Friday, March 4, 2016

The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson (Notes)

"We are not  pre-destined to reach any goal, nor are we answerable to any power but our own. Only wisdom based on self understanding, not piety, will save us. There will be no redemption for second chance vouchsafed to us from above. We have only this one planet to inhabit and this one meaning to unfold.

Human existence may be simpler than we thought. There is no predestination, no unfathomable mystery of life. Demons in God's do not provide for our allegiance. Instead, we are self-made, independent, alone, and fragile, a biological species adapted to live in a biological world. What counts for long-term survival is intelligent self understanding, based upon a greater independence of thought than that tolerated today even in our most advanced democratic societies.

The brain was made for religion and religion for the human brain. In every second of the believer's conscious life religious belief plays multiple, mostly nurturing roles. All the followers are unified into a vastly extended family, a metaphorical band of brothers and sisters, reliable, obedient to one supreme law, and guaranteed immortality as the benefit of membership.

 Unfortunately a religious group defines itself for most by its creation story, the supernatural narrative that explains how humans came into existence. And this story is also the heart of tribalism. No matter how gentle and high-minded, or subtly explained, the core belief assures its members that God favors them above all others. It teaches that members of other religious worship the wrong gods, use wrong rituals, follow false prophets, and believe fantastic creation stories.

 Religious faith offers enormous psychological benefit to the believers. He gives them an explanation for their existence. It makes them feel loved and protected above the members of every other tribal group. The price imposed by the gods in their priests and more primitive societies is unquestioning belief in submission. Throughout evolutionary time this bargain for the human soul was the only bond with the strength to hold the tribe together in both peace and war.

 Humanity arose as an accident of evolution, a product of random mutation and natural selection. Our species was just one endpoint out of many twists and turns in a single lineage of Old World primates of which today there are several hundred other native species, each a product of its own twists and turns."

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