By Robert Wheeler
A group I monitor called Religious Naturalists (RN) is having a discussion I think is of special interest to us all. This is about worldview, evolution, and what is behind our existence. More specifically it concerns what science has found about nature, what is the source of quarks and gluons that are the most basic components firmly supported by science, what comprises them and how did they get started.
For RN, anything that exists is a part of nature. Objective knowledge of it is limited leaving a mysterious unknown worthy of respect and reverence. Explaining the mystery as the work of deity is counter-productive because it stymies further inquiry about how things got started and the meaning of life. This is where worldview comes in. There are many similar terms such as philosophy of life and life theory but I like “existential philosophy.” This is a concept individuals have of their existence that provides meaning and purpose for their life, that motivates them to get out of bed in the mornings and continue to pursue the difficult tasks meeting immediate daily needs. My experience and studies of psychology and history support this as a need inherent in all thinking humans. Whether it came from evolutionary adaption or from design is not as important as recognizing its role in happiness and satisfaction, and the value of pursuing knowledge about it. I call this “ontological imperative.” It is allusive and for most people becomes subjugated to more pressing needs such as food, comfort, and entertainment. When pushed out of awareness, it simmers in the subconscious mind and can create feelings of dissatisfaction and can boil up to cause depression, anxiety, and even suicide.
This ontological imperative has been more active in the past. It provided foundations for religions and civilizations. If we thought about it more now, cooperation and helpfulness would reduce current adverse effects of competition and aggression. How different our world would be if media, educators, leaders, and politicians would emphasize the pursuit of a personally satisfying worldview rather than the consumption, entertainment, power, and violence currently emphasized.