How Dreams Have Shaped the Evolution of Humanity
Sidarta Ribeiro Guests on the Book Dreams Podcast
What are dreams made of? What role can they play in predicting the future, and why? To what extent have they shaped the past? What can we glean when we know the content of our dreams, and what does science have to say about why that is? And should we all be taking naps?
In this Book Dreams episode on—you guessed it—a book on dreams, Brazilian neuroscientist and dream researcher Sidarta Ribeiro offers answers to these questions and more. Author of The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams, Sidarta discusses with Julie and Eve the profound impact dreams have had on the history and evolution of humanity. He says, “Dreams are an integral part of our past. And if we are to have a future, they must be rescued.” Sidarta also talks about why a connection to dreaming has been lost for many people today and what can be done to restore it.
From the episode:
Julie: In your book you say, “Why did so many different people see an oracular function in dreams, and why do so many see it still? Is it possible to find a logical or scientific explanation for the idea that dream activity anticipates future events?” I love those questions and would love it if you could tell us what you think.
Sidarta: This is really the core question of my book, and that’s why it’s called The Oracle of Night. What I argue in the book is that dreams are an oracle into the future, but not a deterministic oracle, not an oracle that knows what’s going to happen. However, if you have a probabilistic oracle, then you can come up with a well-educated guess. And this is what dreams are, this is how they evolved, this is why they were positively selected throughout evolution as a way to simulate the future based on the past.
And sometimes you’re right on, and often you’re not. But it gives you at least a scenario of possible futures. And this gave our ancestors, our mammalian ancestors, a cognitive edge.
Sidarta Ribeiro is the Founder and Vice Director of the Brain Institute at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil where he currently serves as the Professor of Neuroscience. He received a PhD in animal behavior from Rockefeller University. His research topics encompass: memory, sleep and dreams, neuroplasticity, symbolic competence in non-human animals, computational psychiatry, and psychedelics.
Book Dreams is a podcast for everyone who loves books and misses English class. Co-hosted by Julie Sternberg and Eve Yohalem, Book Dreams releases new episodes every Thursday. Each episode explores book-related topics you can’t stop thinking about—whether you know it yet or not.