in symbiotic existential cosmology subjective conscious volition has physical efficacy, this becomes a conscious intentional process.


Fig 141: Examples of niche construction: Devil's gardens in the Amazon. The ant, Myrmelachista schumanni, which nests in Duroia hirsuta stems, creates devil's gardens by poisoning all plants except its hosts. A worker ant attacks a plant by lethal injection (inset). It bites a small hole in the leaf tissue, inserts the tip of its abdomen, and releases formic acid, which kills the plant. Male South African Weaver Birds construct elaborate hanging nests which avoid predators, to attract mates. A beaver dam. Beavers hold a very specific biological niche in the ecosystem: constructing dams across river systems. Human destruction of the rain forest to make monoclonal palm oil plantations Sabah.


Niche construction is a process by which gene-culture co-evolution can transform the evolutionary process. Examples of niche construction include the building of nests and burrows by animals, and the creation of shade, influencing of wind speed, and alternation of nutrient cycling by plants. Although these alterations are often beneficial to the constructor, they are not always. In the case of Homo sapiens the process has had an unconstrained runaway effect driven by human evolution as a dominant species exploiting the natural environment. The trouble is that human niche construction has become wholesale habitat destruction. Despite climate, habitat and biodiversity crisis leading towards a mass extinction on cosmological time scales, there is no sign that gene-culture evolution is producing the stability required for the biosphere to survive in evolutionary time.



Fig 142: Human niche construction has exceeded all ecological bounds and transformed or destroyed the natural ecosystems to produce agricultural, urban,
mining and toxically polluted landscapes reaching an irreversible degradation of the entire concept of an ecosystemic niche,  due to the impact of a single species.


Fig 143: The Anthropocene: Eventually, these processes lead to their own cultural imposition on the planet,
resulting in entirely synthetic “cognitive” rather than “experiential” landscapes (


For niche construction to affect evolution it must satisfy: (1) the organism significantly modifying environmental conditions, (2) these modifications influencing one or more selection pressures on a recipient organism, and (3) there must be an evolutionary response in at least one recipient population caused by the environmental modification. Niche construction can be viewed as an evolutionary process that works in conjunction with natural selection. Evolution entails networks of feedbacks in which previously selected organisms drive environmental changes, and organism-modified environments subsequently select for changes in organisms. The complementary match between an organism and its environment results from the two processes of natural selection and niche construction. The effect of niche construction is especially pronounced in situations where environmental alterations persist for several generations, introducing the evolutionary role of ecological inheritance. The development of many organisms, and the recurrence of traits across generations, has been found to depend critically on the construction of developmental environments such as nests by ancestral organisms. Ecological inheritance implies that organisms inherit two legacies from their ancestors: genes and a modified environment.


Niche construction is recognised to have played important roles in human evolution, including the evolution of cognitive capabilities. It is immediately apparent that humans possess an unusually potent capability to regulate, construct and destroy their environments, and that this is generating pressing current problems (e.g. climate change, deforestation, urbanisation). However, human scientists have been attracted to the niche construction perspective because it recognises human activities as a directing process, rather than merely the consequence of natural selection.


Mathematical models have established that cultural niche construction can modify natural selection on human genes and drive evolutionary events in the process of gene-culture coevolution. There is now little doubt that human cultural niche construction has co-directed human evolution. Humans have modified selection, for instance, by dispersing into new environments with different climatic regimes, devising agricultural practices or domesticating livestock. For example, dairy farming created a selection pressure that led to the spread of alleles for adult lactase persistence. Many hundreds of genes have been found to be subject to recent selection, and human cultural activities are thought to be a major source of this selection.


Laland (2017 243) gives a fitting account of the benefits and emerging costs of agriculture as niche construction:


Agricultural practices are examples of cultural niche construction that, as described in the previous chapter, can trigger evolutionary episodes in both the domesticates and, via selective feedback, in the human populations too. Cultural niche constructing processes that contribute to plant domestication include selective collecting, transporting, storing, and planting of seeds; setting fire to grasslands and forest, either intentionally or accidentally; cutting down trees; tilling; weeding and the selective culling of competing species; irrigation; and creating organically rich dump heaps. The skills and information that underlay these processes were passed from one generation to the next through a combination of teaching, imitation, stories, myths, and ritual,51 with the knowledge base regularly accumulating and being updated. Over time, these agricultural practices had an impact on the plants, which underwent a series of dramatic changes, such as major increases in size of the plant or its seeds, faster seed germination, simultaneous ripening of the seed crop, and so forth. The changes benefited both species by increasing the fitness of the plant community and elevating its yield. Sowing seeds in prepared substrates, for example, both induces changes in germination and dispersal mechanisms through inadvertent artificial selection, and helps the tended plants by increasing their likelihood of being included in next years seed stock.52 The increased yield, in turn, encouraged humans to perpetuate the practices that maintained or increased plant productivity, thereby triggering natural selection that modified human digestive enzymes. However, the methods of sowing selected seeds and harvesting plants inadvertently imposed selection on the crops that eventually left many inviable when in open competition with wild counterparts, and hence utterly dependent on humans.


The same reasoning applies to animals, where domestication again selected for increased yields of animal products, such as milk, but also a variety of other traits, including lowered reactivity to environmental stimuli and a dependence on humans for survival and reproduction. The protection provided by corrals and pens, and selection of animals that were easy to manage, again modified the impact of natural selection on animal breeds. When removed from anthropogenic settings, that selection left the animals concerned much more vulnerable to predation.


But he is vastly underestimating the jeopardy here. Not only have the selectively bred strains become dependent on humans but they have become mono-cultured, often losing natural disease resistance and the evolutionary diversity that wild plants have to survive on evolutionary time scales. Worse still, the cultivated plant and animal varieties and habitat destruction generally have led to the genetic diversity of the wild relatives being severely compromised, so that the future viability of the entire niche construction of agriculture looks increasingly uncertain unless resolute corrective action is taken. Finally, although agriculture supported a larger population, their nutritional diet was inferior to gatherer-hunter societies and they tended to become smaller and suffered more parasites and epidemic diseases.


Laland & Brown (2002 245-249) note the transition to gene-culture coevolution as a coherent discipline:


Gene–culture coevolution is like a hybrid cross between memetics and evolutionary psychology, with a little mathematical rigour thrown into the pot. Like memeticists, geneculture coevolution enthusiasts treat culture as an evolving pool of ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge that is learned and socially transmitted between individuals. Like evolutionary psychologists, these researchers believe that the cultural knowledge an individual adopts may sometimes, although certainly not always, depend on his or her genetic constitution. … Moreover, selection acting on the genetic system is commonly generated or modified by the spread of cultural information.


They place it as a central theoretical construct in the divergent views of differing social science disciplines:


For most social scientists cultureis a given. The notion that much of the variation in the behaviour of humans is brought about by their being exposed to divergent cultures is so widespread and intuitive that it appears beyond dispute. Culture is regarded as a cohesive set of mental representations, a collection of ideas, beliefs, and values that are transmitted among individuals and acquired through social learning.


In contrast, most sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists are united by the belief that the transmitted elements of culture exert either a comparatively trivial influence on human behaviour, or that whatever influence they have is so strictly circumscribed by genes that there is no need to take account of the dynamic properties of culture. For human behavioural ecologists, culture is viewed as a flexible system that produces the most adaptive outcome in a given environment and that can be altered over a relatively short period of time in response to environmental change. Others, such as many behaviour geneticists, treat cultureas the dross that is left over when the more importantgenetic influences on behaviour have been isolated. Cultureis usually lumped together with individual learn- ing and other environmental effects on behaviour into a ragbag labelled nurture, to be contrasted with genetic sources of variation.


For proponents of geneculture coevolution, many of these other biological perspectives are misguided. Too much culture changes too quickly to be feasibly explained by genes, while the fact that different behavioural traditions can be found in similar environments would appear to render environmental explanations of behaviour impotent a lot of the time.


They thus state a convincing case for the approach and both meaningful in biological evolutionary terms and in terms of key cultural forms of evolutionary change:


Our capacity for culture is a unique adaptation. It allows us humans to learn about our world rapidly and efficiently. Human beings dont have to scour their environment for sources of food and water, devise their own means of communication, or reinvent technological advances from first principles. Our capacity to acquire valuable skills and information from more knowledgeable others, such as parents, teachers, or friends, as well as indirectly via artefacts such as books and computers, furnishes us with a short cut to adaptive (and sometimes maladaptive) behaviour. Advocates of geneculture coevolution share with memeticists and the vast majority of social scientists the view that what makes culture different from other aspects of the environment is the knowledge passed between individuals. Culture is transmitted and inherited in an endless chain, frequently adapted and modified to produce cumulative evolutionary change. This infectious, information- based property of transmission is what allows culture to change rapidly, to propagate a novel behaviour through a population, to modify the selection pressures acting on genes, and to exert such a powerful influence on our behavioural development.


Democratic Capitalism, Commerce and Company Law


We now turn to how corporate business operates, to try to understand its role in survival of humanity and the biosphere over evolutionary time scales as gene-culture co-evolution. In the interests of private enterprise in a democratic society elected by the common will, the general principle is to allow legal entities to be constructed which can collectively perform the same roles of intentional agency that genetic individuals possess in an evolving human society.


Life has existed on earth for a full third of the universes lifetime. The reason for this stability is twofold. Firstly, unlike larger short-lived stars which gave us our rich array of atoms in earlier supernova explosions, the sun is a small very long lived star with only very slowly evolving brightness. Secondly and more pertinently, life is genetic and genetic inheritance and evolution is cumulative over generations. It is also extremely conservative, striving to preserve genetic encoding through error correcting enzymes with evolution occurring only differentially through occasional adventitious beneficial mutation amid recombination to escape Muller’s ratchet.


This means a lion cannot turn overnight into a lamb, nor can a tiger eat an antelope and metamorphose into a shark. However companies possess no such genetic stability and can liquidate their assets in the face of crisis and turn to entirely different occupations, as appeared to be the case when a Canadian fishing firm devastated the cod fishery and then cashed up its stock of assets and entered another kind of business such as prawn farming. They can also consume one another in takeovers to become entirely new corporate giants. This lack of long-terminability.


Moreover the cumulative dynamics of genetic organisms generates long-term ecological relationships, which provide non-linear feedbacks that tend to stabilise complex relationships and increasing species and genetic diversity in biospheric symbiosis. We may consider predators and disease-bearing parasites as evidence for the brutality of nature, but the ecosystemic relationships tell another story. Without predators such as lions, the population of gazelles will enter boom and bust as they eat out all the available fodder leading to their wipeout in escalating episodes of famine. This was intriguingly illustrated in the return of wolves to Yellowstone spurring the recovery of the bears. The removal of the wolves had caused the elk population to explode, consuming all the berries the bears depended on for their vitamins leading to a loss of fitness. But an ecosystem consisting entirely of economic predators cannot survive.


Climax diversity is the cosmological apex of complex system generation, in which human society stands at the pinnacle. We can continue to coexist in this complex system only if we fashion our economic and developmental impacts in a way that maintains the long term stability of the living systems on which our continued existence depends.


By contrast with the cumulative stability of genotype, and incremental evolution by mutation and natural selection, the capitalist economy is based on a purely social model of competing fragmented democracies. Company law stipulates a democratic basis for a group of shareholders to incorporate and sets out a legal and financial basis for them to pursue business based on the two nested democracies of the general meeting and the board of directors who are accountable to the shareholders, at least in principle. In larger companies, there is also a line-managed hierarchy of employees, forming a pyramid from the CEO at the apex down through the executive branch to salaried workers. Outside this framework only the limits of government regulation provide highly varying degrees of protective feedback intended to guarantee a modicum of corporate accountability and responsibility, lacking in company law itself, for example in fair trading acts, clean air acts, and environmental protection acts. However these are in turn subject to political and commercial influence and often act too late to prevent the collateral damage.


Corporate competitiveness, by contrast with genetic mutation and natural selection, is a much more primitive form of selectivity, which does have a degree of survival of the fittest optimisation of efficiency, but in the complete absence of any cumulative genetic mechanism to ensure long term stability.  The end results are thus much more prone to the breakdown of ecological complexity into huge conglomerate enterprises, with a high degree of collateral fallout due to short term impacts lacking any long-term foresight, or even any natural feedback mechanisms to ensure at least medium term stability.


Because they are vulnerable to manipulative share trading, companies are prone to mergers and acquisitions by friendly, or often hostile, takeover. These can be by competitors seeking to expand their niche in the market by eliminating competition, or providing collective efficiencies by laying off redundant staff, or they may simply be forays by hedge funds to gain strategic control over large profitable operations, or at another extreme can be asset stripping companies taking an undervalued company to pieces for its assets in plant, property and goodwill.


Fig 144: While the impact of corporate operations is clear in the figures in the anthropocene cultural niches, the lack of responsible corporate action causes other profound unintentional forms of collateral damage. (Left) The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 shows us how lethal misadventure and devastating environmental damage can occur when corporate responsibility becomes fragmented into self-serving cost-cutting conflicts of interest when large transnational corporations hire other large transnational companies as contractors in highly sensitive engineering projects, given a lack of effective monitoring from the federal government agencies that commissioned the projects in the first place. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect, is considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. A 2017 report in Science puts the damage at $17.2 bn. The consolidated trial's first phase began on February 25, 2013, to determine the liability of BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other companies, and to determine whether the companies acted with gross negligence and willful misconduct. As of September 2014 Halliburton has reached a $1.1 billion settlement over its role in the 2010 spill.Deepwater horizon was caused by failures of due care when the regulating officials got into bed with the corporations, causing widespread pollution costing billions of dollars to seal and clean up. (Top right) Dioxin pollution by Hooker Chemical in the Love Canal, Niagra was converted into a Faustian pact, when the land was sold for a nominal $1 to a financially strapped school board on condition no responsibility would be taken by the company for any pollution. In 1978 crusading liberal journalist Micheal Brown discovered an alarming incidence of birth defects among residents living near the site. He advised the local residents to create a protest group, which was led by resident Karen Schroeder, whose daughter had about a dozen birth defects. The New York State Health Department mounted its own investigation and found an abnormal incidence of miscarriages. A survey conducted by the Love Canal Homeowners Association found that 56% of the children born from 19741978 had at least one birth defect. In one case, two out of four children in a single Love Canal family had birth defects; one girl was born deaf with a cleft palate, an extra row of teeth, and slight retardation, and a boy was born with an eye defect. Ten years after the incident, New York State Health Department Commissioner David Axelrod stated that Love Canal would long be remembered as a "national symbol of a failure to exercise a sense of concern for future generations." In 1988 United States District Judge John Curtin found Occidental who had taken over Hooker, jointly and severally liable for clean-up costs under CERCLA. In 1995 Occidental Petroleum agreed to pay $129 million in restitution. The real cost of the cleanup is estimated at $250 million. (Lower right)Fifty years ago, children in Newfoundland could catch fish by dipping a basket into the ocean. By 1992 Canadian research vessels were sweeping the seas in vain, finding not a single school of cod in what was once the world's richest fishery. The destruction of the Grand Banks cod is one of the biggest fisheries disasters of all time. Although the cod fishery supported workers for hundreds of years, a variety of changes occurred during the 20th century that made the industry much less sustainable than ever before. Foremost among these were advances in fishing technologies that dramatically increased the ability of fishers to find and harvest large quantities cod. By 1980 the Newfoundland fishery was dominated by three large complexes, each propped up by provincial government funds and bank loans: Fishery Products, Nickerson-National Sea Products and Lake Group. The fear of having to allow foreign fleets into Canada's exclusive economic zone if there was any surplus fish, as stipulated under the law of the sea, ensured the rationale would be that there would be no surplus fish. This is a classic tragedy of the commons enacted by the Canadian federal government for capitalistic purposes. Ultimately the companies supporting this collapse of the cod fishery converted their operations to becoming providers of seafood in the foodservice market, offering shrimps, crab, lobsters, shellfish and fish and fish products including seafood starters, sea cuisines, nuggets, oven ready products, and others to Americas largest restaurant chains and national distributors.


An Economist editorial of 1998 shows that the ease with which companies are born and fail is clearly one reason why Taiwan's total factor productivity had improved faster than that of all other Asian countries since 1960.


In 1991, 40% of Taiwan's chemical output came from firms that did not exist in 1986. One-third of the value of Taiwan's plastics production and half its output of fabricated metal products were also attributable to firms less than five years old. The newcomers established their place in the market by forcing older firms out of business. Firms that had accounted for 58% of Taiwan's chemical production in 1981 had left the business by 1991. In other sectors - including ones which were expanding rapidly overall - the carnage was even worse. Four out of five firms that manufactured clothing, metal products, textiles and plastics in 1981 either closed or changed lines of business over the next decade.


As the successful entrants tend to be more efficient than the firms that die, they boost productivity across the economy. Between 1986 and 1991, total factor productivity - the increase in output due to more efficient use of inputs such as labour and capital - in Taiwan's electrical-machinery industry rose 23.6%. Over a third of that, the researchers estimate, came from new firms pushing out less efficient ones. In the chemicals industry, where productivity growth was slower, a whopping three-fifths of the gain was due to the entry of highly efficient firms and the exit of stodgier ones.


But at the same time, this concrete jungle form of survival of the fittest shows no signs of providing any sort of long-term stability for the people, and the environment in which these companies operate or even for the market conditions on which these industries depend long term. Companies are simply incorporated agents founded by a contractual memorandum of understanding under company law, by their founding shareholders for their collective capital and revenue gain. They have no cumulative stability beyond the boardroom decision-making horizon and as they stand they have no covenant of responsibility to their workers, to the consumers of their products, to the general public and least of all to the natural environment in which they operate. Like a malignant cancer, the only principle on which they depend is relentless growth of income for the investors.


Given this one-sided covenant of corporations only with their internal investors, it naturally falls to governmental regulation, to labour laws, the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Protection Act and other legislation to safeguard society from the deleterious impacts of corporate activity. When the new right call for an unregulated economy because this will increase production and profitability, they are being deceptively disingenuous about the actual purpose of much of such regulation, which is designed to protect society the natural environment and our long-term future from potentially irreversible misadventure intrinsic to the corporate model, not simply to waste ourmoney on inefficient government interference.


There is no direct accountability to the workers, to the consumers, to society as a whole or to the planetary environment, unless laws covering questions like air, chemical or other forms of pollution, or environmental or social impacts are transgressed. Moreover the process is an unrealistic one based on pure financial competition, as if it is a society of predators with no prey apart from the living environment of the planet, its biological and non-renewable resources. There is no inbuilt sense of emotion, compassion, or foresight that we expect from live human agents, although these may also act psychopathically over issues of power and wealth.


But we have already seen that cultural evolution is much more rapid and unstable that genetic evolution which in terms of long-term survival remains the only incremental selective anchor that avoids triple witching hour instabilities leading to a Fermi paradox extinction. This leads to a completely unstable economic paradigm where corporations can engage tragedies of the commons (Hardin 1968), in a first-come first-served rush to exploit every profitable resource in sight for the benefit of their shareholders. We start with a model where we have genetic and phenotypic evolution of living organisms. Then we invent culture and witness the growth of gene-culture co-evolution between living organisms and their social culture. But then we introduce a third component, corporations which have no genetic identity but act economically as massively inflated versions of living agents assuming the same powers of autonomous agency we accept for ourselves as members of a free democracy. This means we now also have gene-culture co-evolution and a more insidious phenomenon of corporate-culture coevolution.


This is a primary situation where we have to come to terms with the inadequacy of purely contractual models of corporate agency and redesign corporate and economic investment to bring it into line with sustainable ecological and evolutionary principle of replication under incremental cumulative change subject to selective advantage in a context of overall symbiosis.


Wilson D et al. (2014) address this question in terms of evolutionary mechanics:


The growing scale of human society over the course of human history is increasingly being studied from a multilevel biocultural evolutionary perspective. According to Turchin (2003; 2005), empires tend to originate in geographical regions chronically at war, which acts as a crucible for the cultural evolution of exceptionally cooperative societies. The most cooperative expand into empires, but then cultural evolution within the empires favors practices that eventually lead to their collapse. New empires almost invariably form at the boundaries of old empires, whose centers become black holesfor cooperation at a large scale. (See also Putnam 1992). In this halting fashion, with much carnage along the way, modern human society manages to function at a remarkably large scale. However, there is enormous room for improvement, especially with respect to global problems such as climate change and the worldwide economy. There will be no between-planet selection, so addressing these problems will require another kind of selection the intentional selection of policies with large-scale and long-term human welfare in mind. Devising such enlightened policies will require a sophisticated knowledge of evolution. The challenges will be daunting, but at least in principle, the right kind of environmental intervention could cause the difficult to become easy, as is already beginning at the level of individuals and small groups.


A step in this direction is to achieve a consensus that the paradox of elaborate genetic innateness and an elaborate capacity for open-ended change can be reconciled through the concept of Darwin machines. Variation, selection, and heredity comprise an open-ended process capable of adapting organisms to their current environments according to the selection criteria. An evolutionary process built by genetic evolution must be elaborately innate for variation and selection to take place in a way that leads to genetically adaptive outcomes, on average. The immune system is an outstanding example of a Darwin machine that is both elaborately flexible and elaborately innate, providing a guide for how to study the human capacity for behavioral and cultural change.  An important implication of Darwin machines is that a capacity for change requires certain forms of stability and homeostasis. For all inheritance systems, a complex system of interlocking processes is required to create variation, select according to certain criteria, and faithfully replicate the traits that have been selected. If this system breaks down, then so does the evolutionary process.


However his two cited examples fall far short of avoiding climate crisis, nuclear holocaust or the mass extinction of biodiversity:


We describe two interventions from the field of prevention science that successfully changed cultural practices at the level of counties, states, and nations. The first intervention reduced the very specific practice of convenience store clerks in Wyoming and Wisconsin illegally selling cigarettes to minors. The second intervention employs a population approach to improving parenting practices, which has been assessed in RCTs at the county level and is in the process of being implemented around the world. These examples fall short of addressing the gravest problems afflicting our planet, but they still show how evolutionary science can be used to accomplish intentional positive change above the level of individuals and small groups.


This has to go much further than Darwinian machines. Homo sapiens is already a natural species evolving by Darwinian principles but it has evolved through intentional selection as a species to dominate and exploit the natural world. The paradigm shift required is that cultural evolution can help bring this dominance to heal in the interests of the survival of the biosphere as a whole in cosmological time scales. We have to be able to turn to culture to achieve this because it is through our cultural heritage that we come to know and understand the potential mass extinction of life an unmitigated Anthropocene will bring about. But to do this, cultural evolution will have to engage a transformative paradigm of long-term incremental change that can balance and complement human dominance with biospheric symbiosis.


As a director of a company devoted to the perpetual conservation and regeneration of a wilderness reserve, that had in the nineteenth century been native reserve land, and was still forested rather than farmed, I have designed a company constitution to care for this land in perpetuity, by drafting a constitution that binds the shareholders in a covenant to protect the land and its flora and fauna, not to sell it or wind up the company without unanimous approval and to pay the costs of upkeep and protection in the event the land is not profitable during any period. All decisions are made by unanimous signed agreement and are binding on the shareholders who can sell only at the consumer price index adjusted nominal value if they want to opt out.  This gives an illustration how corporate structures can be given a measure of medium-term stability, albeit still on a much shorter time scale than evolutionary change and liable to demographic shifts in the shareholding as descendants become spread out over the face of the Earth. Commercial law can be redesigned to make financial enterprises a symbiotic part of a sustainable economy rather than a shrinking pool of predators endeavouring to grab the remaining resources before they all become extinguished.


