New book by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey (Ethiopia)


Religions and mythologies from around the world teach that God or gods created humans. Atheist, humanist, and materialist critics, meanwhile, have attempted to turn theology on its head, claiming that religion is a human invention. In Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods, E. Fuller Torrey (PC Doctor/Ethiopia 1964-66) draws on cutting-edge neuroscience research to propose a startling answer to the ultimate question.  It locates the origin of gods within the human brain, arguing that religious belief is a by-product of evolution.

Based on an idea originally proposed by Charles Darwin, Torrey marshals evidence that the emergence of gods was an incidental consequence of several evolutionary factors. Using data ranging from ancient skulls and artifacts to brain imaging, primatology, and child development studies, this book traces how new cognitive abilities gave rise to new behaviors. For instance, autobiographical memory, the ability to project ourselves backward and forward in time, gave Homo sapiens a competitive advantage. However, it also led to comprehension of mortality, spurring belief in an alternative to death. Torrey details the neurobiological sequence that explains why the gods appeared when they did, connecting archaeological findings including clothing, art, farming, and urbanization to cognitive developments. This book does not dismiss belief but rather presents religious belief as an inevitable outcome of brain evolution. Providing clear and accessible explanations of evolutionary neuroscience, Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods will shed new light on the mechanics of our deepest mysteries.

E. Fuller Torrey

Fuller Torrey, M.D., is a research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is the executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, the founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a professor of psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the author of twenty books. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland with his wife Barbara Boyle (Tanzania 1963-65)



Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods: Early Humans and the Origins of Religion: Early Humans and the Origins of Religion
E. Fuller Torrey (Staff M.D., Ethiopia 1964-66)
Columbia University Press
September 2017
312 pages
$35.00 (hardcover), $33.25 (Kindle)


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  • Could it be that brain evolution progressed to a point where man could begin to comprehend that there is a God, instead of to the point where man could create a God? Personally I am more interested in the convergence of theology and physics in the study of the basic transition of matter to energy and the reverse. The universe was created from energy and to energy all matter returns. All of this, however, does not answer the fundamental question, where does the universe exist or is it a limitless place? Current belief is that the universe was created by the “Big Bang,” i.e. energy became matter . But in what place did the Big Bang take place? Did it create the void into which it exploded or was there a void? And remember, we are only talking about a three dimensional universe. Do universes exist in other dimensions?

    All of this makes the theory that earth, in fact the universe, was created by aliens more attractive.

  • I’m looking forward to reading the aforesaid book, being a student of the natural sciences, and always wondering not the “how” of the universe’s coming into existence, but the “why.” The eternal question of “A Prime Mover”, or higher consciousness. I loved Joanne’s observation about Heaven. A very dear Aunt of mine had an extensive “near-death experience” many years ago, and could relate it in detail, which my sister recorded. Ever since then, I have been uncertain. Raymond Moody MD wrote the best statement on that, entitled “Life after Life.” — John Turnbull Lower Canoncito, New Mexico

  • Fascinating subject ! Of the scientists that I know, the question usually is “the nature of God”. Not “God vs no God”. Few ascribe to a God, imbued with very human attitudes (and aspirations), resembling us humans, and assuming the role of “King”.

    I honestly think that it takes a scientific mind to grasp the sheer magnitude of what we call “The Universe”. Something which has neither a discernable center of emanation, nor, for that matter, margins. Arguing with my physicist and presumptious engineer friends, who imagine that eventually ALL things will be discovered, I point out that the furthest reaches of the universe we can “see” is so far distant that if we sent off a spaceship at today’s speeds, so many generations would have passed on-board, that whoever finally gets to that destination would not be recognizable as humans, as we know them, but something totally different. As different as a chimp is from us. (Not sure about the comparison of a chimp to the current President ! ). It’s even more complicated in that the sources of what we see today, even exist at all, or have long-disappeared — and all we’re seeing is a stream of light energy that it once emitted, moving toward us at 186,000 miles per second.

    When dealing with magnitudes like this, essentially unexplorable, and unknowable, then the concept of a Prime Mover or Higher Consciousness takes on a whole different meaning — far beyond the domain of science. Why it’s called SUPERnatural. JAT

  • I wouldn’t call this a “startling” answer. Saying that at some point the brain was capable of wondering what caused things is only common sense, not some great revelation. I’d like to see Fuller come up with an answer to how “survival of the fittest” explains how DNA, lungs, intestines, sight, etc. evolved. Evolution makes sense once the basics have been established, but how do the basics come into being? DNA coding allows something to be a tree, a spider, a horse or a human. How did that come about? The idea that man’s brain evolved beyond those of other creatures and came to the point of questioning what was the cause of things is not some remarkable new idea. Seeing intelligence beyond our own was just a logical step in human development.

    • Leo, John and Denis, Thank you for your comments. As a point of clarification, my book does not address the origin of the universe or state definitively regarding the existence of God or gods. Rather it details how what is now known about the evolution of brain, structure and function, would have logically led to human belief in gods and the emergence of religions even if no gods actually existed. There is nothing in the book that contradicts the possibility that a god or prime mover is behind it all, but also nothing that says that this is likely or necessary. Fuller Torrey

  • Dr. Torrey,

    I just finished reading your extremely impressive new book, Evolving Brains Emerging Gods. I am just an engaged, avid reader with a lifelong interest in man’s evolution, history and the origins and nature of religions and religious belief. I majored in history in college and have a moderate sized library on man’s evolution. You have organized and synthesized an incredible amount of scientific and historical information in an incredibly succinct and cogent manner. I find your thesis to be very compelling. Moreover, you have taken the time to address opposing theories and contradictory data /information. Your book is one of the very best non-fiction books I have read in 40 years. Thank you for this valuable contribution to the subject(s) you have chosen to tackle!

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