"Either all these collectives came up with different behaviors that produce the same outcomes—head-butting bees, neighbor-watching starlings, light-dodging golden shiners—or some basic rules underlie everything and the behaviors are the bridge from the rules to the collective."
Is there a difference between the birds and the bees and other social behaviour? There's a common outcome at play - whether it's fish in a bait ball, a swarm of starlings or perhaps even a million man march, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's more secure, too, better able to control its fate.
From the cellular level (complex organisms) to the social level (herds, packs, tribes, nations) there's a trend towards inter-dependence for greater collective security and stability. What's the connective tissue, though?
The same holds true between differing populations of the human animal; societies tend to have a shared trajectory towards urbanization, specialization and complex centralized coordination. Environmental factors and external threats like guns, germs and steel may impact that trajectory, but left to their own devices it seems to fit that people will get there, eventually.
There's something more than that, though - like the birds and bees, there seems to be certain normative rules that pop up cross-culturally. They appear in the form of myth or religious doctrines, like do unto others as you'd have them do unto yourself.
Faith looks to define an omniscient God, an exterior consciousness that guides creation. Ecstatic religious philosophies, though, tend to resemble physics; everything is part of a greater whole. If there is naught but God, then we are God, too.
Consider this basic principle of a Unifying Theory that explains everything. Think of the challenges facing individual religions, trying to place a box around the concept of the divine.
Then, read this piece by Rabbi Hirschfield that hints at religion as a unifying force that brings people together and allows for complex, dense, centrally-organized urban density - civilization - to form.
But don't stop there. Look at systems theory, quantum physics, industrial psychology, NLP and the structure of all the world's main religions. Everything from ablutions to the 10 Commandments make sense, in both an historical and behavioural way.
Perhaps creating God in our image is the same thing as the scientific search for a Theory of Everything. Maybe they're missing the point.
Maybe God isn't a presence, but a set of rules. Or, more intriguing, an outcome that can only be reached together.