Conscious Evolution: Is Society an Organism? - Prof. David Sloan Wilson
The concept of society as an organism stretches back to antiquity and was a mainstay of 19th and early 20th-century social science. Likewise, 19th-century evolutionary thinkers such as Spencer and Lamarck envisioned evolution as in part a conscious process, and even Darwin shared these views to a degree.
Both of these concepts–society as an organism and conscious evolution– became marginalized and even taboo within evolutionary biology during the middle of the 20th century. Group selection seemed to be authoritatively rejected and all adaptations were explained as for the good of individuals and their selfish genes. And evolution was said to have no purpose whatsoever: Variation is random and only the immediate environment does the selecting.
Today, these seemingly authoritative positions themselves appear outdated. The individualistic focus can be seen as part of a broader intellectual trend of individualism, which also pervaded economics and the social sciences during the same period. And the denial of any conscious component to evolution was overly influenced by Mendelian genetics, as opposed to other evolutionary processes such as human cultural evolution.
In my talk, I will show that the concepts of society as an organism and conscious evolution can be fully validated by modern evolutionary science, providing a practical framework for consciously evolving a planetary superorganism.
- Wilson, D. S. (2020). This view of life: Completing the Darwinian revolution. Vintage.
- Wilson, D. S.(2021). Atlas Hugged. Redwood Publishing
- Wilson, D. S., Atkins, P., Hayes, S (2019). Prosocial: Using Evolutionary Science to Build Productive, Equitable, and Collaborative Groups. Context Press.
About the Speaker:
Professor David Sloan Wilson
David Sloan Wilson is one of the world’s foremost evolutionary thinkers and a gifted communicator about evolution to the general public. He is SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. In addition to his teaching and research, David is President of Prosocial World – an organisation which aims to catalyze positive cultural change to consciously evolve who we are, how we connect with each other, and how we interact with the planet.
David is passionate about making evolution more accessible to a wider audience, and was invited to speak with the Dalai Lama about his work in 2019. He is the author of several books on evolutionary theory, including: “Atlas Hugged” (his first novel), “This View of Life”, “Evolution for Everyone”, “Darwin’s Cathedral”, “Does Altruism Exist?”, and the co-author of “Prosocial”, along with Paul Atkins and Steven Hayes. You can learn more about David’s work at https://www.thisviewoflife.com and https://www.prosocial.world