Let us first turn to those features that most clearly differentiate us from animals, the organismic realm that gave rise to humans. This difference is perhaps best expressed in the refinement and differentiation of our life habits, namely our culture in the widest sense of the word. This is reflected in the human aspiration toward ethical and aesthetic values, law and order, toward comfort and luxury. In the more highly developed mammals, lions for example, we can already discern how daily life splits into two domains: the first is the acquisitional phase involving hunting for prey, while the second can be subsumed under the somewhat unconventional yet clearly applicable heading "private life". In the latter, the satiated and clearly contented lion family rests at a site that provides a clear view to all sides. After all, even lions must be on guard against potential threats. The young play and scuffle with one another, and the parents are also included in the fun. These, in turn, nudge each other lovingly, nap, and stretch with visible pleasure. All clearly relish themselves and their situation.
At some point, the intellectual development of
proteus reached a level where past experiences could be summoned up
on an internal projection screen, allowing them to be compared with one
another and conclusions to be drawn. This was accompanied by the ability
to recognize cause and effect in temporally and spatially distant events
and to relate them to one another in an interplay of imagination and thought.
One result was that we purposefully formed additional organs to boost our
capability. At the same time it also led to another trend that significantly
impacted our lifestyle: sooner or later, humans must have come to recognize
that some of their activities and situations led to pleasant inner experiences
while others were associated with unpleasant feelings. In my mind, nothing
could be more natural and self-evident that humans – as a species with
an unerring drive to improve the body – at some point focused their behavior
and organ formation on enhancing pleasant feelings and, as far as possible,
minimizing unpleasant ones. After we successfully cemented our superiority
over the competition and our surpluses provided time for leisure and reflection,
a new era was ushered in: man became the "seeker of happiness" par excellence.
The innate legacy
Comparative ethology helps provide valuable insight into the innate mechanisms that control instincts. This field has delved deep into the structure of the mechanisms that govern capabilities in animals and it has dealt with the functional significance of pleasant and unpleasant sensations. In everyday life, we consider it self-evident that some experiences trigger pleasant, others unpleasant feelings. And, since most humans find any comparison with animals to be undignified, we are rather unaccustomed to relating our inner experiences with the evolution of our predecessors. Precisely this historical perspective, however, yields important information on the motivations behind how we define and gauge our objectives.
Three quite distinct capabilities of the central nervous system, especially of the brain, are necessary for an animal to obtain its source of energy and matter, i.e. to find food. First, the animals must recognize their prey based on certain unmistakable features termed key stimuli. Second, after the prey has been detected, innate behavior control mechanisms must issue the necessary orders that enable the musculature to stalk, overwhelm, and partially or entirely consume the prey. Third, an additional brain structure must be specialized in motivating the animal, in the absence of a key stimulus, to actively seek that very stimulus. This motivating mechanism, which is known as a drive, functions by continuing to reinforce an unpleasant sensation such as hunger as long as prey remains unavailable. Once the predator has killed and eaten its prey, it experiences pleasant taste sensations and the feeling of satiation.
The situation is very similar in most instinct behaviors. An animal's preservation instinct involves detecting enemies and other dangers in time and avoiding them. Here as well, key stimuli that indicate danger generate unpleasant feelings of fear. If the animal escapes danger and finds protective shelter, it then experiences pleasurable comfort and relief. The sexual drive triggers particularly strong unpleasant sensations when the animal fails to find a suitable partner during the mating season. On the other hand, it experiences intense pleasure if the mating act is consummated. Since we are unable to communicate with animals, we cannot furnish definitive proof that our inner human experiences are similar to those of higher mammals. Nonetheless, their close kinship and the clear parallels in their behavior, which is particularly evident in domestic animals, leave little doubt that this is the case.
In animals, positive and negative sensations are therefore
means to an end (without which the motivating instinct mechanism would
be unable to function). Homo proteus and his successors, however,
have almost inevitably reached the stage where they have elevated the
means to an end. By orienting their lives so that positive feelings
are cultivated and, whenever possible, reinforced and combined with other
such feelings, they converted a tool into a goal. They used additional
organs to design their lives for the pursuit of maximum pleasure while
at the same time warding off and minimizing unpleasant feelings. The result
was a reversal of polarity of a magnitude previously unknown in
the history of evolution. This reversal determined the future course of
evolution and speciation.
