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PostScience, Religion, Life, Death (A. J. Cave, USA, 12/27/17 5:25 am)
When it comes to discussing theology et al., I am a poor substitute for my friend Alain de Benoist, who no longer actively contributes to WAIS.
As Alain once said, [most] philosophers go insane dealing with questions like god, the universe, meaning of life, and all the rest. I don't really understand philosophy, so I'll take Alain's word for it. For me, it is all about [theoretical] math, and the answer is always 42 (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
The American evolutionary biologist, E. O. Wilson, has written a lot about the link between science and religion in his book The Meaning of Human Existence, 2014. His new book The Origins of Creativity, 2017 is on my reading list over the holidays. As a storyteller, I agree with Wilson that our brains (over the period of our biological evolution) have been wired for stories. Since I have written plenty about the meanings and origins of myth, history, story and religion, I won't repeat myself. The existence of any biological species is a lucky accident of random mutation and natural selection, and in our case, with developing a sophisticated brain large enough for storage--memory.
Cognitive computing is modeled after our brains that constantly (and unconsciously) sift through 3 distinct narratives to create a story we can live with: 1) an evolutionary genetic adaptability built into our DNA that helped us get though the brutal phase of paleolithic hunter-gatherer existence, 2) a pre- and post-writing phase (prehistory+ history), and 3) a modern global techo-scientific age powered by democratized access to information and knowledge. We don't discover knowledge, we figure out the underlying patterns in raw data, organize information, and create (data-based) knowledge. The 3 narratives are weighed against each other and people pick and choose the dominant narrative that makes most sense to them and keeps them sane. The alternative is fatalism and ultimate extinction.
Since biology is already baked into our genes, the tug-of-war is between "old" religion and "new" science. It would take evolutionary time for the "youngish" science to become the preferred narrative for the masses. That time span is exponentially accelerated (shortened) due to pervasiveness of smart phones and things--a first in our existence. Un-aided human memory spans 3 generations, so I reckon by the time the second generation after the Millennials (those born after year 2000, digital natives), become the dominant demographics on earth, science and technology would become utilities like clean water.
There's plenty that we don't and can't see or hear (or experience with all senses)--like the full light and sound spectrum. So, believing only in things that we can "see" is absurd. There's plenty more that we don't understand. Most of the universe is made up of dark matter and energy we can neither see, hear or understand, and yet, here we are.
As humans, however, we are crazy creative. We can think of all sorts of things and then go on to making them out of thin air. Religion happens to be one of our most innovative creations. That really big vision thingy. We are not the only species that looks at the sun, the moon, and the stars. But we are the ones who started to imagine that we were somehow linked to this sparkling and twinkling universe and that our lives had a bigger meaning, than just killing and feeding. So, we became the keepers of those great powers that connected us to the wondrous world around us--guardians of the galaxy. It is such a crazy good story.
The real fight is not really between science and religion, it is between life and death. The old great gods and goddesses living in the "above" were fashioned after humans living "below" with one modification: they were immortals. People died all sorts of deaths, but those shiny great gods and goddesses lived on and on.
If we truly believed in gods, heavens, and afterlife, we wouldn't have bothered with our never-ending quest for immortality. Our bodies simply break down regardless of how "well" we live. The best we can hope for (and pray, if you're religious) is to live naturally to an average age of 115--not even a blink of an eye in the 13.8 billion years old universe (give and take 20 million years). We now have the technology to edit our DNA, not just to eliminate disease, but to make humans according to specs--iHumans. There's a lot of debate about the "morality" of playing god with our bodies. We would not, however, walk away from immortality on account of morality.
JE comments: A. J. Cave makes a fundamental point: humans develop religions due to our need to construct stories. Narratives create an evolutionary advantage at the most basic level--don't eat that plant, don't mate with your siblings, etc., all the way up to the titanic struggles of gods. Yes, we invent crazy good stories. Narratives are also at the root of group identity and nationalism.
Egads, this is profound. In any case, best Holiday greetings to A. J., and all the best for 2018. When time permits, please send us a review of Wilson's The Origins of Creativity.