This is a totally new way of looking at the evolution of the human brain. It is so totally fresh, unexpected and hitherto un-thought-of that it will probably take a long time before evolutionary anthropologists and psychologists begin to take it on board; but it will make an impact, of that there is no doubt. It will be, it must be, taken very seriously in any discussion of human origins. Colin Groves: (Professor of Biological Anthropology at the School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University and author of several books including A Theory Of Human And Primate Evolution and Bones, Stones and Molecules)
We went out on the savannahs and started eating meat. The advantage we got from the fruit diet and the flavonoids, etc. started to disappear and we started to get steroidal damage to the brain. It’s his theory that especially middle aged men are testosterone damaged. “Thus by the time men get to middle age the high level of testosterone has already done its damage. The consciousness system becomes dominated by fear and from this stems the obsessive need to control. Our overarching need for security means we elect old male politicians, or they take control by violence, who spout doctrines of further control and restriction…”
By Wiesenmayer Eva on November 14, 2008
I cannot argue for or against the anthropological part, but the physiology of bipedalism in a flooded forest floor, and the neuropsychological components of the book made sense to me.
–The idea of non-DNA, but transcription dependent inheritance is sound. It means, the library is unchanged but the what, and the when of the reading changes, while passed down matrimonially from the mother to the female fetus. Sounds as a powerful explanation why the chimp and human genome has more overlap than the chimp and other primates despite the obvious phenotypical differences.
–Turning hemispheric specialization upside down is heuristic, and my favorite part. It is not an evolutionary step; it is the result of steroid induced neurodegeneration. Explains well some peculiar features of lateralization. The same thoughts are drifting the book toward spiritual waters. The idea of being under the dominance and tyranny of the degenerating side of our brain may sound decadent to some readers. Nevertheless, just look around. Don’t be misled by the hightech glitters. Technology is evolutionary, and adaptive only if keeps balance with the environment.
–It sends a powerful message: for better health eat what you may find in a rainforest (or related plants). Not even grains, corn, or potato.
–The book carries some features of conspiracy theories: i.e marshalling more evidence pro than con, and stitching them together without balancing the weight of the evidence.
–The explanation of lack of evidence is not evidence (rare fossilization in the humid rainforest), yet has some point on the bias of current theories.
–The authors try to grab too much, which is impossible without letting a good deal to slip through their fingers. E.g. the passages on baldness are funny, and a gynecologist would probably jump out of his skin at the chapter on reproduction (which also has some good points).
By Halifax Student Account on October 4, 2011
Graham Gynn and Tony Wright, are arguing that the human brain has been deteriorating over the generations and this is the reason why we are all racing towards extinction, and at a faster and faster rate; but faster than that; exponentially so, and there will be a time when the coming generations will be no more.
This is a cause for joy rather than despair, because damage implies repair; so damaged pod people it is then; and it gets better, seeing that the human brain is not working properly, the species is devolving; hence the phenomenon of Justin Beiber!
It’s very rare to stumble upon a hypothesis that just makes sense like this one does; so much so that there is no need for peer review hurrahs or a pat on the head from the citadels of orthodox science.
The way natural selection solving the riddle of the giraffe, the hypothesis Tony Write puts forward, of a damaged brain, solves the riddle of Justin Bieber (that’s enough pop jokes methinks).
We all know we are screwed. Tony Write argues that we should accept it and work our way up. Natural selection is accepted today because it is simple to understand. T. H Huxley once said of Darwin’s, “how extremely stupid not to have thought of that,” because natural selection was obvious, it just had to be pointed out. The idea of the damaged brain is like this, that is, it offers an explanation for our wretched state. Left in the Dark is the most exciting thing to come along since Darwinism.
I reckon that the idea of the species running on a damaged brain mode is an optimistic idea because it opens the possibility of a fix. We would all turn into concrete faced pessimists if we believe the orthodox paradigm; that is, the faith that human brain is at the peak of evolution. Championing this paradigm would be depressing indeed, because if the brain really is at its peak, then history is a product of this peak and history is rubbish! But if we say that we are a sick species, then we can forget history and become optimists. The world appears the Hell-hole it is because the world is a mirror of the left hemisphere.
Each person takes the limits of his or her field of vision for the limits of the world. Now how about the entire species reflecting the brain deterioration onto the world?
