TED 2012 talk on Religion, Evolution and Self-Transcendence
I spoke at TED 2012, on the reason why people have so many ways of achieving self-transcendence. My goal in the talk was to illustrate visually some of the most complex ideas in my book — chapters 9 and 10 on multi-level selection and hive psychology. If you read those chapters, the video will make even more sense. If you watch this first, those chapters will make even more sense.
The basic idea is that our ability to lose ourselves and become “simply a part of a whole” (as Durkheim put it) is an adaptation, not just a fluke of crossed neural wiring, and the New Atheists would have it. It’s a mental ability that is of little use for helping individuals beat their neighbors in competition, but boy is it useful for helping teams bond together to out-compete other teams.
In other words, I’m siding with Charles Darwin, E. O. Wilson, and David Sloan Wilson on this issue, and against the dominant (but fading) view in evolutionary biology that group selection never happened.
[Be sure to watch this video full-screen, for the video effects]