The luxury structures of humans
In unicellular and multicellular organisms, all surpluses are always invested in progeny. This stands in contrast to the hypercell organisms formed by humans. A significant proportion of the profits they reap flows into other channels, namely into those that serve to increase the comfort of the humans that control them. I trust that my use of the term luxury, which bears negative connotations, will not lead to misunderstandings. From the evolutionary perspective, all the additional organ formations and behaviors associated with this phenomenon are a luxury in the sense that they cost energy yet are neither essential nor necessarily promote the organism’s survival or efficiency. Let us examine this development in somewhat greater detail.
Before the advent of man, organisms had little leeway with regard to the surpluses they produced. Beyond being used for somatic growth, which is naturally limited, these surpluses could only be invested in reproduction, more specifically in a species-specific reproduction. Pine trees beget pine trees, bees only new bees, and crustaceans only crustaceans of the same species. To my knowledge no other author has ever pointed out the negative aspect of this process, which is straightjacketed by the mechanics of genetics. Our understandable admiration for organisms and their capabilities no doubt stifled such critical thoughts, yet the disadvantages of this reproductive mode for the overall course of evolution are plainly visible. When the conditions for a particular animal or plant species deteriorated, while they may have been favorable for another species, then the original species was still forced to pour its ever more meager resources into reproducing more individuals of its own kind. The reproductive mechanism hindered the production of an entirely different form of life. Homo proteus was the first to break these chains. The hypercell organisms he formed, which comprised both a somatic (cellular) body and an increasing number of additional organs, were no longer bound to producing progeny of the same species. While the cellular body continued to reproduce species-specifically through traditional genetic mechanisms, he was not forced to retain the complement of additional organs! He was able to form a wide array of hypercell organisms that could build up surpluses by very different means. This pattern formed the basis for all further development. The son of a blacksmith could very well become an engineer, a police officer or a building contractor. He can establish himself as a new individual in a wide range of endeavors; if the hypercell organism he forms proves unsuccessful, then he can change his profession. Hypercell organisms are in a position to change their complement of additional organs, to switch to another line of production or service, and then to enter into competition in that new field. They can even devise and test new species of hypercell organisms. And this process sets itself forth in our children. They can either take over our business or embark upon an entirely new branch of business. Hypercell organisms owe this immense difference to their core entity ( a human) and its capabilities: the creative freedom to direct surpluses where they can best serve life’s development. At the same time, another unusual opportunity opened up: the human control center had no need to invest the gained surpluses in further business endeavors. Thanks to our self-awareness, intelligence and versatility we can apply them to increasing our own comfort and to providing a broad range of pleasurable experiences.
When I first became conscious of this circumstance – diving somewhere in a coral reef – my first reaction was to ask the question: how could natural selection tolerate such a deviation from the traditional path? When a lion takes pleasure in rolling about in the grass or a manta ray does acrobatic maneuvers for the pure joy of it, these activities can still be explained as an epi-phenomenon of their normal complement of instincts. When the core of a successful hypercell organism takes million-dollar sums, which represent an enormous energy potential, and funnels them into purchasing a luxury villa, a racing yacht, or valuable jewelry, then this is clearly a major loss for the selective value of that individual. At the time, I sought to allay my unease with the argument that as long as this did not drive the hypercell organism to ruin, then natural selection might well "overlook" this activity. After all, I suddenly perceived humans as some type of parasite bent on exploiting their own pleasure-providing mechanisms. Only much later did I come to realize that even this phenomenon by no means broke the restraints of evolution, but rather considerably boosted its progress. Let us begin by examining a few practical repercussions of this reversed polarity.
It is common knowledge that our innate hunger drive has become a source of pleasure. Cooking, baking, spicing and fancy methods of preparing parts of plants and animals help make food tastier to the palate. This provided a source of income for the hypercell organisms we term chefs and the restaurant business, and also supported all those involved in producing kitchen furnishings, refrigerators and other accessories in the field of gastronomy. Both animals and humans respond positively to sweet foods because sugar is an easily metabolizable source of energy. The strong pleasant feelings that sugary foods elicit have spawned the ubiquitous pastry shops in every city. At the same time, they have led to the demand for methods and products designed to help lose weight, a field in which an entirely different set of hypercell organisms and industries is specialized. The demand for the vital resource water has led to a gigantic industry that produces tasty drinks, to numerous businesses that supply the bottles for these beverages, to enterprises that transport, deliver and sell the product to the thirsty masses. A no less prolific industry supplies alcoholic beverages to humans; these can help raise our spirits and therefore enjoy particular popularity. The air that humans breath is misused to convey nicotine-containing, stimulating toxins into the body; in many countries the state has a monopoly on tobacco sales, which does wonders for government coffers but cannot be said to promote the health of the citizenry.
