Emergence: Religion as a Superorganism
9 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2023
Date Written: October 6, 2013
In this paper I present a framework for thinking about the emergence of aggregate, organic entities from an intricate web of interacting actors at a lower level of organization. I argue that in addition to examples of this transition, such as eukaryotic cells, multi-cellular animals, social insect colonies, and human institutions, a religion can be viewed as a living, evolving superorganism. I highlight some of the attributes of generalized social systems and how those attributes change as the system increases in complexity and crosses the threshold at which a superorganism emerges. I then propose an ecological view of religions as multiple superorganisms evolving and interacting both with each other and with their external environment. The intent of this paper is to stimulate the reader to consider how this framework applies to religion and to help the reader better understand both the historical trajectories and contemporary issues surrounding religion.
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