Seeing a purpose in nature reduces fear of death

Connor Wood

Teleology Road

Here’s a question: why is there an ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere? If you answered “to keep UV rays from harming life,” you’re thinking teleologically. Teleology is the idea that there are goals or purposes in everything from the decomposition of soil to the big picture of cosmic destiny. Of course, science generally doesn’t see the world teleologically, because scientists have found that focusing on proximate, mechanical causes is more useful for discovering how things work. But a new study shows that teleological thinking, while not scientific, may serve another function – staving off the fear of death.

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Disgusting religion

Connor Wood

Disgusting_religion

When you think of the word “religion,” what comes to mind? Candles flickering in darkened chapels, cheerful baptisms, or ancient texts in dead languages? Sure, those images are pretty good. But how about disgusting bodily fluids and revolting lovemaking practices? Some types of Tantra, a variety of Hinduism often associated with the goddess Kali, enjoin practitioners to participate in some of the the most disgusting acts imaginable. And new research suggests that there might be important biological reasons for these behaviors. Specifically, disgusting acts transgress people’s innate biological desire to avoid pathogens, thus forcing a religious confrontation with death. (Warning: this article isn’t for the easily nauseated!)

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