Faith's Evolution, as demonstrated by psilocybin.
Technically this isn’t new news. It’s been known for a while that psilocybin can have these effects. But what is novel is the rigorous and longitudinal design of the study. This gives the findings much more weight.
Continue reading...The study focused on people with heavily religious backgrounds, feeling that they would be best able to interpret the results as mystical. In my opinion, also adds some comparative value, as these people are more likely to have had previous mystical experiences, if only feeling “in the presence of God.”
When they took the drug, a full third of the participants felt it was the most meaningful experience of their lives, and another third ranked it in the top five.
This is mind boggling to me. Can you imagine tripping on shrooms being more meaningful than having a child, graduating from college, or falling in love? Maybe it’s one of those things you really have to do to understand.
Regardless, the researchers shy away from the religious implications of this, giving the old standby of “This work can't and won't go there.” Which is good science. The material cannot address the immaterial; the physical cannot address the metaphysical.
However, I think you can infer enough to make the argument. After all, a mushroom triggered the most meaningful experience of some of these people’s lives. The drug can only act on pathways in the brain, pathways that can be triggered in other ways, possibly independent of drugs.
All that happened was an alteration of the participants’ state of consciousness; and it occurred completely naturally. Natural mechanisms lead to mystical experiences that will be interpreted supernaturally without proper context. Hence they lead those ignorant of the phenomenon’s natural origin to some kind of supernatural conclusions. Is this how religion started? It’s been hypothesized before.
But what’s really telling is that 79% of the participants felt that their lives improved afterward, and this was corroborated by family and friends. Mystical experiences on their own aren’t necessarily a survival advantage, but if they can improve your mood and outlook toward life for an extended period of time then they very well could be. Human faith has been explained many times before as conferring a survival or reproductive advantage upon the faithful, (Matthew Alper’s The God Part of the Brain is one example). Now it seems that mystical experiences, which can be a key part of faith, are also.
It would appear that the evidence for all parts of human faith having evolved is mounting. I find it ironic that soon scientists will understand the faithful better than the faithful understand themselves.