And what price are humans willing to pay to dissipate feelings of anxiety! For all practical purposes, the innate preservation instinct in animals is no less important than their hunger drive. After all, gaining energy and matter is futile if, moments later, the satiated animal itself becomes the source of energy and matter for another organism. Hypercell organisms protect themselves with weapons, walls and lockable doors rather than by fleeing and hiding. Scores of tradesmen and businesses earn a living producing these protective organs. Ultimately, a country’s citizens are protected by the state, which represents an expensive communal organ that must be supported by taxes. Additional protective strategies that impart pleasant feelings of security and reduce anxiety are the insurance agencies budding up all over the world; they protect against losses by covering damages. Similarly, pension funds help overcome the fear of poverty with old age.
The repercussions of our sexual drive on human existence, and the costs that this drive incurs directly or indirectly, are incalculable. In animals this instinct is restricted to a relatively brief rutting season. One explanation for this is that the distracted partners more easily fall prey to predators. The fact that adult humans remain subject to the influences of this drive throughout the year and up into old age has been explained by the strong selective pressure to bind early man to the woman and children that required his care and protection. According to this interpretation, the sexual drive took on the additional function of a bonding mechanism that tied the male to the partner with whom he shared sexual pleasure. Today, this drive no longer serves primarily to more firmly bond the couple; on the contrary, more often than not it leads solid marriages to be divorced because the bond has been violated. At any rate, its positive and negative repercussions extort a high price from those in the pursuit of happiness. This is further aggravated by the display behavior that is invariably associated with courtship.
Brood care is another obvious behavior that we share with higher vertebrates (mammals and birds): much of the great effort we invest into our jobs serves to perpetuate our own selves by providing our children with joy and successful futures. Our affluent society, however, tends to exaggerate the effort behind this innate motivation, a topic we will return to later.
In this day and age, all those who doubt the innate behavioral links between us and our closest relatives in the animal kingdom should be converted by the obvious correspondence in the control mechanisms (for pleasure/pain) that so clearly influence our lives. Our clearly hereditary drives have become a key goalpost for human endeavor, for our culture. Although Schopenhauer's statement that the intellect is "the servant of desire" may appear disparaging, we can hardly deny that human intellect was a major vehicle in our search for pleasure and joy. This reversal of polarity may seem odd and costly from the evolutionary perspective. Nevertheless, it is instrumental in steering our aspirations and at the same time a major handicap for hypercell organisms.
This confronts us with a clear gap between traditional assessments of our overall situation and evaluations based on the evolutionary standpoint. The evolution of hypercell organisms and business enterprises is a clear continuation of that undergone by uni- and multicellular organisms: in both one and the other, energy gain is inevitably a crucial if not the most critical function. In both cases, appropriately structured organs convert raw energy into vital capabilities. In both cases the body’s shape and behavior can be explained by fundamental capabilities that need to be fulfilled. In both cases natural selection of the best-adapted organisms governs speciation, whereby organisms whose subunits are not firmly fused to one another can exhibit much greater variability in adapting to environmental conditions; this is also a considerable advantage vis-à-vis natural selection. These parallels add to the list of other similarities and could be supplemented by a string of additional examples.
Although we are dealing here with a clear evolutionary
series, our increasing self-indulgence (i.e. the "private lives" of human
beings, which have themselves come to represent organs) seems to be a distinct
deviation from the evolutionary norm. As I hope to show, this "wrong turn"
is in fact nothing of the kind; rather, this path provides evolution with
a mighty boost. It suffices here to point out the radical gap between how
we evaluate ourselves and our actual status in the evolutionary process.
For most people, namely, private life is the top priority, whereas a job
or profession is merely a means to an end. Additional organs are not fused
to our bodies, giving us the freedom to leave these units behind at the
end of the day. This perspective led humans to view the home as the natural
hub of their lives, as the point of departure for the workplace. From the
evolutionary perspective, however, each human is an integral part of a
larger organism, although we can leave that entity because no permanent
bond exists. In a nutshell, the organ can leave – for a certain period
of time or even permanently – the capable entity it belongs to and for
which it carried out specialized tasks. If we humans consider this absence
– this private life – as our ultimate goal, then this fundamentally contravenes
our natural status as producers and control centers of hypercell organisms,
which must be classified as unique entities in evolution.
