The Existential Challenge and the Mything Link: Why Religion Is a Human Survival Strategy


This study explores myth-making as a biological imperative, an understanding of which may help us survive in the face of today’s existential challenges. This approach begins with cognitive neurobiology, which explains how perception creation is a subconscious act of storytelling, transforming events around us into story-like models. Myth-making is a special case of this process, allowing us to understand and respond to invisible forces that evoke awe and terror. As a result, any society’s myth will reflect both human universals and the existential challenges its members face. One key function of myth, then, is to help cultures change the way their people think in those times when conditions change so much that problems can no longer be solved with the logic that created them. Starting about 800 BCE, for example, larger populations and new technologies made vast, multicultural empires possible. So the history of the Axial Age includes development of new myths – and new ways of experiencing life – that would make new ways of living and governing possible. Something similar is happening today, as existential challenges such as global warming demand some form of global governance. Yet the scientific myth of Western Modernity seems to have become an obstacle preventing our elite from addressing these challenges. This study concludes with some speculations on how we can shift our scientific myth to more effectively respond.


Ken A Baskin
Writer/Speaker, Indepedent , Pennsylvania, United States


Presentation Type

Innovation Showcase


Interdisciplinary Approaches


Myth, Neurobiology, Survival, Culture, Transformation

Digital Media

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