West of Jesus – Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief by Steven Kotler
I just finished reading Steven Kotler‘s West of Jesus: Surfing, Science, and the Origins of Belief where he searches for “surfing, science and the origins of belief.” In this non-fiction book, Kotler is a journalist in search of a story he hears about a weather controlling surf guru called “The Conductor.” Hilarity ensues.
Overall I enjoyed this book and following Kotler to Indonesia, New Zealand, Hawai’i and beyond in search of his story about The Conductor. However, I was a bit unsure about the book when I started reading – I found the writing style rubbed me wrong (I’m sorry I can’t articulate this better). But once I got to part two (of seven) I was fully on board with the ensuing adventure and discoveries.
The most interesting thing about the book is the look at the science of spirituality as a function of genetics, evolution and biology. It’s crazy. Turns out there are tons of studies on how the brain reacts to situations that some interpret as “religious experiences,” much in the way that the brain releases different signals for happiness, sadness and every other emotion. And as you might deduce from this, it turns out that there is good evidence that some people are more genetically or biologically inclined to be religious than others in the same way that one might be genetically pre-disposed to being a talented artist or musician.
At the risk of getting hokey, there are also some interesting observations on the interconnectedness of things – times, people, events and so on. Kotler himself admits that giving credence to what may just be coincidence can be silly and useless; but on the other hand, some coincidences can sometimes be too amazing to dismiss.
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