So far, as we have seen, cultural evolution has remained an ephemeral player in the closing circle sustainability stakes, operating on much shorter and more unstable time scales than genetic evolution. Thus none of the processes we have examined, language, religion, or commerce have introduced any stabilising factors to the existential crisis we face.


Symbiotic Existential Cosmology is designed to do precisely this because it is a comprehensive memeplex, or symbotype, which far from being efficient, as the simple explanation of the Sabbatic Creation endeavours to do, is fully as complex as the living universe itself because it is a true and accurate cosmology of symbiotic existence. By being cosmologically accurate on evolutionary and cosmological time scales, it provides exactly the kind of dire warning that moral religions attempt incorrectly to do about eschatological reality and does so in a fully scientifically validated way that hopefully can stand the test of time.



Science, Religion and Gene-Culture Coevolution


Both science and religion are complex conceptual, symbolic and behavioural systems that cross human generations and have structured cultural influences affecting human survival and reproduction thus forming principal candidates for gene-cultural co-evolution. The scientific description of reality is a complex symbolic and conceptual system and the scientific method involves highly focussed forms of social behaviour associated with discovering the nature of reality around us. Likewise religion is a complex scriptural description that lays claim to an ultimate description of conscious (spiritual) reality accompanied by moral doctrines, devotional ritual and utopian aims of world redemption.


However their methods and approaches are very different and involve very distinct approaches, scepticism requiring proof or confirmation in science and affirmative belief frequently being essential for religious conviction, along with moral imperatives. This means that their mode of cultural evolution are contrasting and have distinct influence of humanity sometimes complementary but frequently discordant and in contradiction to one another. Nevertheless it is possible to give each an evolutionary treatment in terms of complex conceptual systems, either as memeplexes, as Dawkins (1976) put it or symbotypes as DH Wilson et al. (2014) describe.


Science doesn’t evolve by incremental mutation and natural selection, so much as theoretical innovation and empirical discovery, changing the natural context factually, often described as a scientific revolution, or paradigm shift. The standard of fitness tends toward theoretical or empirical truth about the natural and physical universe and the memes are the description of the universe themselves.


Nevertheless the interaction of scientists has been likened to an evolutionary process (Laland & Brown 2002 235):


Hull (1982) believes that scientific communities (e.g. Darwinians) are a collection of interacting scientists that have in common one or more memes (e.g. natural selection, Mendelian genetics, etc.) that are expressed in an evolving conceptual system (e.g. Darwinism). Researchers of today that are part of the Darwinian community have different views from their 19th-century counterparts. What unites them is the notion that they derived their beliefs from pre- ceding Darwinians. But how can we tell whether a scientist is part of a scientific community? According to Hull (1982), in exactly the same way we can tell whether an individual organism is a member of a particular species:


Hull suggests that, to belong within the same lineage, scientists must have gained their information from each other, rather than merely holding similar views. Once such communities of scientists are defined, an evolutionary analysis of the development of ideas can begin. In fact, Hull argues that science is analogous to artificial selection rather than natural selection:


Just as the breeder consciously selects the organisms that he breeds in order to produce desired changes in his stock, the scientist chooses conceptual variants in order to improve his scientific theories. Both processes involve conscious, intentional choices even though many of the results in both cases may be unanticipated. (1982, p. 317)


A related, but more interesting, point is that memetic evolution is sometimes directed and intentional. Hull notes that the characteristic that commentators have in mind when they claim that sociocultural evolution, especially conceptual development in science, is Lamarckianis that at least sometimes people actually notice problems and try to solve them. For instance, Pinker states:

Memes such as the theory of relativity are not the cumulative product of millions of random (undirected) mutations of some original idea, but each brain in the chain of production added huge dollops of value to the product in a nonrandom way.


Science also, despite it’s declared commitment to the sceptical principle demonstrates it’s capacity to follow fashionable trend in assumptions that become undeclared beliefs, partly propelled by a publish or perish defensiveness to key mechanistic assumptions such as the physically causal nature of brain processes, when these remain unproven and likely unprovable.


However, it is religious belief and doctrine, and the underlying correspondences with spirituality as a complement, or even a deeper underlying truth than science, where the memetic sting comes to bite, as Laland & Brown (2002) note:


One sinister aspect of the memes-eye view is that human beings seem to have been stripped of their ability to chose their own beliefs, values, and ways of life. Apparently, nefarious mind viruses are running our lives. The memes are choosing and manipulating us, not the other way round. Surely this surreal alternative perspective cant be the whole story? After all, our minds have evolved over millions of years. Wouldnt evolution at least have fashioned us with an ability to evaluate the alternative options and filter the available information that is adopted? If our bodies have an immune system to quell biological viruses, then shouldnt we expect our minds to have analogous defences to suppress rogue memes? The stance advocated by some memeticists may be missing some of the underlying complexity to human behaviour.  Aunger (2000) identifies a key issue for memeticists to investigate: namely, whether the design in cultural adaptationsis best described as artificially selected by people to reflect their needs or as the unintended outcome of independent replicators. For instance, has the human brain been shaped to have certain properties that ‘god’ happens to fit, as suggested by Hinde (1999), or is the god concept merely a clever replicator, as Dawkins (1976) says?


In “Why Gods Persist” Hinde (1999) made a cultural field study of the reasons why deities persist in diverse religious and cultural traditions, from Monotheism, through Taoism and Buddhism, to ethnic religions, examining all the reasons from the life hereafter to meaning and morality. One of his major arguments concerned the components of religions (for instance, beliefs, ritual, values, and sociality) and whether the nature of these components could be understood using traditional biological principles.


1. Attribution We all seek to understand what is going on around us, and understandingin this context implies attributing events to causes: it is reasonable to suppose that such attempts at explanation aided survival in the environments in which humans evolved.

2. Control, self-efficacy Of course, with the growth of scientific understanding we no longer need to find causal explanations for most natural phenomena, and for many people the need to postulate supernatural forces has been pushed back to events preceding the Big Bang. But while understanding the causes of events is an important contributor to the individuals peace of mind, it only takes one part of the way: the need to understand is closely related to a second issue, namely the need to feel in control of the events that influence ones life.

3. Adversity Closely related to the need to feel a sense of control, individuals need a means to cope with persecution, suffering and illness. Religion can help in such situations in several ways. It can assist the sufferer to accept the situation as inevitable, as Gods will, and thus release him from the pain of kicking against the pricks. Alternatively, it can remove the devastating feeling that there is nothing that one can do, for at least one can pray and transfer the responsibility elsewhere.

4. Mortality Yet another major source for the attractiveness of deities lies in the desire for life after death. All organisms are adapted to strive for survival as necessary for reproduction. Even for a believer there may be uncertainty either about the fact of survival or about the nature of future existence, and uncertainty is likely to breed fear. Belief in a benevolent deity and a happy after-life can allay such preoccupations.

5. Relationship factors Humans seek social contact, and loneliness can be an important cause of distress. Indeed the sharing of experience is an important facet of all close relationships. The dissolution of a close relationship or bereavement involves a loss of part of the self-system. We continue to need attachment figures throughout life.

6. Social factors Religious belief is not just an individual matter. Beliefs are more or less shared with others, and there are powerful social forces that ensure that it should be so. There is often a gain to the individual from the sense of community, and a gain to the community from the effect of the shared beliefs on the loyalty of individuals: positive feedback is obtained from the consensual validation by others of the otherwise unverifiable beliefs.

7. The meaning of life Perhaps for many the apparent potency of religion can be encapsulated by saying that it gives a coherent meaning to life, though whether the need for meaning is primary, or depends on some of the issues previously mentioned, is an issue that need not detain us. Some argue that the search for significance is the overarching, guiding force in life’. It is often suggested that the tangible world is inadequate to provide material for the construction of credible compensation for non-available resources of the types mentioned above, that belief in a meaningful universe requires a designing agency, and that religions would lose their appeal if they lost contact with the supernatural.

8. The diversity of the bases of belief In the preceding paragraphs it has been argued that a number of basic propensities, which are probably ubiquitous in humans though differing somewhat between individuals and cultures, are basic to religious beliefs. To the extent that such is the case, religious beliefs can be seen as basically Darwinian.

9. Belief and emotion As mentioned already, in discussing beliefs it is difficult not to give the impression that belief is a solely intellectual matter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We now know that the cognitive and emotional aspects of human psychological functioning are much more closely interwoven than was formerly thought to be the case, and this is especially important for religiosity. The very fact that religious beliefs involve counter- intuitive phenomena, and that people continue to adhere to beliefs which are contradicted by empirical evidence, suggests that intellectual conviction is not the sole issue.


Hinde's own views were summarized when he said, "it does not matter too much what you believe, for many different cultural beliefs bring meaning to believerslives (though differences in religious beliefs can lead to horrendous conflict). But what does matter is how people behave." He also hypothesized about the evolution of pro-social groups, saying that groups in which members behave pro-socially and cooperate are most successful despite the conflict between the self and the group that's introduced by pro-sociality. He argued that this conflict was managed by what is commonly called morality.


However, it is Richard Dawkins who really set the meme lynx among the hawks and doves of religion, as Laland and Brown (2002 216) note:


One of the most controversial applications of memetic reasoning has been to account for religion. An organized and socially sanctioned belief in a god is to many people a given and a truth. This belief is not always regarded as something that is a legitimate focus for scientific enquiry. Even among non-believers, the idea that religions could be self-serving and self-perpetuating ideational complexes that hoodwink us into spreading their message is somewhat disturbing. Yet that is precisely what they have been argued to be by advocates of the memes-eye view.


This infamous account was first proposed by Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976), and elaborated in later writings. Dawkins argued that cultural selection would favour memes that gang up effectively into super-attractive coadapted meme-complexes, or memeplexes (Speel, 1995; referenced in Blackmore, 1999). Dawkins suggested that we  could regard a church, with its architecture, rituals, laws, music, art, and written tradition, as just such a memeplex. He argued that the idea of a god and the religion memes that aggregate around it replicate themselves by providing convincing answers to lifes great questions.


Religions, however, are perhaps much more sinister than that. Dawkins suggested that they appear to employ various tricks, and co-opt other memes that facilitate their replication by the most dastardly of connivances. For instance, according to Dawkins:


an aspect of doctrine which has been very effective in enforcing religious observance is the threat of hell fire. Many children and even some adults believe that they will suffer ghastly torments after death if they do not obey the priestly rules. This is a particularly nasty technique of persuasion, causing great psychological anguish ... The idea of hell fire is ... self-perpetuating, because of its own deep psychological impact. It has become linked with the god meme because the two reinforce each other, and assist each others survival in the meme pool. (Italics in original; 1976, p. 212)


Then there is faith:  [Faith] means blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence ... The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational enquiry. (Dawkins, 1976, pp. 212–13)


In fact, consider every possible trick that memes could employ to increase their frequency and memeticists suggest that such tricks are observed among organized religions (Aaron Lynch, 1996; Blackmore, 1999). They point out that memes would thrive that encouraged credit and praise to be heaped on individuals who read or learn verbatim texts describing the meme-complex; for example, the learning of Bible stories. Children adopt their parentsmemes, hence specific religious memes may encourage having children, discourage abortion or contraception, encourage respect for elders, and discourage marriages between faiths. Memes could increase their frequency through conversions, so the most effective religions would be expected to place a premium on evangelicalism, proselytism, missionary work, and punishment of non-believers. Additionally, any challenge to the meme-complex might be treated extremely severely as, for example, in the case of Ayatollah Khomeinis fatwa on the author Salman Rushdie.


Blackmore (1999) asks her readers to reflect on why some minor religions went on to become great faiths, while the majority died out with the death of their leader. Her answer is that, of the many religious ideas, only some had packages of memes that were effective gimmicks for propagation, with particularly compelling (and difficult to disprove) explanations for life, and these became the major religions. Citing the work of theologian Hugh Pyper, Blackmore describes the Bible as the fittest of all books. She writes:


Western culture is the Bibles way of making more Bibles. And why is it [the bible] so successful? Because it alters its environment in a way that increases the chances of it being copied. It does this, for example, by including within itself many instructions to pass it on, and by describing itself as indispensable to the people who read it. It is extremely adaptable, and since much of its content is self-contradictory it can be used to justify more or less any action or moral stance. (1999, p. 192)


Attributing motives to memes is simply an intellectual stance adopted to help envisage which memes might be expected to have evolved. As Blackmore explains, religious memes did not, indeed could not, set out to succeed. She suggests that they were simply ideas and behaviour that had some utility in explaining the world and succeeded where others failed because they had the right combination of mutually supportive ideas that allowed them to be repeatedly passed on. It is worthy of note that there are other evolutionary approaches to understanding religion, many of which stress the advantages that religion bring to the individual (e.g. Hinde, 1999).


Natalie Angier (2002) in a New York Times interview with David Sloane Wilson had this to say of his more sympathetic view of religion, as expressed in “Darwin’s Cathedral” (2002):


Dr. Wilson, a renowned evolutionary biologist, proposes that religion -- with all its institutional, emotional and prescriptive trappings -- ranks as a kind of mega-adaptation: a trait that evolved because it conferred advantages on those who bore it.  But whereas evolutionary biologists traditionally view an adaptation as the outcome of a struggle between unevenly matched individuals -- say, between one polar bear with a cleanly cloaking white coat, and another with a slightly less effective form of camouflage -- Dr. Wilson sees religion as the product of group selection at work.


In his new book, Dr. Wilson argues that the religious impulse evolved early in hominid history because it helped make groups of humans comparatively more cohesive, more cooperative and more fraternal, and thus able to present a formidable front against bands of less organized or unified adversaries. By taking an evolutionary perspective on the subject, Dr. Wilson said, religion's twinned record of transcendent glories and shocking barbarities becomes comprehensible and even predictable, though not, perhaps, inevitable for the future.


In his own words he says: “I consider myself a communitarian, and there are many things I admire about religion, but no, I don't believe in God. I tell people I'm an atheist, but a nice atheist.”


Wilson states that he has set out to demonstrate that a church can be thought of as an organism in an evolutionary sense:


True love means growth for the whole organism, whose members are all interdependent and serve each other.

That is the outward form of the inner working of the Spirit, the organism of the Body governed by Christ.

We see the same thing among the bees, who all work with equal zeal gathering honey.  —Ehrenpreis [1650] 1978, 11


Religious believers often compare their communities to a single organism or even to a social insect colony. The passage quoted above is from the writings of the Hutterites, a Christian denomination that originated in Europe five centuries ago and that currently thrives in communal settlements scattered throughout northwestern North America. Across the world in China and Japan, Zen Buddhist monasteries were often constructed to resemble a single human body (Collcutt 1981).  The purpose of this book is to treat the organismic concept of religious groups as a serious scientific hypothesis. Organisms are a product of natural selection. Through countless generations of variation and selection, they acquire properties that enable them to survive and reproduce in their environments. My purpose is to see if human groups in general, and religious groups in particular, qualify as organismic in this sense.


In summarising his evolutionary case as unifying systems, he notes this could extend to culture as a whole in all its aspects quoting culture itself as a defensive structure against chaos:


Cultures are defensive constructions against chaos, designed to reduce the impact of randomness on experience. They are adaptive responses, just as feathers are for birds and fur is for mammals. Cultures prescribe norms, evolve goals, build beliefs that help us tackle the challenges of existence. In so doing they must rule out many alternative goals and beliefs, and thereby limit possibilities; but this channeling of attention to a limited set of goals and means is what allows effortless actions within self-erected boundaries. —Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 91


This passage claims for culture in general what I have tried to show for religion in particular. The word religion is derived from the Latin religio,which means to unite or bind togetherRelated words used outside the context of religion are religate(to bind together or unite) and ligature(the act of tying or binding up). These meanings reflect the essence of the thesis of this book, like a hidden clue that was not discovered until the very end. However, religions are not the only systems that unite people into adaptive groups. I could have written a book on political organizations, business organizations, military organizations, sports teams, family groups, secular intellectual traditions, or even diffuse cultures as adaptive units. We therefore need to develop a general theory of unifying systems of which religion is a special case.


The idea that religions enable larger scale cooperative behaviour is far from unique. Many writers have expressed the view that moral systems in both animal and human societies function to reduce intra-social conflict leading in turn to inter-social dominance (Alexander 1987,  Hinde 1999, Wilson 2002).


Nevertheless Wilson in his work (p 105) makes clear why the God-people relationship may not be factual:


The God-people relationship Ask a person to do something and the most likely response will be Why?An adaptive belief system cannot simply provide a list of behaviors but must also justify them. It might seem that the justification could be factual and straightforward: Do this because it is good for you.However, this approach is unlikely to succeed by itself for a number of reasons.


First, it works best when the consequences of the behavior are well known: “Eat your spinach because it is high in iron and will make you healthy.Often the consequences of behaviors are not well known, and the most obvious short-term consequences (the bitter taste of spinach) can lead to a different conclusion than the more subtle long-term consequences (the health effects). An adaptive belief system must cope with ignorance in its justification of behaviors.

Second, a belief system that is adaptive at the group level must cope with the problem of cheating, which benefits some individuals at the expense of others within the group. Cheating is genuinely beneficial for the cheater (when he or she gets away with it), and therefore cannot be argued against on the basis of personal benefit. The same point can be made in terms of the veil of ignorancethat Rawls (1971) used to explain the concept of justice. Ask self-interested people to design a society, subject to the constraint that they will be placed at random within the society, and they will design a just society. However, once placed within the society, they are subject to a different set of constraints and may well want to destroy what they previously created. This problem, which lies at the heart of multilevel selection theory, makes it difficult to justify the behaviors that constitute an adaptive group in terms of personal benefit.

Third, an adaptive belief system must be economical. The beliefs that justify the behaviors must be easily learned and employed in the real world. A fictional belief system that is user-friendly and that motivates an adaptive suite of behaviors will surpass a realistic belief system that requires a Ph.D. to understand and that leads to a paralysis of indecision.

Fourth, a fictional belief system can be more motivating than a realistic belief system. Imagine two individuals competing for a common resource. Even though the facts of this situation are easy to comprehend, regarding ones enemy as inhuman can be more motivating than regarding ones enemy as just like oneself.

Fifth, a fictional belief system can perform the same functions as externally imposed rewards and punishments, often at a much lower cost. For example, the usual means of raising money to serve the common good is in the form of taxes. Unfortunately, individuals who avoid paying taxes without punishment are always better off in material terms than solid citizens within the same group. Cheating can be prevented by punishment, but implementing a system for detecting and punishing cheaters can itself be costly. Another solution is to manipulate the cost of cheating in the mind of the average citizen. Groups governed by belief systems that internalize social control can be much more successful than groups that must rely on external forms of social control.


For all of these (and probably other) reasons, we can expect many belief systems to be massively fictional in their portrayal of the world (Wilson 1990, 1995). As I discussed, their adaptedness must be judged by the behaviors they motivate, not by their factual correspondence to reality.


This raises a series of problems:


Firstly do religions evolve and what did they evolve from?

Secondly religions, although they are moral social systems, which enable larger societies to cohere, also claim to be cosmological descriptions of existential reality expressing ultimate truth. If they are “massively fictional”, they run the risk of dominating society and then leading it into an invidious outcome.

Thirdly, the very reasons being advanced why they are advantageous have nothing to do with their inner truth or otherwise, but precisely those self-reinforcing social feedback loops that memeticists cite as principal caveats about the role of religions. Wilson’s five points are essentially social replicator rules and and Hinde’s nine reasons are the very avenues these rules seek to utilise.

Fourthly, the question of morality. Sociobiology teaches us that morality is a function of animal societies in which strategic bluffing occurs designed to inhibit internal competition to result in external dominance and survival. It is not a cosmological imperative. Religion, by contrast asserts morality as a divine principle, ring fenced by virtuous inducements and dire consequences.

Fifthly, while Wilson uses examples such as Calvinism to highlight constructive pro-sociality not requiring oppressive punishments, the history of religion is littered with homicidal punishments, and oppressive edicts presenting no avenue of escape for members, so the notion that religions are more efficient by positive inducement fails the historical test, whenever prescriptive religions show their teeth and claws in their true colours.

Sixthly, the notion that humanity has evolved to be genetically predisposed to spiritual or religious concepts, or that the brain is or is hard-wiredto do so has not been scientifically established.

Seventhly, although Wilson’s citing of the reformation is an example of a type of evolutionary change within Christianity, paradigm shifts in religions are exceedingly rare over time scales of millennia, because religions are set up to zealously resist evolutionary change or re-interpretation as heresy, apostasy or blasphemy, unlike science where new ideas are assessed on their empirical or theoretic evidence, so that religion attempts to frustrate its own evolution, with the religious assault on evolutionary science, on the basis of the mythical and incorrect Sabbatical Creation, being a suitable case for treatment.

Eighthly Religious Views of Nature and Sexuality are in Fundamental Conflict wth Reality

Ninthly religions, especially evangelical Christianity are in a collision course with nature, in which evolution and the sanctity of the Tree of Life is denied.


Fig 145: The evolutionary tree of religion is rooted in animism (Simon Davies).


The Evolution of Religions and the Consequences


(1) The Evidence for Evolution of Religions from Animism, Shamanism and Ancestor Worship: Religions do display evolutionary relationships over time, due to the cross-infection of ideas, as illustrated in fig 146 and to natural variation, speciation and some forms of syncretic recombination. Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, in its many forms, all involve commonalities of world view and emergent movements such as Tantrism have overlapped these traditions. Likewise the Zoroastrian notion of cosmic renovation infected the Hebrew tradition to become Jewish apocalypticism and then the Christian version in the Gospels and Revelation. However evolutionary writers including Rossano (2010), Dunbar (2022)  and from a more archaeological perspective Hayden (2003), consistently see the origins of religion in mystical and trance states associated with shamanism and animism, particularly given the vastly longer time scale of gatherer-hunter social evolution.


In fact, one can see that all animals that have evolved an awareness of their agency as biological organisms, including Homo sapiens, ARE animists, because their prime existential crises and fulfilment hinge around the mortal threats, and food and partnership opportunities other animals provide, with other existential crises caused by fire flood and storms featuring as forms of live environmental agency as well. It is only with the evolution of culture and human manufacture that we have come to the notions of creationist theism and our ideas of reality have become surrounded by machines and machine thinking to the exclusion of live agency, which is threatening to subsume us in AI.


Bruce Hayden (2003) in “A Prehistory of Religion: Shamans, Sorcerors and Saints” expresses it thus:


While it is fashionable to use psychological or social models (Durkheim 1915) to ex­plain the origin of religion, these approaches are unsatisfactory for a number of reasons from an archaeological and ecological point of view.


First, the amount of time and effort invested in many religious activities such as the building of Stonehenge are far beyond what one would expect of any simple anxiety-reducing behavior, unless entire popula­tions were extremely phobic. Moreover, high levels of anxiety do not accord with any ethnographers' observations that I am aware of. In fact, ethnographers sometimes re­ mark on the surprising lack of concern that hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists display about the future.


Secondly developing an inherent tendency to enter into ecstatic or altered states of con­sciousness must have involved major transformations of the physical structure of the human brain. In ecological theory, such changes are incomprehensible unless they also confer ad­vantageous survival benefits; that is, unless these changes are in some ways adaptive.


