Evolutionary Brain Science
and the Physical Challenges of our REPTILIAN Brain

Online resources for exploring the practical implications of navigating the modern world with the Stone-Age Instincts we all have inherited. The image at right playfully shows:

  • REPTILIAN BRAIN - Lizard Legacy - our physical instincts
  • OLD MAMMALIAN BRAIN - Furry Li'l Mammal - our social instincts

  • NEW MAMMALIAN BRAIN - Monkey Mind - our interpretive instincts

  • ADVANCED - Higher Porpoise - our executive brain and spiritual instincts


    Evolutionize Your Life Course
    2011 by Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow

    In 2011 Dowd and Barlow presented a
    5-session online course on this subject.

    In 2019 we retrieved many of the course modules and reposted here (for free use).

    Text, audio, and video that can still be accessed online are below.

    Newly posted
    online for free
    in 2019

    Two VIDEOS by Michael Dowd on Evolutionary Brain Science


    Physical Challenges of our REPTILIAN Brain

          "We exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs, and god-like technology."

    Edward O. Wilson, 2008 (author of On Human Nature)


    Note: Watch CARL SAGAN "sing" a portion of the 1980 brain excerpt (at left) within his Cosmos series, as part of a 2010 music video created by Symphony of Science.

      "The most dangerous aspect of our modern diet arises from our ability to refine food. This is the link to drug, alcohol, and tobacco addictions.
        Coca doesn't give South American Indians health problems when they brew or chew it. No one's ruined his life eating poppy seeds. When grapes and grains were fermented lightly and occasionally, they presented a healthy pleasure, not a hazard.
        Salt, fat, sugar, and starch are not harmful in their natural contexts. It's our modern ability to concentrate things like cocaine, heroin, alcohol — and food components — that turns them into a menace that our body is hardwired to crave."

    Deirdre Barrett, 2010 (author of Supernormal Stimuli and Waistland)

    AUDIO Interview 1 with Deirdre Barrett and Q&A audio
    AUDIO Interview 2 with Deirdre Barrett - All in the Mind


     "Our unique attributes evolved over a period of roughly 6 million years. They represent modifications of great ape attributes that are roughly 10 million years old, primate attributes that are roughly 55 million years old, mammalian attributes that are roughly 245 million years old, vertebrate attributes that are roughly 600 million years old, and attributes of nucleated cells that are perhaps 1,500 million years old.
        If you think it is unnecessary to go that far back in the tree of life to understand our own attributes, consider the humbling fact that we share with nematodes [roundworms] the same gene that controls appetite. At most, our unique attributes are like an addition onto a vast multiroom mansion. It is sheer hubris to think that we can ignore all but the newest room." David Sloan Wilson, Evolution for Everyone, 2007

    David Sloan Wilson, author of Evolution for Everyone, 2007


          "We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings who have slept in wood nests, and hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been human."

    Loren Eiseley, "Starthrower" in Unexpected Universe, 1969



    CONNIE BARLOW was interviewed by Claire Zammit, May 2011, for the online audioseries Women on the Edge of Evolution (click at right)

    LISTEN to Connie's other audios on this topic:

    "Evolution and Infidelity"

    "Your Brain's Creation Story"

    "Every Man's Dream; Every Man's Nightmare"




            Part 1 of Michael Dowd's "Evolutionize Your Life" video program

    An illustrated introduction to the basics of evolutionary brain science and the practical benefits of using an evolutionary lens for understanding the deep-seated drives that we have inherited from our ancestors.

    Dowd introduces playful terms for the four parts of the Quadrune Brain:

    LIZARD LEGACY - Reptilian Brain (Brain Stem and Cerebellum)

    FURRY LI'L MAMMAL - Old Mammalian Brain (Limbic System)

    MONKEY MIND - New Mammalian Brain (Neocortex)

    HIGHER PORPOISE - Advanced Brain (Prefrontal Cortex)

    Note: Playful names for the Reptilian Brain also include: (1) "Inner Iguana" (created by paleontologist Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish) and (2) "Larry the Lounge Lizard" (created by physical trainer and evolutionist Shane Dowd).





