A fractal derived theory of religion: survival

Religion an Emergent Fractal  Structure Formed From the Life Force Survival.
Blair D. Macdonald
First Posted:  2013 -5 -7
Update: 2015- 12- 18

This paper addresses a possible cause of religion or secular belief. It suggests it is an advanced, evolved manifestation of the life force survive. By the developed human brain, survival must be managed for – and in – the afterlife. The human mind can imagine the afterlife, and so must survive: religions have evolved to meet this demand. This survival theory may also explain secular religions also.

1        Introduction

The fractal, far from being only interesting images, and complex mathematics, is also – as I am personally discovering – an instrument of great insight; one that I am finding complements science, and its ‘mission’ to understand and explain the workings of the universe. I have been attempting to decipher and understand this instrument; from classical economics, to evolution, and even on quantum mechanics and the expanding universe the fractal has not yet failed with its insight. So could it also help us explain and understand other more humanistic issues too, the likes of religion? The answer – I find – is yes.
As a (fractal) thinker, I see patterns, and enjoy deciphering these patterns: religion is a pattern.  I am not the first to attempt an explanation of religion. To me, a fractal explanation of religion, is an academic question that needs to be addressed, this time in terms of insights from the fractal. I have discussed my theory with a number of people, and have always gained their interest; now the question is, can I write it as a blog entry, and make it convincing enough to you?

1.1      The Fractal and Survival

Firstly, what is a fractal, and what does it have to offer us to help explain religion – beyond being the often quoted, ‘thumbprint of God’?
A fractal (in brief) is a type of geometry; it is a structure that is characterised by the ‘same’ but ‘different’ – at all scales. They emerge from the repeating of a ‘simple’ rule. Trees, along with clouds, and waves are often quoted as the classic examples. Fractal shapes are – literally – found everywhere, and are from the insights they deliver – what I believe to be – the foundation of what is called science. They are so universal, that to me, it is more interesting to spot what is not fractal, than what is. I hope that sound's familiar to the scientist reading. So even religions have a branching, hierarchy, evolutionary nature. They also fit same but different.

1.2      What is religion, and what causes religion (or a religion)?

To help answer and understand the question: what is religion and what causes religion (or a religion)? I have chosen the common tree to ‘stand’ as my fractal object, so you can think or a tree structure as a religion structure.  It does not need to necessarily be a tree, or trees, as the universal nature of fractals suggests that I could have easily chosen any other pattern, but trees – particularly – offer obvious repeating 'fractal' pattern, and they have clear causality. As a matter of interest, it was being among trees where I was inspired to think about this religious explanation.  The explanation I come to should be scale invariant; that is not be constrained to only religions as we know them, but also secular religions –even religions amoungst science.

1.3      What is a tree? 

Using the above fractal definition (same but different at all scales): the ‘same’ component in this fractal definition, in the
 tree’s primarily emergent ‘branching/standing structure of plants; and the ‘different’ is to account for all the different variety of trees that exist now, and that have ever existed. 
It is to view all the different plants types: the conifers, the mosses, lycopods, and so on; and most recently the flowering plants. They have all repeated the same basic (tree) structure and in so doing forming what we term – in my case the English language, in a four letter word – a tree.

1.4      What causes a tree (structure)?

So we have structure, but what is it that causes the tree – where did they come from? Sorry, God is not an answer.  The cause for such a thing should not only be relevant to a tree type standing now; but also be for all tree types, or any of the tree type structures that have ever existed throughout time.  The cause should be a universal cause.
The standard explanation is sun-light: energy from the sun. Trees are plants: reaching to the light and in so doing forming trees. There are numerous references to this, including the BBC’s, The life of plants. “Plants have evolved woody stems to support and raise their productive parts to where it is most productive.” I can hear David Attenborough’s voice within me: “They grow high above their other competitors, where they have – at least in the short term, and the long term when they evolve with this adaptation – an advantage over their competition.
Through this (causal) light, we see that all the plant types have achieved this same outcome and are what is termed an evolutionary convergence of which examples are abound ‘in the natural world’* and include winged-flight.
* I put the natural world in inverted commas because, as a fractal thinker, I cannot distinguish between natural and un-natural (nature or cultural). More on this later because it is an important factor.
Religions, like the trees, have a structure that repeats – here and now. Humans have evolved religious structures that have formed into – just like with the plants – a few dominant kinds or types.

