Our origin stories
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We’re in transition between two origin stories. Over the past two lifetimes the Christian story has been losing ground while the story told by science has been gaining. Along with that has gone a sense of loss. In the Christian story humans are the center of the universe, with each of us being told we matter. What science tells us is almost exactly the opposite: everything in the universe is determined by the laws of physics and we’re no exception. We’ve no reason to suppose we matter, as a species or individually.
What's a good way to respond to this? We could work at limiting what we expect of ourselves. But human lives are short and this sense of loss could dog us throughout our entire lifetime. Anyway, this feeling could be telling us something important. Perhaps there's more to life than science knows, than science can ever know. Then accepting science's account of our origins could lead to terrible regrets in old age.
Some people have already responded by adopting other origin stories. There’s the law of attraction: the universe is such that if you want something badly enough it’ll find its way to you. There are currents of energy flowing through the universe we can tap into to become powerful. The planets have god-like influence over will happen to us. State endorsement of lotteries encourages us to believe that with luck we can defy the laws of physics. Evolutionary psychology locates the origin of human nature in our hominoid origins. Human have inalienable rights. Behind each belief is a story about our relation to each other and the rest of the universe.
In these interviews we explore what we and other people believe. We'll probe each belief for the origin story lying behind it, asking if we could draw on it to make life seem more meaningful and help us feel we belong. It doesn’t have to be true, it can be just a metaphor. That’s true for most origin stories, after all. We turn to them when what we need is not so much truth, as guides to living.
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Our bodies have been evolving for billions of years. They've become magnificent. But our conscious human nature is only a few centuries old, maybe a few thousand years. It's probably still primitive compared to how amazing our bodies are. Can we "consciously" improve it?
I think we can, by coming up with new origin stories, and building on them. In these interviews I’ll focus on these questions--how can origin stories help us feel we matter, and how can they make us feel at home in the world? What stories, that makes for a good life, should we pass on to our children?
“The Big Bang is no more provable as an origin story than the idea that God created the universe in six days.”
“Our idea that we matter describes our relationship both to ourselves and to other human beings.”
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