Knowledge, Belief and Behavior: The Comfort of Fundamentalist Narratives in Times of Chaos & Despair | EV & N #336 | CCTV

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When humans are under stress they do not act upon what they know but rather upon what they have come to believe. Fundamentalist traditions are on the rise on all continents, in all cultures and within all religious traditions whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Hebrew or Buddhist, etc.  The one feature that all these many and varied  fundamentalisms have in common is the structure of “exceptionalist belief.”  Whatever else is happening to the world out there and to all the “others” beyond our group (so their narrative tells them), “we” will be “exceptions” to these events and follies because we are the “exceptions” — the “chosen people,” those set apart from the rest of the great unwashed because of our fundamental religious beliefs.   Fundamentalisms everywhere are based on this structure of exceptionalist belief.

For their part scientists the world over are re-asserting their own forms of fundamental truths as well.  But unlike the numerous religious traditions these fundamental truths are not located in sacred texts or privileged narratives of divinely designated “chosenness.”  Rather their truths affirm basic laws of physics and biology including:

  • water runs down hill,
  • no population can outlive its food supply,
  • animals do not photosynthesize,
  • ice melts at approximately 32-degrees Farenheight,
  • no organism can live for long in an environment composed uniquely of its own waste,
  • infinite growth of any population in a finite system is not possible,
  • etc. etc.

In this sense, the fundamentalism of science is just the opposite of that affirmed by most religious traditions because it affirms that humankind is not  exceptional and belief systems based on human exceptionalism are profoundly misguided.  The fact is that scientists affirm again and again that humans are not apart from nature but but rater a part of nature.  Hominid exceptionalism will inevitably prove fatal as all other delusional exceptionalisms have in the past.  Scientists now affirm simply that we had better learn fast to learn, absorb and behave with that awareness if we wish to survive much longer in Earth’s complex and ever-changing species mix.

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