In Sankt Christoph am Arlberg I clandestinely filmed skiers – greatly time-lapsed – as they stood in line for the ski lift, were pulled up, skied down the slope, re-entered the line, and soon thereafter skied back down the slope. Upon later viewing the film I asked myself: How would a visitor from outer space interpret this activity? The visitor would probably begin by asking what purpose all this effort served. It most certainly wasn't feeding, because food was nowhere to be seen on the snow-covered mountains. Neither were the enthusiastic skiers, who expended so much energy for their activity, aggregating for mating. I shot similar films of tourist swarms making their way up to the Acropolis and flooding across the colonnade. This would no doubt also have confounded our extraterrestrial vistor. Why this zeal, why this effort? In the case of animals, various behaviors are amenable to careful study and interpretation. In the case of the Acropolis visitors (and even more so in the case of the skiers), we might conclude that the idea was to somehow get rid of superfluous energy, without any recognizable gain.
The particularly strong play and curiosity drives in humans can be derived from those exhibited by the young of all higher vertebrates. These organisms are not born "fully developed", and their motor-instinct control mechanisms are particularly underdeveloped. Active interaction with the environment helps them to "wire" the cerebral behavior controls that they need for their future lives. This involves active testing, learning and practicing (exploratory behavior) and represents evolutionary progress in that these animals act and react less mechanically than insects, for example. This allows them to adapt much better to changing environmental conditions. A clear prerequisite for this, however, is the parallel development of a parental brood care instinct that protects the young against predators while they are helpless and ensures that they are adequately fed, cared for, and stimulated to undertake the trials we term play. The human child is born at a particularly early stage, which can in part be explained by our erect body posture along with the accompanying narrowing of the mother’s pelvis and difficulties in giving birth. This necessitates a commensurately long phase of parental care. In animals, the drive that we, for the sake of simplicity, refer to here as curiosity tends to disappear at sexual maturity. In humans, however, the drive to approach novel situations and take on new challenges in a playful manner remains active to a ripe old age. This is a further distinguishing trait of humans. According to my theory it developed hand in hand with our formation of more capable living entities, namely hypercell organisms. With the arrival of Homo proteus, humans gained the ability to learn new behavior patterns, to purposefully form additional organs that were separate from the body, and to apply these in a useful manner. Moreover, humans were able to use language to transmit this ability on – not only to their own children but also to the group as a whole. It goes without saying that natural selection supported any genetic progress that promoted this key capability. Evolution was handed an immense opportunity to form new structures, new species, new niches, and to enhance capability, i.e. it received a powerful boost in the broadest sense. In animals there was simply no selection pressure to extend the curiosity drive beyond sexual maturity. They developed all the behavior control mechanisms necessary for their survival in a piecemeal manner: a further inclination for exploration had much greater potential for harm than good. Humans on the other hand – in their role as the "germ cell" of fundamentally new, larger living entities (hypercell organisms) – were subject to strong selection pressure to apply their intellectual powers and experience, which increase with age, in a playful manner rather than viewing all novel opportunities for improvement with waning interest. The play and exploration activity that was originally tailored to the situation of the child (and which, in keeping with Darwin, took place "in small steps") ultimately gave rise to the research drive that so characterizes the human race. This, in association with the respective sensations of pleasure and pain, again provided a powerful impetus for the further development of hypercell organisms and business organizations.
From the very beginning, this innate behavior, which prompted ever new experiments and yielded ever new species, clearly also represented a threat to life. Its counterpart or natural antagonist was the preservation instinct, which already expressed itself in animals as mistrust toward everything new and unusual. In the human child, this clearly manifests itself in a fear of strangers and in caution. Our undiminished curiosity is further considerably dampened by communal traditions such as morals and customs. This may help explain why, over the course of history, only few persons, in whom this drive was particularly well developed (hypertrophied), sought to change the course of events with new ideas and inventions.
On the other hand, curiosity – based on the pleasure it conveys – has been factored into our concept of culture; this is entirely in line with my previous argumentation that it helped intensify positive inner feelings in the sense of the reversed polarity mentioned above. This explains the enthusiasm of the skiers I filmed in Sankt Christoph and is clearly valid for virtually every sport devised by man, particularly for the steady stream of fashionable new sports that our affluent society practices. One may argue that rational reasons such as better health through physical fitness or business considerations also underlie the sports craze, but the true explanation for this varied and
often expensive activity clearly lies in our compulsion to test ourselves under new conditions, to achieve new physical prowess.
