It turns out there is something real that exists wherever there is human society, and it wields enormous influence over our minds, our sense of reality, and all shared meaning from infancy till death. The way to understand it is through the concept of “emergence.” In any dynamic system, as the complexity of the interactions among its parts increases, something radically new comes into existence on a larger size scale. This “emergent phenomenon” is not the sum of the parts but something radically different, operating by different laws. From random motion of trillions of air molecules, a temperature emerges. From complex interactions among your trillions of cells, a person, yourself, emerges. From many individuals trading and wanting things, an economy emerges, operating by laws that never existed before and which we have to discover. Many sweeping phenomena emerge from humans interacting over time, such as medicine, governments, the media. These emergent phenomena have immeasurable power over our lives, yet they only exist because of us. I’m suggesting that the most ancient and powerful of all such emergent phenomena is so ubiquitous it’s not even recognized: it’s endlessly emerging from the staggering complexity of all humanity’s aspirations interacting.
Aspirations are what truly distinguish us from the other animals, so an emerging God became possible with us. It didn’t create the universe, but it created the meaning of the universe, because aspirations underlay every step toward language, art, and symbolic thinking. We’re connected through it to everyone, alive, dead, and future, whose contributions either fed into it, or who will be affected by how our aspirations improve or degrade it. This is a dynamic planetary phenomenon, possibly unique in the Galaxy, and if recognized it could unify humanity. You don’t have to call it God, but it’s real, and there is nothing in existence more worthy of the Name.