Our history as intelligent animals living in intensely social communities, where one’s connections and reputation often mean the difference between life and death, makes it obvious that our brains are hard wired to relate to things as other thinking beings. Plus, we can add that to the classic Type I/II error agency question, which give a probabilistic reason for why we assign agency (think of things as thinking beings) more often than needed (see this video). In other words, that noise in the bush is much more likely to kill you if it is another brain, and not just the wind.
Though it may sound like an unrelated idea at first, this human tendency to assign agency is very important for Naturalistic Paganism. This is both because it helps us understand why beliefs in supernatural deities are so common among us humans, and also why we have a natural pull to address natural things as if they had agency – even when we know they don’t. We need this feeling of a relationship – even one where we know the other side is not a human mind like ours, or a mind at all.
This ties into many topics in Naturalistic Paganism, and one of them is the powerful and moving series of videos that personify our world. The ocean is a defining feature of our Earth – our ultimate source as living creatures, which we still carry in our blood (blood, without the cells, is nearly identical to seawater – which is no surprise since we evolved in the ocean first).
Our Ancestors realized this time and time again, with the ocean represented as a goddess (Namaka) or god (Lir, ) dozens of times – in addition to non-human representations, such as dragons, snakes, monsters, etc.
Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997. He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature. He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University. Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org). Jon’s youtube channel, with videos about DNA, spirituality, and more, is here. Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality. He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism and maintains a hub page for Naturalistic Paganism.
Jon is also a regular columnist here at HP. His column is called Starstuff, Contemplating.