The Origin of Human Nature: A Zen Buddhist Looks at Evolution


From the author of the best-selling Zen and Creative Management (75,000+ copies sold) Albert Low has provided a YouTube link, which he updates regularly: For those interested in the work of Albert Low, you can visit the Zen Center at The Origin of Human Nature offers an original and fertile way to integrate spiritual and scientific views of human evolution. It offers a new and refreshing alternative to the way we think ...

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From the author of the best-selling Zen and Creative Management (75,000+ copies sold) Albert Low has provided a YouTube link, which he updates regularly: For those interested in the work of Albert Low, you can visit the Zen Center at The Origin of Human Nature offers an original and fertile way to integrate spiritual and scientific views of human evolution. It offers a new and refreshing alternative to the way we think about our origins: random mutation (mechanistic neo-Darwinism), Genesis (God did it all personally), and Intelligent Design (God personally does what we can’t otherwise account for). The result is an invigorating perspective on how our best qualities – our capacity for love, our appreciation of beauty, our altruistic capability, our creativity and intelligence –have come into being and evolved. … How we think about our origin matters: if we think we are machines living among other machines, we will act accordingly. By showing evolution as a creative and intelligent process with its own inherent logic, The Origin of Human Nature resolves the dilemma of how to have, at the same time, both truth and ethics. Instead of starting in an imagined remote and uncertain past and moving to the present, this book starts at the certain and immediate present and works back. That consciousness, creativity, and intelligence exist is certain. The question is: how can these have evolved? … Dr Albert Low has made a study of human nature throughout his life. To write this book he draws on his prolonged meditations on creativity and the human condition, his years of providing psychological and spiritual counseling, and a wide-ranging knowledge of Western psychology, philosophy, and science.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Currently director of the Montreal Zen Centre, Low has written widely about Zen Buddhism for many years. Being an educated, modern, Western, generally cool guy, he had no trouble taking sides in the creation/evolution debate. Then one night, reading Dawkins, he realized that neo-Darwinism is a materialistic-mechanistic theory arguing that matter is the element from which all is derived, and that the evolution of life is no different from the evolution of matter. He decided that he needed to think a little deeper about that, and shares the insights he stumbled upon.”  —Reference & Research Book News

“Albert Low breathes new life into old terms – the transcendent, consciousness, awareness, evolution, creativity, intention – not by going around science, but by going through it. In the current frenzy to purge science of purpose, meaning, direction, and values, Low’s insights are a welcome resource. One might say that our survival depends on the wisdom in this book.”  —Larry Dossey, author, The Extraordinary Healing Power of Everyday Things

“The old religious models don’t seem to work for us these days. And so we have turned to secularity, to the cooler gaze of science, especially the neo-Darwinism of Richard Dawkins and others. Albert Low shows that the bloom of their answer – the random-mutation mechanistic evolutionary system – that once seemed so promising, cannot account for our capacity for love, appreciation of beauty, altruism, creativity or intelligence. And it cannot offer us meaning or direction.… So we find ourselves in an uncomfortable place of ambiguity… The Origin of Human Nature offers a model that lives creatively in just that ambiguity. Living up to his life-long effort to integrate the hard sciences with his years of Zen practice and teaching, Low makes room for the best of evolution while welcoming space for the mystery of consciousness and the humble contemplation of the abyss. His is a welcoming of science and mysticism, and we would all do well to walk with him.”  —Professor Robert Forman, CUNY, author, Grassroots Spirituality

“In this intelligently written book Albert Low gives us a modern Guide for the Perplexed; a richly thoughtful reflection on the roots of human nature that glows with a deep respect for both science and the spirit.”  —Allan Combs, author, The Radiance of Being

“The battles over evolution are fought by two sides that are far too rigid in their thinking, the Biblical literalists on the one hand and the mechanistically committed materialists on the other. But our human and spiritual nature is much bigger than fanatic literalism or scientistic dogmatism, and Low’s refreshing book offers a more open direction to explore the potentials of evolution for real human beings.”  —Charles T. Tart, UC Davis, author, Body Mind Spirit: Exploring the Parapsychology of Spirituality

“I enthusiastically recommend this book. As a hard-core scientist, I was overjoyed to read Dr. Low’s ‘knowing’ centered approach to human origins and nature, as well as his eloquent rebuttal of the ‘selfish gene’ neo-Darwinism that now dominates mainstream views. Dr. Low’s vision dovetails perfectly with the broader scientific vision of evolution that I work with but perhaps it takes a Zen master to communicate the profundity of its human implications to a world so desperate for a deeply felt understanding of purpose and meaning.” —Dr. S. J. Goerner, Director of The Integral Science Institute, author, After the Clockwork Universe: The Emerging Science and Culture of Integral Society

“Albert Low offers us a strikingly original vision of evolution and human nature. He presents us with a choice that is stark, with implications that are far-reaching. On the one hand, we can take the metaphor of ‘man as machine’ literally and, as a consequence, abandon those very qualities that make us human and make life worth living. On the other hand, we can come to see that the evolutionary process, and therefore ourselves, is fundamentally intelligent and creative. The choice, Low tells us, is fateful and ours to make.”  —Dr William Byers, Loyola University, Montreal, author, How Mathematicians Think

“Transcending the clichés on both sides of the modern God/evolution debate, Dr. Low’s book offers a most welcome invitation to the joyful work of thinking like a human being about what an evolving human being is and can – for the sake of our world, must – become.”  —Jacob Needleman, San Francisco State University, author, Why Can’t We Be Good?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781845192600
  • Publisher: Sussex Academic Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Pages: 245
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Albert Low is an internationally published author of many books, including Invitation To Practice Zen, which is now in its thirteenth printing. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree for scholastic attainment and community service by Queen’s University Ontario. He is currently director of the Montreal Zen Centre, where he is in charge of over 200 students, many of whom are doctors, psychiatrists, and university professors.

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Table of Contents

Preface     viii
Acknowledgments     xxi
Introduction     1
On Darwin's Theory     11
On Subjectivity and Objectivity     20
'Knowing', the Basis of Experience     28
Knowing and Evolution     41
On a New Way of Thinking     47
On Intention     64
Intention as Dynamic Process     73
The 'Blind, Unconscious, Automatic' Process of Intention     82
On Causation and Programming     90
What is Creativity?     101
Creative or Mechanical Evolution?     110
The Evolution of Intelligence     126
On the Evolution of Consciousness     140
The Ambiguity of 'I-You'     156
The Birth of Ego     171
On Humans and Evolution     178
Epilogue     186
Appendices     191
Notes     203
Bibliography     225
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