|Jesse M Bering|
assistant professor of psychology at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville
Evolutionary biology implies that human life is meaningless, and existential psychology asserts that human life is fundamentally absurd
There have been two domains of inquiry that have repeatedly managed to hit me, in the same way that I'm guessing scripture must hit spiritually famished parishioners. These are evolutionary biology, which - as anybody who does it sensibly knows - implies that human life is meaningless; and existential psychology, which asserts that human life is not only meaningless, but fundamentally absurd.
It is a pity that the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre shrugged off Charles Darwin. I think that they would have made a lovely couple, if only Sartre had noticed that God was probably just another jigsaw piece, with its own unique fit in the puzzle of natural selection.
Here's an early forecast of the scientific climate over the next several decades. As a new generation of cognitive scientists methodically sharpens its intellectual teeth, upon the ideas of luminaries like the Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and the American entomologist and biologist Edward Osborne Wilson, get ready for a new maelstrom of controversy over human nature. Then, in the wake of this still-surging storm, there is going to be a draught of meaning so severe that this time, scepticism is not going to remain in the privileged chapels of scientists and other scholars - it is going to dry up even the most verdant suburban landscapes, and leave spiritual leaders with their tongues out, dying for a drop of faith.
My advice? We had better start thinking ahead, and finding a new watering hole for our children's souls, before the holy water is gone for good. How about a new religion - one that does not take itself so seriously this time, based upon our shared acknowledgement of the remarkable preposterousness of human consciousness?