Third, it might be argued that the expansion of the brain's neocortex and especially the dominance of the left hemisphere (see Music Is in the Hemispheres, below) were adaptive because they made culture possible at the cost of suppressing functions of ear­lier parts of the_ brain. In this view, the function of religion is to reduce the stresses between these different parts of the brain.This explanation has a relatively narrow scope, however, accounting only for ritual behavior. In contrast, ecological explanations such as those to be discussed cover a much wider range of behavior, including sharing, alliances, and kinship. In addition, ecological ex­planations encompass unique types of human behavior that are difficult to understand under other paradigms. Such behaviors include the human reaction to rhythms and their link to rituals, the acceptance of new values presented while in ecstatic states, and the notion of higher principles or beings.


Robin Dunbar (2022) in “How Religion Evolved” clearly expresses this view (Riesz 2022):


At the emotional heart of religion, as Dunbar sees it, is something he calls “the mystical stance”, which includes “a susceptibility to enter trance-like states”, “belief in a transcendental (or spirit) world” and “a belief that we can call on hidden power(s) to help us”. Though sophisticated systems of theology have obviously been built on these foundations, “beneath the surface veneer of doctrinal rectitude lurks an ancient foundation of pagan mystical religion”. One of the key questions is how the original immersive or shamanic forms of religion develop into elaborate doctrinal religions.


Nick Spencer's (2022) review elaborates:


Dunbar is clear that religious practices improve the individual's "fitness". "Active involvement in religion both makes you feel happier and provides you with a level of support that helps you cope." The second key urge takes us beyond this "functional" role. Humans are predisposed towards the transcendent. The "mystical stance" is widespread, ancient in origin, and "part of what it is to be human". Whether through trance states in early "shamanic" religions or less dramatic but still affecting encounters with music, art or nature, the sense of being part of something deeper and more profound than ourselves is near-universal. None of this means that such feelings are necessarily true. Dunbar is clear that doctrinal truth claims, such as about the nature of God or of creation, have played a relatively minor and recent role in the evolution of religion. Rather, it is simply that belief in a spiritual realm or in human purpose or destiny is very deeply ingrained in our nature. Dunbar is clear that the same religious urges that engender pro-social behaviour within the group can also provoke antisocial behaviour outside it — the more I bond with my co-religionists, the less I have in common with those of other faiths. And when religious identity is co-opted by the state, the result can be disastrous.


Fig 146: Left and Centre: Two ancient shamanic portraits cited by Rossano. Left: the 'sorceror' of Trois-Frères Cave (c 14000 BP). Centre: Fumane shaman with antlers (c 25500 BP). Right: The Venus of Laussel (c25000 BP) a representation of the Great Mother, with ochre smeared pubis holding and looking at a horn with 13 menstrual marks (13x28=364), representing the lunar bull and male fertility. Thus we see the patriarchal view of divinity as not arising in the sky God nor in human dominion over nature, but in the sheer spiritual wildness of nature that encompasses both the tiger and the thunderstorm. The shaman manifests the character of a therianthrope – an animal that transforms into a human and vice versa – the power animal, or apotheosis representing our unbounded spiritual nature, exemplified by the San /Kaggen and other trickster heroes, the humble werewolf, and even in an exploded apocalyptic form, by Yeshua and his miraculous apotheosis, Christ.


Matt Rossano (2010), in “Supernatural Selection” places this back to the first worldwide spread of modern humans:


At the same time of the worldwide spread of modern humans we see the first compelling evidence for the religious practices of shamanism, animism, and ancestor worship. Echoing the famous anthropologist Roy Rappaport, my view is that this is more than mere accident. Religion played a nontrivial role in the achievement of distinctively human society. … Thus, where we observe greater ubiquity we can infer greater antiquity: An increasingly widespread trait is likely to be a more ancient one that possibly traces back to the origin of the species. Using this same logic, we can attempt to identify religion’s “primitive” traits.


He discovers the foundations to be ancestor worship, shamanism, and animism, the belief in natural and animal spirits:


Using this approach, three traits emerge: ancestor worship, shamanism, and the animistic belief in natural and animal spirits. Each of these traits represents a “supernaturalizing” of social life—a way in which our ancestors expanded the social world to include a supernatural layer filled with ever- vigilant spiritual monitors.


He summarises his basis for these being the evolutionary source:


Ancestor worship: is widespread across traditional religions in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the South American tropics. In his survey of traditional African religions, missionary and religious scholar Geoffrey Parrinder states flatly, “All Africans believe in the ancestors, as ever-living and watchful.” Half a world away, on the Solomon Islands, the same attitude persists among the Kwaio people, for whom daily interaction with ancestors is as routine as eating, drinking, and sleeping. Interacting with the ancestors, however, does not always happen within the context of recognizable rituals. Efe Pygmies regularly interact with ancestors in the forest and in dreams, but they engage in hardly anything that would look to us like worship.


Shamanism: The term “shaman” comes from the Tungus root saman, meaning “one who is excited or raised” or simply “to know.” This reflects the fact that the shaman’s function is to enter an altered state of consciousness wherein he or she connects with spiritual forces in order to gain knowledge or cure illness. The shaman, then, is a spiritual practitioner—a specialist whose job is to interact with the spiritual world.


Animism: The belief in a spiritual force pervading all of nature is common among hunter-gatherers. Powerful animal spirits play a prominent role in the art, myths, and religious beliefs of traditional people as culturally and geographically diverse as the Aborigines of Australia, the Inuits of the Arctic, the Ainu of northern Japan, the Bushmen of South Africa, the Jahai of Malaysia, and numerous native North and South American tribes. Animal spirits were also prominent among the great chiefdoms of pre- Columbian America (e.g., Aztecs, Toltecs, Incas) and the early great civilizations of the Old World (Egypt, Mesopotamia). There are some exceptions and variations. For example, while Aka Pygmies believe in animal spirits, neither Mbuti nor Baka Pygmies do. Instead, Baka Pygmies believe in anthropomorphized “game spirits,” while the Mbuti see the entire forest as a living spirit.


However he neglects the obvious centrality of the Great Mother, fully evident as far back as 35,000 years ago in the Aurignacian in the case of the Venus of Hohle Fels. Rianne Eisler (1987) in "The Chalice and the Blade" summarises the early evidence for the Great Mother:


It would seem only logical that the visible dimorphism, or difference in form, between the two halves of humanity had a profound effect on Paleolithic systems of belief. And it would seem equally logical that the fact that both human and animal life is generated from the female body and that, like the seasons and the moon, woman's body also goes through cycles led our ancestors to see the life-giving and sustaining powers of the world in female, rather than male, form. In sum, instead of being random and unconnected materials, the Paleolithic remains of female figurines, red ocher in burials, and vagina-shaped cowrie shells appear to be early manifestations of what was later to develop into a complex religion centering on the worship of a Mother Goddess as the source and regeneratrix of all forms of life. This Goddess worship, as James and other scholars note, survived well into historic times "in the composite figure of the Magna Mater of the Near East and the Greco-Roman world.


Rossano pinpoints the transition between these early imagistic processes and traditional doctrinal religions:


Anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse argues that religion exists in two modes: imagistic and doctrinal. The imagistic mode is characterized by infrequent, emotionally charged rituals that create the conditions for strong social bonding among participants. This mode encourages private reflection on emotionally arousing events. Its effects typically remain localized and personalized, not conducive to widespread transmission. By contrast, the doctrinal mode facilitates the efficient spread of religious beliefs across a broad population. It does this by stressing frequent, stylized rituals that encourage the rote storage of a common set of actions, stories, and teachings (e.g., the Catholic mass, where the story of Jesus’ last meal is reenacted and his message of sacrifice is revisited). While the doctrinal mode is an efficient tool for transmission, it can also lose its force through tedium. Thus, both modes are believed necessary for a religion to remain vital: the imagistic providing the individual motivation to participate in religious activities, the doctrinal to establish a common set of ideals and behaviors. Whitehouse contends that the imagistic mode is historically more ancient, probably dating as far back as the “religious” cave art of the Upper Paleolithic. I agree, but I suggest that the ritual and emotional roots of the imagistic mode run far deeper than the Upper Paleolithic — to well before the African Interregnum (100000-60000). Conversely, the foundations for the doctrinal mode emerge much later.


This distinction between imagistic spirituality as expressed in diverse forms in the animism section and the doctrinal religion people tends to associate with religion and its social impacts also is the distinction between the source mysticism that underlies all religious inspiration that lies at the seeds of new religions and the prescriptive memes traditional religions apply to their populations to maintain theistic control over human beliefs and actions.


Robin Dunbar (2022) coincides with this evolutionary position:


The earliest forms of religion took the shape of a rather generalized belief in spirits or a form of being that sometimes occupied a transcendental world parallel to the physical one in which we live, but also might occupy the same physical space as we do. In some cases, these spirits had no particular interest in our world; in other cases, they were responsible for causing – or curing – the illnesses that we fall prey to.  These older religions are religions of immersive experience, rather than religions of formal ritual with specialists who intercede on behalf of the laity. They are often (but not always) associated with trance states, usually induced by music and dance. In this, they share many underlying features with the mysticism that we find in all the doctrinal religions. By general consensus, mysticism involves direct ecstatic experience of the divine. It is a very personal form of ‘religion of experience’, a sense of immersion in the ineffable, the ‘oneness of being’ as the medieval Christian mystics described it. In its modern forms, these features tend to reflect the particular beliefs of the religion to which the mystic belongs. Mystics from the Christian, Sufi Islam and Sikh traditions will experience this as immersion in the oneness of God, whereas Buddhists experience it as immersion in the luminous universal mind. Sometimes these trance states (often described as ‘visions’) are spontaneous (as seems to have been the case with many historical Christian mystics like St Teresa of Ávila or the German Dominican friar Meister Eckhart); in other cases, trance may be brought on by group rituals, usually involving music (as in the trance dances of the San Bushmen) and sometimes assisted by plant-based psychotropic (or mind-altering) drugs (many South American tribes), or individually by meditative practices (as in the yogic tradition). Because the use of trance in one form or another is so widespread in these animist forms of religions, I refer to them collectively as ‘shamanic religions’, or ‘immersive religions’.


He then notes the transition to doctrinal religion:


At some point, there was a transition to a more formal kind of religion marked by regular places of worship, gods (who sometimes actively intervene in human affairs), religious specialists or priests (who intervene between the community and the gods, in some cases via trance-based rituals), more formal theologies, and moral codes that have divine origins – Moses receiving the tablets with the Ten Commandments directly from God on Mount Sinai, the Prophet Muhammed receiving the dictation of the Koran from God, Joseph Smith receiving the golden plates of the Book of Mormon. Most of these doctrinal religions also have origin stories, often associated with the revelatory experiences of a specific individual as founder – Zoroaster in the case of the Zoroastrians of ancient Persia; Siddhārtha Gautama for the Buddhists; Jesus Christ for Christians; the Prophet Muhammed for Islam; Guru Nanak for Sikhism. Because these religions typically have quite explicit theological doctrines, they are often known as doctrinal religions. They are also known as world religions because most of them now have very large followings spread over most of the planet (notwithstanding the fact that this is actually a very recent phenomenon). The important point to emphasize is that this sequence is not necessarily a process of replacement of one kind of religion by another. It is, rather, one of accretion – one form of religion (a doctrinal phase) being bolted onto the earlier (shamanic or animist) form.


Later, he pinpoints this to the rise of large urban cultures associated with agriculture and animal husbandry:


Six religious traits were mapped across thirty-three contemporary hunter-gatherer societies distributed across southern Africa, South and East Asia, Australia and the Americas, and then the ancestral states of these traits reconstructed statistically. The six traits were: animistic beliefs, shamanism, ancestor worship, belief in an afterlife, belief in local gods who keep to their own domain, and belief in High Gods who interfere in human affairs (Moralizing High Gods). The study found that animism is likely to have been the oldest of these traits, being present, uniquely, in all the cultures in the sample, despite their wide geographical distribution. On the other hand, belief in an afterlife is by no means universal and, along with shamanism and ancestor worship, appears to form a suite of traits that evolved together later. In contrast, belief in High Gods seemed to be completely divorced from all the other traits (very few hunter-gatherers actually believe in High Gods); instead, it seems to be a trait exclusively associated with the rise of agriculture and pastoralism (Peoples & Marlowe 2012, Peoples, Duda & Marlowe 2016).


He also reinforces mysticism and altered states as foundational to all forms of religious tradition (Guerra-Doce (2015):


Mysticism has been a major component of all the major religions. By mysticism, I mean a feeling of divine transcendence that comes over an individual from time to time, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes as a result of deliberately engaging in ritualized activities. It is variously referred to as ecstasy or enthusiasm (from the Ancient Greek word enthousiasmós, meaning ‘possessed by god’). In its most developed forms, it usually involves a sense of drifting into a different plane of consciousness, of becoming so detached from the world of everyday experience as to no longer notice the sights and sounds of the physical world, a sense of losing track of time, of peacefulness – sometimes described in the mystical literature as the ‘stillness of the mind’. These are a susceptibility to enter trance-like states, a belief in the existence of a transcendental (or spirit) world, and a belief that we can call on hidden power(s) to help us. The mystical stance is the belief that we can experience this hidden essence directly only through our minds.


The mystical stance seems to emerge out of two separate, but related psychological components. One is a need to believe in a spiritual dimension to human life. This may well derive from a deep-seated reluctance to believe that death really is death, the end of life and being. The other has to do with altered states of consciousness, both those induced by trance and those that arise from accidents of experience (such as epileptic fits) or the use of mind-altering drugs. ... One survey of 488 ethnographic societies drawn from all continents concluded that no less than 90 per cent incorporated altered states of consciousness into their belief systems. … The experience of trance also bears a close similarity to those that occur during near-death experiences. … In many ways, the archetypal form of trance is the kind found among hunter-gatherers like the San peoples of Botswana and Namibia. The San use dance to trigger trance. Conventionally, it is the men who dance and the women who provide the musical accompaniment by clapping and singing. In most cases, the men dance in a circle until exhaustion sets in, triggering trance ().


In this process, Dunbar (2022) makes a very careful analysis of biological evolution:


Group selection, as the latter is known, requires the differential survival of whole groups and was often viewed as the explanation for altruism or population regulation: some animals don’t breed in order to ensure that the population or species does not exhaust its food supply and go extinct. The problem is that there is no known genetic mechanism that would allow this: any species that behaved in this way would quickly find its altruism undermined by individuals that reproduced selfishly as fast as they could. This is not to say that group selection cannot work. It can, but it requires very high rates of group extinction and very low rates of migration between groups, and so far no study has found rates of group (or even culture) extinction that are anything like high enough to allow it to work. For this reason, biologists look with deep suspicion on any suggestion that benefits might accrue solely for the benefit of the group and against the interests of the individual.


The fact that religion can incur serious costs in terms of self-imposed pain, celibacy and even self-sacrifice has led some evolutionary psychologists and cognitive science of religion scholars to conclude that religion and religiosity cannot be adaptive, but must instead be the maladaptive by-product of traits or cognitive processes that evolved for other perfectly respectable biological purposes.


Animals do not live in groups because they like each other. They live in groups for the specific purpose of solving one or more of the components of fitness. … In all these cases, the benefit arises only because the group exists, but its impact on fitness always accrues at the level of the individual, or even the gene. If the group does not provide a benefit for the individual, individuals will not put up with the inevitable costs of living in a group. Evolutionary biologists refer to this process as group-level (or group augmentation) selection, or more simply as mutualism. This is essentially the same process as that involved in symbioses, where two species live in close harmony with each other, thereby enhancing each other’s survival chances.


He nevertheless takes a strongly affirmative position concerning the reality of cultural evolution:


Another important point to appreciate is that the function of a trait and its mode of inheritance are two separate, unrelated things. Any mechanism that allows a trait to be passed on from one individual to another, whether or not they are biologically related and share any genes, acts in a Darwinian fashion. Learning or cultural transmission is such a mechanism, and hence can be analysed using the same mathematics as is used to explore the evolution of genetically inherited traits. Culture is a Darwinian process, and cultural traits (or even entire cultures) evolve under selection, much as individuals and species do. Culture, however, can evolve both in ways that influence an individual’s biological fitness and in ways that influence the fitness of a given cultural element within a purely cultural world. In theory, there is nothing evolutionarily implausible about a cultural phenomenon driving the genes of the bodies (or minds) that they parasitize to extinction – providing they can jump from one mind to the next (by cultural transmission) faster than they cause each body they inhabit to die.


This leads to some pessimistic views of the evolution of religion:


In general, evolutionary cognitive science of religion has adopted one of two views to explain how and why religion evolved. One is that religion is an unavoidable, and hence evolutionarily largely uninteresting, consequence of the way the human mind happens (or had) to be designed to support other evolutionarily more important functions. Religion is simply the cost that had to be paid in order to maximize evolutionary fitness. Alternatively, it might be an example of cultural evolution exploiting the way the human mind is designed so as to maximize cultural fitness despite the negative effect this might have on the fitness of the individuals whose minds are being parasitized. Both are, as we shall see in the next section, perfectly plausible explanations from a conventional Darwinian point of view.


And Dunbar is under no illusion that religions necessarily benefit the welfare of individuals, because of the dire consequences some religious groups or doctrines entertain, not just in the apocalyptic endings of Jim Jones with cyanide and David Koresh at Waco Texas in conflagration. More than 900 people died in the Jonestown massacre, in Guyana, including some 300 who were age 17 or under:


In the Christian tradition, the Adamite sect in late Roman Egypt insisted on complete nakedness during their services. Others, like the Russian Skoptsy (literally, ‘castrates’) sect, took matters even further, advocating breast and genital mutilation in women and the removal of both penis and testes in men (all performed with red-hot irons) so as to restore their bodies to the original pre-Fall condition of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.


However, he is not interested in beliefs, but the overall sociobiological effects of religions on human groups:


Cognitive science of religion provides convincing explanations as to how human cognition underpins many aspects of religiosity and how these might have been exploited for these purposes. However, its focus is mainly on beliefs and so it overlooks some important features of human religious experience that in many ways constitute the core fabric of religion – in particular, ritual and the role that religion plays in creating communities.


In this, he has a positive view, unlinked to any of the sometimes oppressive moral or doctrinal aspects of developed religions, citing the increased sense of belonging, community and mutual support religious groups offer, allowing larger social groups to form and maintain coherence, without precipitating internecine intracommunity violence and schism, noting for example the superior health, happiness and survival statistics of religious groups over non-affiliated.


This can apply both to individual benefits:


One widely articulated view is that religion provides a unifying framework for the world in which we live:  it allows us to make sense of our world in a way that enables us to function effectively because we can control its more erratic behaviour. ... On top of that, we never know when we are likely to encounter any of the many more immediate threats to life – predators, plagues and pathogens, poisonous plants, and other humans (raiders).


A meta-analysis of forty-two studies, totalling nearly 126,000 subjects, found that active religious involvement increased the chances of being alive at follow-up by 26 per cent compared to those who never went to church, even when controlling for socio-demographic variables and existing health.


And to societal ones, involving both reputation and punishment of individuals:


In other words, a community that is invaded by even a small number of freeriders will very quickly either become dominated by selfish individuals or will fragment into small inward-looking subgroups. Part of the problem is that we are not naturally prosocial – something that is surely evident from the fact that both secular and religious authorities, not to mention family, constantly have to enjoin us to fulfil our obligations in this respect. … Yet we are, nonetheless, willing to cooperate with, and be casually generous to, strangers. Neither economists nor evolutionary biologists have managed to find a convincing explanation for this, despite several decades of intensive experimental study. The best they have been able to do is suggest one of two possible mechanisms that seem to work: reputation and punishment. … God is a particularly effective threat precisely because He sees everything even when the rest of us might not.


However he also invokes the carrot of commitment that religions also encourage, as a partial antidote to the stick of punishment. And with commitment also comes bonding and belonging. In this mix is a prominent aspect of risk avoidance and risk anxiety which the ordered world view of religions seeks to alleviate, which provides an explanation for both animism and doctrinal religions, with the proviso that in a basis sense the animistic view in gatherer-hunters societies, where risks predominate from natural agents, it has some scientific validity, lacking in later moral high Gods.


Essentially, this proposes that the animal mind is furnished with sensitivities to cues that allow it to detect salient phenomena that have direct effects on biological fitness (the ability to survive and reproduce successfully). For example, being able to infer that there is a predator approaching when hearing the snap of a twig in the forest is beneficial if you want to avoid falling prey to a predator or an enemy. Such mechanisms, they argue, are likely to be risk-averse because it is always better to mistakenly assume that there is a predator approaching than to mistakenly ignore the significance of such a cue when there really is a predator approaching (an example of Pascal’s Wager). As a result, we humans are predisposed to attribute any phenomenon that we cannot readily explain to some mysterious being that we cannot see. There is no question that this effect is widely prevalent in humans: it is redolent in the way we attribute motivations to physical phenomena. We speak of the sea being angry or the sky lowering. On this view, then, religion is an inbuilt error in the biological system.


He also cites a careful, not excessive, degree of supernaturalness associated with religious belief:


Another classic example of this approach is the suggestion that gods are typically ‘minimally counterintuitive’, meaning that they have to be able to break the normal laws of everyday physics – but not by too much, otherwise they just become implausible.


Although he cites religions as enabling the growth of larger coherent societies, spanning the scales of bands 30-50, clans 100-200, tribes 1500 to whole urban civilisations, he is also interested in the ways religious groups nevertheless subdivide and result in schism over time because of the inherent difficulties of maintaining trust and belonging in larger social groups as religions grow. He sees this as also a product of the way doctrinal religions have evolved out of earlier and more immediate forms of animistic, shamanic and mystical rituals and practices that worked well for smaller groups of around 150 or so to whole populations of empires. This means that local churches are prone to invest in charismatic leaders, often criticising increasing elitism and moral corruption in the clergical hierarchy, to re-invoke the more immediate personal experiences of the underlying immanent form of religious experience  that motivated doctrinal religions in the first place. Examples of this abound in the suppression of the Gnostics as heretics, the Reformation, the rise of Salafism in Islam and the diverse modern sects from the Quakers to Pentecostalists as well as some of the terminal cults from Jonestown to Waco, Texas.


This has manifest implications concerning the war of fundamentalistic Christian religious groups against science over evolution since Darwin, as we shall see in the eighth section.


Complementing this evolutionary account, Thomas Römer in “The Invention of Gods” illustrates the cultural evolution of Yahweh as the Hebrew high god including his consortship with Asherah, in a transition from a syncretic polytheistic high god to an abstract ruler of the world acting in history.


The scientific historian of crisis, Jared Diamond (2021) points to the greatest power of religion in the civilised era of large agricultural societies being doctrines which enable large societies to remain coherent and dominant:


There are at least half a dozen powers of religious beliefs and among those half a dozen are political. The most straightforward of these political functions which arose only within the last five or six thousand years with the development of complicated political systems, one of those political functions is to justify obedience to kings and priests and emperors in a populist in a big society. In a small human society like the New Guinea societies where there are a few hundred people you know everybody by name there isn't any issue of dealing with strangers but so here you and i have met recently and in the in the in the last short time since we met each other neither you nor I has moved to kill each other, but in new guinea that would be unthinkable if i were at such a short

distance from a stranger.


