The Patterning Instinct: how unearthing our deep cultural assumptions could save the planet

We have been delighted to be connecting with Jeremy Lent, and his partner Lisa Ferguson, in the UK over the last few weeks. This is around the launch of Jeremy's powerful overview of humanity's search for meaning, The Patterning Instinct (which one of our co-initiators, Pat Kane, reviewed for the New Scientist). 

Essentially, the book want to embolden us to examine the deep cultural assumptions, rooted in what Jeremy calls cognitive history, that guide our contemporary actions - and largely in an unsustainable way. But the argument also reaches into the neuroscientific and evolutionary literature, and pulls out a much more creative and flexible human being than the one emerging from recent schools of thought (say, nudge thinking). We are capable of consciously creating new frameworks to live by - indeed, says Jeremy, it is imperative we do so.

We recommend an article Jeremy wrote on the "eight structural flaws of the Western world-view" - a great example of his method of unearthing the assumptions, and then suggesting... alternatives.

Here's some of his book blurb:

Taking the reader on an archaeological exploration of the mindThe Patterning Instinct offers a glimpse into the minds of a vast range of different peoples: early hunter-gatherers and farmers, ancient Egyptians, traditional Chinese sages, the founders of Christianity, trail-blazers of the Scientific Revolution, and those who constructed our modern consumer society.

The book identifies the root metaphors that cultures have used to construct meaning in their world from hunter-gatherer times to today’s global civilization, and demonstrates how these have affected the course of history. Uprooting the tired clichés of the science/religion debate, it shows how medieval Christian rationalism acted as an incubator for scientific thought, which in turn shaped our modern vision of the conquest of nature.

Shining a light on our possible futures, the book foresees a coming struggle between two contrasting views of humanity: one driving to a technological endgame of artificially enhanced humans, the other enabling a sustainable future arising from our intrinsic connectedness with each other and the natural world. This struggle, it concludes, is one in which each of us will play a role through the meaning we choose to forge from the lives we lead.