How would we ever know that we are a damaged species, if all we ever knew was the side of our brain that is wrapped up in the rational processing, doom and gloom cataloguing mind?
Many others have suggested this, including Terence McKenna, whose brother, Dennis, wrote the introduction for this book. Left in the Dark is an improvement on Terence McKenna’s ideas and so should be applauded for keeping a razors edge between flakiness and seriousness. I say flakiness because the book shelves are crammed with mystical mumbo jumbo.
So according the hypothesis in Left in the Dark, the human species, say about 10000 years ago, lived in a natural environment that supplied a natural abundance of fruit; this was well before the damage kicked in, and so these remote ancestors of ours, inhabited a kind of mental paradise. Seeing that brain and world is the same thing, we can say that paradise really existed; it was just a state of mind. This explains the old stories of gardens and paradise’s and the later fall from paradise. These paradise dwellers were in their normal state, but to us diminished moderns, they were high all of the time.
The brain damaged hypothesis is an improvement on what went before and is the only theory that can hold the mantle of science in one hand and the seal of evidence in the other. Left in the Dark is full of evidence from the latest research of brain imagery. For example, the book mentions some new research on LSD that suggest a way of glimpsing into the right hemisphere mind. Scientists have discovered that LSD only affects the right hemisphere of the brain. It has been known for decades that the right hemisphere is the spiritual side (old news). So maybe the spiritual experiences brought on by LSD do not resonate from the drug, but rather, the drug merely switches the right hemisphere back on, if you will. This is a very interesting discovery and sheds light of a famous incident from the 1970’s. An Indian holy man was once given a massive dose of LSD, but the drug had zero effect on the guru. The researcher, Richard Alpert, couldn’t explain why. Dr Alpert gave the Indian holy man a second, more massive, dose, but still no affect. The second dose could drop an elephant, but couldn’t touch the smiling old man. So it seems that some spiritual people are permanently in the LSD state! Now if rare people are born with their right hemisphere less diminished, then LSD cannot get them high, as they are always high. Until we invent a real DeLorean, this is the best evidence we can get our hands on. Alpert thought that the guru was always in the LSD state, and the guru agreed. I wish the authors of Left in the Dark used this example. It must have slipped past theory radar.
So instead of looking out into the world of economics and institutions, we should look at the architectonics of the human brain. Arthur Koestler, way back in the 1960’s, covered similar territory, in his book, The Ghost in the Machine. That was a book of its time and Left in the Dark is an improvement on that classic. Indeed, it was Koestler who said that “the inertia of the human mind and its resistance to innovation are most clearly demonstrated not, as one might expect, by the ignorant mass- which is easily swayed once its imagination is caught- but by professionals with a vested interest in tradition and in the monopoly of learning. Innovation is a twofold threat to academic mediocrities: it endangers their oracular authority, and it evokes the deeper fear that their whole, laboriously constructed intellectual edifice might collapse. The academic backwoodsmen have been the curse of genius from Aristarchus to Darwin and Freud; they stretch, a solid and hostile phalanx of pedantic mediocrity.
By exotissima on July 15, 2010
In Chapters 1 and 4 the authors refer to modern research showing that, when unfettered by the left brain, the right brain is far more capable than generally accepted. For instance, it is responsible for multi-level functions, originality, imagination, deep thinking, self reflection, musicality, enhanced visual acuity, and even the ability to heal more quickly.
It turns out the right hemisphere actually possesses far more complex abilities than the left but these are normally held in check by the left’s inhibitory control, which increases with time. To illustrate, child musical prodigies and mathematical geniuses can lose a measure of their fabulous abilities as they get older and their left hemisphere control becomes stronger. Because of this increasing left brain dominance over time, we also get more fearful as we age, even though for the most part it is kept below the surface.
In chapter 4 the authors explain the left brain is actually dysfunctional and, because of it, we may even struggle with two realities. One is a right hemisphere reality based on true perception and experience and the other a left hemisphere version based on verbal stories it has made up to cover up conflict and in which it believes totally. Shockingly, research on damaged brains reveal we routinely make our decisions subconsciously and our left brain (conscious) rationalizations of these choices are pure fiction.