1.5      Cause?

The cause for religion(s) will something – just as light causes plants to form trees – be present in all religions. It will be something common to them all, and will make them what they are. Without this they won’t be.  More than this, my cause for religion will also be able to be reduced to something universal, something actually common in everything, and everywhere, and it is not a deity. It will be timeless, shared by the living, and (importantly) by the non-living. And, it should exist so as to repeat attributes common or like religion outside the context of what we think of as religion – it will converge. Just as plants have many types or species, religion will also show up in places we would never expect – in our case, the secular world, where there are no deities as such. This is something I will return to later.

1.6      It is survival – it is to survive

Through the fractal, I have reasoned that the cause of religion is the life force to live: it is survival – it is to survive.
Fundamental, primal to our needs, instinctive, and intuitive, are just some words to describe this – what is without a dealt – the ‘strongest’ of all life forces shared among all living things. Everything, in someway or other, ‘clings’ to life, strives, and fights to survive – and often (almost always) at high cost. Even things non-living – machines, brands, and even ideas – all seem to strive to survive; even if (in the context of humans) through us humans. Take away this instinct – this life force – and we have (maybe) nothing. 
What happens when this law (of nature), or this drive for survival (call it that) is ‘run through’ (so to speak) or amplified by a higher processing-power brain: the likes of the newly evolved higher thinking human brain? A brain that can – as far as we know, and (maybe) uniquely to humans – do what no other animal has ever done, it can imagine. It has a brain power that can actually imagine about survival; but that is not as important to my argument as the thought that it can now imagine or think about what it is not to survive. It can think and imagine about death – it can now think and imagine about after death.  Humans can, combining the two together (imagination and death) think about a void, emptiness – an after-life. The nature of survival is so hardwired, so strong a force, that this after-life cannot be perceived empty, it cannot be a void – the dead must survive, in death we survive. And so to accommodate this totally new space, and survival in it, totally new ways have to be developed/evolved to do just that – survive in it, and make it safe to survive in. Over time, cultures developed ‘institutions’ to deal with this ‘new’ space, and the structure that developed, we call religion.
Other animals strive to survive too, so why aren’t these other animals religious? Through this ‘survival’ theory, technically they could be, given they had the brainpower we have: so maybe too they would practice a form of religion.
To back this up, it is known that there was a time, in our evolutionary past, when human’s walked past the dead of their own, and that that changed at sometime in our near past: where instead of walking past our dead, as other animals do (today), they stopped and buried the their own dead, practiced ceremony and thought about their dead as surviving – in new places, in the heavens, for eternity.
Religion is an innate, emergence from this rule to survive. Just as bling and other display items are to sexuality – another fundamental life force associated to survival – religion is to survival. It is a manifestation of survive.
To finish off with, this life-force of survival, is so strong, so much part of us, so primal, that one doesn’t need a religious institution to think such thoughts. In my experience, it takes a (mentally) very strong person to fight this fundamental instinct – to tell them selves, there is no after-life, and that we are just, as we have recently learnt, stardust. Even those who have separated themselves from religion – self-confessed seculars – often think that we go somewhere, not to heaven as such, but somewhere. It is a very powerful force.
We are so wired to survive and are prepared to pay for our survival, this theory may also explain the likes of the massive health system budgets we have today in our modern world. Like the Pyramid’s of Egypt, and other religions sites, it is survival at all costs.
My next entry will deal with survival in the secular would, and reveal a convergence (just as the plants have) in science itself.


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