Saturday, September 3, 2011

Evolutionary Psychology

I finally found a term that best express my view of what the philosophy of Buddhism (i.e., vs. the religion of Buddhism) has to teach --- Evolutionary Psychology.

As I struggled with in my post on "Subconscious Karmic Oxen", I believe what has been expressed by ancient Buddhists as "karma" is essentially the same as the Evolutionary Psychologists ideas about biologically definable brain module that mostly drive behavior and that the experience we have consciously is largely *not* the ox on which we are tied and which guides our real experience.

"Nirvana" is often expressed as the end of Karma, or breaking free of it. I think this means ancient (and perhaps a few modern) Buddhists describe with the word "enlightenment." They have come to understand that the mind works in a typical way in most people. A typical way that is mostly influenced by their karma, which is manly hard-wired biological circuits, and some new training from sociological influences in their lives. However, with practice (i.e, essentially working to train your neurological circuits to have new connections) in the form of Zazen and other Buddhist practices, one can come to first "see" the mind, and then develop the skill to experience neurological inputs (i.e., live) more directly (here & now). There must be, I think, a neurological tipping point, when the new pathways become consciously accessible, or a habit, and the even of the tipping is what's known as "enlightenment."

Here are the core ideas from EP as expressed in Wikipedia;

1.) The brain is an information processing device, and it produces behavior in response to external and internal inputs.
2. The brain's adaptive mechanisms were shaped by natural and sexual selection.
3.) Different neural mechanisms are specialized for solving adaptive problems in humanity's evolutionary past.
4.) The brain has evolved specialized neural mechanisms that were designed for solving problems that recurred over deep evolutionary time, giving modern humans Stone age minds.
5.) Most contents and processes of the brain are unconscious; and most mental problems that seem easy to solve are actually extremely difficult problems that are solved unconsciously by complicated neural mechanisms.
6.) Human psychology consists of many specialized mechanisms, each sensitive to different classes of information or inputs. These mechanisms combine to produce manifest behavior.

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