So you need something special to enable a large society where you encounter strangers to function religion plays an essential role. Religion offers a moral code which says how you're supposed to behave to everybody whether or not they're your fifth cross cousin or not there are like ten commandments every religion has which include thou shalt not kill thou shall not kill a stranger but under circumstances thou shalt kill if you go to war with those people over there religion says yes you should kill those jerks because they are non-believers they don't have the true religion so religion in the last 5 000 years has acquired some new social political functions namely obey the king don't kill strangers but yes do kill strangers if they believe in the wrong religion. The power comes from the obedience that religion commands and the willingness to sacrifice oneself that religion commands. For example the world trade tower attack people with certain religious beliefs ended up killing 2993 people with other religious beliefs they sacrificed their lives there was enormous payoff in terms of the people killed with other religious beliefs.


He discounts the idea that the universality of religion attests to its truth:


People who are believers would claim that the universality of religion speaks to the real existence of some supernatural phenomena or supernatural existence that everyone is sensing desiring and indeed in tune with. If you do not believe in such supernatural existence you still do have to explain the virtual ubiquity of religion. If one was going to to draw conclusions and take comfort from the ubiquity of religion then you might expect it would be the ubiquity of one religion which is true but in fact every religion maintains all other religions to be untrue that already starts should make you start to be suspicious that that you can't make any arguments about truth from ubiquity.  Some would claim that the you can because there is a commonality among those differences you can you can find the the lowest common denominator which in fact is a belief in a transcendence beyond the physicality of our own lives the ubiquity of religion seems to me a really weak defense of religion. There are other things that are that are ubiquitous the use of drugs.


Historian Yuval Noah Harari (2015) author of “Sapiens” (2014) in “Bananas in Heaven” likewise attributes the power of religions to their ability to invoke powerful fictitious “realities” through language:


What gives us this ability to do something no other animal can do? The answer is our imagination. Humans cooperate flexibly in large numbers because humans can create imagined realities together. All other animals use their communication system in order to describe reality. A chimpanzee can say, "Look there is a lion! Run away!" or "Look, there is a banana, let's take it!" Humans can use their language not only to describe reality but also to create new realities, to create fiction. A human can say: "Look there is a lion!" or "Look, there is a banana!" but the human can also say, "Look there is a God above the clouds, and if you don't do what they tell you to do, God will punish you." And if you believe this fictional story then you will do what you are told to do. And this is the secret behind large-scale human corporation. As long as everybody believes in the same fictional stories, everybody obeys the same laws, the same rules, and the same norms. And this is something that only humans can do.


(2) The Cosmological Claims of Religion: All religions lay claim to an ultimate cosmology of existence through their creation accounts. In terms of cosmology, Christianity for example, lays claim to an ultimate authority that is even applied retrospectively back from Yeshua's mission to the Biblical genesis giving him status of alpha and Omega. The Sabbatical Creation of Genesis is a quaint allegory, that passes the meme “efficiency” test with flying colours because it is so concise and endearing but is categorically wrong, both in the timing relationship of Earthly life to the solar system and to the order of the living species themselves. Once the notion of creation is implanted, the temptation to conceive of the universe in terms of creative design becomes almost impossible to overturn. Revelation likewise passes the “more motivating than reality” meme test by being so outrageously hyperbolic destroying the late planet Earth in apocalyptic conflagration leading to the newly created heavenly Jerusalem. This destructive eschatology is not only incorrect, it is diabolically genocidal. It cements nature as completely expendable and leads to a complete disregard for natural or human survival in planetary crisis, to which religious dominion over nature has contributed.


Fig 147: Marduk and Tiamat. The war of order against chaos, light vs dark, good vs evil and male vs female. This is a cosmological fault, as the diversity and complexity of life and consciousness arises at the edge of chaos.


While edge-of-chaos dynamics is pivotal to the way biogenesis, biological evolution and conscious experience, all arise from, cosmological symmetry-breaking, world religions share a motif of the ultimate rule of order over chaos, which becomes a cosmic war against disorder, in the form of evil because, although each cosmology starts out pure, disorder creeps in, resulting in a destructive final renovation of the universe in the end of days. The Vedic cosmology ends in degeneration and annihilation, in the Kali yuga. Buddhist cosmology similarly descends into the Saṃvartakalpa or "Eon of dissolution. In the western traditions we wind up with the Day of Judgment.


Such cosmologies thus invoke divine purity but introduce a cosmological war of order against chaos in a creeping dissolution perceived as primary evil. Just as Marduk the God of civic order is depicted as conquering Tiamat – the ancient Goddess of the Sea that is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, so later Near Eastern traditions from Zoroastrian, through Jewish, Christian and Islamic adopted the final solution of the end of days.


The Western notion of eschatological apocalypse originates from the Zoroastrian Frashokereti – a final renovation of the universe, when evil will be destroyed, and everything else will be then in perfect unity with God (Ahura Mazda)..


Premises: (1) good will eventually prevail over evil; (2) creation was initially perfectly good, but was subsequently corrupted by evil; (3) the world will ultimately be restored to the perfection it had at the time of creation; (4) the "salvation for the individual depended on the sum of [that person's] thoughts, words and deeds, and there could be no intervention, whether compassionate or capricious, by any divine being to alter this." Thus, each human bears the responsibility for the fate of his own soul, and simultaneously shares in the responsibility for the fate of the world.


The accompanying story in the Bundahishn, runs as follows: At the end of the "third time" (the first being the age of creation, the second of mixture, and the third of separation), there will be a great battle between the forces of good (the yazatas) and those of evil (the daevas) in which the good will triumph. On earth, the Saoshyant – "one who brings benefit" – an eschatological saviour figure) will bring about a resurrection of the dead in the bodies they had before they died. This is followed by a last judgment through ordeal. The yazatas Airyaman and Atar will melt the metal in the hills and mountains, and the molten metal will then flow across the earth like a river. All mankind—both the living and the resurrected dead—will be required to wade through that river, but for the righteous (ashavan) it will seem to be a river of warm milk, while the wicked will be burned. The river will then flow down to hell, where it will annihilate Angra Mainyu and the last vestiges of wickedness in the universe. In later Zoroastrian texts, it is written that the molten metal will purify the wicked. The righteous will partake of parahaoma, which will confer immortality. Thereafter, humankind will live without food, without hunger or thirst, and without weapons (or possibility of bodily injury). The material substance of the bodies will be so light as to cast no shadow. All humanity will speak a single language and belong to a single nation without borders. All will share a single purpose and goal, joining with the divine for a perpetual exaltation of God's glory. While in the beginning there was one plant, one animal and one human, the variety that had since issued would remain forever. Similarly, the host of divinities brought into existence by Mazda continue to have distinct existences, "and there is no prophecy of their re-absorption into the Godhead.


Notice the ingestion of parahaoma, a form of the soma of the Aryans, with a mythical status as a founding sacramental drink, associated with a number of plant species from ephedra to cannabis, just as Revelation says the tree of life provides monthly fruit and leaves for the healing of the nations.


The eschatological renovation entered Jewish and later Christian thought through the Edict of Restoration, of Cyrus II of Persia (c. 600–530 BC) a proclamation attested by a cylinder seal in which Cyrus authorised and encouraged the return of the Israelites to the Land of Israel following his conquest of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.


Thus saith the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him,
and to loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and that the gates may not be shut  (Isaiah 45:1).


Christianity introduced a further element into eschatological apocalypse, in the form of the dying saviour. The dying-and-rising resurrection deity is a religious motif often cited from the religions of the ancient Near East, and traditions influenced by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman mythology and by extension Christianity. The concept was first proposed in comparative mythology by James Frazer's seminal The Golden Bough (1890). Frazer associated the motif with fertility rites surrounding the yearly cycle of vegetation. Frazer cited the examples of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Attis, Dionysus and Jesus.


With Attis, Adonis or Thammuz, we begin to close about the Christian altar. Behind them, as behind the slave who was King of the Wood, there looms, scarcely named, the shadow of that other God, who as Son of Man ... died on the tree. And inescapably we are brought to conclude that Jesus the Christ acquired divinity by assuming the attributes of another deity (Bishop 1936).


In Pfleiderer's Philosophy of Religion (1878), he freely adopts a position of 'nature mythology':


The earliest action in the way of worship in the primitive history of mankind, was nothing but a dramatic repetition of the divine life seen in the processes of nature, with a view to taking part in it in a mutual intercourse of gods and men. The usages connected with the spring and autumn festivals in nature-religions everywhere show very plainly an effort to represent the coming and the departure of the deity of life and light, in such a manner that the changing fortunes of the deity may be repeated and experienced afresh in the imitative acts and emotions of their worshippers. Thus in Egypt was celebrated the complaint of Isis for Osiris, in Syria the marriage and the death of the sun-god Melcarth or Adonis, in Eleusis the search and lament for her daughter Core ... in Athens the death and resurrection of Dionysus.


This association was reinforced by Pfleiderer (1903):


The 'animistic' notion of the sacraments did not first make its way into Christianity in the post-apostolic time, but pervades the whole Pauline theology'. What Paul accomplished was to 'ethicize' the 'original enthusiasm' of the early Christians 'which in its original form was closely related to the orgiasm of Mysteries'. In so doing, Paul 'created for the growing Christian Church the elements of its ceremonial, without which no Church religion could arise or maintain itself' ... 'essentially the same myth lies at the origin of the mysteries' of Osiris, Adonis, Demeter and Persephone, and Dionysus, while 'nearly allied to these legends of the violent death of a god are those which tell of the voluntary descent of a god or hero into the underworld and his fortunate return', such as Tammuz (Pfleiderer 1906).


Some of these premises have been debated by Smith (1990), who commented in his critique of Pfleiderer:


In his last work devoted to the topic and published in 1905, Pfleiderer more strongly insists on the parallels between Paul and the mysteries of the dying and rising gods, as well as Paul's creative genius in transforming them into an 'ethical' system, and makes an additional set of arguments. The use of these 'borrowings' was necessary to distinguish Christianity from Judaism. Its 'orgiastic' enthusiasm, now domesticated by Paul, is what freed early Christianity from the rigidities of 'national-legal' Judaism. When this domestication later failed, the 'dangerous one-sidedness' of Gnosticism resulted.


From Pfleiderer's initial publications, although never without challenge, the interpretation, especially, of Pauline myth and ritual as being intrinsically related to the pattern of dying and rising gods, has persisted in some circles of New Testament scholarship. Thus R. Bultmann could continue to declare, in 1965, that Paul's understanding of baptism was grounded in the theology of the Hellenistic-Christian community: which understood this traditional initiation-sacrament on analogy with the initiation-sacraments of the mystery religions. The meaning of the latter is to impart to the initiates a share in the fate of the cult-deity who has suffered death and reawakened to life - such as Attis, Adonis, or Osiris..


But Smith then claimed the the dying God was irrelevant because it was seasonal, while Yeshua's mission was "once and for all":


The death of Jesus is further distinguished from the fate of all the mystery-deities by the fact that it happened once and for all , and is incapable of being repeated cultically; here we have an historical event, there IS a mythical drama.


For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God (Romans 6:10).


But this is a false criticism because it was clear that Yeshua's entire mission as described in the gospels is a once and for all mission of apocalypse, and the entire episode played out as a single performance of a Dionysian tragedy in the Greek fertitility tradition, as Hugh Schonfield carefully documented in "The Passover Plot (1965) and is accounted in detail in the Natty Dread chapter. And in the Pauline Eucharist, Christ is reborn anew in every celebration of the Mass.


Regardless, in Christianity, whether expressed in Yeshua's own concepts and actions, or the additions of Paul and later gospel writers, we have the central notion of Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, whose sacrificial death in the crucifixion became a necessary atonement for the forgiveness of sins:


He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them,
and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders
and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day (Luke 9:20)


The synoptic mission account proceeds through a panoply of elements of fertility cult religions. John the Baptist had already had his head served up on a platter as trophy for Salome dancing Inanna's descent at Macherus in front of Herod's generals. Yeshua is then ministered unto out of their substance by the women of Galilee, performing Dionysian miracles, anointed to his doom by a woman alleged to be Magdalen, set at nought in a Roman Saturnalia and cries "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" echoing both Psalm 22 and the Canaanite cry of Mot to El, on the cross, looked on from far off by the women of Galilee, while cursing the daughters of Jerusalem, is risen on the third day after harrowing hell and ascends to Abba the Father, becoming the only begotten Son of God, later enshrined in the hybrid Godhead of the Trinity.


The sacrificial element appears to be a memetic device to create a Hellenistic religion out of Yeshua's apocalyptic mission, culminating in his death, devised 17 years later in the Pauline epistles, and elaborated 20 years later again in Mark, Luke and Matthew, so that we have little idea of how much of this is Yeshua's own tragic Dionysian Theatre and how much is Paul's Hellenistic revision using Yeshua as a cipher.


There is a glaring contrast between the apocalypse and sacrifice of the canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas, which has barely a hint of either, raising further questions over the authenticity of the canonical accounts. When the synoptics say Peter declares Yeshua is the Christ, in Thomas (13) Yeshua denies it: "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out." The entire apocalyptic expectation is brought into the gnostic present: (51) "His disciples said to him, "When will the repose of the dead come about, and when will the new world come?" He said to them, "What you look forward to has already come, but you do not recognise it." There are only hints of apocalypse, but there is no mention of Christ's returning in power: (79) "For there will be days when you will say, 'Blessed are the womb which has not conceived and the breasts which have not given milk.' " There is only one oblique reference to the sacrificial sacred marriage, whose conclusion is unclear: (61) "Two will rest on a bed: the one will die, and the other will live."


In effect, as in Matthew 25:31 and Revelation, Christ has taken over the role of Saoshyant and become the key administrator of justice, but to achieve this role has had to die a sacrificial death to the Father God, so that sins can be forgiven. In the Avestan source tradition there is no need for this homicide, which comes out of contrasting tradition of mortal sacrifice of the dying God. We thus have a hybrid apocalyptic cosmology founded on two inconsistent notions, the cosmic renovation where each being is free and responsible for their actions, and the resurrected savour whose acknowledgement as Lord becomes the only remedy for the remission of sins, thus providing a fertility tradition short circuity to the purity of Frashokereti. There is no way that this can be validly presented as an actual cosmology of the universe in which we consciously exist and this means the notion of God it presents is at best a syncretic mythopoetic notion, and at worst a disingenuous contrivance to present Christ as the cosmic intercessor with God, in whom we must believe, while God has become sequestered in the background.We thus have a hybrid apocalyptic cosmology founded on two inconsistent notions, the cosmic renovation where each being is free and responsible for their actions, and the resurrected savour whose acknowledgement as Lord becomes the only remedy for the remission of sins, thus providing a fertility tradition short circuity to the purity of Frashokereti. There is no way that this can be validly presented as an actual cosmology of the universe in which we consciously exist and this means the notion of God it presents is at best a mythopoetic notion, and at worst a disingenuous contrivance.


Fig 148: (Left) God blessing the Seventh day (Blake) (Right) Creation of Adam (Michelangelo).
Although God is conceived of as incorporeal, omnipotent and transcendent all conceptions of God are routed through human agency.


To make this more explicit, we need to examine the nature of God as conceived by religions. The notion of deity has arisen from animism, the world view where all natural phenomena are treated as living agency. The earliest such characters are trickster heroes such as the San peoples Kaggen, or mantis – a human-insect-bird therianthrope – or shape-shifter between animal and human form. It is only later that such deities became enshrined in religions as the many deities we know from Kali, Vishnu and Shiva, through Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent who rose from his own ashes and also had human form, to El, Asherah, Inanna, Enki, Tammuz, Zeus, Hera and Dionysus. YHVH is depicted as an abstract deity, but nevertheless has all-too-human emotional attributes. Ultimately such deities evolved into the male creator deity of patriarchal monotheism and then to hybrid chimeric forms, such so the Trinity composed of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Abba as the "Father" returns irreversibly to the anthropocentric mold, with Mary and the dying Jesus ubiquitous as graven images adorning Catholic altars.


Genesis confesses the 'Elohim are in human likeness in a mutual anthropocentric projection, thus typecasting God as a the Creator and Legislator as an anthropocentric projection of human manufacture and governance:


Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: So 'Elohim created man in 'their' own image,
in the image of 'Elohim created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1).


The outright 'humanness' of God's personality is likewise manifested in God's palette of mammalian limbic emotions, from love and compassion, through patience, to jealously and wrath. Because Christianity focuses almost exclusively on the personae of Yeshua and Christ, we gain most of our idea of the god of monotheism through the Old Testament.


In the Hebrew tradition, God's love is covenantal, even to the point of tempting the faithful to infanticide:


And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. … And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.


The Psalms reverberate with Yahweh's protective love of His people:


How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings (Ps 36:7).


Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee (Ps 63:3).


But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth (Ps 63:3).


But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield (Ps 5:11).


But this love is tempered by the covenant of faith


And Solomon said, O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven, nor in the earth;
which keepest covenant, and shewest mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their hearts (2 Chron 6:14).


For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee,
neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee (Isa 54:10).


Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy
with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations (Deut 7:9).


Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?
he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy (Micah 7:18).


The jealousy of God is the most outstandingly prominent aspect of his personality in the scriptures:


But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a woring after their gods. (Exodus 34:13)


And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged;
and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy. (Ezekiel 16:38)


Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
(For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee,
and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. (Deut 6:14)


The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy;
he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing (Zeph 3:17).)


However God's love leads to the supplicant bride Israel:


And I passed by you and I looked on you and behold, your time was the time of love. And I spread my skirt over you and I covered your nakedness. And I swore to you and I entered into a covenant with you and you became Mine. She is now washed, anointed, dressed, wrapped, covered, and adorned with silks, fine linen, embroidery, gold, and silver. And you were very beautiful and you advanced to regal estate. And your name went out among the nations, because of your beauty; for it was perfect, by My Splendor which I had set on you (Ezek. 16)


Schwartz (1996) has cutting comment on the above passage:


Ezekiel 16, the extended allegory of Israel as a whore, brings the relation between whores, exile, and monotheism (adultery, defiled land, and idolatry) into sharp focus. It is the story of a child being born and growing up wild and unloved in the field, and when she matures into puberty, of her being owned, sexually and materially, by Yahweh.


What is pivotal to understand here is that this zealous and jealous nature is exactly what was instituted by the forefathers, to ensure that their religion of Yahweh could keep itself distinct from the multitude of religions of the nations on all sides. It's purpose and the allegory of Israel as sacred bride and the allegory of Christ as the Bridegroom in its shadow is NOT the divine presence of God speaking, but the institution of a powerful patriarchal replicative meme designed to have maximally efficient social effect.


Religious believers might try to argue that this is just the flawed human description of God's inscrutable nature, but this is not a defence because we are dealing with a God acting in history, so His actions and commands clearly declare His intended effects, for example at Jericho:


And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. ... And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD (Joshua 6).


If we reject the notion that this is God's justice in favour of Joshua's human fallibility, the whole thesis fails including the ten commandments of Moses. But actually it is God's jealous curse of the religions of the nations operating here as it did through to the time of Josiah in fear of the Babylonian invasion:


[Josiah] began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars (2 Chron 34 4-5).


And he brought out the grove (asherah) from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the pavillions of the effeminate, which were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove (2 Kings 23 3).


By contrast, the Christian expression of God's love is sacrificial, rather than covenantal. God's love is imputed indirectly because He sacrificed His only begotten Son to become the intermediary with whom we communicate:


But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5).


What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son,
but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
(Rom. 8.)


But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins,
hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)
(Eph. 2).


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life
(John 3).


In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (sacrifice) for our sins
(John 4).


For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God (John 16).


Centrally the covenantal aspect has been transferred from Yahweh to Yeshua as tangible intermediary:


He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father,
and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14).


Finally we have the intervention of the Holy Ghost as a second intermediary, again leaving the Father remote, although Christians do pray to the Father, in the Holy Ghost, seeking the love and mercy of Christ:


And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Rom 5).


But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 20).


Both the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptics do quote Yeshua as citing the three as one triad, although only the Holy Ghost deserves accusation of blasphemy for transgression:


Jesus said: He who blasphemes against the Father will be forgiven, and he who blasphemes against the Son will be forgiven;
but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either on earth or in heaven.."
(Thom 44)


However, we know the Christian God of the Trinity is not a cosmological manifestation but a contrivance. In the fourth century, Arianism taught that the Father existed prior to the Son who was not, by nature, God but rather a changeable creature who was granted the dignity of becoming "Son of God". In 325, the First Council of Nicaea adopted the Nicene Creed which described Christ as "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father", and the "Holy Ghost" as the one by which "was incarnate... of the Virgin Mary".


Therefore we have to come to terms with the fact that Christianity is saddled with an impossible cosmologically discordant idea of God, inconsistent with the original nature of the Zoroastrian renovation, forming a short-circuit to forgiveness by belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. A critically efficient meme to outmanoeuvre the Hebrew tradition in favour of the Hellenistic view, that then swept through the pagan nations, who were already sympathetic to these ideas, through the agency of Paul establishing the rituals of a Hellenistic religion, founded on Yeshua's apocolyptic mission.


The Christianity of the New Testament is a creative combination of Jewish and Hellenistic traditions transformed into a tertium quid
('a third something'): that is, a reality related to two known things but transcending them both (Aune 1987).


Central to the entire Hellenistic emphasis is the nature of the Eucharist as the founding rite of the Christian religion. According to the Pauline epistles (1 Corinth 11:23–25) and the later gospels, the rite was instituted by Yeshua. During the Last Supper (Matt 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:17–20;) he commanded them to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many". Ignatius of Antioch (born c. 35 or 50, died between 98 and 117), one of the Apostolic Fathers, mentions the Eucharist as "the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ". Two forms are also cited in the first century Didache. In Catholicism, this is elaborated in the doctrine of transubstantiation the turning of the bread and wine into the soma and sangre of Christ. It is expressed in the teaching that Christ is risen from the dead and is alive, so that when the bread is changed into his body, not only his body is present, but Christ as a whole is present ("the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity"). The same holds when the wine is transubstantiated into the blood of Christ. In the reformation Protestant churches rejected this doctrine or amended it to an undefined spiritual presence.


Although God is conceived of as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence and is most often held to be incorporeal, related to conceptions of transcendence or immanence the supreme being, as world creator, and principal object of faith, He is invoked by the faithful as a person in a loving and yet supplicant relationship in the same form as a beneficent yet exacting human leader. Believers are thus conceiving of God in their own experience of relationships with others, regardless of His reality or actual nature and existence, or otherwise. In other words, the idea of God corporeal or otherwise is a human view of emotional and intellectual agency inspired through scriptural belief.


This is not to tell the whole story of divinity, because, as Rudolph Otto (1917) has made clear, these are but the rational dimensions of the Holy:


It is essential to every theistic conception of God, and most of all to the Christian, that it designates and precisely characterizes Deity by the attributes Spirit, Reason, Purpose, Good Will, Supreme Power, Unity, Selfhood. The nature of God is thus thought of by analogy with our human nature of reason and personality; only, whereas in ourselves we are aware of this as qualified by restriction and limitation, as applied to God the attributes we use are 'completed', i.e. thought as absolute and unqualified. Now all these attributes constitute clear and definite concepts: they can be grasped by the intellect; they can be analysed by thought; they even admit of definition. An object that can thus be thought conceptually may be termed rational..


