Emergence: Religion as a Superorganism

9 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2023

See all articles by Shade T. Shutters

Shade T. Shutters

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Complex Adaptive Systems

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.

Suggested Citation

Shutters, Shade T., Emergence: Religion as a Superorganism (October 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4332962 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4332962

Shade T. Shutters (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Complex Adaptive Systems ( email )

PO Box 872701
Tempe, AZ 85287-2701
United States

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