On the beach in Nice, I was able to film (with hidden camera and time lapse techniques) how an elderly lady took off her shoes and wandered up to her ankles into the meter-high surf. The protocol in my published report read: "The time-lapsed sequence revealed that she kept inching toward the breakers, apparently out of pure bravado. Finally a set of particularly large waves almost brought her to fall, soaking her long dress up to the waist".
The philosopher and sociologist Arnold Gehlen, who was also versed in comparative ethology, termed humans as "a risk-prone creature, a being with an innate predilection to suffer accidents". How very true this is evident in the conflicts fought all over the world by warring groups, tribes, principalities and countries (whereby material interests are almost always at the forefront). It is equally evident in sports, where a heightened zest for life is the driving motivation to scale a vertical cliff, to explore unknown depths in the sea, or to brave the air currents and updrafts with a paraglider. In every case, the slightest error can have fatal consequences.
The animal kingdom is full of examples of how different instincts can influence one another, trigger conflicts, or lead to synergistic effects. In this vein, human curiosity is intricately linked with the full range of other mechanisms that motivate us. It influences our sexual drives when we search for a new partner, or our feeding instinct when we try Chinese, Japanese or Thai food. We bath in the gamut of sensations that fear and surprise trigger whenever we visit an amusement park and ride on a merry-go-round or enter a house-of-horrors or a hall of distorting mirrors. Oriental banquets, for example, are renowned for their virtuoso sequence of dishes combined with music, dance, games and other entertaining surprises.
Another film sequence I shot more than 30 years ago on the beach at Nice showed another constellation in which curiosity creates positive feelings sensations. This time I directed the automatic camera at a young man who sat in the midst of the bathers reading the newspaper. The highly accelerated film revealed new aspects that I described as follows: "he plowed through the newspaper, then grabbed a second paper and plowed through it as well; upon finishing the second one, he reached for a third paper, and upon finishing that one returned again to the first". When people read newspapers and books they are often unaware of the fact that they are dealing with matters that are of little consequence to them. The many conversations that I filmed all around the world left me with the same impression. In many cases, exchanging information is by no means the prime motivation; rather, the aim is merely to establish contact, the simple pleasure of chatting for the sake of chatting. People can obviously derive great pleasure from hearing the latest gossip. This goes a long way toward explaining why so many of us are attracted to theater, movies and the TV screen: our sense of curiosity whets our desire for diversion. At least in our fantasy, we seek to flee the constraints of everyday life. Our senses pine for new sensations. An urge, a craving for the novel molds our will – curiosity in the true sense.
Very specific interests no doubt motivated the swarms of tourists I filmed around the Acropolis. Nonetheless, even these interests are ultimately fueled by life-long human curiosity. From the evolutionary perspective, the positive sensations mediated by such drives would appear to be pure luxury, wastefulness of the greatest magnitude. This widespread behavior can even raise doubts about natural selection. A more in-depth analysis, however, reveals the opposite to be true. After all, why do humans work, why do they produce goods or provide services for others? The obvious explanation is to earn money. And why do we need money? Foremost to secure our own existence and, if we have a family, to provide it with food. This means caring for, maintaining, monitoring, and when possible improving and enlarging our capable entity and all its additional organs, i.e. including the hypercell organisms that we have formed and that provide us with energy. Once this goal has been attained, once life is secured and all immediate commitments fulfilled, it is only natural to use the surpluses to indulge in those things that enhance our comfort, our well-being, namely in those things that provide satisfaction, pleasure, happiness or whatever other term we choose to apply. This, however, means that the innate human drives that satisfy such urges become the strongest motor in the third phase of evolution. They promote the formation of hypercell organisms and business enterprises. The more successful these entities become and the more profits they make, the more those persons entitled to the surpluses can afford the attendant joys, pleasures and positive feelings.
From the onset, humans were clearly geared to manipulating
their innate instincts to heighten pleasure and reduce pain. This was by
no means a disadvantage for the development and evolution of life. After
all, nothing motivates people to apply their intellect and many talents
to form and operate hypercell organisms and businesses more than earning
even more money and improving well-being. This helps explain why natural
selection in the third phase of evolution is influenced less by short-term
events than by long-term ramifications. Again, the result is crucial, not
the path – or detour – taken to achieve that result.