In coming to understand the Holy of Holies that underlies the religious quest and is deeply chthonic to it's superficial memetic nature as a process of social control, Otto ranges through terms such as sacred to find the invent a special term to stand for 'the holy' minus its moral factor or 'moment', and, as we can now add, minus its 'rational' aspect altogether, which he comes to term the numinous which we shall explore later in the context of the brain.


It will be our endeavour to suggest this unnamed Something to the reader as far as we may, so that he may himself feel it. There is no religion in which it does not live as the real innermost core, and without it no religion would be worthy of the name. … For this purpose I adopt a word coined from the Latin numen. Omen has given us ominous, and there is no reason why from numen we should not similarly form a word 'numinous'. I shall speak then of a unique 'numinous' category of value and of a definitely 'numinous' state of mind.


(3) Religion is an Avowedly  Memetic Process: Religions are profoundly memetic and are custom designed by their forefathers to have precisely the powerful influence of religious culture over individual interests, personal liberty and even human survival that the memetic detractors express. Notwithstanding their mystical and numinous basis, these are also vehemently opposed by organised religion as disturbing the dominant order. Religion inextricably has two complementary and contradictory natures. It lays claim incorrectly to cosmological ascendancy but at the same time is constructed as an intensely captivating meme system in which the believer comes to serve the interests of the religious complex and its social following, rather than human survival or individual benefit, or true spiritual illumination. This is why religio is to 'bind' as in the Romas fasces. This means Dawkins' warning is not to be set aside. To achieve any long-term viable human culture, and ensure the future of the human species, it is essential that the memetic control of religion over human culture and the human mind is liberated from bondage.


Patriarchal Monotheism

1. Security: God is the generator of cosmological order, out of and triumphal over, chaos, providing ultimate security.

2. Power: God is omniscient, omnipotent Lord, creator and legislator. This is cosmological autocracy, in human image.

3. Belief: Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.

4. Compulsion: To turn aside from, or reject the religious path is atheism, blasphemy, heresy or apostasy.

5. Hierarchy: Woman and nature are supplicant to man, as man is to God.

6. Eternal morality: Moral judgment is rewarded and punished in the end of days by eternal torment or salvation.

7. Conflict: This casts order and chaos, good and evil, light and dark as in a state of eternal war, destroying fecundity.


This is a dominant memetic system, enticing by its ultimate security and the notion that loving God is reciprocated by God’s love, along with the ultimate incentive of eternal life resolving all existential uncertainties, but it’s dark under-belly is the ultimate fear of God’s wrath, the condemnation of all human beings as original sinners, the social and physical punishments of one’s flaws being discovered, either by one’s religious neighbours or by God himself leading to dire earthly punishment or eternal torment.


The culturally memetic influence of religion on human evolution, through patriarchal dominance of reproductive choice is profoundly expressed in the amplified reproduction rates of Islam, and following it Christianity, to fulfil their utopian aims of world dominance is expressed in their heightened birth rates over the population as whole (Pew Res).




(4) Natural versus Memetic Morality: We have the problem of morality as an evolved cooperative good versus an oppressive imperative. The sociobiological view of morality is that it is a win-win adaption through group selection which also favours individual survival. Curry et al. (2019) express this in extremely eloquent terms:


Life begins when molecules start making copies of themselves. These replicatorsare selfishin the technical sense that they pro- mote their own replication (Dawkins, 1976/2006). They can promote their replication at the expense of other replicators. These competitive interactions have a winner and a loser; ones gain is anothers loss; they are zerosum games (Maynard Smith, 1982; Von Neumann & Morgenstern, 1944).Replicators can also replicate in concert with other replicators (Dawkins, 1998). These cooperative interactions can have two winners; they are win-win situations; they are non-zerosum games. Natural selection can favour genes for cooperation that is, genes for evolutionarily-stable phenotypic strategies designed to achieve superior equilibria in non-zerosum interactions and has done throughout the history of life. Natural selection for genes that employ cooperative strategies has driven several major transitionsin the evolution of life on Earth, including the formation of cells, chromosomes and multicellular organisms (Maynard Smith & Szathmáry, 1995). Natural selection has also favoured genes for cooperation between individuals, in a wide variety of species (Dugatkin, 1997), including humans. Humans descend from a long line of social primates; they have spent 50 million years living in social groups (Shultz, Opie, & Atkinson, 2011), and two million years making a living as intensely collaborative hunter-gatherers (Tooby & DeVore, 1987). This has equipped humans with a range of biological including psychological adaptations for cooperation. These adaptations can be seen as natural selection’s ‘attemptsto solve the problems of cooperation. More recently, improvisational intelligence and cultural transmission (Boyd, Richerson, & Henrich, 2011; Pinker, 2010) have made it possible for humans to attempt to improve upon natural selections solutions by inventing evolutionarily-novel solutions – ‘tools and rules’ – for further bolstering cooperation (Binmore, 1994a, 1994b; Hammerstein, 2003; Nagel, 1991; Popper, 1945). Together, these biological and cultural mechanisms provide the motivation for social, cooperative and altruistic behaviour; and they provide the criteria by which individuals evaluate the behaviour of others. According to MAC, it is precisely these solutions to problems of cooperation this collection of instincts, intuitions, inventions and institutions that constitute human morality (Curry, 2005, 2016).


Laland (2017) notes that morally prescriptive culture becomes dominant over competitors by force of arms following Richerson and Henrich (2012):


(1) societies with an organized army are more likely to win conflicts than those without, (2) city-states with division of labor and occupational specializations would tend to out-compete those without these innovations, (3) agricultural communities that have devised irrigation systems would flourish more readily than others, and (4) societies with religious doctrines that stabilize within-group cooperative activities will thrive at the expense of those with no gods to help ensure compliance.


Yet he still presents this entire spectre as basically a benign cooperative process, in which the docile members of a conforming society will out-survive their more rebellious colleagues without any reference to the kinds of punishments conservative and religious societies go to the lengths to exercise:


Theoretical analyses suggest that humans should be particularly adept at recognizing, representing, and adopting the local norms of their society, as well as notice, condemn, and punish violations of those norms. For instance, moral norms could plausibly have generated natural selection acting on human genes to favor cooperative tendencies. Individuals who are more inclined to conform to norms would find it "easier to enter larger norm-bound societies and to abide by the rules, than individuals lacking this tendency. These more "docile" individuals would be at an advantage, to the extent that they would be better placed to benefit from the society's technologies and less vulnerable to exclusion or punishment. In turn, a population of more docile individuals could then permit the cultural evolution of more sophisticated and effective norms, and allow groups to maintain more reliable cooperation. A similar mechanism could have favored a tendency of individuals to feel shame or guilt when they violate a social norm.


Haidt & Graham (2007) present theoretical and empirical reasons for believing that there are five psychological systems (MFQ) that provide the foundations for the world’s many moralities:


The five foundations are [1] psychological preparations for detecting and reacting emotionally to issues related to harm/care, [2] fairness/reciprocity, [3] ingroup/loyalty, [4] authority/respect, and [5] purity/sanctity. Political liberals have moral intuitions primarily based upon the first two foundations, and therefore misunderstand the moral motivations of political conservatives, who generally rely upon all five foundations.


They base this on the notion that conservative societies have moral intuitions not recognised by social liberals:


On this definition of morality, conservative opposition to social justice programs appears to be immoral, and has been explained as a product of various non-moral processes such as system justification or social dominance orientation. In this article we argue that, from an anthropological perspective, the moral domain is usually much broader, encompassing many more aspects of social life and valuing institutions as much or more than individuals.


As noted above, Curry et al. (2019) define Morality-as-Cooperation (MAC) as the theory that morality is a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the problems of cooperation recurrent in human social life and have expressed it in the following seven principles:


(1) Allocation of resources to kin (Family Values), (2) Coordination to mutual advantage (Group Loyalty), (3) Social exchange (Reciprocity), (4,5) Contests between Hawks (Heroism) & Doves (Deference) in which agents fairly indicate how far they are prepared to pursue a conflict, (6) Division (Fairness) divide the resource proportionately by bargaining power and (7) Possession (Property Rights) deferring to prior possession.


Curry et al. tested MACs predictions by developing the Morality-as-Cooperation Questionnaire (MAC-Q), and comparing its psychometric properties to those of the Moral Foundations Questionnaire (MFQ). They found that over four studies, the results supported the MAC-Qs seven-factor model of morality, but not the MFQs five-factor model. Thus MAC emerges as the best available compass with which to explore the moral landscape.


The upshot of this research is that morality has a valid basis as a win-win that enhances both group and individual survival, on a sociobiological basis where natural selection is paramount, but does not include prescriptive culturally originating religious imperatives of an oppressive nature that invoke dire penalties when they are not observed.


Effectively the five factor MF is presenting conservative morality, which goes further than natural morality of MAC to enforce cooperation by 'altruistic' punishment as practiced widely by prescriptive religions.


Rossano (2010) describes this process as "getting people in line":


I argued that there are two ways for groups to establish and maintain intra- group cooperativeness that extends beyond the boundaries of kin selection, reciprocity, and indirect reciprocity: (1) by motivating people to follow group-based social norms, and (2) and by motivating them to punish those who don't follow social norms. One of the chief sources of this motivation is social scrutiny—the idea that we are being watched and judged by others. Given the close-knit nature of the hunter-gatherer groups from which we evolved, the notion of being constantly watched and evaluated was a familiar one. Experimental work shows that we are hypersensitive to the cues that suggest public observation of our behavior. Furthermore, this same work shows that we are naturally hypervigilant against freeloaders and cheaters who threaten group cohesion and that we have effective means of bringing them into line.


Religious doctrines exploit hypervigilance as actively enforced memes, both by constructive inducement as virtues and destructive moral punishment as sins, in ways that are far more encompassing and punitive than mere social disapproval.


(5) Religious Enforcement of Homicidal Violence: this brings us to the fallacy that religion is just a way of enticing people to cooperate by pro-social incentives. When the crunch comes, religious edicts, laws and punishments are among the most severe and unforgiving. Dismemberment for theft, stoning for adultery, and death for apostasy. While Islam today still displays these homicidal features in full iconic form, none of the patriarchal religions can consider themselves free of these diabolical practices in their long term history. I will address just a few violently homicidal examples that have particularly punished women, to make the situation clear.


Genocide at Medina and Femicide at Mecca


At first Muhammad had lived in peace with the people of Mecca, whose environs such as Taif had shrines to the Goddesses al-Uzza, Manat and al-Lat and for whome the Kaaba was a sacred site for all religious pilgrims and included astral and Christian figures. But when he decided that his verses accepting the three goddesses as intermediaries were a heresy spawned by satanic influence, and began to preach a more firebrand monotheism, this offended the sensibilities of the Quraysh of Mecca and he ended up having to escape to Medina with a small band of followers. There was a large Jewish community at Medina occupying an entire sector of the walled oasis settlement. Many Jews had settled in Arabia from the time of the Roman diaspora. However Muhammad found his new Arab religion, cast in the model of the Jewish heritage, was not respected by the Jews of Medina. Ostensibly, in response to this perceived insult, Muhammad turned the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca.


The situation soured and finally turned to genocide when the Quraysh of Mecca, angered by his disruptive influence, laid siege to Medina. The plight in the oasis became desperate. Not knowing which side would eventually win, the Qurayzah Jews sent a party to parley with the Quraysh to try to preserve themselves from being overrun by one side or the other and some of them were overheard swearing allegiance. But then in a superstitious misjudgment, the Quraysh deserted the siege when a severe desert storm struck the region.  In the aftermath a Muslim friend of the Jews drew his finger over his throat to warn them of their impending fate:


According to Karen Armstrong’s “Muhammad” (1992 206), fearing the Jews might have opened their gates to the enemy, Muhammad appointed a mortally wounded fighter Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh who was carried to the Qurayzah village on a litter, as judge over their fates:


Sa’d judged that all the 700 men should be killed , their wives and children sold into slavery and their property divided among the Muslims.  Muhammad cried aloud: “You have judged according to the ruling of Allah above the seven skies!” He next day Muhammad ordered a trench to be dug in the souk of Medina. Some individuals were spared at the request of the Muslims, but the rest were tied together in groups and beheaded; their bodies were thrown into the trench.


It is probably impossible for us to dissociate this story from Nazi atrocities and it will inevitably alienate many people irrevocably from Muhammad. But Western scholars like Maxime Rodinson and W. Montgomery Watt argue that it is not correct to judge the incident by twentieth-century standards. 


But the problem’s are profound: (1) Appointing a mortally wounded man as judge is prejudical. (2) This was an unmitigated genocide because the Jews never actually betrayed the Muslims and never did open their gates, or the story would have been entirely different. (3) In the 21st century these genocidal standards are still legitimised and applied by Muslims today and Muhammad extolled as a divine prophet in an age where genocide on this scale is a crime against humanity. There was no excuse and no valid rationalisation for this slaughter, and later Muslim history up to the taking of Mecca demonstrates that this killing proved to be unnecessary gratuitous violence for which history needs to judge this tradition.


Ending the period of religious tolerance that had made Mecca a divne pilgrimage destination, Muhammad smashed all the icons in the Ka'aba, leaving only the portraits of Jesus and Mary and ironically, the vagina-like meteoric Black Stone, the most sacrosanct symbol of the old religion. Likewise the images of al-Uzza and Manat and a year later also those of al-Lat at Taif, were destroyed, although the people there initially resisted and raised an army leading to an indecisive siege. Although Muhammad issued an amnesty to those who accepted his rule, a list of prominent opponents were summarily executed. Within two and a half years, Muhammad would pass away.


Nawal el Sadaawi in "The Hidden Face of Eve" notes the effect on women who opposed Muhammad's rule:


"Sarah was a famous slave singer who aimed her barbed words against the Moslems. She was among those whom Mahomet ordered to be executed on the day of his victorious entry into Mecca. In the region of El Nagir, it was recounted that some women had rejoiced when the Prophet died and Abu Bake, the first of the Caliphs, ordered their hands and feet to be cut off. Thus women who dared to give voice to their protest or opposition could be exposed to cruel punishment. Their hands might be cut off, or their teeth pulled out, or their tongues torn from their mouths. This last form of punishment was usually reserved for those who were singers. It was said of these women that they used to dye their hands with henna, brazenly display the seductions of their beauty, and beat time with their fingers on tambourines and drums in defiance of God, and in derision towards the rights of God and his Prophet. It was therefore necessary to cut off their hands and tear out their tongues".


Muhammad was particularly unforgiving to anyone who ridiculed him or his Quranic verses. According to al-Tabari's Alseera Al Nabawiya (2:463) Muhammad explicitly ordered the murder of Om Kerfa (Mother of Kerfa), one of the most revered Meccan matriarchs who was torn in half by camels at the age of 90 for writing poetry ridiculing him:


"She is Fatima daughter of Rabia son of Badir son of Amru al Fazari. Mother of Kerfa married a prince of the tribe of Hathifa and bore for him 13 children the first of whom was Kerfa by whom she is surnamed. All her children became leaders of their tribes. She was the dearest of all Arabs, and an example of honor and pride to them.. It was said if two tribes fought and Mother of Kerfa sent her scholl on a spear that was displayed to both parties, then they would reconcile out of respect for her. She used to annoy the prophet with her poetry so in the sixth year of the Hijra he sent Zaid son of Haritha on a military expedition to kill her in the most heinous of ways. For he tied her legs with ropes and tied each of the ropes to a camel so that she was split in two. She was an old woman when this happened and her head was severed as proof to all that she had died".


Code of Hammurabi


Religious invocations prescribing death for adultery are NOT divinely ordained. In the Code of Hammurabi (c1755-1750 BCE), a cited precursor to Mosaic law, adultery was punished with the death of both parties by drowning, but if the husband was willing to pardon his wife, the king might intervene to pardon the paramour. The  law is much fairer in terms of exonerating accused females. Although the stele features an image in relief of Hammurabi with Shamash, the Babylonian sun god and god of justice, this is a secular law ordained by a ruler rather than a religious prophet.


CH 129 If a man's wife be caught with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.


CH 130 If a man violate the wife of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father's house, and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.


CH 155 If a man have betrothed a bride to his son and his son have known her, and if he (the father) afterward lie in her bosom and they take him, they shall bind that man and throw him in the water.


Deuteronomic Stoning for Adultery


Deut 22:20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.


Deut 22:22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.


Multiple other religious crimes, from apostasy and blasphemy to homosexuality and being an unruly son were also punished by stoning, except that, in later times, the caveats became so stringent that it virtually never occurred.


Prior to early Christianity, particularly in the Mishnah, doubts were growing in Jewish society about the effectiveness of capital punishment in general (and stoning in particular) in acting as a useful deterrent. Subsequently, its use was dissuaded by the central legislators.


The Mishnah states:


A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says that this extends to a Sanhedrin that puts a man to death even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: Had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: they would have multiplied shedders of blood in Israel.


In the following centuries the leading Jewish sages imposed so many restrictions on the implementation of capital punishment as to make it de facto illegal.


Islamic Stoning for Adultery


The outstanding difference with Islam is that these practices continue to be religiously sanctioned. Four Hadith below show that Muhammad used the Deuteronomic punishment claimed to be for Jewish offenders to instil stoning for adultery as an Islamic punishment, centuries after the practise had been effectively discontinued in Judaism.


Hadith Stoning for adultery al-Bukhari 2:23:413 Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar: The Jew brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death), near the place of offering the funeral prayers beside the mosque."

Hadith Stoning for adultery al-Bukhari 4:56:829 Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar: The Jews came to Allah's Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah's Apostle said to them, "What do you find in the Torah (old Testament) about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?" They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them." Abdullah bin Salam said, "You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm." They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, "Lift your hand." When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, "Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm. The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. ('Abdullah bin 'Umar said, "I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones."

Hadith Stoning for adultery al-Bukhari 6.:60:79 Narrated 'Abdullah bin Umar: The Jews brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from among them who had committed illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet said to them, "How do you usually punish the one amongst you who has committed illegal sexual intercourse?" They replied, "We blacken their faces with coal and beat them," He said, "Don't you find the order of Ar-Rajm (i.e. stoning to death) in the Torah?" They replied, "We do not find anything in it." 'Abdullah bin Salam (after hearing this conversation) said to them. "You have told a lie! Bring here the Torah and recite it if you are truthful." (So the Jews brought the Torah). And the religious teacher who was teaching it to them, put his hand over the Verse of Ar-Rajm and started reading what was written above and below the place hidden with his hand, but he did not read the Verse of Ar-Rajm. 'Abdullah bin Salam removed his (i.e. the teacher's) hand from the Verse of Ar-Rajm and said, "What is this?" So when the Jews saw that Verse, they said, "This is the Verse of Ar-Rajm." So the Prophet ordered the two adulterers to be stoned to death, and they were stoned to death near the place where biers used to be placed near the Mosque. I saw her companion (i.e. the adulterer) bowing over her so as to protect her from the stones.


The prescription in Sharia is stoning a woman to death for adultery submerged to her neck so only her head shows:


The penalty for adultery under Article 83 of the penal code, called the Law of Hodoud is flogging (100 lashes of the whip) for unmarried male and female offenders. Married offenders may be punished by stoning regardless of their gender, but the method laid down for a man involves his burial up to his waist, and for a woman up to her neck (article 102). The law provides that if a person who is to be stoned manages to escape, he or she will be allowed to go free. Since it is easier for a man to escape, this discrimination literally becomes a matter of life and death. Article 104 provides that the stones should not be so large that a person dies after being hit with two of them, nor so small as to be defined as pebbles, but must cause severe injury. This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict grievous pain on the victim, in a process leading to his or her slow death.


"In Muslim law the punishment of lapidation is only inflicted for adultery. Under Jewish law idolaters or bearers of false witness were also stoned. It is founded not upon the Qu'ran where the only punishment Sura 24:2 is one hundred stripes but upon the traditions where Muhammad is related to have said 'Verily God hath ordained for a man and a woman not married to one hundred lashes and expulsion from their home town for one year, and for a man and a woman having been married one hundred lashes and stoning'." When a woman is to be stoned, a hole or excavation should be dug to receive her as deep as her wallet ... The purpose of the hole is to conserve 'decency' for the female. Neither boulders nor pebbles may be used, so that death is neither mercifully quick nor endlessly prolonged" (Hughes - Dictionary of Islam).


Islamic Death for Apostasy


Hadith Death for Apostasy al-Bukhari 4:52:260 Narrated Ikrima: Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'


The prescription in Sharia for Apostasy is death:


Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined as the abandonment of Islam by a Muslim, in thought, word, or through deed. It includes not only explicit renunciations of the Islamic faith by converting to another religion or abandoning religion altogether, but also blasphemy or heresy, through any action or utterance which implies unbelief, including those who deny a "fundamental tenet or creed" of Islam. While classical Islamic jurisprudence calls for the death penalty of those who refuse to repent of apostasy from Islam, the definition of this act and whether and how it should be punished, are disputed among Islamic scholars and strongly opposed by Muslim and Non-Muslim supporters of the universal human right to freedom of faith.  According to classical Islamic law, an apostate can only be killed if there are two just Muslim eyewitnesses of the apostasy or if the apostate self confesses, according to some schools, both conditions are required. Jurists allowed flexibility in the application of the death penalty, allowing judges to interpret the apostasy law in different ways,[sometimes, they leniently interpreted it and at other times, they strictly interpreted it.


As of 2014, there were eight Muslim-majority countries where apostasy from Islam was punishable by death, and another thirteen where there were penal or civil penalties such as jail, fines or loss of child custody. From 1985 to 2006, only four individuals were officially executed for apostasy from Islam and unrelated political crimes by governments, but apostates have suffered from other legal punishments as well as extra-judicial punishments which have been inflicted upon them by vigilantes—imprisonment, the annulment of their marriages, the loss of their rights of inheritance and the loss of custody of their children. Mainly, the loss of life has resulted from killings which have been perpetrated by "takfiri" insurgents (ISIL, the GIA and the Taliban).


This is not to exonerate other religions or to focus unjustified blame on Islam. Christianity has been plagued by centuries of religious bloodshed, fomented by obsessive martyrdoms, violent Crusades, religious wars, and centuries of Inquisition seeking to root out heretics from witches, through gnostics, to reformationists and mystics such as Marguerite Porete. All religions from, Buddhism through Hinduism to Zoroastrianism are marked with the blood of homicidal violence. The Bhagavad Gita, for example, is a spiritual treatise set in the context of holy war.


It is estimated that the witch hunts resulted in 70,000 to 100,000 deaths but others have suggested a much higher figure. During the Crusade against the Cathars and Albigenses, after the siege of Beziers alone, 20,000 were summarily executed on the spot.


In 1209, a crusade from Pope Innocent III began against the Cathars. Both Cathars and Catholics were besieged by an army of the Church within the walls of Beziers. On the day of the feast of Mary Magdalen they killed their viscount in the church dedicated to her name and were in turn horrendously punished on the same day for repeating the Albigensian heresy that she was Christ's concubine. When the city fell, the commanding general was asked who to slaughter: heretics, his men assumed, must surely be separated from believers. Their leader's reply was simple:


"Kill them all," he said, "the Lord will know his own". Our forces spared neither rank nor sex nor age. About twenty thousand people lost their lives at the point of the sword. The destruction of the enemy was on an enormous scale. The entire city was plundered and put to the torch. Thus did divine vengeance vent its wondrous rage.



