Borrowing from futurist Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants, I’ve been formulating the view that humanity has been in the business of constructing what I call a NHE (Noncorporeal Human Exoskeleton) for eons. What I mean by this is that as conscious beings and largely through language, we have built a sort of protective ecosystem comprised of a great many things – technology, ethics and morality, and, yes, religious faith – that has sustained and nurtured our species for hundreds of millennia.
God, or, to put it another way, our unrelenting quest for transcendent meaning, is embedded in this exoskeleton. And bear in mind that this exoskeleton has become so refined and complex over the eons that it makes demands on us. Moreover, in a very real sense, our exoskeleton has teased from humanity many unique qualities – qualities that define and set us apart as a very unique species. Indeed, without this exoskeleton operating throughout human history and making demands on us and teasing out certain traits, our species would never have advanced very far beyond the level of chimpanzees, though, to be sure, the case could be made that our simian cousins have developed some sort of primitive exoskeleton of their own.
If we ever manage to contact another intelligent species somewhere in the cosmos, we may turn up evidence that evolution possesses some remarkably convergent qualities. Perhaps we will discover that much like Homo sapiens intelligent species throughout the cosmos have spent many eons constructing their own non-corporeal exoskeletons. We may discover that they have used this ecosystem not only to develop and impart technology from generation to generation but also to build conceptual frameworks that impart psychological and spiritual meaning.
In other words, their development may bear a remarkable resemblance to our own.
Perhaps we will conclude after all that God is a very real thing, though not in the way that millions of people of faith have previously viewed that concept.