Instinct and Intellect
Two additional drives whose mechanisms humans exploit deserve brief mention here: the group instinct and display behavior. Humans share the former instinct with all animals that live in packs or larger associations. It leads to life in communities that act as a unit and in which, in a subsequent evolutionary step, a division of labor may occur. This innate instinct leads group members to act together in procuring food or warding off enemies. In the sense of striving toward positive feelings, it mediates what we term the joys of communal living – shared meals (which clearly separates us from the animals) and the delights of feasts and games with many participants. The second drive, display behavior, is expressed in our efforts to impress other members of the group. Strictly speaking, it is less a clearly defined drive (like the others) than an innate behavioral tendency affecting a wide range of drives. Much in the same way that supplementary capabilities accompany and support fundamental capabilities (for example in locomotion or sensory perception), motivating mechanisms are hierarchically structured. In this sense, display behavior occurs in courtship displays and when enemies are fended off by artificially increasing one’s apparent size and by feigning power and might; it is also expressed in the group instinct when a leadership position must be acquired and defended against rivals. Humans also express this behavior in striving for higher social rank in order to gain the respect and admiration of our fellow man, in order to live in the most sumptuous villas possible, to wear the most expensive clothes available, and to drape our spouses in the most expensive jewelry that can be bought, just to name a few examples. For rulers, display behavior became a tool to intimidate underlings and to strengthen one’s own position or that of the family or clan. The arts, which can help make big impression, were sponsored over the ages by patrons motivated by the very same display behavior. This gave the business world a very reliable market for luxury goods whose main purpose was to impress others; it also enabled these businesses to operate with particularly large profit margins. In the final chapter I hope to demonstrate just how important it is to be able to correctly recognize and assess the biological basis of this particular drive.
It is also interesting to note that pleasure and pain are also conveyed by acquired drives, not only by innate drives. We term the former habits: they bridge the gap between instinctive behavior and the conduct we learn through upbringing and our intellect. Habits are already evident in animals such as dogs. These pets become accustomed to a certain resting place or to the daily rhythm of their owners and show clear reluctance when the normal course of events is altered. If someone has grown accustomed to stopping at a particular bar after work for a glass of beer or a shot of whisky – preferably with friends – then being forced to miss this rendezvous triggers clear unease. Walking into that bar, on the other hand, imparts great satisfaction. In various types of addiction, such acquired control mechanisms become compulsive. Customs or traditions are the terms we give to communal habits, and we all know how much these dictate our calendars. Fashion, for example, became a commercial tool to create new incentives for short-term habits at an ever quickening pace. And advertising became a most effective instrument to promote this tool.
The world’s religions provided the most stringent and
persistent dictates on how to live our lives. From an evolutionary perspective
the metaphysical teachings themselves are less interesting than the fact
that religion apparently arose shortly after humans first gained the capacity
for logical thought. This early appearance, coupled with the global onset
of the phenomenon, indicates that religions fill an important human need.
In my opinion, they are a consequence of our ability to intellectually
couple temporally and spatially distant causes and effects. Sooner or later
this ability must have led some people to raise the tormenting question:
what cause underlies my own existence? Any answer, no matter how improbable,
was better than no answer at all. Once such an answer was born, it proved
to be very persistent indeed, if not only because most were very hard to
disprove. They had the great advantage of reducing the fear that accompanies
ignorance. There was virtually no limit to the embellishments rhymed by
human fantasy. A clerical caste who taught "the answer" along with the
underlying rituals soon gained powerful stature. This cemented the morals
of the community even more effectively than customs and law: an invisible,
all-knowing judge is more threatening than one who cannot be everywhere
at once. This development was supported by death, a phenomenon which humans
were the first creatures to confront with full self-awareness; it was accompanied
by the secret hope of playing a role in the Hereafter, a metaphysical world
inhabited by gods and demons. Religion therefore played an extremely valuable
role in bonding communities; they were an incentive for common ideals and
a powerful compass for good and evil. On the other hand, such deeply ingrained
beliefs inevitably led to conflicts with others, particularly to fanaticism
and rigid intolerance. Although scientific progress has relegated the power
of religion to the back seat, the question "why am I?" remains a burning
issue to this very day and continues to preoccupy the subconscious of the
human "germ cell" at the core of hypercell organisms. Since we have abruptly
hit the limits of potential growth and, for better or for worse, will be
forced to fundamentally reappraise our situation, religious answers are
once again making headway. This will be the topic of the next, concluding
chapter of this book.
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Continue to chapter 8 - "The evolution of capabilities and its repercussions"