The Psychological Hypothesis (continued)
30) The last item that could account for the pathology of our species is the discovery of death by the intellect and its rejection by emotion. This is yet another manifestation of humankinds split mind, perpetuating the divided house of faith and reason. Faith is the more powerful partner, and the reasoning half of the mind is compelled to provide elaborate rationalisations to allay the fear of death.
31) There may be other cultures in the universe that are millions of years older than ours, to whom death is no longer a problem, but the fact remains that to use computer jargon, we are not ‘programmed’ for the task. Confronted with a task for which it is not programmed, a computer is either reduced to silence or goes haywire. The latter seems to have happened, with distressing repetitiveness in the most varied cultures. Faced with death, minds went haywire and populated the air with the ghosts of the departed; gods, angels and devils, until the atmosphere became saturated with invisible presences, which at best were capricious and unpredictable, but mostly malevolent and vengeful. They had to be worshipped, cajoled and placated, by elaborately cruel rituals, including human sacrifice, Holy wars and the burning of heretics.
32) For nearly two thousand years millions of otherwise intelligent people were convinced that those who did not share their particular creed, or did not perform their rites were consumed by flames throughout eternity by order of a loving god, similarly nightmarish fantasies were collectively shared by other cultures, testifying to the ubiquity of the paranoid streak in the race.
33) There is, once again, another side to the picture. The refusal to believe in the finality of death provided a set of ethical values and an inspiration for artistic creation. If the word ‘death’ was absent from our vocabulary, the great works of literature would remain unwritten. The creativity and the pathology of humankind are two faces of the same medal, coined in the same evolutionary mint.
34) To sum up, the disastrous history of our species indicates the futility of all attempts at a diagnosis that do not take into account the possibility that humankind (homo sapiens) is one of evolution’s countless mistakes.