Oct 20, 2022 • 1HR 11M

Making Sense of the Meaning Crisis | John Vervaeke

And how it interacts with the metacrisis

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Rachel Donald
Planet: Critical is the podcast for a world in crisis. We face severe climate, energy, economic and political breakdown. Journalist Rachel Donald interviews those confronting the crisis, revealing what's really going on—and what needs to be done.
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“One of the problems that science has is it provides us with this explanation of the world, but doesn’t give us yet a good explanation of how we generate science. So science itself doesn't have a home in that scientific worldview, and we don't have a home within that scientific worldview. And that’s very problematic if you want people to feel connected to themselves, each other.

“So we had this historical movement which has undermined ecologies of practices and wisdom institutions. We keep trying to make politics the place that does all this heavy lifting. We drenched the world in blood in the first half of the 20th century, in which we created mass pseudo religious political movements, and we’re doing it again. Everything is politicised—but everybody feels disenfranchised from politics. They think it's corrupt and full of bullshit and gridlocked. That paradox tells you that people somehow know intuitively that that framing isn't the right way, but they don't know what the alternative is.”


John Vervaeke is a cognitive scientist at the University of Toronto and world renowned thinker, bridging science and spirituality in order to understand the experience of meaningfulness: how to cultivate it and why it’s crucial for human beings.

John joins me to discuss “the meaning crisis”—the global phenomenon of modern humans having access to so much, and yet so little profundity. Referencing neurobiology, faith and behavioural science, John explains the impact the meaning crisis is having on individuals all around the world, and what to do about it.

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We then explore its intersection with the metacrisis, and the historical traditions which are the root of our global energy, economic and climate crisis. Critically, John says we cannot solve the climate crisis without addressing the cultural forces driving the meaning crisis.

Planet: Critical investigates why the world is in crisis—and what to do about it.

© Rachel Donald