Fig 149: Christian vengeance against women and claimed 'heretics'. (Left) During the reign of Charlemagne (748-814) women were impaled on sharpened poles put in the vagina. Slowly over days the pole would travel the length of the body through the organs causing tremendous pain. (Centre) The Gnostic 'heretics' being led out of Carcassone to be burned alive for apostasy 1209.

(Right) Auto de Fe in the execution of Anne Hendricks in Amsterdam 1571[41] Jan Luyken.



The situation was similar in Carcssone:


After discussion, our men entered the town of Carcassonne with the cross in front. When the church had been restored they placed the Lord's cross on top of the tower ... for it was Christ who had captured the town and it was right that his banner should take precedence. ... The venerable abbot of Vaux-de-Cernay went to a great number of heretics who had gathered in one of the houses wishing to convert them to better things, but they all said with one voice 'Why are you preaching to us? We don't want your faith We deny the church of Rome. You are wasting your time. Neither life nor death can turn us from the beliefs we hold.' He then went to see the women gathered in another building but the female heretics were more obstinate and difficult in every way. Simon de Montfort first urged the heretics to convert, but having no success, he dragged them out of the castle. A huge fire was kindled and they were all thrown into it. It was not hard for our men to throw them in, for they were so obstinate in their wickedness that they threw themselves in. Only three women escaped, whom a noble lady snatched from the flames and restored to the Holy Church.


This is also reflected in the tragic execution of Marguerite Porete, the first to die in the auto da fe in Paris:


The Mirror of Simple Souls is an early 14th-century work of Christian mysticism by Marguerite Porete (1996, 1999) dealing with the workings of Divine Love. Written originally in Old French when Latin was the prescribed language for religious literature, it explores in poetry and prose the seven stages of 'annihilation' the Soul goes through on its path to Oneness with God through Love. Enormously popular when written, it fell foul of the Church authorities, who, detecting elements of the antinomian Heresy of the Free Spirit in its vision, denounced it as "full of errors and heresies", burnt existing copies, banned its circulation, and tried and executed Porete in the first Auto da Fé in Paris in April 1310. Marguerite remained silent throughout her trial, with a plain refusal to elaborate, explain nor deny her teachings. Marguerite went to the stake in total silence and endured her firey end in silence. Those watching were moved to tears.


Love in this book layeth to souls the touches of his divine works privily hid under dark speech,

so that they should taste the deeper draughts of his love and drink. — 15th-century English translator's prologue


Norman Cohn (1957) in “The Pursuit of the Millennium” has this to say of the Free Spirit movement:


It was the eternal essence of things, not their existence in time, that was truly God; whatever had a separate, transitory existence had emanated from God, but no longer was God. On the other hand whatever existed was bound to yearn for its Divine Origin and to strive to find its way back into that Origin; and at the end of time everything would in fact be reabsorbed into God. No emanation would remain, nothing would exist in separateness, there would no longer be anything capable of knowing, wishing, acting. All that would be left would be one single Essence, changeless, inactive: one all-embracing 'Blessedness'. Even the Persons of the Trinity, the Brethren of the Free Spirit insisted, would be submerged in that undifferentiated One. At the end of time, God really would be all. Even now reabsorption was the fate of the human soul as soon as the body was dead. On the death of the body the soul disappeared into its Divine Origin like a drop of water which has been taken from a jug and then dropped back into it again, or like a drop of wine in the sea.


As in the earliest days of the movement, one expression of this attitude was still a promiscuous and mystically coloured eroticism.  … And it was held that one of the surest marks of the 'subtle in spirit' was, precisely, the ability to indulge in promiscuity without fear of God or qualms of conscience. Some adepts attributed a transcendental, quasi-mystical value to the sexual act itself, when it was performed by such as they. The Homines intelligentiae called the act 'the delight of Paradise' and 'the acclivity' (which was the term used for the ascent to mystical ecstasy); and the Thuringian 'Blood Friends' of 1550 regarded it as a sacrament, which they called 'Christerie'. For all alike adultery possessed a symbolic value as an affirmation of emancipation. To be naked and unashamed, like Adam and Eve, they regarded as an essential part of the state of perfection on earth; and they called this 'the state of innocence'. Similarly the leader of the Homines intelligentiae claimed to have a special way of performing the sexual act which was that practised by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.


'The soul', said one woman, 'is so vast that all the saints and angels would not fill it, so beautiful that the beauty of the saints and angels cannot approach it. It fills all things.' For the Brethren of the Free Spirit the soul was not merely destined to be reabsorbed into God on the death of the body; in its essence it had itself been divine from all eternity and was still potentially divine even whilst inhabiting a human body. In the words of the heretical treatise which was found in the, hermit's cell near the Rhine: 'The divine essence is my essence and my essence is the divine essence.... From eternity man was God in God.... From eternity the soul of man was in God and is God.... Man was not begotten, but was from eternity wholly unbegettable; and as he could not be begotten, so he is wholly immortal.' It is in the light of this that one must interpret the recurring assertion of the heretics: 'Every rational creature is in its nature blessed.’


The women of Schweidnitz claimed that their souls had by their own efforts attained a perfection greater than they had possessed when they first emanated from God, and greater than God ever intended them to possess. They claimed to have such command over the Holy Trinity that they could 'ride it as in a saddle'. The Swabian heretics Of 1270 said that they had mounted up above God and, reaching the very pinnacle of divinity, abandoned God. Often the adept would affirm that he or she 'had no longer any need of God’.


By 1320 persecution had driven the movement of the Free Spirit underground; and thereafter the heretical Beghards seem to have done less begging and to have relied rather on a conspiratorial understanding which they were able to develop with certain of the Beguine communities.  When a missionary of the Free Spirit approached a community he was immediately taken in and given shelter and food. Under an oath of secrecy the news was sent to other sympathetically disposed communities that the 'angel of the divine word' had arrived and was waiting in hiding. From all sides Beguines streamed to hear the holy man. The Beguines, entranced, would declare him 'a man who had great likeness to God and great familiarity with him'. 


The theme of Marguerite Porette's Mirouer des simples ames - Mirror to the simple mind – is the ascent of the soul towards total freedom. The soul progresses through seven stages. The first three are devoted to ascetic self-denial and obedience; after which, in the fourth stage, the soul attains a condition of exultation, in which it is blinded by the radiant light of Love. But though the soul may believe that it has already attained union with God, it is still only at the beginning of its ascent. In the final stage it recognizes its own sinfulness, and the immense gulf that still separates it from that perfect goodness which is God; and at that point God, in an overwhelming flood of love and light, sweeps it into himself, so that the soul's will becomes at one with the divine will. So far, nothing distinguishes this ascent from that known to orthodox mystics. But at the sixth stage divergence begins: the soul is annihilated in the Deity, to the point that nothing exists any more save God. Now the soul sees nothing but itself, which is God; while God sees his divine majesty in that soul. This total identification of the soul with God lies quite outside the experience of Catholic mystics; and so does the seventh and last stage of the ascent, where the soul rejoices permanently, while still on this Earth, in the glory and blessedness which orthodox theology reserves for heaven. This deification of the soul is possible because the soul has existed in God from all eternity. The soul is one with God, as the flame is one with the fire; it comes from God and returns to God as a drop of water comes from and returns to the sea. Indeed God is everything that is; so that in being annihilated in God the soul is reintegrated into its true and original being. It is also reintegrated into that primal state of innocence enjoyed by Adam before the Fall. Thereby it is liberated from the consequences of Original Sin and becomes sinless. Moreover it becomes incapable of sin; for 'this soul has no will but the will of God, who makes it will what it ought to will.' And this in turn means that it is free to do whatever pleases it. The adepts therefore 'do nothing but what pleases them; or if they do, they deprive themselves of peace, freedom and nobility. For the soul is not perfected until it does what it pleases, and is not reproached for taking its pleasure.' Since Love, i.e. God, has taken up residence in the soul, he takes charge of all things and all deeds; so the soul can experience no unease and no remorse. Whatever external acts are done, they are tile work of God, operating in the soul.


(6) Theology, Neurotheology and Religious Psychology


Theology is described as the systematic study of the nature of the divine and of religious belief. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and to reveal themselves to humankind.  This in its very definition as assuming the entity it is attempting to describe and setting up a stark division between an assumed transcendent divinity, palpable monotheistic and a flawed natural world comprising the diversity of life.


The term Theology derives from the Greek theologia (θεολογία), theos (Θεός, 'god') and logia (λογία, 'utterances, sayings, oracles’) – relating to Greek logos (λόγος, 'word, discourse, account, reasoning'). Greek theologia  was used with the meaning 'discourse on God' around 380 BC by Plato in The Republic. Aristotle divided theoretical philosophy into mathematike, physike, and theologike, with the latter corresponding roughly to metaphysics. Latin writer Varro (116–27 BC) distinguished three forms of such discourse: 1. mythical, concerning the myths of the Greek gods; 2. rational, philosophical analysis of the gods and of cosmology; and 3. civil, concerning the rites and duties of public religious observance. In scholastic Latin sources, the term came to denote the rational study of the doctrines of the Christian religion.  Christian theology as the study of Christian belief and practice concentrates primarily upon the canonical scriptures and Christian tradition. In Jewish theology, the historical absence of political authority has meant that most theological reflection has happened within the context of the Jewish community and synagogue, including through rabbinical discussion of Jewish law and Midrash (rabbinic biblical commentaries).


Theology considers whether the divine exists in some form, such as in physical, supernatural, mental, or social realities, and what evidence for and about it may be found via personal spiritual experiences or historical records of such experiences as documented by others.  A distinction can be made between theology, which is seen as involving some level of commitment to the claims of the religious tradition being studied, and religious studies, which are not tied to any religious tradition and are normally neutral or secular.


Outside monotheism the status of theology is less explicitly defined. Within Hindu philosophy, there is a tradition of philosophical speculation on the nature of the universe, of God (Brahman, Paramatma, and/or Bhagavan in some schools) and of the ātman (soul). Vaishnava theology is involved in classifying and organising the manifestations of thousands of gods and their aspects. Buddhism, which is non-theistic focuses on philosophy rather than theology. In Japan, the term theology (shingaku) has been ascribed to animistic Shinto since the Edo period in Mano Tokitsuna's Kokon shingaku ruihen ('categorised compilation of ancient theology').


Whether or not reasoned discussion about the divine is possible has long been a point of contention, beginning in the time of earlier polytheistic and state deities of Ancient Greece. Protagoras, in fifth century BC, who is reputed to have been exiled from Athens because of his agnosticism about the existence of the gods, said that "Concerning the gods I cannot know either that they exist or that they do not exist, or what form they might have, for there is much to prevent one's knowing: the obscurity of the subject and the shortness of man's life."


Baron d'Holbach (1772), in Le Bon sens, labeled theology "a continual insult to human reason". Lord Bolingbroke wrote in Section IV of his Essays on Human Knowledge, "Theology is a science that may justly be compared to the Box of Pandora. Many good things lie uppermost in it; but many evil lie under them, and scatter plagues and desolation throughout the world.” Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason (1794): "The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.


Ludwig Feuerbach in The Essence of Christianity (1841), for which he was banned from teaching in Germany, said that theology was a "web of contradictions and delusions". The American satirist Mark Twain remarked in his essay "The Lowest Animal": Man is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. ... The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.


A. J. Ayer sought to show in his essay "Critique of Ethics and Theology" that all statements about the divine are nonsensical and any divine-attribute is unprovable: "It is now generally admitted, at any rate by philosophers, that the existence of a being having the attributes which define the god of any non-animistic religion cannot be demonstratively proved. ... All utterances about the nature of God are nonsensical.” Richard Dawkins in an article in The Independent (1993) said: "I have never heard any theologian ever say anything of the smallest use, anything that was not either platitudinously obvious or downright false.”


Religious Psychology Psychology of religion consists of the application of psychological methods and interpretive frameworks to the diverse contents of religious traditions as well as to both religious and irreligious individuals. Psychologists of religion pursue three major projects: 1. systematic description, especially of religious contents, attitudes, experiences, and expressions. 2. explanation of the origins of religion, both in the history of the human race and in individual lives, taking into account a diversity of influences. 3. mapping out the consequences of religious attitudes and conduct, both for the individual and for society at large.


Hegel (1770–1831) described all systems of religion, philosophy, and social science as expressions of the basic urge of consciousness to learn about itself and its surroundings, and record its findings and hypotheses. Freud spoke of religion as an illusion – "a fantasy structure from which a man must be set free if he is to grow to maturity," viewing the idea of God as being a version of the father image, and religious belief as at bottom infantile and neurotic. Authoritarian religion, Freud believed, is dysfunctional and alienates man from himself. By contrast, Jung postulated, in addition to the personal unconscious, the collective unconscious, the repository of human experience and which contains "archetypes" (images that are universal and recur regardless of culture). The irruption of these images from the unconscious into the realm of consciousness he viewed as the basis of religious experience and artistic creativity.


The psychology of religion first arose as a self-conscious discipline in the late 19th century, but all three of these tasks have a history going back many centuries. In the 1890s, a "new psychology" emerged in European and American universities which coincided with the establishment of many new psychology laboratories and the appointment of faculty in psychology James (1890). New psychology's novelty was encapsulated by its distinction from philosophy (philosophy of mind in particular) and theology, and its emphasis on the laboratory-based experimental method.


American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910) is regarded by most psychologists of religion as the founder of the field. James distinguished between institutional religion and personal religion. Institutional religion refers to the religious group or organisation and plays an important part in a society's culture. Personal religion, in which the individual has mystical experience, can be experienced regardless of the culture.


Fig 149b: Rudolph Otto and William James


The Varieties of Religious Experience comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on natural theology, concerning the psychological study of individual private religious experiences and mysticism, and used a range of examples to identify commonalities in religious experiences across traditions. Soon after its publication, Varieties entered the Western canon of psychology and philosophy and has remained in print for over a century.   


In the Varieties, James explicitly excludes from his study both theology and religious institutions, choosing to limit his study to direct and immediate religious experiences, which he regarded as the more interesting object of study. His chapters span the religions of healthy mindedness versus the sick soul, the divided self, conversion, saintliness and mysticism. James outlines four markers of mystical experience:

Ineffable: the experience is incapable of being described and must be directly experienced to be understood.

Noetic: the experience is understood to be a state of knowledge through which divine truths can be learned.

Transient: the experience is of limited duration.

Passivity: the subject of the experience is passive, unable to control the arrival and departure of the experience.


Moon, Kuza & Desai (2018) note the formative influence of his nitrous oxide experiences on his entire view of religious experience:


In 1874, William James wrote a celebratory review in the Atlantic Monthly of Benjamin Paul Blood's pamphlet The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy. He was captivated by the idea that “the Secret of Being” might be accessible with nitrous oxide not just by the academic intellectual but also by the ordinary man. Later, in his essay “On Some Hegelisms” (1882), James described his own experience with nitrous oxide as one characterized by an exhilarating sense of metaphysical awakening. Upon inhalation, he was able to understand first the glory and then the insufficiency of Hegelian thought. For James, the use of nitrous oxide ultimately served a key role in elucidating some of the most central ideas of his life: (1) the value of religion and (2) the universe as pluralistic (as opposed to absolutist, constant, eternal), driven by chance, experience, and change.


He enlarged on this in the Varieties p 373:


Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists; and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysical revelation. 


Some years ago I myself made some observations on this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question,—for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality. Looking back on my own experiences, they all converge towards a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, whose contradictoriness and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. Not only do they, as contrasted species, belong to one and the same genus, but _one of the species_, the nobler and better one, _is itself the genus, and so soaks up and absorbs its opposite into itself_. This is a dark saying, I know, when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if it must mean something, something like what the Hegelian philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it more clearly. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear; to me the living sense of its reality only comes in the artificial mystic state of mind.


James further comments: I just now spoke of friends who believe in the anæsthetic revelation. For them too it is a monistic insight, in which the other – in its various forms appears absorbed into the One.      


Into this pervading genius,” writes one of them, “we pass, forgetting and forgotten, and thenceforth each is all, in God. There is no higher, no deeper, no other, than the life in which we are founded. ‘The One remains, the many change and pass;’ and each and every one of us _is_ the One that remains.... This is the ultimatum. ... As sure as being—whence is all our care – so sure is content, beyond duplexity, antithesis, or trouble, where I have triumphed in a solitude that God is not above.”  


This has the genuine religious mystic ring!


Rudolf Otto (1869–1937), was a German Protestant theologian and scholar of comparative religion. His fascination with non-Christian religions was awakened during an extended trip from 1911 to 1912 through North Africa, Palestine, British India, China, Japan, and the United States. His first book, Naturalism and Religion (1904) divides the world ontologically into the mental and the physical, reflecting Cartesian dualism. He argues consciousness cannot be explained in terms of physical or neural processes, and also accords it epistemological primacy by arguing all knowledge of the physical world is mediated by personal experience. On the other hand, he disagrees with Descartes' characterisation of the mental as a rational realm, positing that rationality is built upon a non-rational intuitive realm.


In "The Idea of the Holy", Rudolph Otto (1917) writes that while the concept of "the holy" is often used to convey moral perfection – and does entail this – it contains another distinct element, beyond the ethical sphere, for which he coined the term numinous based on the Latin word numen ("divine power"). Otto explained the numinous an experience or feeling which is not based on reason or sensory stimulation and represents the "wholly other" – a "non-rational, non-sensory experience or feeling whose primary and immediate object is outside the self." It is a mystery (mysterium tremendum) that is both fascinating (fascinans) and terrifying at the same time. A mystery that causes trembling and fascination, attempting to explain that inexpressible and perhaps supernatural emotional reaction of wonder drawing us to seemingly ordinary and/or religious experiences of grace. This sense of emotional wonder appears evident at the root of all religious experiences. Through this emotional wonder, we suspend our rational mind for non-rational possibilities.


This mental state "presents itself as ganz Andere, wholly other, a condition absolutely sui generis and incomparable whereby the human being finds himself utterly abashed." iI cannot be defined in terms of other concepts or experiences. The subject must therefore be "guided and led on by consideration and discussion of the matter through the ways of his own mind, until he reaches the point at which 'the numinous' in him perforce begins to stir... In other words, our X cannot, strictly speaking, be taught, it can only be evoked, awakened in the mind." Wynn (2022) notes: The Idea of the Holy falls within a paradigm in the philosophy of emotion in which emotions are seen as including an element of perception with intrinsic epistemic value that is neither mediated by thoughts, nor simply a response to physiological factors. Otto therefore understands religious experience as having mind-independent phenomenological content rather than being an internal response to belief in a divine reality.


Neurotheology: The Brain on Religion, Spirituality and Mysticism The neuroscience of religion, also known as neurotheology and as spiritual neuroscience, attempts to explain religious experience and behaviour in neuroscientific terms. Aldous Huxley used the term neurotheology for the first time in the utopian novel Island, in the context of psychedelics. It is the study of correlations of neural phenomena with subjective experiences of spirituality and hypotheses to explain these phenomena. This contrasts with the psychology of religion which studies mental, rather than neural states. Proponents say there is a neurological and evolutionary basis for subjective experiences traditionally categorised as spiritual or religious. From the religious perspective, concerns have been raised that the study of practices such as meditation does not necessarily extrapolate to the broader array of religious and spiritual phenomena (Begley 2001). Newberg's (2017) "Principles of Neurotheology" provides a scientific overview.


In “The Varieties of Spiritual Experience”, Yaden & Newberg (2022) have produced a sequel to James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience”, in which the diversity of spiritual experiences are explored in a modern neuroscience context. These varieties encompass chapters on: (a) Numinous Experiences: Encountering divinity, (b) Revelatory experiences: Voices, visions, and epiphanies, (c) Synchronicity Experiences: “Everything happens for a reason”, (d) Mystical Experiences: Unity and ego-dissolution, (e) Aesthetic Experiences: Awe and the sublime and (f) Paranormal Experiences: Ghosts, angels, and other entities.


Grewal (2012) reinforces the differing tendencies towards religious belief in intuition of the divine and away from belief in god in rational analytic discourse:


Shenhav, Rand and Greene (2011) show that people who have a tendency to rely on their intuition are more likely to believe in God. They also showed that encouraging people to think intuitively increased people’s belief in God. Building on these findings, Gervais & Norenzayan (2012) found that encouraging people to think analytically reduced their tendency to believe in God. Together these findings suggest that belief may at least partly stem from our thinking styles.  … Gervais and Norenzayan’s research is based on the idea that we possess two different ways of thinking that are distinct yet related. System 1 thinking relies on intuitive feelings, hunches, shortcuts and other rules-of-thumb while System 2 is based on on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and require more effort. Solving logical and analytical problems may require that we override our System 1 thinking processes in order to engage System 2.


The notions of both God and Vedantic primordial cosmic consciousness appear to simply be aspects of a more ancient intuitive “animistic” type 1 thinking as opposed to type 2 “analytical” thinking. This suggests both God and cosmic consciousness are latecomers in the evolution of the universe, as a product of humans as higher organisms, thinking of the universe as permeated and driven by subjectively conscious agents, as a working intuitive rule of thumb, for survival, without it necessarily making overall analytic sense, particularly when extrapolated onto the entire universe.


The idea of an innate religious propensity in evolution for the good is not so much about transformative mystical states, as the blessings of religious security, for example that conservative morality or the love of God is an innate or evolved 'instinct'. But, while we have found evidence for natural morality in humans, conservative morality presents rather as as a superimposed meme. As we have seen with Marguerite Porete, the mystical people are often cast wearing sackcloth and ashes, or being burned at the stake for their visions. Both the conformist patterns of religious belief and the diverse mystical experience of transcendence have been explored in brain studies. But the propensity discovered scientifically in the brain is that both meditative and psychedelic states are associated with quietening of the default mode network and the relaxing of identity-defining dynamics leading to integrated states of consciousness rooted in first person mystical experience.


The nature of subjective conscious volition over the world around us and its implications is our central existential dilemma because we gain our entire knowledge of the world through our subjective experiences of it. This is the central existential dilemma that animism has always encompassed, and which its offspring in religion and religion’s backroom “soul” in spirituality, seek to reveal. Scientific consciousness research opens the abyss of subjective experience, as the most outstanding unresolved scientific problem in the universe and that is what mystical and visionary propensity is actually about, which both lies at the foundation of religion but is diametrically opposite to it.


There is also a pervasive belief in the idea that all spiritual paths lead to one deeper reality as expressed in the perennial philosophy a perspective in philosophy and spirituality that views all of the world's religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown (Huxley 1946). Perennialism has its roots in the Renaissance interest in neo-Platonism and its idea of the One, from which all existence emanates, e.g. to integrate Hermeticism with Greek and Jewish-Christian thought. Ultimately this idea comes down to direct first person mystical experience, contemplative, meditative or entheogenic as the ultimate chthonic illuminating groundswell of numinous reality, unbound from traditional religious assumptions.


Religion raises a serious dilemma for spirituality[78] as a pursuit, because most of its perspective is underpinned by assumptions arising from existing religious viewpoints – memes which we now perceive to have a potentially distorting parasitic influence on the nature of spiritual and mystical experiences, even when these are in the first person.