    "Zoey 101, Brain Science 101"

    "Evolutionary Morality and Ethics"

    "Lizard Legacy Bites Three More Alphas"

    "There's Nothing Shameful About Accountability"

    "Sex and the Olympics"

    "I'm a Human with Mismatched Instincts"

    "Religion and Self-Control"

    "President Obama's Testosterone Levels"

    "Sex Scandals and Instincts: It's Your Biology, Stupid!"


        Michael Dowd's BLOGPOSTS


    DEFINITION OF A LOSING BATTLE: Trying to significantly improve your life and relationships, or grow spiritually, without first appreciating — indeed, honoring — your brain's physical, relational, and interpretive instincts.


    ABOVE RIGHT embedded video, "The Great Porn Experiment": Gary Wilson is host of yourbrainonporn.com. The site arose in response to a growing demand for solid scientific information by heavy Internet erotica users experiencing perplexing, unexpected effects: escalation to more extreme material, concentration difficulties, sexual performance problems, radical changes in sexual tastes, social anxiety, irritability, inability to stop, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Note: The two videos shown below can be accessed through "Your Brain on Porn" website.


    ABOVE LEFT: Superb 15-minute Canadian documentary that compassionately, yet straightforwardly, shows how even handsome, athletic young men can lose their ability to forge a loving, heterosexual relationship when they have spent their early teen years watching high-speed internet porn.

    RIGHT: The most highly recommended 4-part series for boys: a must for boys by the age of ten, and the first 2 parts are recommended for boys as young as 8 living in peer communities in which they or a friend have access to unsupervised high-speed internet (e.g., an i-pad). What this series has that the Canadian video lacks is a grounding in our evolutionary instincts. Internet porn is compelling as a curiosity to boys and then becomes an addiction; our ancestors never had to learn to say "no" to this "supernormal allurement", and thus there is no shame and no blame for boys falling to prey to internet porn. Note: High-speed internet porn taps into the novelty, quick reward, and life-mimicking inducements that leave Playboy magazine pages in the dust. The shaping of young sexual appetites, and the curiosity draw of violent, misogynistic porn can too easily lead normal boys down paths that cause them tremendous fear and shame about their identities and desires.

  • "Without the Coolidge Effect there would be no Internet porn" - by Gary Wilson (Aug 2011)

  • "One Pastor's Story of Pain, Porn, Addiction, and Redemption" - by Darrell Brazell, Christianity Today, 2/28/11.

  • "Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography" - by Tanith Carey, The Guardian (UK), 4/7/11.

    "An evolutionary worldview helps me control the obsolete urges of our evolutionary past. Understanding evolution transforms the drives of hatred, fear, unhealthy lust, overeating, excessive alcohol use, and others from demonic temptations into understandable, controllable influences. Understanding evolution robs them of much of their power by dragging them into the open, where they can be openly discussed and controlled. If I had to leave them in their dark lairs, they could much more easily take control of my actions." — anon

    LEFT: 16-minute TEDx video featuring Ran Gavrieli, "Why I stopped Watching Porn". With over a million views, this video is highly recommended for women and men unfamiliar with the misogyny and violence depicted in even freely available porn videos on the internet. This video explicitly lists the sexually unhealthy porn categories and explains how the vivid images can make it impossible for boys and men to retrieve a capacity to enjoy masturbating to imaginative narratives and romantic build-ups that heterosexual male brains would otherwise provide.

    RIGHT: A superb self video by a young man who consulted Gary Wilson's YourBrainOnPorn.com website and found the help he needed to "reboot" his brain for the real world.



    ABOVE: Puppets can be used with children and adults to playfully teach about our Quadrune Brain's "Lizard Legacy" (reptilian), "Furry Li'l Mammal" (Old Mammalian), "Monkey Mind" (neocortex), and "Higher Porpoise/Purpose" (prefrontal cortex).

    You can OBTAIN PUPPETS LIKE THESE AT: Folkmanis Hand Puppets or The Puppet Store Online.


