The New Science of Interconnectedness
In this seminar, we will take a voyage together exploring the biological and cultural evolution of individual identity, and the consequences of our self-perspective for major global, social, and environmental issues.
Part one draws on evidence from molecular biology and neuroscience, such as how most of our 37 trillion cells have such a short lifespan that we are essentially made anew every few weeks, whilst the bacteria, fungi, and viruses that make up our bodies influence our moods and even manipulate our behavior. This is combined with evidence from neuroscience and psychology to challenge the sense of ourselves as unchanging, discrete entities. For example, every word and every touch we receive from other people transforms the neural networks in our brain. In Part 2, we will encounter how our sense of identity as isolated individuals is an illusion that is becoming increasingly maladaptive in the modern world. It is responsible for many interlinked environmental, health, and economic problems and we will critically explore the proposition that solving these urgent problems lies in transforming our self-identity.
Books and Articles:
- Crompton, T. & Kasser, T., Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity (WWF-UK, Surrey, ISBN: 9781900322645, 2009).
- Oliver, T. The Self Delusion: The Surprising Science of Our Connection to Each Other and the Natural World (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2020)
- Oliver, T. The age of the individual must end – our world depends on it The Guardian, Jan 2020
- Pritchard, A., Richardson, M., Sheffield, D. et al. The Relationship Between Nature Connectedness and Eudaimonic Well-Being: A Meta-analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies 21, 1145–1167 (2020).
- W. P. Schultz, The Structure Of Environmental Concern: Concern For Self, Other People, And The Biosphere, Journal of Environmental Psychology (2001) 21, 327–339.
- Zylstra, M.J., Knight, A.T., Esler, K.J. et al. Connectedness as a Core Conservation Concern: An Interdisciplinary Review of Theory and a Call for Practice. Springer Science Reviews 2, 119–143 (2014).
About the Speaker:
Professor Tom Oliver
Tom Oliver is a professor at the University of Reading, leading their Ecology and Evolution research group. He is a prominent systems thinker, advising both the UK government and the European Environment Agency. He has published more than eighty scientific papers in world-leading interdisciplinary journals and won two first-place prizes for essays communicating science to a broader audience. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, Independent and BBC Science Focus and he is author of the critically acclaimed book; The Self Delusion: The Surprising Science of Our Connection to Each Other and the Natural World.