Notions, from God as creator, or legislator, to traditional notions of universal consciousness such as Brahman, all carry type-casting interpretations of spiritual identity. It is one thing to experience forms of transcendence and describe them metaphorically as experiences in terms of notions like Brahman, but it is another thing to a priori declare to third parties that they are evidential facts. They can be empirically verified by mutual affirmation of first person subjective experiences between people in mystical states discovering a commonality, just as the Huichol do experiencing the nierika on the peyote hunt. One of the great advantages of entheogenic experience is that it does not have to come with any pre-conceived spiritual assumptions although it is frequently associated with spiritual movements. To have any real potential to understand the nature of consciousness deep in the well of non-ordinary experience, it is absolutely necessary for the spiritually inclined to cleanse themselves of all 'parasitic' memes, such as assumptions about the nature of God or divinity, if they hope to experience genuine moksha, or samadhi.


In fact discarding memes is central to meditative practices promoting ego loss and is integral to the entheogenic effects of psychedelics. Anil Seth (2019) has argued that all perception is a form of controlled predictive hallucination evoked by the conscious brain. Dreams fall even more clearly into this category as well as claims about waking entheogenic visions, for which the term hallucinogen is a synonym of psychedelic. This implies that all religious beliefs in God are robust conceptual hallucinations reinforced by memes of affirmative belief, which are thus not physically or cosmologically real. Erasing personal history is a technique advocated by Carlos Castaneda (1968), who also sees man's idea of God as a robust transfixing "hallucination", that stymies the vision quest, while spirit is an ally to be enticed and commanded in its pursuit:


Warriors know that the assemblage point is the place where perception is assembled within the structure of the luminous cocoon; the assemblage point is the crucial feature of human beings as luminous entities. Warriors know that they must train themselves to do two transcendental things: first, to conceive of the assemblage point, and second, to make that assemblage point move.  Warriors know that their assemblage points become dislodged from their original positions through confrontations with the nagual. Warriors know that man's idea of God is one of the most sturdy aspects of the human inventory which binds the assemblage point to its original position. The spirit is an abstract which warriors know without words or thoughts, yet without the slightest desire to understand it, warriors recognise and command the spirit; they beckon it, they entice it, they become familiar with it, and they express it in their acts; when warriors command the spirit, they in essence command the movement of the assemblage point. (Tomas 1995).


This is a scientific consciousness research question – what is the actual connection between brain states and spirituality generally? The neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran (Ramachandran & Blakeslee 1998)  referred to the part of the cortex between the limbic system and amydala, on the one hand, and the temporal cortex on the other as the ‘god spot’. The amygdala is the organ of emotional dynamics, from fight and flight, through paranoia to ecstasy, joy and fulfilment. The temporal lobe contains our sense of semantic and symphonic significance. Temporal lobe epilepsy can generate profound spiritual and religious feelings, experienced as states of epiphany by the subject or complex dream like situations. The neuroscientist Michael Persinger had had a similar experience using targeted temporal lobe stimulation, which came to be called the God helmet. This taps into neural circuits associated with the tempero-parietal junction, involving the sense of self which have come to be associated with the default mode network.


However, Aaen-Stockdale (2012) notes:


As Vilayanur Ramachandran, himself a proponent of a temporal lobe link, says, the changes that have triggered these patientsreligious fervour could be occurring anywhere, not necessarily in the temporal lobes(Ramachandran & Blakeslee, 1998, p.187). Neuropsychiatrist and expert on near-death experiences, Peter Fenwick concludes: It is likely that the earlier accounts of temporal lobe epilepsy and temporal lobe pathology and the relationship to mystic and religious states owe more to the enthusiasm of their authors than to the true scientific understanding of the nature of temporal lobe functioning.


Robin Dunbar (2022) notes that the default mode network is associated both with mentalisation, and the ability of an individual to maintain a rich group of interpersonal associations:


The default mode network (including the theory of mind network) is a group of brain regions that interconnect directly with each other through major fibre tracts (the bundles of neurons that provide the wiring of the brain). It involves four main brain units. The prefrontal cortex right at the front of the brain (an area broadly associated with both rational thought and the interpretation of emotional cues), the temporo-parietal junction (a small region just behind and above the ear where the parietal and temporal lobes meet that is strongly associated with responses to living beings), parts of the temporal lobe (the brain’s sausage- like extension along the side just inside the ear, associated mainly with memory storage) and the limbic system, especially the amygdala (which is responsible for processing emotional cues). This large neural network is heavily involved in interpreting social and emotional cues, and in managing our relationships. … We and others have shown, in a number of neuroimaging studies, that the size of the network correlates with both your mentalizing competences and the number of friends you have.


He then goes on to suggest this relates to two completely different types of religious engagement:


To explore the mentalizing bases of religious belief in more depth, nearly 300 people were asked to complete a set of questionnaires that measured their mentalizing skills, the effectiveness of their agency detection mechanism, their schizotypal tendencies and their religious beliefs and behaviours (religiosity). Agency detection is the tendency to attribute human (or at least sentient) traits to non-living matter. Schizotypal thinking is the tendency to have unusual perceptual experiences (seeing ghosts or hearing voices) and disorganized thought processes, and has been explicitly linked to religiosity. The results of this study suggest that mentalizing positively influences religiosity quite independently of agency detection and schizotypal thinking, both of which are extremely closely correlated. In fact, people who are predisposed to schizotypal thinking tend to have an unusually active hyperactive agency detection mechanism. This suggests that you can be religious either because you are prone to seeing visions or because you can reflect deeply on the mental states of God in his transcendental world. This is interesting because it suggests there might be two types of religious people who engage in two very different types of religion – reactive religion and reflective religion, or as I put it in Chapter 1, shamanic/immersive religion versus doctrinal religion (Powell et al. 2010, 2012).


But the default mode network is also associated with ego-consciousness rehearsing strategies to deal with imagined crises, which can become obsessive in depressive people. Paradoxically, a reduction of activity in the default mode network was noted by Carhart-Harris et al (2012a) in experiments with psilocybin experiences, associated with peak spiritual experiences in which the distinction between self and other became blurred and has become signature of study of the psychedelic experience.


Fig 150: (a) Accentuation of the default mode network including the precuneus (p) and tempero-parietal juntion (t) on resting state and reduction on experimental tasks (Raichle & Snyder 2007). (b) Left: Consistent reduction in default mode network activity left in psilocybin (Carhart-Harris 2012a) and right engaging Awareness, Loving-Kindness, and Concentration meditations (Brewer et al. 2011). Note the increased richness of the psilocybin effect. Right: Study of Carmelite nuns shows activity more consistent with focused concentration (Beauregard & Paquette 2006 ) lacking quiescence of the precuneus. (c), (d) Brain networks to and from the precuneus (Zhang & Li 2012, Wikipedia)


Here are a few key points from Wikipedia's Precuneus page:

Functional imaging has linked the precuneus to the processes involved in self-consciousness, such as reflective self-awareness, that involve rating one's own personality traits compared to those judged of other people.

Electrical stimulation of the anterior portion can induce an out of body experience.

It has been suggested that together with the posterior cingulate, the precuneus is "pivotal for conscious information processing".

It has been suggested to be the 'core node' or 'hub' of the default mode network that is activated during "resting consciousness" in which people do not engage intentionally in sensory or motor activity. This involvement in the default network is suggested to underlie its role in self-consciousness.

In addition, it is one of the areas of the brain most deactivated during slow-wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep.


The temporo-parietal junction is also known to play a crucial role in self–other distinctions processes and theory of mind (ToM). Damage to it has been implicated in having adverse effects on an individual's ability to make moral decisions and has been known to produce out-of-body experiences (OBEs).


Kabalistic Ein-Sof is like Brahman as formless archaic ultimate reality, but of course Ein-Sof is far more recent, dating essentially from 1000 AD so belief in primitive YHVH came first and then people later in the overlap of Gnostic, Kabalistic and Eastern thinking ,which is also permeated with Neoplatonism had to make a regress to explain the ultimate numinous experience in terms of the formless infinite, out of which all form emerges.


Now suppose we think of my soul" meeting Brahman in my psychedelic moksha, as a singular peak experience. Neuroscience shows this comes back to the precuneus which seems to harbour our notions of self.


Idealistic i.e. consciousness first notions of cosmic mind and infinite formless deity are actually a neuroscientific product of the mystical state, so the only way we can really understand them is to elucidate their basis both physically in neurobiology and subjectively in conscious experience together, understanding that these are NOT just two sides of the same coin as Ram suggests in neutral monism, but a deep revelatory interactive process. Symbiotic Exstential Cosmology above all aims at cosmic understanding in which these two complements together consciousness and universe are the only way to realise the revelatory condition because it's a manifestation of cosmology, not just spirituality.


The mere fact that these peak states can be provoked both  by meditation and particularly under influence of entheogens means that they are influenced by physical circumstances in the brain, not just supreme conscious forces and indeed whether Kabalistic, Vedic or psychedelic mystical experiences, they are indisputably neurobiological in origin, so the organismic living biological organ is essential to mystical samadhi and moksha experience. WE know this is how the rishis discovered the notion! This is why Symbiotic Exstential Cosmology says Brahman is emergent asymptotically as a cosmological climax in the biota, rather than naive notions of a transcendent spiritual super-agent.


Now the key to this is that the mystical state represents an envelope of all the consciously experienceable dimensions of reality. Its not just the quantum vacuum or ZPF because thats just a bunch of integrated force field virtual particle fluctuations. Its the full internal model of reality invoked in subjective consciousness by the integrated brain state. This has a potentially unbounded spectrum of attributes spanning all those cortical columns which aren't just mindless unconscious physics but are the climactic quintessence of conscious complexity the entire universe is giving expression to.


In particular, the precuneus, which is hard to explore experimentally by EEG and fMRI because its deep in the central fissure, carries all the representations of self and other integrated with all the sense modes and connected widely e.g. to the insula and other areas.


This means that the infiniteness and beyond form of the ineffable experience is being mediated through the vast experiential degrees of freedom of the precuneus nexus and in particular the notions of both soul and ultimate cosmic consciousness are interactive dynamic features of the precuneus representation which when it is usually active in waking life represents the polarity of self and other but when quiescent in meditation and psychedelic moksha are representing Brahman and the atman interacting telepathically in the near death experience.


Trying to divorce the living brain and the entire physical universe and our organismic biological nature as of no account besides spiritual transcendence is an anthropocentric degeneracy of the total reality, that neglects the formative role of the universe and its forces of nature rising to critical climax in the evolving conscious biosphere. There is absolutely no point in having a physical universe and then turning around in frank denial and calling it just a mindless mechanism in favour of superstitious idealism. Quantum reality has a central part to play in this, but it is ALL the brain processes that evoke subjective consciousness through quantum uncertainty, not just Hameroff and Penrose's microtubules that may not have the claimed role at all.


This is why my experience says the conscious universe is in its own becoming, and "infinite" consciousness began as vestigial primal subjectivity in the vestigial inflationary universe and there is no primordial super-conscious skeleton in the closet of reality but us here and now trying to learn to take responsibility for our pivotal role in the divine comedy and that all the myths of a preordained deity or preexistent cosmic mind devoid of substance are as degenerate as the myth of a reductionistic mindless universe.


Griffiths et al. (2006, 2008, 2018) have showed that psilocybin can induce genuine mystical experiences, resulting in beneficial effects lasting months later and combined the use of psilocybin with meditation and other spiritual practices, in quantum change experiments of lasting benefit, echoing the way in which movements such as the Native American Church and the Union Vegetale provide a spiritually conducive context to engender positive outcome.


Justin Brewer has also found a similar default mode reduction in people meditating (Brewer et al. 2011). Zen meditation studies (Pagnoni et al 2008, Ritskes et al 2003) in which subjects are asked to switch from a verbal task to contemplation show transient activity consistent with the default circuit which is more quickly suppressed by experienced meditators more effectively inhibiting verbal thought. Tibetan Buddhists performing compassion meditation for other people's suffering show specific activation in limbic regions including cingulate cortex and insula, consistent with an empathic response to another's pain (Lutz et al 2008). This presents the central arena of neuroscience research on "mystical experience" with or without a religious context.


There are also studies reporting a variety of changes in brain activity resulting from religious and contemplative activities. Patrick McNamara (2009) in "The Neuroscience of Religious Experience" makes a claim that religious believers show a superiority of integrated self-hood, associated with an 'anatomical overlap between the brain sites implicated in religious experience and the brain sites implicated in the sense of Self and self-consciousness'. It is this anatomical overlap that explains how religious experience can facilitate the transformative process of the self.


McNamara (2002) claims people engage in religious practices, in part, because these activate the frontal lobes:


Activation of the frontal lobes is both intrinsically rewarding and necessary for acquisition of many of the behaviors that religions seek to foster, including self-responsibility, impulse and emotion modulation, empathy, moral insight, hope, and optimism.


This claim is specious, as frontal lobes are essential for all activity. Critiquing his thesis Schjoedt (2011) states:


McNamara's claim that there is overlap between the brain sites implicated in religious experience and those implicated in the sense of self and self-consciousness rests on two postulates: (1) that the 'executive Self' can be identified as a neural entity in specific regions of the brain; and (2) that the neural correlates of religious experience can be identified as a consistent set of activations in these regions. Although McNamara is clearly well informed in terms of functional neuroanatomy, he fails to make a convincing argument for his first postulate regarding the existence of the self as a controlling entity at the neurological level. This is unfortunate because his claim that religious experience decenters the self from its control over body and cognition in order to contemplate and optimize the self rests on this assumption. Furthermore, with respect to his second postulate, since the data currently available do not afford a description of religious experience as a uniform category, it is difficult to see how this evidence can support McNamara's general understanding of the nature and function of religious experience.


McNamarra's hypothesis, as summarised in his own words, would clearly make methamphetamine the "God" molecule:


To intensify the 'god effect' in people already attracted to religious ideas, my studies revealed, all we had to do was boost the activity of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, crucial for balanced emotion and thought, on the right side of the brain. But should dopamine spike too high, murderous impulses like terrorism and jihad could rear up instead.


He incorrectly implicates psychedelics as dopamine agents when their activity is on serotonin 5HT2a receptors coupled to mGluR2 metabotropic glutamate receptors and displays a prejudice against traditional forms of religious practice such as shamanism, treating the renowned Huichol use of peyote as superfluous to their spiritual tradition: :


The Huichol Indians practice a form of ecstatic religion, but you do not need peyote or any other drug to experience religious ecstasy. Most scholars of religion believe that the earliest forms of religion were "ecstatic" – that is, religious practices were designed to induce a transformation in the sense of Self to commune with the gods, to experience a sense of euphoria and well-being, and to acquire new personal powers (such as the power to heal others, foresee the future, or communicate with the spirit world). The combination of self-transformation, joy, well-being or euphoria, and personal power defines the ecstatic religious mind and the essential psychological elements in all religions.


Although he claims he is "not very religious" (Kreiter 2011), McNamara (2014) strongly advocates religion, as a means for cultural control of human nature, even to the point of selecting for genetically compliant populations and avoiding adolescent risky behaviour (McNamara et al. 2010), consistent with religion as a defence against perceived autonomous risk:


I think one of the things that religion does when it's working properly is it strengthens the prefrontal lobes. All those practices that the religious people tell their adherents to do — like prayer, ritual, abstaining from alcohol, controlling your impulses — strengthen the ability of frontal lobes to control primitive impulses. … If you've got a cultural system that produces people who are reliable, who cooperate, who are relatively honest and trustworthy, who can control their impulses, who are good parents, who abstain from ingesting addictive substances — if a cultural system does that on a consistent basis over the centuries, that's a pretty valuable system.


Mario Beauregard and co-researchers (Beauregard & Paquette 2006) have similarly explored the neural activity of Carmelite nuns entering oneness with God and report fMRI activations in areas in very specific frontal, parietal, temporal and basal areas consistent with directed control. In doing so, they have unfortunately invented a criterion they call RSME:


The main objective of this novel domain of research is to explore the neural underpinnings of religious/spiritual/mystical experiences (RSMEs). These experiences relate to a fundamental dimension of human existence and are frequently reported across all cultures. One of the basic assumptions of spiritual neuroscience is that RSMEs are brain-mediated, as are all other aspects of human experience. With respect to this issue, it is of paramount importance to fully appreciate that elucidating the neural substrates of these experiences does not diminish or depreciate their meaning and value, and that the external reality of "God" can neither be confirmed nor disconfirmed by delineating the neural correlates of RSMEs.


While I support the non-materialist view of consciousness, in Beauregard's introduction to "The Spiritual Brain" (Beauregard & O'Leary 2007) he states an unashamed quasi-religious agenda:


Our book will establish three key ideas. The non-materialist approach to the human mind is a rich and vital tradition that accounts for the evidence much better than the currently stalled materialist one. Second, non-materialist approaches to the mind result in practical benefits and treatments, as well as promising approaches to phenomena that materialist accounts cannot even address. Lastly—and this may be the most important value for many readers—our book shows that when spiritual experiences transform lives, the most reasonable explanation and the one that best accounts for all the evidence, is that the people who have such experiences have actually contacted a reality outside themselves, a reality that has brought them closer to the real nature of the universe.


However RSME conflates what anyone can see are diverse and potentially conflicting notions, with religion at one extreme promoting moral avoidance of risk and mysticism at the other invoking first person transformative experiences which religions may perceive to be disruptive to the status quo or even heretical. While they state these to be "Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns" their tasks were both memorisation:


In the Mystical condition, subjects were asked to remember and relive (eyes closed) the most intense mystical experience ever felt in their lives as a member of the Carmelite Order. This strategy was adopted given that the nuns told us before the onset of the study that "God can't be summoned at will." In the Control condition, subjects were instructed to remember and relive (eyes closed) the most intense state of union with another human ever felt in their lives while being affiliated with the Carmelite Order.


Notably (Beauregard & O'Leary 2007) focus on mystical states connected only with religion and psychedelics are mentioned only once associated with "other cultures":


Mystical experiences can be grouped into general categories; most fall into one of three general types: monistic mysticism, pantheistic mysticism, and theistic mysticism. Monistic mysticism is the mystical experience of sensing that the created universe revolves around a center from which everything issues. In pantheistic mysticism mystics sense that the entire external world is the ultimate power and the experiencer is part of that power. In theistic mysticism one senses the presence of the highest power in the universe or a power from beyond the universe…….Now, from a scientific perspective, the proposition is quite simple. Either there are levels of consciousness that give us greater insight into our relationship to the reality underlying our universe or there aren't. If they exist, we can either reach them or we can't. If we do reach them, we either learn something or we don't……Why access deep and unusual levels of consciousness? Mystics' explanations depend on their spiritual and other commitments, but there is a common thread. They believe that some fundamental facts about reality can never be correctly understood apart from observations made at this level. If mind is a fundamental character of the universe, as mystics believe, then the investigation must involve at least some experiments of mind-and the only mind mystics can volunteer is their own. (Beauregard and O'Leary 2007, pp. 182-184)


The differences in brain activity they detected were:


Significant loci of activation in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules, right caudate, left medial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brainstem. Other loci of activation were seen in the extra-striate visual cortex. These results suggest that mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems.


These are not dissimilar to the cited results of Newberg et al. (2003) in which Franciscan nuns were at prayer involving the internal repetition of a particular phrase:


Compared to rest, the prayer state showed increased rCBF in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the inferior frontal lobes, and the inferior parietal lobule (IPL). In addition, the rCBF change in the left PFC showed an inverse correlation with that in the ipsilateral superior parietal lobule (SPL). Changes in SPL activity were interpreted as reflecting an altered sense of the body schema experienced during the prayer state.


Nickel et al. (2001) likewise reported that:


During religious recitation, self-identified religious subjects activated a frontal/parietal circuit, composed of the dorsolateral prefrontal, dorsomedial frontal and medial parietal cortex.


Travis & Parim (2017) produced similar results for transcendental meditation, which appear to be inconsistent with other forms of meditation and with the association with mystical states in quantum change experiences:


Regression analysis of years TM practice and self-reported transcendental experiences (lack of time, space and body sense) during meditation practice was flat. Those practicing Transcendental Meditation for 1 month reported as much transcending as those with 5 years of practice. ... The comparison of eyes-closed rest/task and TM practice/task identified similar areas of activation: theta and alpha activation during rest and TM in the posterior cingulate and precuneus, part of the default mode network, and beta activation during the task in anterior cingulate, ventral lateral and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices, part of the central executive network. In addition, comparison of rest and TM identified higher beta temporal activation during rest and higher theta orbi-tofrontal activation during TM. Thus, it does not seem accurate to include TM practice with meditations in the category of Focused Attention, which are characterized by gamma EEG and DMN deactivation.


Each of these studies show activations broadly consistent with both ordered religious thought. In the Carmelite case, anterior cingulate activity is actually increased, inconsistent with the default network reduction associated with mystical experience. Again this is a memory task, quite different from having a direct transformative experience in the forms shared by the entheogenic research and meditative states reported above.


In contrast and more consistent with the entheogenic and meditative studies, Brick J et al. (2012) report:


A frontal-parietal circuit related to spiritual-religious experiences, and specifically that a decreased focus on the self (i.e., selflessness), is associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, serves as the primary neuropsychological foundation for spiritual transcendence.


Much earlier Kokoszka (1999) had proposed two categories of altered conscious states – Superficially Altered States of Consciousness (SACS) and Profoundly Altered States of Consciousness (PASC). PASC are accompanied by extremely strong positive emotions and are experienced with significantly less feelings of cognitive disturbances than in SASC. PASC occur mainly in the context of religion, whereas SASC in everyday life, solitude, and poor well being, but these predate the current neuroscience research involving non-religious mystical states.


Miller (2004) notes of quantum change experiences that these are not necessarily religious, but still transcendent:


"The person typically experiences mystical quantum change passively, not a product of personal will or control, and has a difficult time expressing the experience in words. They usually are intensely positive, joyful experiences, and often the person senses the presence of an awe-inspiring transcendent Other. Often there is a noetic element of revelation, a sudden knowing of a new truth. An experience of unity is common; for example, an ineffable oneness with all of humankind, with nature, or the universe. In these respects, the mystical type of quantum change is similar to common reports of near-death experiences (Lorimer 1990).


However none of these studies go any way towards confirming a transcendental hypothesis for traditional religious practices as a divine manifestation.


Newberg (2016), in the context of Judaism, highlights three dilemmas about how the religions may relate to cognitive processes each of which point to unresolved existential ambiguities:


Willfulness: Willfulness is another important brain process related to religion, and particularly Judaism. There is a strong sense of the willfulness of God and also the willfulness of a person. The notion of free will is an important element of Jewish tradition, and this is based heavily on our brain's ability to perceive that sense of willfulness.


Love and anger: Religions can foster great love and cohesion among congregants. But religions can also espouse fear and anger at those who do not adhere to the same religious beliefs.


Existence: The final cognitive process to be mentioned is the existential process which helps us to identify things which do and do not ex- ist. At this point, cognitive neuroscience has not identified the areas of the brain that help us to perceive what is real and what is not. Clearly, the human brain can do this, but the brain can also be fooled such as when we are entertained by a magician. The existential process is critical in the larger dialogue regarding God since many people believe in God's existence and many do not. How is it that one brain can be absolutely convinced God exists while another brain, looking at the same world, can be absolutely convinced God does not exist?


Thus while free-will is central, the love-hate cohesion-division axis remains unresolved, as does the entire existential status of God..


(7) Religions display Extreme Paradigm Change Resistance. In a diversity of religions, almost impossible barriers are erected to prevent natural paradigm innovation.


Jesus is represented in the Gospels and Revelation as a super-human son of man become the cosmic Son of God as alpha and omega the beginning and the end of the entire created universe.  This is an intentional construction of the church fathers, arising out of the Hellenistic heroic tradition, emphasised by Yeshua’s Dionysian miraculous nature and laced with warnings of false prophets that he will return on the right hand of Power. 