    WHAT IF AN EVOLUTIONARY UNDERSTANDING WERE BROUGHT INTO 12-STEP and other recovery methods for dealing with "addictions"?

    The style of introduction at group meetings could shift from calling oneself an "addict" to saying we are human (see below left).

    Gone would be the shame! Maybe even gone would be the need for anonymity. Rather, we acknowledge that falling into unhealthy dependence on one or another "supernormal stimulus" is almost a universal temptation for modern peoples — all of whom have inherited Stone-Age instincts.

    By reducing the stigma of admitting to ourselves and others that our "inherited proclivities" have taken us down dangerous paths in a modern world brimming with "supernormal stimuli", we will help those in need more easily move beyond denial and get themselves to a meeting long before their lives become "unmanageable."

       An Evolutionary Version of the First Step

    "My reptilian brain [Lizard Legacy] has become dependent on supernormal stimuli that my ancestors never had to face. My higher purpose [Higher Porpoise] wants to recover a healthier life, and so I seek the tough love and support [of the Furry Li'l Mammals in the minds] of others who have walked the path of recovery before me."

    "It's not my fault — but it is my responsibility!"



        Superb 5-minute TED Talk with over a million views:

    Psychologist Philip Zimbardo asks, "Why are boys struggling?" He shares some stats (lower graduation rates, greater worries about intimacy and relationships) and suggests a few reasons — and challenges the TED community to think about solutions.

        2015 VIDEO - 6-minute animation recommended for all age groups.

    This video focuses on new research suggesting the strong link between social isolation and the onset of addiction. Classic experiments on rats and addiction are now seen as deeply flawed — given that the rats were suffering from social isolation when given opportunities to go the path of addiction. New studies in which rats, living in the equivalent of rat heaven, are offered the same addictive temptations suggest that the best way to counter the opioid epidemic in troubled America is tackle the severe social isolation in the rust-belt and other contracted regions.

    LARRY THE LOUNGE LIZARD (blog by Shane Dowd with serial installments):
  • "Introducing Larry the Lounge Lizard" 9/3/11
  • "Larry Goes Clubbing" 9/3/11

    Mismatched Physical Instincts and the Challenges of Our Reptilian Brain

  • "Evolution's God Standard" - Diane Ackerman, New York Times 8/8/11

  • "Lasting Pleasures, Robbed by Drug Abuse" - Richard Friedman, M.D., New York Times 8/30/10

  • "Risk Takers, Drug Abusers Driven by Decreased Ability to Process Dopamine" - Erica Goode, Science Daily 12/31/2008

  • "Dopamine's Role Linked to Location" - Amy Maxmen, Science News 9/2/08

  • "Obama Struggles with Smoking Addiction" - FOXNews.com, 6/12/09

  • "Why Smokers Can't Quit Easily" - Ameiia Tomas, Live Science 1/6/09

  • "Bees Can Get Addicted to Cocaine" - James Randerson, Guardian.co.uk 8/30/10

  • "Happiness Isn't Normal" - John Cloud, originally published in Time Magazine online 2/13/06

  • "Lusty Tales and Hot Sales: Romance E-Books" - New York Times 12/8/10

  • "Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography" - Tanith Carey, The Guardian 4/7/11

  • "The Grim Neurology of Teenage Drinking" - Katy Butler, New York Times 7/4/2006

  • "How the Food Makers Captured Our Brains" - Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times 6/22/09

  • VIDEO (TED Talk) Sandra Aamodt: Why dieting doesn't usually work, 2014

  • "When Fatty Feasts Are Driven by Automatic Pilot" - Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times 7/11/11

  • "Why Saying No to Foods May Be Harder for Women" - Randy Dotinga, Washington Post 1/20/09

  • "Genetics Drives Obesity; So Don't Judge" - David Linden, USA Today 5/31/11

  • REPTILIAN BRAIN - Lizard Legacy - our physical instincts

  • OLD MAMMALIAN BRAIN - Furry Li'l Mammal - our social instincts

  • NEW MAMMALIAN BRAIN - Monkey Mind - our interpretive instincts

  • ADVANCED - Higher Porpoise - our executive brain and spiritual instincts

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