Animism, Evolution, and the Meaning of Life: how God helped to alienate us from our true nature

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  • user warning: Table 'cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<div align=\"center\"><font size=\"+1\">&nbsp;</font></div>\n<div align=\"center\"><font size=\"+1\">Animism, Evolution, and the Meaning of Life:&nbsp;</font></div>\n<div align=\"center\"><font size=\"+1\">how God helped to alienate us from our true nature</font></div>\n<div align=\"center\"><font size=\"+1\"><br /></font></div>\n<div align=\"center\"><a href=\"http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html\" target=\"_blank\">Francis Heylighen</a> (ECCO &amp; Center Leo Apostel, VUB)</div>\n<div align=\"center\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div align=\"center\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div><strong>Abstract:</strong></div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<div>According to Charlton (2002), the search for the &quot;meaning of life&quot;, in the sense of a far-away end or purpose for our actions, is an artefact of agricultural society. For hunter-gatherers, who evolved to be perfectly adapted to their environment, life is intrinsically meaningful. Every action they perform has a clear, concrete purpose, and results in an immediate affective feedback. The world for a hunter-gatherer is simply a lively community of human and non-human agents with whom he intimately interacts. This action-based perspective (Heylighen, 2011) is what we call &quot;animism&quot;.</div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<div>With the development of agriculture, civilisation, and industrial society, people had to plan for an increasingly remote and abstract future, and to apply an increasingly strict discipline in order to stick to these plans. This required the development of a system of moral-religious rules, to be enforced by social pressure and individual interiorization. This system of rules was personified in one or more Gods, who would reward those who stick to the rules, and punish the others. Thus, God functioned to suppress our immediate, spontaneous reactions, and to promote long-term obedience to a rigorous social discipline. The result was that we lost our instinctive experience of being part of nature, and started to look (unsuccessfully) for meaning and purpose in far-away, metaphysical realms.</div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<div>I will argue that our modern information society no longer needs to impose a strict sense of discipline on its members. Therefore, the road is open to recover our innate sense of harmony, provided we are willing to give up some metaphysical illusions (Heylighen, 2000, 2011), and to reconnect with our natural instincts (Heylighen, 2010).</div>\n<div align=\"center\">&nbsp;</div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<div><b>References:</b></div>\n<div><b><br /></b></div>\n<div>Charlton, B. (2002). What is the Meaning of Life? Animism, Generalised Anthropomorphism and Social Intelligence. Retrieved from <a href=\"http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/meaning-of-life.html\" target=\"_blank\">http://www.hedweb.com/<wbr></wbr>bgcharlton/meaning-of-life.<wbr></wbr>html</a></div>\n<div><font color=\"#000000\" size=\"-2\"><br /></font></div>\n<div>Heylighen, F. (2000). <a href=\"http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/papers/PCPworldview-FOS.pdf\" target=\"_blank\">Foundations and methodology for an evolutionary world view</a>: a review of the Principia Cybernetica Project. Foundations of Science, 5(4), 457-490.</div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<div>Heylighen, F. (2010). <a href=\"http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/ECCO-paradigm.pdf\" target=\"_blank\">Evolutionary Well-Being: the paleolithic model, Retrieved from http://ecco.vub.ac.be/?q=node/<wbr></wbr>127</a></div>\n<div>&nbsp;</div>\n<p>Heylighen, F. (2011). <a href=\"http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/ECCO-paradigm.pdf\" target=\"_blank\">Self-organization of complex, intelligent systems</a>: an action ontology for transdisciplinary integration. Integral Review.</p>\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\n<p><strong>Link to presentation: </strong></p>\n<p><a href=\"http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ECCO/Seminars/Heylighen-Meaning-Religiosity.ppt\" target=\"_blank\">http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ECCO/<wbr></wbr>Seminars/Heylighen-Meaning-<wbr></wbr>Religiosity.ppt</a></p>\n<div class=\"yj6qo c4rCgd\">\n<div data-tooltip=\"Show trimmed content\" id=\":4v\" class=\"EtNW5c\" role=\"button\" tabindex=\"0\"><img alt=\"\" class=\"a2ZOTe\" src=\"https://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gif\" /></div>\n</div>\n<p>&nbsp;</p>\n', created = 1638617179, expire = 1638703579, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:03a5a3603f6879b0fc7187da2a3db899' in /home2/secrecco/www/includes/cache.inc on line 109.
 
Animism, Evolution, and the Meaning of Life: 
how God helped to alienate us from our true nature

Francis Heylighen (ECCO & Center Leo Apostel, VUB)
 
 
Abstract:
 
According to Charlton (2002), the search for the "meaning of life", in the sense of a far-away end or purpose for our actions, is an artefact of agricultural society. For hunter-gatherers, who evolved to be perfectly adapted to their environment, life is intrinsically meaningful. Every action they perform has a clear, concrete purpose, and results in an immediate affective feedback. The world for a hunter-gatherer is simply a lively community of human and non-human agents with whom he intimately interacts. This action-based perspective (Heylighen, 2011) is what we call "animism".
 
With the development of agriculture, civilisation, and industrial society, people had to plan for an increasingly remote and abstract future, and to apply an increasingly strict discipline in order to stick to these plans. This required the development of a system of moral-religious rules, to be enforced by social pressure and individual interiorization. This system of rules was personified in one or more Gods, who would reward those who stick to the rules, and punish the others. Thus, God functioned to suppress our immediate, spontaneous reactions, and to promote long-term obedience to a rigorous social discipline. The result was that we lost our instinctive experience of being part of nature, and started to look (unsuccessfully) for meaning and purpose in far-away, metaphysical realms.
 
I will argue that our modern information society no longer needs to impose a strict sense of discipline on its members. Therefore, the road is open to recover our innate sense of harmony, provided we are willing to give up some metaphysical illusions (Heylighen, 2000, 2011), and to reconnect with our natural instincts (Heylighen, 2010).
 
 
References:

Charlton, B. (2002). What is the Meaning of Life? Animism, Generalised Anthropomorphism and Social Intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/meaning-of-life.html

Heylighen, F. (2000). Foundations and methodology for an evolutionary world view: a review of the Principia Cybernetica Project. Foundations of Science, 5(4), 457-490.
 
 

Heylighen, F. (2011). Self-organization of complex, intelligent systems: an action ontology for transdisciplinary integration. Integral Review.

 

Link to presentation:

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ECCO/Seminars/Heylighen-Meaning-Religiosity.ppt