So, the left brain doesn’t really experience reality at all and will always lie to maintain its subjective version. It appears disconnected from a truer perspective provided by right hemisphere function, meaning our whole lives may be based on denials, suppressions, and lies – we are all insane, in other words. As the authors point out: is it any wonder that our interpersonal relationships (individually, as groups and even nations) are fraught with difficulties?
The authors claim that the right brain enables peak performance whilst the destructive behavior of humanity is due to left-brain dominance, completely ignoring the large part played by our reptilian brain (the oldest and smallest region of the brain) which is blindly instinctive and responsible for ritualistic behavior, survival fears, domination/attack/fighting, preening and mating.
In chapter 6, the final one, there is a muddled exploration of processes that can reduce the restrictions of the left hemisphere. The authors in passing mention techniques for actively engaging the right hemisphere: visualization, mantra, meditation, dream techniques, use of consciousness-changing chemicals, refining nutritional intake and opening to the ‘subtle energy’ of spiritual locations such as cathedrals, stone circles or waterfalls. They claim that when humans started eating grains the production of melatonin and the size of the pineal gland were both reduced and refer to womb research showing that less melatonin is associated with more testosterone which creates greater masculinization of the brain (in both sexes), in turn resulting in reduced social skills in life.
They believe that our long-ago ancestors suffered changes in brain chemistry that made the left side of the brain dominant over the right. While this might be correct, the greatest pity of this book is that the authors did not stick to left-right brain differences, which by itself would have made a wonderful book. Instead in chapters 2 and 3 they indulged in wild theories, presented as fact, pushing the benefits of a raw-plant-diet via completely unsubstantiated versions of anthropology and prehistory. They allege, for instance, that human teeth are mainly adapted to eat fruit and plant matter when in fact our teeth show we are omnivores, capable of eating both meat and plant foods.
There is no basis in anatomy or physiology for their assumption that humans are pre-adapted to the raw-vegetables-only diet. In fact, although vegetarians will hate this, there is actually much more basis for eating a high proportion of saturated fats (yup, saturated) and organic fatty red meats, as explained in books like “Trick and Treat” and “Perfect Health Diet” and books about the healthy food discoveries of Dr Weston Price.
In chapter 5 the authors return to making wild claims, this time about fertility, which in humans has about a 5% success ratio to sex whilst in animals it’s nearer 95%. A raw-food-diet apparently reduces libido in men, which appears to be seen as a benefit as “we are addicted to sex” (I’m betting most of us wish we were!). They consider chemicals like steroids, melatonin, serotonin, DMT, MDMA (ecstasy). They refer to the “second brain” in the gut, which contains a highly complex neural system and displays a great degree of autonomy. This is confirmed in Gershon’s “The Second Brain.”
In a rather convoluted way, they try to link all this to what they allege was the original fruit-and-leaves diet of our forest ancestors. However, “Intervention Theory Essentials (Everything You Know Is Wrong) by Lloyd Pye proves that we cannot be descended from apes, disproving this theory.
They refer to one study showing that, in those eating a mainly raw fruit diet, not sleeping for several days does not lead to the usual mind chaos but instead – due to reduced left brain domination – creates transcendental experiences and genius-type abilities, albeit for very short periods. Apparently on the basis of this one study, the authors assert that those who eat mainly raw fruit can better use their right-brain abilities.
The valid claims in this book are tainted by far too many wild claims without a shred of evidence behind them. They also allege that when (and because) humans originally ate only raw fruit and leaves they developed bigger brains. They also claim we are suffering from degenerative affliction
I was tempted to deduct 2 stars for chapters 2 and 3 and some parts of chapters 5 and 6 but on reflection felt 4 stars was deserved because of the original thinking evident in chapters 1, 4 and 5, offering their fascinating genius-right-brain hypotheses.
It’s also worth knowing that, in “Walking Your Blues Away: How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being” by Thom Hartmann, he refers to research showing that learning to read and write (especially before age 7) actually creates left-brain dominance which means more disconnection from the emotional and empathic right-brain side. This means that we become more willing (or even driven) to use violence, particularly men against women.
Because literacy changes how our brains are forming as we grow and develop, we have no reference point for understanding how we may have been had we not grown up literate, and thus no ability to truly understand or empathize with nonliterate and nonviolent societies. The result is that we assume that nonviolent societies can’t really exist, and that our type of brain development is “normal” for the human race.