Muhammad is likewise cast as the final prophet, with prophetic pretenders accused of blasphemy. To give an example, the Bahai faith has three central figures: (1) The Báb (1819–1850), a herald who taught that God would soon send a prophet in the same way as Jesus or Muhammad, and who was executed by Iranian authorities in 1850. (2) Baháʼulláh (1817–1892)  who claimed to be that prophet, was born in Iran and was exiled due to his adherence to the messianic Bábí Faith. In 1863, in Iraq, he first announced his claim to revelation from God, and spent the rest of his life in further imprisonment in the Ottoman Empire. (3) His son, ʻAbdu'l-Bahá (1844–1921). At the age of eight his father was imprisoned during a government crackdown on the Bábí Faith and the family's possessions were looted, leaving them in virtual poverty. His father was exiled from Iran, and the family went to live in Baghdad. They were later called by the Ottoman state to Istanbul before going into another period of confinement. He remained a political prisoner there until the Young Turk Revolution freed him in 1908 at the age of 64. The Bahai Faith is the largest religious minority in Iran, but the Islamic government has never formally recognised the Bahais. The persecution of Bahais is largely due to the perceived political threat posed to the Islamic state by another widely practiced religion. Iranian laws protect the human rights of religious minorities, except those that conspire against Islam. In direct opposition to the Bahai belief that all religions are important components of a larger world religion, Iranian officials, religious leaders and the media position the Bahais as a direct threat to the practice of Islam and the survival of Iran.


The few major paradigm revolutions that have occurred, remain outstanding for their violence. The transition of  Hebrew worship to Christianity was achieved only through Yeshua’s crucifixion during times of apocalyptic conflict. Likewise the transition to Islam was accompanied by a genocide of Jewish men in the souk of Medina. By contrast, Buddhism emerged from the Hindu tradition apparently without bloodshed. Even smaller shifts such as the Reformation, which maintains the core principle of Christian faith unchanged, occurred during tumult, corruption and violence. Finally we come down to the endless religious sects, numbering in the hundreds to thousands.


(8) Religious Views of Nature and Sexuality are in Fundamental Conflict with Reality


While Symbiotic Existential Cosmology doesn't deny outright that some form of super-consciousness could be co-eval with the universe, it does consider that existing religious traditions and concepts of God are in conflict with symbiotic climax living diversity as the central expression of consciousness found in the biota. The idea of absolute cosmological morality ordained by a monotheistic God or by Karmic Law flies in fundamental conflict with the biological and eco-systemic reality that morality is an evolved sociobiological trait, to aid inter-social dominance, by inhibiting intra-social competition, founded not in prescriptive rules and their transgression, but an intuitive sense of fair play.


Fig 158a: In a fairness study video by Frans de Waal, socially acquainted capuchins are offered either cucumber or grape if they give the experimenter a stone. If they both receive cucumber, both are happy but the moment one gets a grape and the other gets only a cucumber, fair play is violated and the disadvantaged one on the left gets mad and throws the cucumber at the experimenter, hitting them on the left shoulder.


Natural morality arises from a sense of “fair play”. Intelligent animal societies engage in strategic bluffing to try to gain social advantages, and animals, from large-brained monkeys like capuchins and macaques, as well as dogs and intelligent birds, quickly gain a long-term understanding of one another’s personalities, to ensure fair play, and react with hostility in forms of altruistic punishment if they sense they are being “played” by another. Capuchin species, like humans, also adopt cultural traditions of tool use (Barrett et al. 2018). Capuchin monkeys respond strategically to multiple scenarios (Smith et al. 2019) requiring both coordination (Assurance Game) and anticoordination (HawkDove Game), beneficial cooperation with a temptation to defect (Prisoner's Dilemma) and an environment requiring changing strategies within short temporal proximity (Alternating Economic Game). Likewise Macaques show adaptive strategies of social engagement depending on individual prowess (Zhao et al. 2023). These attest to both an intuitive sense of morality and the capacity for the same forms of conscious decision-making volition, we describe as free-will, but they are NOT religiously ordained!


Founding human societies that have lived for millennia in small bands, spend a great deal of time assessing one anothers character and trustworthiness in social interactions and discussions round the camp fire, so that they know who they can depend on in times of crisis. This, not divinely ordained doctrine, is the foundation of human morality – something I call "verifiable trust".


As discussed in the next section, our longest standing culture, the San Bushmen, do not invoke the notion of absolute morality, but rather an acceptance of the value of sexual opportunities, amid a sense of practicality that applies to issues like sharing versus stealing which directly affect the harmony and stability of the small bands upon which everyone’s lives rely, while the deities are not morally prescriptive  and are not cast in terms of absolute good and evil.


When a missionary inquired into a Bushman's ideas of good and bad he was told

it was 'good' to sleep with another man's wife, but 'bad' if he slept with yours.


It is only with the emergence of dominant human culture  in larger urban societies, succeeding the gather-hunter epoch, where there is no longer any natural biospheric feedback on defection, that individual choices become subsumed under religious doctrine to enable large societies to dominate others, by repressing individual choice through punitive doctrine in the dictated common interest, but at a high cost.


Both Creationism, the widespread religious notion that the universe was created by a divine act of God and that of the Day of Judgment, as a final act, likewise arise from the emergence of human manufacturing culture, involving tools, weapons, wheels and struts for building, surrounded by animal husbandry and agriculture, so that we arrive at notions of God creating humanity by moulding from clay, breathing life into the dust of the Earth through prana, or the verbal commands that leaders invoke – “Let there be light!”


Fig 158b: The Code of Hammurabi 1792-1750 BCE shows both that, although “ordained” by Shamash, the Laws were codified by a secular ruler Hammurabi, not a priest as Moses was, and that the very notion of judgment under the law, is a creation of culture, not deity.


Likewise the notion of a day of judgment is a cultural construct of an urban society having established prescriptive laws, which are then invoked scripturally as divine prohibitions such as "thou shalt not commit adultery", as in Moses' Ten Commandments and both Deuteronomic Law and its predecessor, the secular Code of Hammurabi. Religions do articulate moral prescriptions that figure prominently in evolutionary strategy, and so exemplify underlying natural morality. The Hebrew "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is a highly successful prisoners' dilemma strategy of tit-for-tat, which however leads to cycles of defection, refined in later more generalised notions, such as the silver and golden rules "do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you" pronounced by Rabbi Hillel, reciting the Torah standing on one foot, and Yeshua's assertive "do unto others what you would have them do unto you", cited by Jesus as both the law and the prophets.


Nevertheless Isaiah's notions of absolute compassionate righteousness do result in root contradictions with nature:


But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins (Isa 11 1-5).


These notions of divine justness are unnatural and immediately become a religious invocation to assert a reversal of biospheric diversification into animals and plants, carnivores and herbivores:


The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. (Isa 11 6-8).


Fig 158c: Isaiah 11 Inset and in the far distance,

the cockatrice, a mythical winged dragon.


There is no such thing as natural evil, because evolution promotes biological diversity and biospheric abundance even through the rough justice of tooth and claw and parasites and disease. Just as plants directly fix incoming solar energy and animals have evolved to live off their consumption, thus favouring plant diversity by animals evolving to consume the weedy species also  aiding plant seed dispersal and promoting fertilisation, so carnivores act to keep the herbivores from boom and bust of pastoral famines, and the Red Queen race of parasites and prey has given rise to organismic sexuality to resist epidemic extinctions, by introducing individual variation, when parthenogenesis is unviable long-term due to Muller’s ratchet of mutational decay. Inevitably, although with some irony, this has resulted in the dilemma of organismic mortality, but sexual reproduction is the most altruistic form of reproduction conceivable, without which higher species could not have evolved. These all attest to a much wider, wilder reality in nature than any God of righteous order would ordain to occur.


But the above passages are enclosed in emphatic parentheses by what Christians claim to be a key prophecy of Christ, stemming from King David's father Jesse as a Davidic messiah, consecrating his cosmic destiny from the very origin:


And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord (Isa 11 1-2).


They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,
as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people;
to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious (Isa 11 9-10).


Taking a step back, we see that one of the most compassionate and harmonious visions of the prophets, claimed to be evidence for the cosmological coming of Christianity are founded on the root violation of natural diversity.


But the entire edifice of Monotheistic cosmology is set around a false notion of the entire universe and space-time itself as a moral test of Homo sapiens as an elite, quasi divine encultured species, in dominion over a brutal nature of tooth and claw that cannot tell good from evil, by a creator deity that then destroys the entire universe in a "Day of Judgment" over the sins of each and every human being to an eternal life of divine pleasure and fulfilment in Heaven or to be cast into the fires of Hell. This is where the religious violation of nature becomes all-encompassing and diabolical. This entire claim is erroneous because it is in central conflict with the way the natural universe manifests, in which there is no over-weaning rule of moral order, but emerges from complexity at the edge of chaos.


Like cultural laws of judgment, the concept that animals do not have "free will" to make astute judgments over their fates to survive and care for their offspring is not a divine law separating humans as elite from animals, but a distorted product of human language and culture and the knowledgable ability of human beings to choose to transgress culturally and religiously ordained doctrine, which other animals do not, despite being subjectively conscious intentional sentient beings, just as we are. This right of autonomous choice, which we humans associate with free will, is also the very foundation of democratic protest and social paradigm change.


Turning to the troubled question of sex as the source of biological immortality in the eternal afterlife, one quoted Jewish opinion, the least divergent from the view of Symbiotic Existential Cosmology, runs as follows:


The simple answer, as others have already pointed out, is that there is no sex in heaven because heaven refers to a nonphysical existence and sex is a physical activity. Nevertheless, traditional sources often describe the pleasures of Heaven in corporeal terms. The Zohar, in one passage, says (if I recall correctly) that every night the souls of righteous husbands and wives join together in sexual congress. Traditional Jewish sources indicate that sexual desire is actually rooted in a deeper spiritual drive, and that the pleasure of physical sex is only a pale reflection of the pleasure achieved through fulfilling that true spiritual desire. It is important to understand that "Heaven" actually plays a relatively minor role in the Jewish understanding of the afterlife. The ultimate destiny of the afterlife is the resurrection, when the physical world will be perfected and the righteous will return to eternal physical life in this world. In that world, sexual intercourse will certainly be possible, but the need and desire for physical pleasure will no longer exist.


Fig 158d: Christian views of heaven and Hell (see also Memling’s “Day of Judgment” fig 209. Top: Christ the Redeemer in Glory with the Heavenly Host Niccolo Circignani Il Pomarancio (1588) and The Pilgrims ascend, (c 1910) from "The Pilgrim's Progress," John Bunyan. Bottom: The Last Judgment - Giovanni da Modena, depicts the fate of Muhammad, bound to a rock in Hell, centre right, being clawed by demons. It has been the subject of a thwarted terror attack. Stairway to heaven “Jacob’s Ladder” William Blake.


The Christian view, that in heaven, there is no sex, no children, just winged angels, stems from the Eden account. Although the sabbatical creation of Genesis 1 is by no means the oldest chapter of the Bible and was possibly crafted in the Exile in refuting the Babylonian creation from Tiamat and Marduk, to appease the dictates of Cyrus in accepting the return of the Jews, the Fall from Eden, is ancient, ostensibly written around 950 BCE. In it humanity is implied to have lost their innocent divinity at the hands of Eve heeding the Serpent and persuading Adam to eat the forbidden fruit "to make one wise". Their loss of innocence, covering their genitals with fig leaves then sets in motion the Fall:


And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed

it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel

Unto the woman he said I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception

in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee

And unto Adam he said Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife and hast eaten of the tree

of which I commanded thee saying Thou shalt not eat of it

cursed is the ground for thy sake in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee and thou shalt eat the herb of the field

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the ground

for out of it wast thou taken for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return

And Adam called his wife's name Eve because she was the mother of all living

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins and clothed them

And the LORD God said Behold the man is become as one of us to know good and evil

and now lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live for ever.


ואיבה ׀ אשיתבינךוביןהאשהוביןזרעךוביןזרעההואישופךראשואתהתשופנועקב׃ס

אל־האשה אמרהרבהארבהעצבונךוהרנךבעצבתלדיבניםואל־אישךתשוקתךוהואימשל־בך׃ס

ולאדם אמרכי־שמעתלקולאשתךותאכלמן־העץאשר

וקוץ ודרדרתצמיחלךואכלתאת־עשבהשדה׃

בזעת אפיךתאכללחםעדשובךאל־האדמהכיממנהלקחתכי־עפראתהואל־עפרתשוב׃

ויקרא האדםשםאשתוחוהכיהואהיתהאםכל־חי׃

ויעש יהוהאלהיםלאדםולאשתוכתנותעורוילבשם׃פ

ויאמר ׀ יהוהאלהיםהןהאדםהיהכאחדממנולדעתטובורעועתה
 ׀ פן־ישלח ידוולקחגםמעץהחייםואכלוחילעלם׃


This curse of יהוה (Jehovah) has multiple components:

(1)   Enmity between woman and man and their seed invoking sexually-antagonistic co-evolution.

(2)   Biological conception and birth, with women travail in the pains of childbirth.

(3)   Patriarchal domination by the husband over the wife, repressing female reproductive choice.

(4)   Adversarial dominion over nature in conquering the wilderness in animal husbandry and agriculture.

(5)   Biological mortality – dust to dust.

(6)   Adam names Eve for her fecundity of all life, as the mother of all living, initiating sexual reproduction.

(7)   God clothes them in the tokens of civilisation.

(8)   God admits that good and evil are the products of the Gods themselves who both know good and evil and have immortality, so the Tree of Immortal Life is withheld. Hence nature in Eden was not of itself evil, even from the human pair, neither was it necessarily for sex itself,  until they eat the forbidden fruit and had knowledge of transgressing Yahweh’s prohibition.


These in themselves constitute a massive frontal attack on natural cosmology. The ultimate conclusion, nevertheless is that natural evil does not exist, but good and evil emerge from culture and religion, due to the loss of biospheric symbiosis in the cultural epoch, in which human cultural psychopathy has no antidote, except by obeying the moral commandments of prescriptive religion. This leaves the actual status of both sexual reproduction and mortality unclarified, and is in effect cursing nature for the link between the two, while it is clear this is the curse of the gods. Sex thus becomes recognised as the source of biological mortality, and woman as the cause of it all, targeted by Augustine as the “devil’s gateway”.


Jesus is claimed in the Gospels to have recognised Eden in rejecting divorce:


But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Mark 10).


When they asked him which one of seven brothers who wedded a wife on Earth and died would marry the wife in heaven, Jesus answered unto them (Matt 22:29)


Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage,

but are as the angels of God in heaven.


Πλανᾶσθε μὴ εἰδότες τὰς γραφὰς μηδὲ τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ Θεοῦ.

ἐν γὰρ τῇ ἀναστάσει οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτε γαμίζονται ἀλλ' ὡς
ἄγγελοι ‹θεοῦ› ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ εἰσιν.


This results in the notion that there will be no sex in Heaven in the epoch of eternal life, so that people as angels have wings to fly in the "heavens", but do not and cannot be said to have sex, or to reproduce offspring. This becomes a tragic fallacy of divine thinking, because the natural creative process of sexual variation and the evolution of novelty, just as Homo sapiens evolved from the primates, loses all meaning and any explanation. Timeless eternal life in heaven is inconsistent with the temporally elapsing physical universe in which we consciously exist and the biological reality of the biosphere in which humanity coexists. You can neither think, nor experience, let alone pronounce the Logos, unless time elapses. It is inconceivable for all the organisms born throughout cosmic history to have eternal life, in an imaginary Heaven, as angels dancing on the head of a pin. By contrast the generations of life ARE perennially immortal, through recombinational resilience against mutational entropy. It is fallacious cosmology to envisage that innocent people of all ages, babies to centenarians in their dotage, will go to heaven to become eternal angels of not any given biological age at all, each with wings to fly in the heavens, when we know that outer space is a vacuum where wings provide no lift.


This patriarchal view emerged from a Yahwistic Hebrew context in which circumcision was the required male sacrifice to the abstract male deity, invoking male sexuality itself as the sacred procreational force:


At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at Gibeath Haaraloth – the hill of the foreskins (Joshua 5).


Fig 158e: Timna: Hathor Egyptian period, Phallic Teraphim and 'Nehustan' from Midianite period.


This occurred despite Jewish descent being through the mother, having been so since the time of Laban, when the teraphim or house gods were stolen by Rachel hiding them under her menstrual skirts to found Jacob’s patriliny:


Then Laban went out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent. Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not. And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images (Gen31).


Overthrowing a tolerant phase of Arabic culture, in which in Mecca was a pilgrimage centre for diverse beliefs, Muhammad ordained the smashing of the 360 astral idols, including images of Jesus and Mary, leaving only the black stone, believed to be of astronomical origin in the Ka’aba when there and in the surrounding centres such as Taif, were shrines to the three Goddesses al-Lat, the ancient consort of al-Llah noted in inscriptions in the Sinai desert, along with al-Uzza and Manat, who had figured prominently in Nabatean Edom in the time of Yeshua were overthrown. Islam under Muhammad, attempted to solve the dilemma of inconsistency of eternal life with sexual desire and natural reproduction of biological offspring, by focussing on the sexual pleasure of men as an ultimate enticement, turning heavenly femininity into kohl-eyed houris, celestial virgins recreated anew every day, whose bodies were translucent, so you could see right through to the marrow of their bones, but whose vaginas were nevertheless overflowing with flesh and blood enticing pleasure and delight for men with eternal erections to assuage, especially martyrs.


Fig 158f: Top: “The Harem” depicting 72 kohl-eyed houris Thomas Rowlandson and  “The Dream of the Believer”
Achille Zo. Lower: Persian miniatures of houris and the seven layered heaven dating back to Sumeria and Inanna Goddess of Heaven echoing the 360 astral idols originally in the Ka’aba and the banat Allahal-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, as accounted in the satanic verses (Armstrong 1991 113).



Allah's Apostle said, "When the Day of Resurrection approaches, the dreams of a believer will hardly fail to come true” Abu Huraira


In Islam, heaven is utterly sexy for men, with 72 houris, or black-eyed virgins made pure anew every day:


Everyone will have two wives from the houris, (who will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that)
the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh
(Hadith Al Bukhari).


" لاَ تَحَاسُدَ، لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ زَوْجَتَانِ مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ، يُرَى مُخُّ سُوقِهِنَّ مِنْ وَرَاءِ الْعَظْمِ وَاللَّحْمِ "..


Flesh and blood women, when they go to heaven become houris:


An old woman came to the messenger of God and asked, O Messenger of God make dua that God grants me entrance into Jannah. The Messenger of God replied, "O Mother, an old woman cannot enter Jannah." That woman started crying and began to leave. The Messenger of God said, "Say to the woman that one will not enter in a state of old age, but God will make all the women of Jannah young virgins. God Most High says, 'Lo! We have created them a (new) creation and made them virgins, lovers, equal in age (Al-Hasan Al-Basri)


Every male admitted into heaven will be given eternal erections and wed to 72 wives, each having libidinous sexual organs (Sunan Ibn Majah):


There is no one whom Allah will admit to Paradise but Allah will marry him to seventy-two wives, two from houris and seventy from his inheritance from the people of Hell,
all of whom will have desirable front passages [lubricious vaginas] and he will have a male member that never becomes flaccid (i.e., soft and limp) (
Abu Umamah Zuhd).


" مَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ يُدْخِلُهُ اللَّهُ الْجَنَّةَ إِلاَّ زَوَّجَهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ثِنْتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ زَوْجَةً ثِنْتَيْنِ مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ وَسَبْعِينَ مِنْ مِيرَاثِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ مَا مِنْهُنَّ وَاحِدَةٌ إِلاَّ وَلَهَا قُبُلٌ شَهِيٌّ وَلَهُ ذَكَرٌ لاَ يَنْثَنِي ".



I Dont Want My Husband to Have Heavenly Maidens”, responds to a faithful woman’s dilemma, under the banner of a veiled but seductively adorned figure::


I have read many hadiths and quranic verses regarding that men will be given the hoor al ayn (Heavenly Maidens) in Paradise. I believed that I was going to work on my faith together with my husband and Inshallah we would be together in Jannah. After reading more about the hoor al ayn, I just feel like I want to be single again and so I do not have to worry about meeting my husband in Paradise if I dont have one. It kills me from inside knowing that the one I truly love will be given other women just because of their lust of women. Im sorry but, aaothoobillah, it disgusts me. I always thought there will be no filth in Jannah, and that lust is a feeling of filth, so why will that exist there? Would it be permissible for me to separate from my husband? I feel like if I had no attachment with a spouse, then Inshallah I wouldnt need one in the hereafter.


The female Muslim counsellor Zainab bint Younus asserts:


The Hoor al-Ayn (heavenly maidens) is merely one small part of the many, many rewards of Jannah. Indeed, each believer who enters Jannah will need only think of what they want, and it will be given to them. We as believing women will receive greater than anything we can imagine in comparison to the heavenly maidens. This thought should bring a great deal of comfort to our hearts. In Islam, sexual desire and feelings of lust are not considered evil or filthy; rather, they are part of our creation, as both men and women, and there is nothing wrong about having such feelings. Ask Allah to ease your heart, to renew your faith in Him, and to make you amongst the people of Jannah with your husband.


But there are very serious contradictions in this carefully crafted view of Heaven under a male God with seemingly miraculous powers to solve all the glaring contradictions between an avowedly patriarchal religion, in which women are half the value of a man, veiled and in bondage to their male relatives and under pain of death by stoning for any autonomous reproductive choice, while men are granted explicit, unlimited, eternal sexual pleasure, and women are either consigned to be translucent houris, or given unspecified, undocumented substitute rewards.


The foundation contradictions remain. What is the meaning and purpose of unabated male sexual desire to copulate, in an eternal heaven where sexual reproduction no longer occurs? Why not higher conscious experiences of divinity transcending mere sexual infatuation, as occurs in samadhi and agape?


But the destructive anti-nature of the eschatological end-of-days becomes profoundly acute and devastating in the Day of Judgment, where in the Christian Revelation ἀποκάλυψις (apokalypsis) of John of Patmos, nature is needlessly assaulted in a triage of all life after which, the Earth and its biosphere are entirely destroyed::


Fig 158g: The Angel’s trumpet calls in Revelation invoke the triage of all living creatures to herald Christ’s return:


The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.


And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.


And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood


And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.


And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.


This might sound like temporary respite at least for the plants, but the destruction doesn’t stop there, going on to releasing homicidal plagues of heavenly angels who pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the Earth, leading to the battles of the Great Whore of Babylon, Ishtar the reviled symbol of  female-inspired fornication, and the Beast amid cosmological conflagration and the battles of the forces of light and darkness.


Time itself stands still in absolute eternity:


And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer (R 10).


Fig 150h2: "His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns".
Would you buy a used car from this man?


The avenging Lord of divine justice eventually appears:


And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (R 19).


The final Judgment takes place, referring to the book of life shared by many traditions:


And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (R 20)


Fig 158h: “The number of the beast is 666” William Blake.

All ultimately culminating in the complete destruction of both Heaven and the “late planet” Earth, in favour of a heavenly Jerusalem:


And I saw a new heaven and a new earth:

for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away;

and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city,

new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven,

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband