P r e s e n t s
CONVERGENCE October 2017
UNITING THE TRIBES in the INTERSPIRITUAL AGE
In this issue: Steering Toward the Omega Point: A Roundtable Discussion of Altruism, Evolution, and Spirituality Roundtable II
also features on activities across the Unity.Earth Circle of Friends
We are a collaboration of academics, activists, educators, and artists dedicated to a simple vision:
To promote the cause of planetary consciousness; one planet, one human family. We bring together the rich legacy of the Interspiritual Network with the team at 1GOD.com, World Weavers, U DAY Festival, the Convergence Academy, and a presence at the United Nations through Forum 21.
The Convergence Magazine October 2017 – Issue 1 Managing Editor • Shannon M. Winters, MS Contributing Editors, Issue 1 Kurt Johnson, PhD • Yanni Maniates, MS
Welcome to The Convergence magazine! This publication has evolved from the diverse
international relationships of the Unity.Earth community. Given this global diversity, the magazine may be very different - both in content and “look”—issue to issue. Its real purpose is to serve the amazing work that is going on in this global community. You can read more about this issue below and about who we are at the Team Page at www.unity.earth Ben Bowler, Kurt Johnson, Deborah Moldow, Yanni Maniates, Jeff Vander Clute, Karuna, Derek Grimm, and The Convergence Team
The Convergence History: “The Convergence” phenomenon began with the choice of this name for a radio series on VoiceAmerica’s Empowerment Channel. The series aired with thirteen episodes, drawing over 20,000 listeners, and running from the United Nations (UN) “Week of Spirituality” (October 2016) to the UN “Week of Interfaith Harmony” (February 2017). The series then begin again on the International Day of Peace (September 21, 2017), airing the Peace Day messages of Deepak Chopra, Karenna Gore and Kabir Sehgal, among others, and will continue to run indefinitely (see the episode lists at: www.unity.earth/convergence). The success of The Convergence paralleled the establishment of an international network of well-resourced partners, now called Unity.Earth (www.unity.earth) dedicated to providing an exciting and wide array of transformational activities. Our creation of The Convergence magazine is just one part of multiplying this message and work. This Issue—some important unfinished business: Several of the Unity.Earth partners began, in 2015, a series of roundtable discussions, with audio and video productions, on the important subject of “Altruism.” This was based on a convergence of science and spirituality, in light of current evolution studies, showing that at the level of groups the “natural selection” process of evolution selects the best cooperators, not the best competitors. This message, held in common by the “Interspiritual movement” among world religions today and the “Prosocial movement” in science led to a co-founding of The Altruism Channel at YouTube and a growing number of events and conferences. Remaining to be published from these gatherings were various roundtable contributions by thought leaders on evolution, altruism and their connection to a new cooperative era among sacred and secular activists.
Contributors David Sloan Wilson Steve McIntosh Herman F. Greene Matthew Fox Steve Farrell
Laura M. George Catherine Bell Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler Ken Kitatani Diane Berke Elisabet Sahtouris
Gaston Meskens Deborah Moldow Diane Williams Kurt Johnson Yanni Maniates
The Convergence Magazine Presented by Unity.Earth October 2017 — Issue 1
The Convergence Magazine is dedicated to the realization of spiritual unity throughout the world. Now more than ever, as the problems facing humanity become global in complexity and scope, it is imperative that we stand up, rise to the challenge, and take on the responsibility of tackling our problems head on: united as ONE human family sharing the same goals for the continued progress and prosperity of humanity as we individually participate in the collective adventure that is life on Earth.
We are …ONE people …ONE planet …ONE family Our Mission is to cultivate global spiritual unity while retaining and celebrating our glorious diversity. We are ONE. Managing Editor: Shannon M. Winters, MS Contributing Editors: Kurt Johnson, PhD, and Yanni Maniates, MS Graphic Design & Layout: David M. Winters Acknowledgement: We thank David Robert Ord who graciously tutored us on ISSUU. This issue of The Convergence Magazine is available for download at Unity.Earth. Click here to join the Unity.Earth Community. See page 87 for more details. The opinions expressed in this issue do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or editors of The Convergence Magazine. Except for fair use extracts with full credit, no part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. We make every effort to obtain proper permission to reproduce images. Please contact us with any information related to the rights holder of an image source that is not credited.
©2017 Unity.Earth All rights reserved.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Steering Toward the Omega Point: A Roundtable Discussion of Altruism, Evolution, and Spirituality Roundtable II Roundtable Introductions by Kurt Johnson and Yanni Maniates............................................................................................... 6 Welcome and Reply to Commentators of Roundtable II, “Steering Toward the Omega Point” by David Sloan Wilson........................................................................................................................................................ 8 Is Cultural Evolution a Function of Biological Determinism or Metaphysical Meaningfulness? by Steve McIntosh............................................................................................................................................................ 17 David Sloan Wilson’s Evolved Biology and its Meaning for Human Sociality and Morality by Herman F. Greene.........................................................................................................................................................19 Altruism?—No! Justice and Compassion—Yes! by Matthew Fox.......................................................................................23 We Are One; We are Altruistic: We Are Spiritual Activists by Steve Farrell.....................................................................27 Second Tier Micro-Communities: Altruism in Action! by Laura M. George...................................................................... 29 Business, Economics, The Awakened Company by Catherine Bell.................................................................................... 31 The Role of Altruism in Media and Human Evolution by Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler........................................................... 34 Altruism and the Vision of Kotama Okada, the Founder of Sukyo Mahikari by Ken Kitatani........................................ 36 The Role of the World’s Religions in Moving Toward Planetary Altruism by Diane Berke............................................. 39 Navigating Crises Toward Global Ecosophy by Elisabet Sahtouris...................................................................................... 41 Better living (in a Complex World)—An Ethics of Care for Our Modern Co-existence by Gaston Meskens.......................................................................................................................................................... 49 Discussion by Roundtable II Contributors.............................................................................................................................. 63 Context Addendum Synopsis of Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others by David Sloan Wilson.......................................................................................................................................................67 We Are ONE—Conversations An Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker Turns His Attention to Change Makers— and David Sloan Wilson by the Editors........................................................................................................................ 70 The Growing Edge of Interspirituality by the Editors....................................................................................................... 71 We Are ONE—Circle of Friends Remembering our United Nations Program Just One Year Ago—and Looking Ahead by the Editors............................72 Our “Forever” Commitment to Peace and Yoga by the Editors.......................................................................................77 Evolutionary Leaders: In Service to Conscious Evolution by Deborah Moldow and Diane Williams.................................................................................................................................79 We Are One—Commentaries Human Evolutary Change – “Insights” by Richard A. Bowell.............................................................................................. 81 A Roundtable Epilogue: “Steering Toward the Omega Point” with the Evolution Institute, This View of Life, and PROSOCIAL.world by the Editors............................................................................................. 83 “Science in a Spiritual Key” from Roundtable I by David Sloan Wilson and Kurt Johnson.....................................................84 5
Roundtable II Introductions Dr. Kurt Johnson and Yanni Maniates
he altruism message elaborated in David Sloan Wilson’s Does Altruism Exist? has clearly identified itself as the great unifier of sacred and secular activists at this time of myriad global challenges.
Since 2015 I have been working with David Sloan Wilson on the profound implications of the evolutionary altruism paradigm. First was the roundtable discussion with a dozen thought leaders published in This View of Life (“Steering Toward the Omega Point”). Subsequently, we co-produced five major videotaped panels, including more than fifty other leaders and thinkers across diverse fields. These included a daylong meeting in April 2016 with three panels at The Adler Library of the Society for Ethical Culture in New York City (see Interspirituality.com among several other websites featuring these links); a video panel with cultural evolution leaders in Boulder, Colorado in June and; in July, at The Alchemist’s Kitchen in New York City another videotaped discussion with political and cultural activists (both also available online). Recognizable names among our panel participants are many, for example leading integral thinkers Ken Wilber and Steve McIntosh, economist David Korten, cultural evolutionists Barbara Marx Hubbard and Elisabet Sahtouris, radical theologian Matthew Fox, and political activists Stephen Dinan and Steve Farrell. As well, in October of 2016 I hosted a session on the Altruism Paradigm at the annual Science and Nonduality Conference in San Jose, California. The Altruism paradigm is also featured as part of “The Convergence” VoiceAmerica internet radio program (see www.1god.com/convergence, Episode 4). David and I were also privileged to teach a course together at New York City’s One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in January 2017 to further develop materials and message on the unity of sacred and secular activism in the context of the prosocial movement. Additionally, besides this “Roundtable II” magazine you are reading, we will see the publication of two more Roundtable magazines on the Altruism Paradigm.
Furthermore, the importance of David Sloan Wilson’s pioneering work has been pointed out in a widely viewed video, “Introduction to Integral Spirituality,” by integral philosopher Ken Wilber which, to date, has had more than 90,000 views at YouTube. In June 2016, Ken Wilber and I videotaped a further, two-hour dialogue and update to this discussion. Esteemed film journalist Mel Sellick (www.melsellick.com) filmed a one-hour special on this discussion with me in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado as well. These materials are all available online at Interspirituality.com. Moreover, David Sloan Wilson has created a new magazine where he explains his work with Prosocial Groups. Click into this link for “Welcome to PROSOCIAL Magazine” to learn of the vision and the substantial tools that Prosocial has to offer.
As I have said in extensive commentaries about Does Altruism Exist?, as a person with professional training and lifelong career activity in both evolutionary biology and comparative religion, the importance of this view to the foundational questions of science is clear. When I completed my first detailed reading of the book, I said to myself, “finally, after decades of sacred activists and social progressives feeling their social idealism was an upstream battle against a hostile, unkind, and even cruel evolutionary process, here is a view of evolution (claiming to be the new mainstream) that paints a very different picture– one of the evolutionary process preferring structures that serve the wellbeing of the whole and not just the desires of this or that powerful individual or self-interest group.” That is why I have been so committed to the promulgation of the message in this book.
by Dr. Kurt Johnson
hat Kurt has written is not wishful thinking or hyperbole because the new altruism paradigm, which is based on hard science, truly heralds a globally transforming evolutionary shift that potentially will profoundly affect every person and all aspects of life on earth—politically, economically, ecologically, and socially. It frames a new vision, a new narrative or story that we can as a human race embrace and live in and out of. Actually, it isn’t “new.” Its potential has been around a long time, from the very beginning of time. We just hadn’t “seen” or envisioned it yet. The world’s great spiritual traditions knew and taught about it and in some instances practiced and lived it, but now it is out in the open for us all to “see,” and build upon. We can create “a world that works for all.” It’s part of our collective hardware. Someone once asked Albert Einstein, “What is the most important question that we as human beings have to answer?” Einstein replied, “It’s simple. Is the universe a friendly place or not?” Our answer to this question is fundamentally important because it clearly reveals to us how we experience the world and how we choose to act and behave in it. The primary narrative that most people believe, consciously or subconsciously—and we know this by their behavior, in other words, by how human history has played out so far—is that this world is not a friendly place. It a place where we need to be always “looking out” for ourselves and our immediate tribe. It’s a world where “the survival of the fittest” reigns. Darwin, so the narrative runs, “proved” it to be scientifically “true.” All Darwin did was create a catchphrase—one he didn’t even believe—that gave a name to the general zeitgeist of what most people and cultures believed and lived. That is, that “we live in a world of scarcity and lack.” Thus, to survive we need to dominate others, horde our resources and create iron-clad defenses against all of our “enemies out there.” But evolutionary biologists now have found that, in fact, it is cooperation, inclusivity and “altruism” that have been the impetus for both the physical, biological evolution of life as well as for the social and cultural evolution of the human race. Both biological life and human societies have evolved into more complex, inclusive, and supportive structures of organization. So, in fact, the drive for a more highly evolved biological and cultural order has been this inherent energy for its individual components to experience a greater sense of cohesion, inclusivity, and cooperation with each other. Thus, the impetus for evolution has not been what is summed up in the dysfunctional meme that “the mighty and the strongest are those who will be left standing.” Quite the contrary, it is those who choose to cooperate and be inclusive who are the ones who get to not only survive, but, more importantly, to thrive.
At first, as a layperson with minimal training in the sciences, as I read Does Altruism Exist? I thought, well that’s nice that we have an “altruism gene,” but I did not really “get” the huge implications of what this new “discovery” of science is helping us to recognize. This new “discovery” is screaming from the rooftops that the old narratives of “get what you can for yourself,” of scarcity and lack and the need to always ruthlessly compete were not only obsolete, but were all along dead wrong! For this reason, we need to get this message of evolutionary altruism “out there” as soon as possible! As we look at nature, we can see that it has evolved over time through cooperation and inclusivity. As we extrapolate this to humans, who are a species that can make choices and who as a result can also accelerate and guide their own evolution forward more rapidly, we see that the human race can consciously and intentionally make choices that steer it into higher and more evolved structures of cooperation and inclusivity. It is obvious that we need to get this vision “out there” and get to work on its implications now. For as we begin to weave this new narrative, this vision of cooperation and inclusiveness, into the fabric of the collective mind and heart of humankind, we can transform our world from a brutish Sisyphusian existence into a sustainable, cooperative, inclusive potential utopia—in other words into a “friendly place” for all. These roundtables, David Sloan Wilson’s book, Kurt’s book, The Coming Interspiritual Age, and numerous other individuals, organizations, books and movements are spreading this new “Word”—this new vision. One that no longer sees other people as “other,” but now see others as “us.” No longer is there di-vision— that is, seeing through the lens of duality and otherness—but now there is an all-inclusive vision—one that sees the inherent Oneness of and in All. We are at the cusp of a major evolutionary breakthrough that will redefine what it means to be a “homo sapiens.” Just as when a long, long time ago two hydrogen atoms dared to combine with an oxygen atom and, lo and behold, they became water. What an incredible leap in evolution that was! This is where we stand now. We are on the tipping point of just that kind of change as a human race. We don’t know who we can become and what the outcome will be as we choose to cooperate and come together, but we are on our way to a new totally transformative vision and experience of human life and society. We invite you to join us and many others in co-creatively and cooperatively envisioning and embodying this new vision in our world. Our sincere hope is that this roundtable can contribute to that. Gratitude to David Sloan Wilson and the commentators for their contributions.
by Yanni Maniates
Editors’ Note: Regarding David Sloan Wilson’s welcome and response below, it may seem unusual to publish it first in the sequence, but we feel that doing so helps point to the major issues that stir in this discussion. The commentators have invested much in providing detail in their diverse commentaries and we feel it is most likely all these will be digested and fully reflected upon if we begin the dynamism of the discussion here. For those who have not read Does Altruism Exist?, David Sloan Wilson offers a brief synopsis of the book on pages 67-69. Regarding format, we have given our authors the freedom to choose whether to use British or American spelling and to use the footnoting and referencing formats of their choice.
Welcome and Reply to Commentators of Roundtable II, “Steering Toward the Omega Point” by David Sloan Wilson
I’d like to begin by thanking my
distinguished colleagues for their commentaries on Does Altruism Exist? I feel an affinity even for the most critical, as I will attempt to show in my reply. To begin, I would like to propose some common denominators that unite all of us: 1) We all strive for “Oneness” at the planetary scale, which Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1959) called the Omega Point. 2) We all appreciate that humanity is far from reaching the Omega Point and there is nothing inevitable about getting there. We must steer toward the Omega Point. 3) We all appreciate the complexity and rich interconnectedness of life. 4) We all appreciate the diversity of human meaning systems that has existed in the past, continues to exist in the presence, and must be taken into account as we attempt to steer toward the Omega Point. Somehow, the whole world must come to an agreement on a core set of sacred principles while remaining tolerant and even celebrating differences in other respects.
The main import of Does Altruism Exist?, as Kurt Johnson realized immediately upon reading it, is that the holistic vision shared by all of us can be approached from a “hard core” evolutionary perspective. This is in contrast to “selfish gene” accounts of evolution and the tradition of methodological individualism in the social sciences (including the rational actor model in economics), which have dominated intellectual thought for the last half century. As Kurt put it to me after reading my book, it was like sailing with the wind rather than against the wind. In addition, I will make the bold claim that a “hard core” evolutionary approach can provide a more detailed navigational guide for steering toward the Omega Point than many spiritual accounts, which are sometimes long on yearning and short on practical know-how. If I could level only one criticism against spiritual accounts, it would be their tendency to describe human cultural evolution in terms of stages of development, like the maturation of an organism, with the most inclusive and spiritually enlightened stages counting as most “mature” and the assumption— sometimes implicit and sometimes explicit—that maturation will take place on its own.
In contrast, evolutionary theory treats all mental constructs as competitors in a Darwinian contest, which win or lose on the basis of how they cause people to act. This proposition is anathema to some because it seems like a contest that selfishness is destined to win. The good news of Multilevel Selection (MLS) theory, however, is that altruism can win the Darwinian contest, at least under certain conditions. In a single stroke,
Copyright ©David Hoptman. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist.
this turns evolutionary theory from a threatening prospect to a practical how-to guide. Provide the conditions that allow altruistic strategies to beat selfish strategies in the Darwinian contest, and we’re done.
This is the best way to interpret Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel prizewinning work on groups that attempt to manage common-pool resources such as forests, pastures, fisheries, and irrigation systems. As detailed in Does Altruism Exist? and elsewhere (Wilson, Ostrom, and Cox 2015), these groups can manage their own affairs and avoid “the tragedy of the commons” but only if they implement certain Core Design Principles (CDPs), which are shown in the Table. These principles are clearly protective against disruptive self-serving behaviors, enabling members to freely express altruistic behaviors without fear of exploitation.
Table The groups studied by Ostrom were small, leaving open the question of how good governance can be implemented at larger scales. Before we address this question, some additional insights can be gained for small-scale groups. First, the CDPs were implemented only by some of
the groups studied by Ostrom. They were lacking in other groups, which functioned poorly as a result. Thus, a lot of improvement can take place at the level of small groups, even before trying to scale up. Second, the CDPs appear decidedly unspiritual and lacking in compassion, more like an engineering manual than a sacred text. They seem predicated on distrust rather than on trust. However, a closer look reveals the very opposite. In a collaboration with Elinor Ostrom, her postdoctoral associate Michael Cox, and my graduate student Yasha Hartberg, we examined the role of religion in implementing the CDPs in
small common-pool resource groups (Cox et al. 2014; Hartberg et al. 2014). The elements of religion were everywhere—in the social identity of the groups (CDP1), in the allocation of duties (CDP2), in decision-making (CDP3), in monitoring (CDP4), sanctions (CDP5), conflict resolution (CDP6), local autonomy (CDP7)
and relations with other groups. As for trust and compassion, the CDPs don’t directly prescribe them, but by providing a safe social environment, they enable group members to become trusting and compassionate without needing to be told. The role of the sacred in regulating the mundane is a key point to establish. I will illustrate with three of my favorite examples. In an ethnography of the Mbuti pygmies of West Africa, the anthropologist Colin Turnbull (1965) describes a group of men planning the day’s hunt. The discussion is entirely matter of fact, without a hint of sacredness or spirituality. Some of the men are known to be better hunters than others, but the egalitarian ethos is so strong that each man has a say in the decision. This too could be discussed in matter-of-fact terms, but that’s not what happens. Instead, the decision is made on the basis of what would “please the forest.” A forest deity is inserted into the conversation at a precise point—making a consensus decision. In his book Priests and Programmers, anthropologist Steve Lansing (1991) describes an elaborate religious system in Bali with a very practical purpose—the regulation of agriculture, including the maintenance of an extensive irrigation system for the cultivation of rice. As with the Mbuti hunters, the Balinese describe their farming practices in matter of fact terms without a hint of superstition, but in the next breadth can credit the high priest in the temple by the sacred lake on top of the mountain with supernatural powers for holding everything together. My third example is from our own culture: the ritual of swearing upon a 9
Bible during a court hearing. The witness swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, “so help me God.” The entire testimony will be factual, as with the Mbuti hunters and Balinese farmers, but the sacred is surgically inserted into the conversation for a single purpose—to compel the person to subordinate his or her private interests to the interest of the group.
lower-level interests robustly benefits the higher-level common good. Thus, an “earth first” mentality goes against the concept of the invisible hand metaphor in economics. It also goes against a common belief among environmentalists that nature left alone strikes a harmonious balance that is
Emile Durkheim (1912), who was the son of a Rabbi, was the first scholar to fully grasp the utilitarian essence of religion, which he defined as “…a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things…which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.” While spirituality is often defined differently than religion (both have multiple definitions), it too can be shown to be utilitarian. Indeed, I’m of the opinion that forms of religion and spirituality that do not lead to right action aren’t worth wanting. The great challenge of steering toward the Omega Point, from a purely evolutionary perspective, is to scale up good governance so that the whole earth functions as well as a small group that strongly implements the core design principles. MLS theory offers two key insights. The first is that for the earth to become a super-organism, we must organize our practices with the welfare of the whole earth in mind. It is not the case that the pursuit of 10
easily disturbed by human activities. Finally, it goes against the Christian worldview of a universe created by a benign and omnipotent god. Higher-level functional organization does not come for free. It must evolve and we must assist in its evolution. This can be a powerful spiritual narrative, and one that some spiritual
thinkers have already converged upon, but scientific validation adds considerable weight to the narrative. The second insight is that small groups remain a fundamental unit in the organization of a planetary super-organism. This is a strong theme in Elinor Ostrom’s work and it becomes even stronger when her work is generalized from an evolutionary perspective. Large-scale human society needs to be multi-cellular, in the same way that you and I are multi-cellular. A societal cell is a small group whose members are engaged in meaningful work and know each other by their actions. This is the optimal social environment for individual wellbeing and for efficacious action at larger scales. Continuing the analogy with a multi-cellular organism, cells need to be organized into intermediate scale units— organs, networks, and the like—to sustain the whole organism. When you think that this is something that needs to be constructed at the scale of the whole planet, then the need for scientific know-how, appropriately harnessed, becomes obvious. Spiritual yearning by itself will never be enough. Yet, a spiritual dimension is also needed to animate the endeavor and to subordinate lower-level interests to higher-level goals. A sense of the sacred is needed for a planetary super-organism, just as it is needed for the smaller societal super-organisms that already exist. As if this weren’t daunting enough, a sense of the sacred
for the whole earth must be cultivated in a way that tolerates and even celebrates a diversity of meaning systems, rather than insisting that everyone share the same meaning system.
its members. The more a community implements the CDPs, the greater the satisfaction of its members. The communities become especially strong with member identity fuses with group identity.
Against this background, I will briefly reply more specifically to the commentaries.
A detailed case study of an Eco-village in rural Missouri named Dancing Rabbit (DR; http://www. dancingrabbit.org) illustrates some of the general points that I have made above. Members abide by a covenant that strictly regulates ecological practices, mandates non-violent conflict resolution, and mandates financial and time contributions to the group. In these respects, DR is as strict as any religion I know. As a result, DR is far more efficacious in living an ecologically sustainable lifestyle as a group than any member could accomplish on his or her own. In addition, for members who abide by the covenant, all other differences are tolerated and even celebrated, such as one’s particular religious or spiritual belief, sexual orientation, or living arrangement. This makes DR, along
I’m delighted that Laura M. George has brought up the subject of Micro-communities (also called Intentional Communities), because they beautifully illustrate the power of small groups, which I have already stressed. With my graduate student Ian MacDonald and two Norwegian colleagues, Bjorn Grinde and Ragnhild Bang Nes, we worked with the Federation of Intentional Communities (FIC) to conduct a survey of over 100 communities (Grinde et al. 2017). The survey results are strongly supportive of Ostrom’s CDP approach. The average community in our sample provides a very high quality of life for
with other Intentional Communities such as those described by George, a model for strong action combined with tolerance for diversity that can be emulated by groups of all sizes. I’m also delighted that Catherine Bell has brought up the subject of business groups. The possibility that business groups need the CDPs as much as any other kind of group—perhaps even more because of the highly competitive business environment—is dumbfounding against the background of orthodox thought in the business world, which is highly influenced by neoclassical economic theory. Yet, a considerable body of empirical evidence supports the CDP approach, as described in this Evolution Institute report titled “Doing Well by Doing Good: An Evolution Institute Report on Socially Responsible Businesses” (Wilson et al. 2015). I look forward to working with Bell to spread altruistic practices—appropriately protected by the CDPs—in the workplace. This is a good example of how much can be done at the level of relatively small
Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist.
groups, even before we attempt to scale up to larger multi-group societies. The most critical commentary of the set is by Matthew Fox, who argues against a view based on altruism and in favor of a view based on justice and compassion. Ironically, his commentary also stands out among the others for its uncompassionate tone. Nevertheless, I agree with Fox more than he might think. MLS theory is needed to address two major questions: 1) The evolution of altruistic behaviors, conventionally described as benefitting others at the expense of the self; and 2) the evolution of groups as functionally organized units, even higher level super-organisms in their own right. I regard the second question as most important, which is why Chapter 1 of Does Altruism Exist? is titled “Groups That Work.” MLS theory can explain the evolution of highly sacrificial altruistic traits, but it also predicts that such traits will not evolve if the same group benefits can be obtained at less cost. Because MLS theory defines altruism in terms of relative fitness rather than absolute fitness, many products of group selection are not altruistic in the conventional sense of the word (e.g., selection among locally stable equilibria that differ in their group properties). Finally, the manyto-one relationship between proximate and ultimate causation discussed in Chapter 5 and subsequent chapters relegates psychological altruism to one of numerous possibilities for motivating behavior. You’d think that someone who doesn’t like the conventional concept of altruism would find much to like in my book. Also, I don’t see how Fox could have read my book without seeing that the second question is all about the 12
interdependence among members required for a group to qualify as a super-organism, regardless of how they think about it psychologically. Steve McIntosh’s commentary is also critical, although thankfully more cordial in tone. He sees the “realm of authentic meaningfulness” as an alternative to MLS theory. Two key passages from his commentary are: “The motivating power of intrinsic values cannot be reduced without remainder to the biological value of reproductive success” and “This requires the recognition of an authentic domain of metaphysical meaningfulness which can only be found beyond the horizon of physicalist Darwinian thinking.” I think that the distinction between proximate and ultimate causation covered in Chapter 5, coupled with the capacity for symbolic thought covered in Chapter 4, can bring such things as intrinsic values and authentic meaningfulness inside the orbit of evolutionary theory. These mental constructs, or “symbotypes” as I called them in Chapter 4, are more real than the real world for those who experience them. Nevertheless, they
invariably result in behaviors that are enacted in the real world, which will be winnowed by consequences to leave a subset of intrinsic values that work, compared to other intrinsic values that don’t work. There is no hiding from this winnowing process! In addition, once cultural evolution is taken seriously, it is a parallel evolutionary process not always subordinate to genetic evolution. As the sociocultural anthropologist Robert Paul (2015) argues persuasively, the reason that many cultures regard their spiritual practices as holy and biological reproduction as dirty and evil is because the cultural practices are required to prevent disruptive reproductive competition from taking place.
I congratulate Steve Farrell for his selfless behavior and success in helping to launch Humanity’s Team. Based on his description, it appears to be a worldview that fosters unity at a planetary scale and action at the local scale. It does so by fostering a sense of interdependence, not altruism as conventionally defined, especially because anything done to the other is conceptualized as also being done to oneself. A new spiritual movement such as this affords an opportunity reinforce a point I made in response to McIntosh. Humanity’s team is one of many worldviews that are competing for attention and allegiance. It has spread to a degree, but will it spread further or will it become one of the countless worldviews that have come and gone throughout history? I humbly suggest that a sophisticated knowledge of evolutionary theory can add value to what Farrell and Neale Donald Walsch are doing quite successfully. Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler writes that “Today’s media network is a hologram, the great nervous system of humanity and the global brain of society. In this forum, all the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual components of humanity, including our pathologies, are projected.” I would amend this description somewhat. As discussed in more detail elsewhere (Wilson 2016), it is important to distinguish between a complex system that functions adaptively as a system (example: a brain
and nervous system) and a complex system composed of agents that follow adaptive strategies for themselves (example: a biological ecosystem). I would say that today’s media network is more like a biological ecosystem than a single brain and nervous system, which is why all components of humanity, including our pathologies, are indeed projected. If we want today’s media network to function more like a global brain and nervous system, then this is something we need to steer toward as part of steering toward the Omega Point. This is possible (although daunting) because the social interactions that take place on the media are subject to the same selection pressures as other kinds of social interactions. When examples of good behavior on the Internet exist, such as on eBay and AirB&B, it is because protections against disruptive self-serving behaviors have been put into place, just as in the real world. I look forward to the day when more media experts become literate about MLS theory.
I wholeheartedly agree with Ken Kitatani’s statement that the “unifying of science and spirituality does not mean a mixture of religious doctrine and scientific theory and principle. Rather, it is science growing toward the next steps in its evolutionary path and discovering, uncovering spiritual truths and principles in a measurable way.” His spiritual mentor, Kotama Okada, appears to have foreseen much over a half century ago. Kitatani’s discussion of Eastern and Western forms of spirituality and conceptions of altruism reminds me of The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why by the social psychologist Richard Nisbett (2003), who traces the differences to thousands of years of cultural evolution in different sociocultural environments. These differences highlight the need to create a “One Earth” worldview in a way that accommodates a diversity of cultural meaning systems, both sacred and secular. Thanks to Herman F. Greene for his admirable summary of my book. I could not discuss the history of Social Darwinism in detail, but this topic has received the attention it deserves in a special edition of the online magazine This View of Life (TVOL) titled “Truth and Reconciliation for Social Darwinism,” which I organized with TVOL Editor Eric Michael Johnson (Wilson and Johnson 2016). The history is much more complex and interesting than the received view that Darwinism 13
led to an epidemic of harmful policies justifying inequality. At worst, it was an arrow added to a quiver of other arrows justifying inequality based on religion, tribalism, nationalism, and so on. In any case, I am glad that Greene appreciates that MLS theory is unequivocal about the disruptive effects of within-group competition and the need for prosociality at all social scales. Greene’s critical comments about a biological worldview being limited to reproductive advantage are broadly similar to those of McIntosh. I therefore need to reiterate that when cultural evolution is taken seriously, it becomes a parallel and co-evolving process with genetic evolution, not a subordinate process. The only reproductive success required for a particular cultural form is to persist in competition with other cultural forms. This can be accomplished by conversions in addition to births and the
spread of the major religious traditions drew upon both. Obviously, reproduction must take place for human populations to persist, but evolutionary explanations are not narrowly confined to biological reproductive success as much as many people assume. An adaptive human society can include many individuals who do not reproduce at all, for example. 14
I welcome Diane Berke’s commentary to discuss developmental theories in more detail. She states: “Despite their variations in specificity, most developmental theories describe consciousness as moving through several different levels, or altitudes, of worldview and identification—from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric and even then, to use Ken Wilber’s language, to kosmo-centric.” One reason that I find developmental theories problematic is that the word “development” implies a one-way progression. A developing organism matures from conception to death and never goes in the opposite direction. This is an inappropriate metaphor for scales of human social organization, which can easily go in either direc-
tion, as we are currently seeing with the rise of nationalistic movements and deterioration of the European Union and other forms of trans-national cooperation. Another problem with developmental
theories is an implied value judgment that higher stages are superior to lower stages—but this is not always the case. The so-called “lower” stages are often necessary for survival and counseling someone to “mature” to a “higher stage” can put them in harm’s way, like declawing an alley cat and putting it back into the alley, as I discuss in the chapter of Does Altruism Exist? titled “Pathological Altruism”. One reason that we are experiencing the rise of nationalistic movements is because globalization processes have resulted in extreme inequities. When citizens of nations aren’t benefitting from transnational cooperation, their desire to reduce the scale of cooperation is only to be expected. Matters such as these are obscured by developmental theories and enlightened by MLS theory, at least in my opinion. That said, I agree with Berke that religions can be part of the solution in reaching higher
stages of development, as conceptualized by developmental theories. This is what I take to be the essence of the Interspiritual movement (Johnson and Ord 2013). Elisabet Sahtouris’s elegant commentary provides an opportunity to discuss major evolutionary transitions in more detail. As recounted in Does Altruism Exist?, a major transition oc-
curs when the potential for disruptive selection within groups is suppressed to the point where between-group selection becomes the dominant evo-
lutionary force. When this happens, the group evolves to be so cooperative that it becomes a higher-level organism in its own right. The idea was first established for nucleated cells evolving from bacterial cells in the 1970’s and then was generalized in the 1990’s to include the first cells, multi-cellular organisms, social insect colonies, and even the origin of life as groups of cooperating molecular interactions (Maynard Smith and Szathmary 1999). As if this weren’t panoramic enough, the concept of major transitions promises to explain human genetic evolution at the scale of small-scale societies (Boehm 2011) and the cultural evolution of largescale societies during the last 10,000 years (Turchin 2015). This comes close to a legitimate stage theory for evolution. Once a new level of functional organization is achieved, it is seldom, if ever, reversed. It is likely that given enough time, major transitions would occur on any planet containing life. However, some cautions are in order before we attempt to use major transitions
as a compelling narrative and scientific guide for creating a global superorganism. Major transitions are extremely rare events in the history of life. The suppression of disruptive evolutionary forces at lower levels is no easy matter, so millions of generations can go by without the next level being achieved. In addition, a major transition does not necessarily result in anything that resembles human consciousness. A nucleated cell is no more conscious than a bacterial cell. Honeybee colonies have a group mind (Seeley 1995, 2010), but it is narrowly designed for collective survival and reproduction to the immediate environment of the honeybee, just like the nervous systems of most multi-cellular organisms. In all organisms capable of learning, behaviors learned during the lifetime of an organism can alter selection pressures and therefore direct the course of genetic evolution to a degree, but again in ways that are closely tied to immediate survival and reproduction. The human major transition differed from all previous transitions on earth in creating a new process of rapid cultural evolution capable of directing itself to a remarkable degree, but still far short of what’s needed to evolve a planetary superorganism—at least so far. Hence, the most compelling narrative that remains true to the science is that steering toward the Omega Point is a long shot that is up to us to win or lose. I think this is what Sahtouris means when she writes: “we should not wait for saviors but to be them.”
knowledge is needed. Sahtouris expresses skepticism toward the concept of “mechanized society,” which is understandable given what this has meant in the past. However, just as multi-cellular organisms require sophisticated mechanisms to suppress cancers, the planetary superorganism will require mechanisms to suppress disruptive forms of lower-level selection, which will require an engineering mindset to go along with the ecosophical mindset. Furthermore, the engineering mindset must take complexity into account. It is fortunate that Gaston Meskens chose to write at length on the subject of complexity, which complements my focus on evolution in Does Altruism Exist? I have started to emphasize the need for both bodies of theory, for example in a book that I co-edited titled Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics (Wilson and Kirman 2016). Complexity theory includes both living and nonliving systems, which makes it more general than evolutionary theory. Yet, living systems are such a special subset of all complex systems that they need their own theoretical framework—evolutionary theory— nested within complex systems theory. Both theories are “toolkits”
To act in this capacity, we must make the evolution of a planetary superorganism our explicit goal, which is where an “Earth First” ecosophy is needed. Then we must know how to achieve it, which is where scientific 15
that provide multiple tools for explaining diverse phenomena.
which therefore binds them together into a single ethical system.
I think that religious/spiritual traditions and scientific traditions both have something vital to contribute to an ethics of care based on complexity. Religious and spiritual traditions can lead to a deep appreciation of the interconnectedness of life that goes beyond intellectual understanding. This is the whole point of Buddhist teaching and practice, as the Dalai Lama (2011) explains to a general audience in his book Beyond Religion, Ethics for a Whole World. Yet, no matter how thoroughly we become oriented toward a systemic view of life, scientific methodology will be required to discover how to behave in a world where every action results in a cascade of indirect effects that is difficult to predict in advance. Complexity calls for a cautious and experimental approach to policy formulation and implementation. As Meskens stresses in his commentary, this approach needs to include the participation of everyone throughout the entire system,
Meskens is somewhat pessimistic that traditional forms of governance such as democracy, science, and market forces can lead to sustainable solutions in a complex world. I am more optimistic, based on some best practices that I have encountered in the economic, business, and political science literatures. Sociocracy (Buck and Villines 2007) and Holocracy (Laloux 2014) are forms of democratic governance that originated in the business world that take complexity into account. The Toyota Corporation is a fascinating example of a social organization that adapts to changing environments through a carefully orchestrated variation and selection process (Rother 2009). A book titled Complexity and the Art of Public Policy (Colander & Kuper 2014) shows how public policy can be formulated with complexity in mind. Finally, the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland) are the envy of the world in part because of a collaborative
Literature Cited Boehm, C. (2011). Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. New York: Basic Books. Buck, J., & Villenes, S. (2007). We the People: Consenting to a Deeper Democracy. Washington DC: Sociocracy Info Press. Colander, D., & Kupers, R. (2014). Complexity and the Art of Public Policy: Solving Society’s Problems from the Bottom Up. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Cox, M., Villamayor-Tomas, S., & Hartberg, Y. (2014). The role of religion in community-based natural resource management. World Development, 54, 46–55. DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2013.07.010. Dali Lama, H. H. (2011). Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Durkheim, E., & Fields, K. E. (1912). The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: The Free Press. Grinde, B., Nes, R. B., MacDonald, I. F., & Wilson, D. S. (2017). Quality of life in intentional communities. Social Indicators Research, 1–16. DOI: 10.1007/s11205017-1615-3. Hartberg, Y., Cox, M., & Villamayor-Tomas, S. (2014). Supernatural monitoring and sanctioning in community-based resource management. Religion, Brain & Behavior, 95–111. DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2014.959547. Johnson, K., & Ord, D. (2013). The Coming Interspiritual Age. Vancouver: Namaste. Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired By the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. Brussels: Nelson Parker Press. Lansing, J. S. (1991). Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Maynard Smith, J., & Szathmary, E. (1999). The Origins of Life: From the Birth of Life to the Origin of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Nisbett, R. (2003). Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently, and Why. New York: Free Press.
relationship between labor, business, and government with the welfare of the whole nation in mind (Wilson and Aasland 2016). These examples make me cautiously optimistic that a combination of a spiritual orientation and scientific know-how can enable us to steer toward the Omega Point.
Copyright ©David Hoptman. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist.
Paul, R. A. (2015). Mixed Messages: Cultural and Genetic Inheritance in the Constitution of Human Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Rother, M. (2009). Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results. New York: McGraw Hill. Seeley, T. (1995). The Wisdom of the Hive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Seeley, T. D. (2010). Honeybee Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Teilhard de Chardin, P. (1959). The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Collins. Turnbull, C. M. (1965). The Mbuti Pygmies: An Ethnographic Survey. New York: American Museum of Natural History. Turchin, P. (2015). Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth. Storrs, CT: Baresta Books. Wilson, D. S. (2016). Two meanings of complex adaptive systems. In, Complexity and Evolution: A New Synthesis for Economics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Wilson, D.S. and Aasland, S. (2016). How Norway dispels the private vs. public sector myth. Evonomics.com Available at: http://evonomics.com/how-norway-dispels-the-private-david-wilson/ Wilson, D.S. & Johnson, E.M. (2016). Truth and reconciliation for social Darwinism. This View of Life Special Edition. Available at: https://evolution-institute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2Social-Darwinism_Publication.pdf Wilson, D. S., Kelly, T. F., Philip, M. M., & Chen, X. (2015). Doing well by doing good: An Evolution Institute report on socially responsible businesses. Available at: https://evolution-institute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/EI-Report-Doing-WellBy-Doing-Good.pdf Wilson, D. S., & Kirman, A. (Eds.). (2016). Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. Wilson, D. S., Ostrom, E., & Cox, M. E. (2013). Generalizing the core design principles for the efficacy of groups. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 90, S21–S32. DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2012.12.010.
Is Cultural Evolution a Function of Biological Determinism or Metaphysical Meaningfulness?
by Steve McIntosh
’m grateful to be invited by Dr. Kurt Johnson to participate in this roundtable with distinguished evolutionary biologist Dr. David Sloan Wilson. I have followed Dr. Wilson’s writing for some time, and am especially interested in his work with the Evolution Institute. In addition to my work as a writer on integral philosophy, I am co-founder and president of a somewhat similar think tank, called the Institute for Cultural Evolution (www.culturalevolution.org). However, our approach to both conceptualizing and impacting cultural evolution differs significantly from the approach of Dr. Wilson and his Evolution Institute. Nevertheless, because we share many of the same goals, I am interested in making a connection by commenting on his new book, Does Altruism Exist? First, I would like to commend Dr. Wilson for reaching out, not only to traditional religious groups, but now through these roundtable discussions to what is perhaps best characterized as “progressive spirituality.” Contemporary progressive spirituality represents a wide variety of views, ranging from philosophically sophisticated forms of “evolutionary spirituality” to the lamentably magical thinking of some New Age teachings. But
transcends traditional forms of religion. The fact that Dr. Wilson was drawn to the “spiritual fragrance” of a progressive spiritual leader like Kurt Johnson speaks to Dr. Wilson’s intuition that progressive spirituality is worthy of his attention. Second, I am intrigued by Dr. Wilson’s advocacy of the use of multi-level selection theory to help implement “polycentric governance” to optimize the scale of groups for each sphere of human activity. This approach to advancing cultural evolution may prove fruitful, especially if used in combination with the approach advocated by The Institute for Cultural Evolution, which involves expanding the scope of what people are able to value.
“Understanding the role of goodness in general, and altruism in particular, within human cultural evolution requires that the authentic meaningfulness of such values be taken into account on their own terms.” However, within the agreed limit of approximately 1,000 words, I think I can best assist Dr. Wilson’s work by offering a constructive critique pointing out areas of partiality in his thinking that need to be supplemented by a more robust appreciation of the reality of values in the development of culture and consciousness. Although Dr. Wilson acknowledges that cultural selection pressures differ from biological selection pressures, his analysis remains within a strictly Darwinian or biological framework. And this obscures his recognition of the emergence of increasingly inclusive stages of value appreciation that has occurred over the course of human cultural evolution. By placing too much explanatory weight on multilevel selection theory, Dr. Wilson’s approach misses or ignores the arena wherein most of the development of culture and consciousness is actually going on—the realm of authentic meaningfulness. In short, the higher emergent domain of cultural evolution cannot be adequately understood or theorized from the vantage point of the lower domain of biological evolution.
Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist.
what most forms of progressive spirituality have in common is the attempt to rediscover a sacred dimension of reality that
For example, the theory of multi-level selection cannot explain why personal spiritual commitments often override not only the interests of the individual, but the interests of the group as well. As Paul Cassel writes in his recent book, Religion, Emergence and the Origin of Meaning: “The importance of ideas trumps the survival of the biological species that has ideas.” While
spiritually motivated people may be severely mistaken about the reality of transcendent values such as goodness, truth, and beauty, Dr. Wilson’s background assumption—that increased biological reproduction or “secular utility” is the “ultimate cause” of the effectiveness of altruistic pro-social behavior— reduces the meaningfulness of human motivations to a merely biological end. And this flies in the face of the lived experience of the vast majority of pro-social people. To adequately appreciate the role of altruism in human cultural evolution it is necessary to understand how both the motivations and actions of altruism have themselves evolved through the sequence of values-based worldviews that have emerged over the course of human history. However, Dr. Wilson writes in his blog that he is “not happy” with this view; that it is “theoretically problematic, [and] leaves vague exactly what needs to be done to achieve more enlightened forms of spirituality and action.” This inaccurate assessment of the models employed by integral philosophy in its analysis of cultural evolution shows that Dr. Wilson might benefit by looking more deeply into this field to see how it far exceeds, both empirically and theoretically, the oversimplified and problematically linear ideas promoted under the label of “spiral dynamics.”
authentic meaningfulness of such values be taken into account on their own terms. And this requires the recognition of an authentic domain of metaphysical meaningfulness which can only be found beyond the horizon of physicalist Darwinian thinking. Further, to get at what “extracts group commitment” and thus succeeds culturally, we have to appreciate how morality itself is conditioned by evolutionary emergence in culture. Understanding this kind of emergence involves more than the recognition of different levels or scales of social organization, such as the levels of family, community, nation, and globe taken into account by Dr. Wilson. The effective promotion of pro-social behavior involves seeing how people come to form new commitments to emergent ideals of morality that are better than the status quo—ideals that transcend and include the best of what has come before. And this requires a theory of value that recognizes an authentic dimension of vertical progress—a notion of “which way is up”—that goes beyond mere biological flourishing.
As I argue in my 2012 book, Evolution’s Purpose, as well as in my recently published book, The Presence of the Infinite: The Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, the “gravity” that intrinsic values exert on the consciousness of human beings must be taken into account in any analysis of cultural evolution. Taking values seriously does not mean a return to premodern notions of “Platonic forms.” But it does involve recognizing that the motivational power of intrinsic values cannot be reduced without remainder to the biological value of reproductive success.
Obviously, this kind of critique cannot be properly made in the format of this brief roundtable commentary. And if I had more space and time, not only would I elaborate my critique of Dr. Wilson’s narrow view of the reality of values, I would also try to problematize his notion of a “social organism.” That is, to the extent that a slime mold is an “organism,” we might loosely compare this type of entity with the selforganizing propensities of cultural agreement structures. But there is a vast difference—a difference of kind—between a social “organism” and a human organism, who possesses subjective awareness, self-aware identity, and an individual will. Attempting to smoothly compare these different kinds of organisms is overly reductionistic and potentially totalitarian in its social consequences.
Understanding the role of goodness in general, and altruism in particular, within human cultural evolution requires that the
That being said, I wish Dr. Wilson success in his endeavors and remain open to further collaboration.
Steve McIntosh, J.D., is a leader in the integral philosophy movement and author of the books: The Presence of the Infinite (Quest 2015), Evolution’s Purpose (Select Books 2012) and Integral Consciousness (Paragon House 2007). In addition to his work in spiritual philosophy, McIntosh is also co-founder and president of the integral political think tank, The Institute for Cultural Evolution, which focuses on the cultural roots of America’s challenges (www.culturalevolution.org). Prior to his involvement with the integral movement, he had a variety of other successful careers, including founding the consumer products company Now & Zen, and practicing law with one of America’s largest firms. McIntosh is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. For more on his work visit: www.stevemcintosh.com.
David Sloan Wilson’s Evolved Biology and its Meaning for Human Sociality and Morality
by Herman F. Greene
nderstandings of biology have consequences. Interpretations of Darwin’s writings gave rise to Social Darwinism. This theory praised competition in economics and the rise of powerful elites under the rubric of “survival of the fittest.” It had a role in racism, eugenics, imperialism, fascism and Nazism. Eugenics sought to reduce populations of “idiots, imbeciles, and the feeble-minded,” or the poor, blind, deaf, developmentally disabled, or promiscuous women, or members of certain racial, or ethnic groups by sterilization, euthanasia, or even mass murder. Andrew Cohen, in his 2016 book, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, showed how this idea in 1927 even infected the thinking of the US Supreme Court. Understandings of biology have consequences. Were these interpretations of science misguided? Or was the science on which these interpretations were based misguided or at least incomplete? Has evolutionary science been preoccupied with competition between individuals and the survival of the fittest individuals and set itself at odds with human sociality and morality? Has evolutionary biology itself evolved in a way that is not yet broadly understood or appreciated? Can this evolved biology itself be the basis of a new sociality and morality and lead to solutions of practical problems?
has stated, we are in the planetary state of human development. Wilson in agreement writes: “Now we are at a point in history when the great problem of human life is to accomplish functional organization at a larger scale than ever.” Each of his preceding chapters builds step-by-step to how humans, as planetary altruists, might achieve such a functional organization. Let’s retrace those steps. Wilson’s Introduction to his book is titled “Altruism and Evolution.” His opening sentence is “Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others as an end in itself.” This beginning, as well as the title of his book, is an intriguing beginning as altruism in modern thought has been discredited. Wilson, in his second paragraph, writes this— “The claim that altruism does not exist has a long tradition in philosophical, political, economic, and biological thought”—and in doing so he sets up the problems he is going to address…altruism in biological terms initially, and then ultimately in philosophical, political, and economic terms. In the third paragraph of his book, Wilson identifies Auguste Comte as the person who coined the word “altruism.” Comte in the mid-19th century sought to establish the “Religion of Humanity,” one that didn’t require belief in God. The authority of the new religion would be based on science and its three pillars would be altruism (generosity and selfless dedication to others), order, and progress. Altruism was to provide a motivating morality for this secular, scientific faith. Wilson observes that Comte failed in his endeavor, but implies that this was because Comte had a mistaken view of how altruism could be a motivating force.
David Sloan Wilson in Does Altruism Exist: Culture, Genes and the Welfare of Others Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or makes a complex argument in a short, modified. For more information about licensing of readable book and answers these questions, images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist. “Maybe, Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.” On his first four answers, I agree without qualification. On the fifth I agree In the first chapter of his book, titled “Groups that Work,” Wilson with qualification. rescues altruism from its modern critique. He does this by refocusing the meaning of the term. His audience may be thinking To understand Wilson’s book, one might start at the end, in the of altruism in terms of feelings and thoughts behind actions. They final chapter titled “Planetary Altruism.” As the Tellus Institute may accept the modern critique of altruism that people, much less
lower animals, can’t truly act against their own interests: They pursue their own selfish ends; therefore they cannot be altruistic. Wilson asks the reader to look beyond the thoughts and feelings leading to action to observing all of the everyday instances of acting for others “from simple courtesies to heroic self-sacrifice.” He says a true altruist would value acts that benefit a group over the thoughts and feelings that lead to beneficial action. In this same chapter, Wilson establishes a standard for human functional group action—that described by economist Elinor Ostrom in her book Governing the Commons concerning how people have effectively managed common-pool resources. Thus, by the end of the first chapter, Wilson has set up biology, secular-scientific faith, and functional group action as the lens through which he will examine, re-interpret and apply altruism with the ultimate goal of fostering planetary altruism.
nonaggressive (altruistic) members have fitness advantages over groups with greater numbers of aggressive members. This leads to Wilson’s proposition that the balance of altruistic and selfish members within a group depends on the level of group selection involved. He makes a critical step in his argument when he cites Lynn Margulis’s “revolutionary work” that removed the separation between individual and group level selection. Margulis claimed that nucleated (eukaryotic) cells did not evolve from mutations in individual bacterial (prokaryotic) cells, but rather from groups of bacterial cells that were so functionally related that they became a single organism. This was a shift from “groups of organisms to groups as organisms.” The balance of within group selection and between group selection itself can evolve so that, in “rare” cases group level selection becomes the primary evolutionary force and
David Sloan Wilson is an evolutionary biologist. He is cofounder and President of the Evolution Institute. The Institute “uses evolutionary science to solve real-world problems.” This is what Wilson is attempting to do in this book. If it is true that human beings and human sciences came into being as part of the evolution of life on Earth, then evolutionary history must provide reference points for understanding human behavior. In his second chapter, he asserts, “An evolutionary story is required to explain how an animal group such as a beehive becomes functionally organized.” Humans are more complicated because they evolve both physically as other animals do, but also culturally. Humans have minds, other animals do not, nonetheless the story of how humans become functionally organized can be explained, just as that of bees can, based on “a few foundational principles that evolutionists widely accept.” These are (1) natural selection is based on relative fitness, (2) behaving for the good of the group typically does not maximize relative fitness within the group, and (3) group-level functional organization evolves primarily by natural selection between groups. Based on these principles, he labels “behavior selfish when it increases fitness within groups and altruistic when it increases the fitness of the group but places the individual at a relative fitness disadvantage within the group.” Based on these understandings, he states, “Altruism evolves whenever betweengroup selection prevails over within-group selection.” And this leads to this one-sentence summary of sociobiology (the study of social behavior in animals and humans), first given by E.O. Wilson and David Sloan Wilson in a 2007 article: “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.” Wilson then proceeds to illustrate the truth of this one-sentence summary by studies of water striders and the interaction of the T4 coliphage virus with its bacterial host. Each study showed how aggressive members of the groups have fitness advantages within the group, but between groups the ones with a greater number of
within group selection is repressed. Living beings that have this characteristic we refer to as organisms. “A multicellular organism is literally a group of groups of groups, whose members led more factious lives in the far distant past [though] lower-level selection is only highly suppressed and never entirely eliminated [(e.g. cancer cells within the human body)]” Wilson claims: “The fact that the organisms of today were the groups of past ages was beyond Darwin’s imagination.” In other words, these new understandings of sociobiology are really new and change everything. This is what needs to be widely understood and appreciated. He will then apply these principles to human cultural evolution. “If a present or future human society became so functionally organized that its members acted almost entirely for the common
good, that society would deserve the term organism just as much as a multicellular organism such as you or me.” As stated above, for Wilson, humans evolve culturally as well as physically and both kinds of evolution can be explained by “a few foundational principles that evolutionists widely accept.” He writes: “Fortunately, progress [in evolutionary biology] during the last few decades has enabled us to provide an account of human evolution that does justice to our distinctive capacity for behavioral and cultural change, while remaining firmly within the orbit of evolutionary science.” In the remaining chapters leading up to the final chapter on “Planetary Altruism” he applies the above principles to human cultural evolution. In human evolution societies become key. The capacities we call human (thinking, speaking, planning, etc.) do not occur outside human societies. In other words, these are not achievements of individual humans in competition with each other, but rather achievements of group level (cultural) competition. In the present situation, however, old ideas of group level competition may be dysfunctional. We must have a higher level of organization, one that functions at the global scale— “welfare at the global scale must be the selection criterion.” In arriving at this ultimate level of functional group organization, Wilson does not dismiss lower levels of functioning. He consistently refers to multilevel selection—meaning that individual and group level selection are both continually operative—and polycentric governance—meaning that there are ongoing requirements for functional organization of the humans at multiple hierarchical levels.
“Social and moral theories developed with reference to multilevel selection theories will be superior to those based on individual selection alone.” Now let’s turn to an analysis of the five questions in the second paragraph of this essay (rephrased below) and Wilson’s contributions to answering them. Were past social theories based on individual level selection, such as Social Darwinism misguided? I don’t believe Wilson addresses the question whether these theories were inappropriate interpretations of the implications of individual-selection-only evolutionary biology for human societies, but he is certainly clear that these theories were misguided. Was individual-selection-only evolutionary biology on which these uses were based misguided or at least incomplete?
Wilson would say that the individual-selection-only evolutionary biology was incomplete without judging why evolutionary biologists did not study group level selection earlier. Given the history of biology and what was known to his predecessors, they could not have come to the understandings of group level selection that have been gained through recent studies. He writes, “Most of the ideas that I have reported in this book are recent...” The concept of major evolutionary transitions, which merges the concepts of organism and society wasn’t proposed until the 1970s. Was individual-selection-only evolutionary biology at odds with human sociality and morality? Here Wilson would give two answers. Yes, it was at odds with traditional ideas of sociality and morality, the kinds held by the major humanistic and religious traditions—but social theories adapted from individual-selection-only evolutionary biology proposed modern ideas of sociality and morality. In economics, the human became the greedy, selfish homo economicus and was all the better for it! The clearest example is found in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged which depicted a Utopian community in which the word “give” was banned. She wrote a book of essays titled The Virtue of Selfishness in which “self-interest is portrayed as good for all, and the traditional virtues, along with self-destructive selfish behaviors, are portrayed as bad for all.” Has evolutionary biology itself evolved in a way that is not yet broadly understood or appreciated? Wilson believes that the new understandings of biology outlined above are revolutionary in nature. He writes, “These recent ideas are as foundational as the ideas associated with the Enlightenment and the early days of evolutionary theory. Can this evolved biology itself be the basis of a new sociality and morality and lead to solutions of practical problems?
As shown in the discussion above and, in particular, in answer to the immediately preceding question, Wilson answers unequivocally, “YES!” My own answer is an equivocal “yes.” As stated at the beginning of this essay, understandings in biology have consequences. Wilson has made a significant contribution in presenting new understandings of biological evolution. Not being a biologist, for the purposes of this essay, I’ll accept his claim that what he presents is a new consensus within the field. He states, “Multilevel selection theory’s road to acceptance was so long that this [(published in 2015)] is one of the first books to offer a post resolution account.” (Emphasis added). Social and moral theories developed with reference to multilevel selection theories will be superior to those based on individual selection alone. The multilevel selection theories are less at odds with traditional understandings of sociality and morality. They present a biological imperative for operating in accordance with these understandings. It is not clear to me how they offer new understandings of sociality and morality. They do offer a basis for a critique of understandings of sociality and morality based on individual selection theories alone. Wilson has well illustrated how to apply this critique. His is a fundamental critique of much of modern social science. This is very, very important. My reservations are that Wilson is limited, as he should be, by the conventions of his discipline. He could not speak effectively within his discipline without observing them. His discipline is a dimension of the truth about things and not the whole truth. For example, group level selection only qualifies as “selection” if it is a genuine “adaptation.” Adaptation means giving members of a group a reproductive advantage. Thus, the norm becomes does this or does it not give me or my group a reproductive advantage? This is a very narrow norm. For example, in planetary scale human development, there are questions about the relative rights of humans and other species. They cannot be answered only with reference to the question of what enables
more and more humans to live on Earth. Further, in biological science, truth claims must be based on empirical observation. Thus, Wilson observes how religion has given humans the ability to functionally organize, but he cannot speak to the truth claims of religious belief. He substitutes empirical science as the source of moral authority for the authority which these religions claim. Like Comte he seeks a secular-scientific faith. I doubt that as a centerpiece of faith altruism-in-action understood as functional group behavior— even with the addition of Ostrom’s ordering principles—can be greatly more motivating than Comte’s altruism. Wilson states that species other than humans do not have minds. Other species do not have human minds, but much work has been done both empirically and experientially to understand the consciousness of other species. Wilson implies there was not a basis for promoting prosocial behavior prior to these biological discoveries. Arguably there was not a basis in evolutionary biology for promoting prosocial behavior, but there have long been cultural bases for promoting prosocial behavior. The human species is quite unusual in nature as Wilson observes. Humans are capable of ratiocination. They cannot only, by this process, wrongly affirm past behavior, but they can create a false idea of how the world works. Biological theories can lead to such false ideas as Darwin’s ideas did for some. Great thanks to David Sloan Wilson and for all those who aided in the development of multilevel selection for clearing some things up! For sure humanity will be better served by these understandings of evolutionary biology. And, no doubt, many practical problems will be solved by those inspired and informed by these new understandings. Biological understandings have consequences.
Herman F. Greene, JD, DMin, with over 30 years of experience practicing law, Herman Greene also has decades of experience in environmental issues–seeking well-being in all life communities. He is founder of the Center for Ecozioic Studies. He was the Founding Executive Director of the International Process Network, an association promoting process-relational philosophies, and continues to serve on its Board of Governors. He is on the Board of Advisors of the Center for Process Studies and for the Institute for the Post-Modern Development of China, both in Claremont, CA. Further, he carries on a part-time practice in corporate, tax and securities lawyer at Greene Law, PLLC. He holds degrees in Spirituality and Sustainability, DMin, United Theological Seminary 2004; Law, JD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1979; Ministry, MTh and MDiv, University of Chicago Divinity School 1969 and 1970; Political Science, MA, Stanford University 1967; and Political Science, BA, University of Florida 1966.
Altruism?— No! Justice and Compassion—Yes!
by Matthew Fox
must confess right out of the starting gate that I abhor the word altruism. Reading this book has not made me any less adverse to the word, in fact, it has made me even more ill at ease with it. Why am I so against the word “altruism?” Because it comes from the Latin word alter which means “other.” It is based on a philosophy of other, of separation, of subject-object, of pity therefore and of noblese oblige. The phrase used often in the book, for example in the very last sentence, that we “become planetary altruists” turns my skin. It does violence to my sense of ethics and humanity. Why is this so? Am I crazy and squeamish? Or am I part of a long lineage of ethical thinkers who thought differently and deeper than mere “altruism?” Let me cite the Polish poet of the seventeenth century Angelus Silesius who says simply and directly, “there are no objects for compassion because there are no objects.” He is operating out of an Eckhartian
context (I was dismayed to see an entire chapter on religion that leaves out any mystic of the East, Mideast or the West such as Eckhart who in fact links all three traditions as I demonstrate in my recent book on him). Eckhart said: “Whatever happens to another, whether it be a joy or a sorrow, happens to me.” That is compassion; that is interdependence. I was amazed that a supposedly scientific treatment of ethical relations leaves out the concept of interdependence which it seems to me is at the heart of today’s physics and biology. Interdependence is at the heart of compassion as the Catholic monk and intellectual pioneer Thomas Merton declared in the final talk of his life entitled “Karl Marx and Monasticism.” He died a few hours after delivering his talk in December 10, 1968. I used his definition as the opening page in my substantive study on compassion called A Spiritualty Named Compassion. Merton said: “The whole idea of compassion is about the
interdependence of all living beings that are all part of one another and involved in one another.” One study I employed in that book I highly recommend to the author of “Does Altruism Exist?” is that by social psychologist William Eckhardt, Compassion: Toward a Science of Value. To me the operative word for the deepest of human ethics is not and never will be altruism which flies in the face of interdependence and compassion. Am I alone in this reaction? I don’t think so. The Dalai Lama (who is not cited in the religion section though odd balls like William Miller who was sure the world was coming to an end and launched the Seven Day Adventists sect are cited) has said that “we can do away with all religion (isn’t this what Comte wanted?), but we cannot do away with compassion…which is my religion.” Jesus said: “Be you compassionate like your Creator in heaven is compassionate.” The Jewish tradition teaches that Compassion is the secret name for God and “God the compassionate one” is far and away the most often used name for Allah in the Koran. Aristotle does not discuss altruism in his major work on Ethics and the virtues nor does Thomas Aquinas.
Copyright ©David Hoptman. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist.
Recently I was writing a Forward for a new book called The Tantric Jesus and I found in that book an interesting statement about altruism. The
author writes: “Altruism is love stripped of all its truly human emotions born of the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and secular humanism.” And,
“To me the operative word for the deepest of human ethics is not and never will be altruism...” I would add, “Patriarchy,” another sign of the modern era, the age of enlightenment. A time when wisdom was banished (she is feminine after all). Is this why altruism has a found a home in contemporary academia? When love gets stripped of all its truly human emotions, then scientists can study it!!! No distractions. No surprises. Shame! Shame! I am reminded of what Albert Einstein said: That intellect does not give us values, only intuition does. Yet we live in a time when academia still defines truth as rationality and leaves out intuition (another word for this is “mysticism”). Einstein’s critique is another way of saying we are teaching a no-value education, one that does not and cannot critique the status quo, therefore, including the status quo of education itself. Why isn’t love (or compassion or justice) our search instead of altruism? Altruism makes the altruist feel important and pure and on top. It is a word for the aristocratic classes. It is condescending and patronizing. It hovers over all the hoi poloi and makes one feel justified and superior being in that special class of “the altruistic ones.” Altruism, like perfectionism, is not a virtue, but a neurosis—a disease. It feeds neuroses of superiority. It is dualism at its worst. So why should we be interested in the term “altruism” when compassion
is the term employed by wisdom traditions East and West and altruism by its etymological origin alone, flies in the face of compassion because it emphasizes “otherness” rather than togetherness? I was struck by how many of the author’s studies that are referred to by the author in this book were paid for by conservative granting organizations (one being the Templeton Foundation) and I was reminded of what scientist Rupert Sheldrake has dared to talk about: That in the scientific academic world of today certain orthodoxies (is talking of altruism one of them?) get financed by grants, but those that raise the deeper questions do not get funded. The author tells us something about the history of the word altruism: That it was born in the nineteenth century by a secular scientist (Comte) whose explicit
intention was to move beyond religion and church and “original sin.” Well, I as a theologian have also moved beyond original sin (see my book Original Blessing as a starter) and I have paid a price for it, but I did not have to revert to a dualistic and other-based moral ethic to do so. Rather I developed a way of life called compassion, not altruism (not only in my compassion book but in many subsequent books including the Via Transformativa, Part IV of Original Blessing and) in commentaries on six of Eckhart’s sermons which focus on compassion in Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart.
Why does a scientist wanting to explore religious thinking on ethical actions and ideas settle for a nineteenth century person’s language instead of exploring the tradition? What is scientific about stopping with the nineteenth century? The nineteenth century is the modern era at its zenith with all its pitfalls and shadow and some accomplishments. We have moved beyond it. Our postmodern times do not call for more modern philosophies but for pre-modern wisdom of the order represented by indigenous people’s wisdom and medieval wisdom figures such as Eckhart, Hildegard, Francis, Aquinas, Rumi, Hafiz, Cusa and others. Didn’t physicist David Bohm say he owed more to Nicolas of Cusa than to Einstein? Doesn’t that say something about where a researcher should be looking for answers and hints of answers? It is not only in the religion chapter that I felt bereft of depth or understanding, but I was dismayed to hear not a word about the work of Rupert Sheldrake or Thomas Berry or Brian Swimme or Nancy and Joel Primack or Erich Jantsch when the author talked about religion and science and evolution. I was equally dismayed—maybe even more so—in the Economics chapter when not a word was breathed about David Korten’s work (or Anita Roddick or Serge LaTouche), all of whom I treat in my chapter on Economics in my most recent book on Meister Eckhart. In my mind Korten’s work in economics is the best work happening on our planet and I don’t
understand writing about altruism as non-selfishness and not examining his study of community values and more that underpin his economics for the future. As for Anita Roddick she was living and working in the heart of the business world and successfully so while operating out of an alternative economics, one for which justice and compassion (not altruism) truly mattered. How can the author explain on the one hand that Comte invented the word “altruism” in the nineteenth century and then complain that he did not find the word in religious texts? Surely, he knows that religious texts (except for the Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists who came to be in the nineteenth century and whom he curiously cites and who are, by any criterion, rather marginal religions and unintellectual to say the least) generally go back many thousands of years before the nineteenth century? Maybe there is a reason why religions have not been bantering the term “altruism” around all these eons? And maybe there is equally a reason why nineteenth century secular thinkers like Comte found it necessary to invent a new word. But what I can’t understand is why the author prefers that word to love or justice
or compassion which are and have been profoundly rich concepts in religious history. Why are we even discussing a made-up ethic term that was invented in the intellectual world of the nineteenth century? Haven’t we moved beyond the modern era? Having gotten some basics off my chest, I do want to say that I appreciate the efforts of the author to develop some scientific language around an experience of action and of thought that is more than selfish. I simply want to shout that we have words and concepts for that that are far more profound and universal than the word “altruism” invented a mere 150
years ago before Darwin even shared his (and Wallace’s) discoveries with us. The author ends his book telling us he wants to be a “planetary altruist” and he begins it thanking his family for being altruists. I do not share the same language (and he stresses in the book that language is an important dimension to being human and of human societies so I would have preferred more sensitivity to the terms humans have used for thousands of years for our capacities for unselfishness). The language I use is this: I want to be a deep mystic, i.e. lover and I was taught early in life that one is to “love others as you love yourself.” This is not other-talk; it is not altruism. It is love talk. I also want to be a warrior or prophet, i.e. one who defends what one loves (such as the planet and its wonderful creatures, humans included, who are in demise). This is language I can live with. Altruism? No thank you. I have never met anyone in my life whose goal was to be an “altruist.” Until now. I have to say that this book challenges my respect for what is called science today. Albert Einstein said, “I abhor American education” and I do, too. And I abhor a so-called scientific study of unselfishness—which is certainly an important theme to explore with
science and other intellectual traditions all participating—that to me is anything but scientific. By scientific I mean intellectually curious, curious enough to explore the concept of unselfishness in more than one (rather dreary) century, namely the nineteenth. If one is going to write a chapter on religion it would be good to study religion other than Mormonism and Seventh Day Adventism. What about the genius’ of the past including Jesus (who never said: “Be you altruistic”) and Hildegard of Bingen and Meister Eckhart and Thomas Aquinas and Nicolas of Cusa and Bede Griffiths and Thomas Merton and Joanna Macy and the Jewish prophets and Martin Buber (“I-Thou” is the opposite of altruism) and Abraham Joshua Heschel and Howard Thurman for starters? Plus, religious thinkers of the East and Mideast from Buddha and Lao Tsu to Rumi and Hafiz and more? It is intellectually insulting to provide Mormonism and Seventh Day Adventism as norms for
religious consciousness. Appalling really. Why would the author not want to study scientist Rupert Sheldrake whose critique of science called Science Set Free I consider the most important book of the past ten years and who, unlike the author of the present book, knows the history of Western philosophy and theology as well as today’s science? And who is not afraid to dialog about religious issues precisely as a scientist (and with whom I have written two books of dialog on contemporary scientific and religious issues)? This book scares me and it disappoints. It scares me for the small world in which it exists, a world I consider to be essentially anti-intellectual and therefore anti-science. It is a nineteenth century book about a nineteenth century word with a religious consciousness of two nineteenth century odd-ball religious sects along with a twenty-first century
statistical analysis. As an elder I consider it my responsibility to warn the young when education, science or religion are being abused. As an elder who has committed his life’s work to wrestling with the deeper meaning of our religious/ spiritual heritage as human beings and doing so with and alongside a number of scientists, I am disturbed by this book’s promotion of a “love stripped of all its truly human emotions born of the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, Secular humanism” and patriarchy. This is not the religion or the science of the future. Justice—including eco-justice— and compassion are. The author of this book asks, “Why is it [altruism] so notably absent from religious worldviews?” (p. 86). I have attempted to explain why in this commentary. Thank you for listening.
Matthew Fox holds his doctorate summa cum laude from the Institut Catholique de Paris in the history and theology of spiritualities and is author of 33 books on spirituality and culture that have been translated into 59 languages. Among them are: Original Blessing; A Spirituality Named Compassion; The Coming of the Cosmic Christ; The Reinvention of Work; Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times; Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times; Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality; Christian Mystics; Creation Spiritualty: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth; Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science (with Rupert Sheldrake); The Physics of Angels (with Rupert Sheldrake), The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human. His activism has included reinventing forms of education for both adults (he launched the University of Creation Spirituality) and inner-city teenagers (the YELLAWE project) so that creativity is lit and mystical/prophetic awareness becomes possible again. In addition, he is committed to reinventing ritual for a post-modern time (see www.thecosmicmass.org). He is visiting scholar with the Academy of the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico and lives in Oakland, California. (See www.matthewfox.org)
We Are One; We are Altruistic: We Are Spiritual Activists
by Steve Farrell
left Silicon Valley where I was a tech executive to help Neale Donald Walsch launch Humanity’s Team in 2003 and shortly thereafter I agreed to lead the organization. Humanity’s Team is a global grassroots spiritual movement. Even to this day, we are almost all volunteer. We’ve grown from about 800 at the time of our launch to over 400,000 Facebook friends and others who participate in our summits, spiritual leadership events, conscious business programs, and service projects. We are present in over 150 countries.
everything close. In Humanity’s Team we make this tangible and invite people to become involved in at least one charitable project for which they are passionate. As my mother shared when we were growing up, “many hands make light work.” When we all involve ourselves, and give our time and treasure we move one step closer to creating the world we’ve always wanted for ourselves, our children and the whole of the earth. I love the conclusions in Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes and the Welfare of Others. It says our evolutionary process points us toward structures that serve the well-being of the whole. I believe this is true. Many contemporary scientists are coming to similar conclusions including Nassim Haramein, Bruce Lipton, Elisabet Sahtouris, Lynne McTaggart and others. Of course, Erwin Schrodinger, the Nobel Prize winner for Physics in 1933 said, “Quantum physics thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe.” And, as I am pointing out, Oneness is not an abstract concept. In Oneness we see our interconnection with the Earth and the world around us and we offer our nurturing support.
In Humanity’s When I lived and Team we are worked in Silicon passionate Valley I was about deeply concerned awakening about the world ourselves and we lived in, but the world to I was troubled Oneness. In because I didn’t Oneness we see feel people were there is only coming together one presence, to do something the Divine. All about it. I felt of humanity like we were a and all of life plane that had are seen as left the paved offspring and runway, we were expressions on the formcrete of the Divine. rocks, and we This has many were nearing a implications cement barrier, and reaches our point of no deeply into our return. Climate concept of self. change, inequality In Oneness Copyright ©David Hoptman. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist. and humanitarian we see we are a concerns were cell in the body worsening, but we were only creating token solutions. of the cosmos (Ken Wilber’s definition of ‘holon’ fits with this description). No longer is it just about supporting our physical At this time, I was the co-founder and CEO of a fast-growing body and those closest to us. This is important but our nurturing extends beyond this. In Oneness, we see what we do to the “other” company, focused on increasing my financial wealth and the we are actually doing to our Self. It is easy to see how this steps us wealth of my partners. But, it felt like a child’s game. I felt I had no choice but to move on and join with others in creating the world down a virtuous path. I knew was possible. Similarly, when people suffer and when the earth cries out for our Steve McIntosh’s new book, Presence of the Infinite – The attention, we respond. But, not from a vantage point of a problem Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth and Goodness, shares that is “out there.” In fact, there is no “out there.” Everything Ultimate Reality is likely non-dual, theistic and based on an is interrelated, interconnected and interdependent so we hold
Absolute that is tripolar, what Christianity calls a Trinity. He says pantheism best describes this world view. In Humanity’s Team we agree with these conclusions. For us in Humanity’s Team this is not an intellectual exercise. We consider ourselves spiritual activists and we live it. Certainly, this does not mean living it with perfection or even excellence. We would consider ourselves failures if this were the case! It is about living it to the best of our ability and inviting others to do the same. We believe the shift that is occurring in the world today is directly tied to personal action, the embodiment of our beliefs. Many suggest that only 3–5% of the world’s population must embrace and embody a new paradigm for a shift to occur. Perhaps we are nearing that point now.
“We are coming to an understanding that everything is One. We serve the other because the other is part of who we are. But, we are not a homogenous One; there is great diversity in our Oneness and we celebrate this.”
understanding that everything is One. We serve the other because the other is part of who we are. But, we are not a homogenous One; there is great diversity in our Oneness and we celebrate this. A Single Source flows through all humans and all of life – everything. We understand there is no God separate from us. Perhaps Earth’s evolution at this time invites us to expand our consciousness, to open to our highest level of consciousness, to participate with others in conscious creation. Humanity’s Team extends this same invitation. This worldview invites us priority and concern out family interest to the the whole of the earth. Einstein encouraged said this, “A human whole called by limited in time experiences thoughts and something from the kind of
to move the fence posts of beyond our individual or interests of humankind and Maybe this is what Albert us to consider when he being is a part of the us universe, a part and space. He himself, his feeling as separated rest, a optical
Our largest spiritual activism event of the year in Humanity’s Team is Global Oneness Day. It our “Earth Day” for an awakened humanity. We celebrate Global Oneness Day on October 24. This is also United Nations Day. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iyanla Vanzant, Rev Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith, Ken Wilber, Gary Zukav, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ervin Laszlo, Jean Houston, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Dean Radin, Nassim Haramein, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, Rinaldo Brutoco and Thomas Huebl are only some of the speakers who participated this year. Each speaker describes Oneness in their own way but our surprisingly simple conclusion is that we are all one with the Divine, humanity and all of life. Everything is offspring of the Divine and therefore an expression of the Divine. This is true despite how far our lives may be from reflecting this truth.
delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
This paradigm brings us to a revolutionary perspective. Does altruism exist? Yes, of course it exists. We are coming to an
Maybe it is as simple and complex as seeing we are all One and then living that way.
Spirituality always includes an inner dimension, communion with the Divine within, but also an outer dimension, involvement in charitable works. There are endless ways we can contribute to a healthy world. In Humanity’s Team we feature stories once a week as part of our Make A Difference program. Some of the projects we’ve featured include outreach to homeless shelters, the humane society, recycling centers, senior centers, children’s programs, veterans’ projects, climate change activism and much more.
Steve Farrell is the Worldwide Executive Director for Humanity’s Team, a global grassroots spiritual movement focused on awakening and embodying Oneness so humanity may enjoy a sustainable world of peace, harmony and happiness. Humanity’s Team presently has over 500,000 friends in over 150 countries. Humanity’s Team projects include: Global Oneness Day - a day that Humanity’s Team created following its visit to the United Nations in May 2010; a Oneness Declaration; a year-round Living in Oneness summit; an annual Spiritual Leadership Award; a Conscious Business Declaration, Conscious Business Practitioner Training & Certification, Community Circle, prayer and meditation programs; and service projects focused on helping people and the environment. Before Steve became involved with Humanity’s Team he co-founded and led two high growth technology companies based in Silicon Valley in the 1990’s that were featured in the INC 500 and spanned the United States and Europe. At this time, he was an officer in the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization and the Young President’s Organization. But he walked away because he felt a calling to help create a new dream based on the Divine in life that humanity can manifest together. Steve lives with his wife Stephanie and his two children in Boulder, Colorado. (See http://www.humanitysteam.org)
Second Tier Micro-Communities: Altruism in Action! by Laura M. George
t is an honor to amplify the concise evidence for evolutionary group altruism provided by David Sloan Wilson in his book Does Altruism Exist? Wilson’s research on the effect of group altruism on neighboring cultures is persuasive, if not downright conclusive. As one who has founded a sustainable spiritual micro-community – the Valley of Light – I feel both elated and validated that our goal of co-creating an intentional community based on the principles of Truth, Love, and Light is both a beneficial incubator experiment, in-and-of itself, while also a mechanism for driving cross-pollination of these universal moral values within our greater Virginia community and, hopefully, around the world.
“Around the world there are approximately 2,500 intentional communities…already building a New World based on altruism.” But I get ahead of myself by jumping to Wilson’s climactic conclusion, though it is worth repeating again and again: Selfishness beats altruism within groups [which contain a higher admix of selfish over altruistic individuals]. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups [even when betweengroup selection takes place]. So, let’s back-up for a moment to look at the evolutionary evidence for Wilson’s stunning social theory. As most of us now know, Charles Darwin did not prophesize the “survival of the fittest.” Rather, Darwin predicted a more utopian future based on his limited knowledge of how the forces of human competition and cooperation interrelate: [A]though a high standard of morality gives but a slight advantage or no advantage to each individual man … over other men of the same tribe, yet an increase
… in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe … always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes, and this would be natural selection. [A]s morality is one important element in their success, the standard of morality and the number of well-endowed men will thus everywhere tend to rise and increase. (Emphasis added.) In his book, Wilson builds upon Darwin’s premise that altruism is an attractive trait for natural selection by summarizing subsequent research which now proves that altruism trumps selfishness. In fact, researchers have identified the core social principles which support altruistic tendencies of individual group members. Those group principles include: (i) strong identity and commonality of purpose; (ii) shared decisionmaking; (iii) a system for monitoring progress or regression of the group; (iv) rewards for positive contributions; (v) graduated sanctions for negative behavior; (vi) a fair conflict resolution mechanism; (vii) freedom to self-organize with little interference from outside groups; and (viii) functional coordination with outside groups. Wilson summarizes these findings by concluding that altruistic groups (and enduring religions) are designed to motivate altruism at the level of action, by promoting behaviors that benefit the group and suppressing behaviors that are disruptive or self-serving. Moreover, Wilson buttresses his findings with current real-world examples of how altruistic groups not only prosper when left to their own devices, but also may cross-pollinate with outside groups to produce an even greater sphere of social benevolence. It is important to note, however, that the research also indicates that the proportion of altruistic members within each group will determine whether altruism flourishes or declines during crosscultural interaction.
We see this cultural tug-of-war playing out globally, as pockets of altruism either spread or get crushed during the process of social exchange (e.g., the chaos that has resulted from American hubris in attempting to “spread democracy” in the Middle East). Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory fans already understand that the First-Tier memes are fractious and will doggedly fight with each other – whether with weapons or words – for cultural supremacy. Now to the really good news, as this research absolutely validates the importance of the Intentional Community Movement. Wilson writes: All societies that function well require mechanisms that coordinate action and prevent exploitation from within. Whether these mechanisms count as altruistic or selfish, defined in terms of thought and feelings, is irrelevant, as long as they do the job in terms of action. [In small groups] these mechanisms operate so spontaneously that we tend to forget that they exist. Small groups thus have an invisible-hand-like quality …. Future social arrangements need to be based more on intentional planning than ever before. (Emphasis added.) Around the world there are approximately 2,500 intentional communities, almost all of which are based on an ethical code of conduct. (See the expansive directory at the Fellowship of Intentional Community). These micro-communities are brimming with pioneers – many of whom are Second Tier. These brave souls understand the grave nature of this critical juncture of human history and are already building a New World based on altruism (AKA, the “Religion of Love”).
Most notably, the Federation of Damanhur in Italy was voted the “most utopian community” by EnlightenNext Magazine in 2007. Today, Damanhur remains our best example of a SecondTier society that is spreading altruism around the world. Started in 1975 and operating under a Constitution that incorporates the eight group principles cited above, Damanhur has coined the word “action” to describe its primary purpose – the same word that Wilson employs to define altruism, since positive change is the only yardstick we have to track pro-social evolution. At The Oracle Institute, we study religious, geo-political, and social trends. Consequently, I feel comfortable opining that no unifying theosophy is on the horizon, while at the same time predicting that a paradigm shift of unprecedented proportions is. Therefore, to proactively assist the altruistic trajectory of our planet, Oracle recently launched the Valley of Light community, which we have based on the Damanhur template and the wise words of Wilson: The solution to this problem is to experiment with new social arrangements … and cautiously adopt what works. In other words, we need to become wise managers of variation and selection processes. … From an evolutionary perspective, we can say that large-scale human society needs to be multicellular. The more we participate in small groups that are appropriately structured, the happier we will be, the more our efforts will succeed, and the more we will contribute to the welfare of society at larger scales. (Emphasis added.) May the best micro-communities of today bring us the highest order of evolution tomorrow!
Rev. Laura M. George, J.D., is a Virginia-based author, attorney, teacher, and spiritual seeker. In 2004, she founded The Oracle Institute, an educational charity, which serves as an “Advocate for Peace and a Vanguard for Conscious Evolution.” Oracle operates an award-winning publishing house, a multi-faith spirituality school, and a peacebuilding practice. Oracle’s icon is the Pentacle, which represents the emerging Fifth Spiritual Paradigm and the potential for unity among the five major religions (Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam). Oracle’s formal mission statement is Thomas Jefferson’s Act for Religious Freedom. Oracle studies “religiosity” in America and throughout the world, and Laura often writes about the “Trickle-Down Deity Theory,” which posits that mankind’s view of the Godhead necessarily defines all cultural experience. Recently, Oracle launched a full-spectrum micro-community called the “Valley of Light,” which is based on Barbara Marx Hubbard’s “Wheel of Co-Creation” and the most successful community on the planet, The Federation of Damanhur. Currently, Laura is overseeing construction of the “Peace Pentagon,” Oracle’s new headquarters and the heart of the Valley of Light community. Laura also is the author of Oracle’s award-winning foundational trilogy: The Truth: About the Five Primary Religions (2006); The Love: of the Fifth Spiritual Paradigm (2010); and The Light: And the New Human (in press). (See http://www.theoracleinstitute.org)
Business, Economics, The Awakened Company by Catherine Bell
Altruistic Organizations are Needed Why do we think organizations must be solely bottom line-focused, when management research reveals that they ideally need to be focused on two-thirds corporate culture and one-third results? By corporate culture, I mean tending to people-related concepts such as employees’ engagement, satisfaction, and mindset in a manner that’s customized and personal to the particular organization. Having a true or noble vision and a set of values that are known and used throughout the organization is vital. Altruism builds culture. So many CEOs focus on bottom line thinking, yet it’s this focus on the bottom line that I believe causes organizations to ultimately fail. Of course, no leader starts a business with the thought that it’s likely to fail, and yet the majority of organizations don’t survive past 10 years.
Along the way, 80% of the workplace is disengaged. We need a new way of doing business in which we work effectively and efficiently together, base what we create on true needs, and with the realization of how interconnected and inter-experienced our work is. These three pillars of good business are a powerful antidote to corporate failure.
Organizations are our greatest hope and our greatest hindrance. There is a dire need for a global shift to altruistic motives for doing business. For corporations and other organizations serving the public, this will require a systemic reboot. It’s imperative that businesses respond to actual needs, instead of fostering the creation of unnecessary products and services purely for profit. We must also consider the negative correlation between CEO pay and performance, in particular, examining our own behavior in this regard. As leaders, we need to think in terms of how organizations thrive over the long-term, which involves investing regenerative capital in our organization, promoting social value in the organization, and providing for a quality work experience.
It begins with the individual constitutes a major challenge. “We need a new way of and leader who learn to be Little thought is put into the doing business in which we work responsible for their own consequences for society as thoughts and emotional state, a whole. In too many cases effectively and efficiently together, and who are therefore capable this leads to disaster for the base what we create on true of responding to situations firm itself, as well as for most rather than reacting to them. who are associated with it—a needs, and with the realization This requires the development reality brought into sharp of how interconnected and of deep self-awareness. With focus by the crash. the cultivation of self-awareness inter-experienced our work is.” comes the proclivity to interact As a result of the crisis, people consciously—that is, not began asking, “What’s the awareness business practices that have mindlessly reacting from old mental and actual foundation of this company? Why long been overdue for revision. The emotional patterns, but assessing each do we have to engage in such selfish, crash revealed that too many businesses situation with eyes and heart wide open. high-risk behavior?” The reality is that a are focused on individual wealth large slice of many people’s daily lives (mostly for upper management) and the A more mature level of presence in involves activity that fails to fulfill them, generation of profits for the firm, not on each individual counters the sad reality while at the same time taking them away the service to society they provide and that poor relationships on the job are a from loved ones and their true passions. key reasons What’s stopping people leave us from building organizations. a fulfilling work When a environment company we can all be has a core of passionate individuals about? who have the ability to work Often we refer consciously to a company with others, as if it’s an rather than entity distinct from ego, from us, when narcissism, in actuality it’s and defensiveness, they function the humans who create and orchestrate the enjoyment of doing so on the part of synergistically to solve problems and it that makes a company. Think and all involved. innovate for success. feel into this: companies are really just human communities. But how often do Short-term financial instruments also By designing our organizations so that we regard them as such? The fact is, proved to be problematic, while our they are aligned with the interdependent organizations that are founded on and addiction to bottom line thinking nature of life, we create a vehicle that fueled by humans working consciously embodies awareness. The conscious together are the only way to solve corporate entity that results then our most pressing challenges, such as profits from serving society and poverty and climate change. the natural world that supports us all, instead of from harmful The knowledge that it’s people practices that wreak havoc. who create and sustain businesses means they also bring about “Number one priority: economic crises. The implication company culture” Tony is that we can avoid the wild Hsieh, CEO of Zappos swings of boom and bust by employing a more people-friendly, The corruption leading up to the mature kind of business model. financial crash of 2008 helped bring to
“1% of every year’s sales are given to grassroots organizations” Rose Marcario, CEO Patagonia As much as it exists to make a profit, an altruistic company is one that exists to serve and expand consciousness of our interconnectedness, thereby benefiting our suffering planet. (Please see the
Figure, “The Awakened Team Cycle”). Bottom-line thinking typically originates in ego. Since it isn’t in alignment with a conscious approach, it cannot help but result in mass disengagement. In contrast, when we are conscious, we are fully present in whatever we are doing, with the consequence that true intelligence is flowing into what we do.
Quality of experience must become our chief metric of success. “Selco was born of a desire to help the poorest in society seek self-sufficiency in an environmentally conscious way” Harish Hande, CEO SELCO
We must also consider the demand side of the equation. No longer should people tolerate poor work environments, coal-fired energy, and commodities such as food and clothing whose production does damage Internalize Behaviours to the environment and to Improve Them harms human health. We Individual Coaching must create a better world together, with everyone knowing they matter Introduce Personality Test and that they can have a positive impact on the state of things. Conduct Team Survey again
The Awakened Team™Cycle Team Coaching Create Personal Development Program
Exhibit Behaviours and Track Them
Internalize Them to Develop and Improve Themselves
Often a stimulus, e.g. low profits, things not flowing, a new employee, etc.
Challenge Own Self
Create Team Development Plan
Hire New Team Member (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing)
Work on the individual, relationships within the team, and the team, leads to the fullest potential of the company to emerge. This is an introductory cycle to what is an iterative process based on the clients requirements.
As Dr. Julian Barling said to me during my interview with him, we need to ask, “What is the smallest thing we can do? By doing this smallest thing again and again, you will have an impact.” Altruism begins with us, and extends globally only through us.
Conduct Objective Team Evaluation
Catherine Bell is the founder of BluEra and author and founder of The Awakened Company. BluEra is an award-winning and fast growing executive search, team transformation, and coaching organization. She is an authority on leadership, a researcher, and a frequent speaker to leaders and business schools internationally. Her focus is the merger of business knowledge with wisdom traditions. She holds an MBA from Queen’s University and a BA in sociology from Western. She is certified in the Riso-Hudson Enneagram, completed the Institute of Corporate Directors Not for Profit Course, and is a certified yoga instructor. She is married and has two sons.
The Role of Altruism in Media and Human Evolution
by Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler
By being of benefit to others or the environment, one contributes to and thrives in a healthy culture with a common goal. This is juxtaposed with the shortsighted, personal gains of material goods and power that characterize an unhealthy and unfriendly environment. Altruism is an expression of innate but often repressed tendencies to belong and to feel one with all— observable in people, animals, and plants.
ur humanity is at a critical point. Technological advances have largely been applied toward selfish, single-minded agendas that benefit a select few and have a devastating impact upon the environment on which we depend. Meanwhile, the proliferation of mass media technology has further separated us from the natural world and the way we perceive the ‘Other’ and has helped shape a reality dominated by materialistic values, which denigrate our physical and spiritual existences. With the new scientific discovery of evolutionary processes that result in altruistic behavior (the new ‘Evolutionary Altruism paradigm’), we have a solid tool that can challenge this misguided mainstream thinking. In human consciousness, altruism is a key part of the ethical fabric regarding our larger intelligence of higher purpose. The altruistic tendency for collaboration, caring, connection, and love are an evolutionary manifestation of our highest moral capacities. As Albert Einstein said, “our feeling of separation from the whole of the universe is a kind of optical illusion from which we must free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creation and the whole of
Collaboration and caring for others and our environment are part of both an evolutionary threshold and an awakening in consciousness, in which we see that past behaviors have been destructive and unsustainable. In the deepest sense, altruism is both the part of evolution striving for a healthy, higher complexity, and the part of evolution that comprises adaptation, the fundamental driver of all evolutionary processes. Therefore, altruism is now more crucial than ever for human survival. It is apparent that today’s ecological, political, and economic crises are in so many ways caused by the dominance of selfish blindness. Conversely, altruistic processes ensure survival by increasing harmony, meaning, justice, peace, and wholeness. Media and Altruism
nature in its beauty.” Emanuel Kant, one of the world’s greatest philosophers, said in his famous Critique of Pure Reason, that moral law is a priori. It is a human instinct to do the right thing even if sacrificing our own wellbeing. Sacrifice, an element of spirituality and morality, is one of the highest principles in humanity, an indicator that altruism is aligned with an inherent moral source and a sense of higher purpose.
Globalization and the use of media are intensified by our urge to promote togetherness and know more about each other and the rest of nature. Media manifests on a pre-existing invisible thread, a network of interconnectivity and love for each other. Our sensory systems and awareness naturally expand so that we become conscious of all forms of life and especially of each other as a human family. Today’s media network is a hologram, the great nervous system of humanity and the global brain of society. In this forum, all the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual components of humanity, including our pathologies, are projected.
Much of media today has been used for selfish, profit-driven agendas—promoting raw emotions, consumerism, and propaganda. We are now shifting toward using media for more altruistic and higher purposes: to help us connect and build humanity into a community at one with nature. David Sloan
“We must take advantage of its great potential to amplify our power to change the world and humanity for the better.” Wilson’s book, Does Altruism Exist?, shows evolutionary processes and structures in nature similar to those now taking place in media, such as the building of new networks that support the whole, grounded on principles of ethics and values. Higher consciousness serves to evolve humanity and heart intelligence as a compass to navigate through challenges and find sustainable solutions. Media, at the same time, raises awareness of global, environmental, social, and political problems and presents us with a self-image that highlights the impact of our actions within a larger context. As such, we are compelled to shift from single-minded, selfish ways to recognizing our human purpose on global and cosmic levels. Only collaboration, harmony, and respect for all forms of life can secure our survival and healthy evolution. With all the powerful ways media can impact our humanity— the way we feel and the decisions we make—we must take advantage of its great potential to amplify our power to change the world and humanity for the better. With this emerging evolutionary shift to a new level of human consciousness, media
can transcend artificial boundaries and organically build a new foundation for our common purpose and vision. Throughout history, we have always had enlightened and highly evolved individuals. However, creating evolutionary and ecological media will add tremendous potency to the collective transformation that is needed and will provide a platform for altruistic action and advancement and, ultimately, elevate the overall consciousness of humanity. Published previously, in part, in Kosmos Journal (available at: https://www. kosmosjournal.org/reader-essay/the-role-of-altruism-in-media-and-humanevolution). Kosmos is dedicated to transformation and systemic change in harmony with all life. Kosmos invites readers to submit articles for publication in either their print Kosmos Journal or free digital Bi-weekly Kosmos Online. Tanja’s article was selected by Kosmos for website publication for its excellence.
Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler is the founder of Our Humanity Matters, created to further the understanding of humanity and the spiritual challenges of mass media culture. Tanja is dedicated to inspiring a more enlightened and sustainable humanity with the understanding that we are all connected. With the belief that media must become part of human evolution, Tanja posits that creating “ecological media” that is used for a higher purpose and which exhibits interconnectivity will create a more conscious and progressive humanity. Tanja was born in Slovenia where she initially completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but soon after redirected her path to search for deeper meaning. She later graduated with a degree in Philosophy from the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. She moved to New York and has since dedicated her studies to the field of media. She received an MA in Media from the New School University in NYC and is continuing her PhD in media at the European Graduate School.
Altruism and the Vision of Kotama Okada, the Founder of Sukyo Mahikari by Ken Kitatani
he result of David Sloan Wilson’s work that has been published in Does Altruism Exist? (DAE) voices what many mystics, thought leaders, ethicists, and philosophers have pointed to over the years: that cultural evolution is not a random mechanistic process void of consciousness, but rather a long journey emerging from sentience, conscious choice and vision.
humankind, manifesting as U-turns in the various sectors of society: politics, economics, science, education, agriculture and so on. As in science, these fields will each experience, Okada predicted, a growing process and a convergence with profound ethical and values elements of the Great Wisdom Traditions. And, as in science, it will be a process of self-discovery.
It also marks a significant step in what many refer to as the convergence of science and spirituality. We are witnessing a paradigm shift in science, where the traditional mechanistic, reductionist science is experiencing its own evolutionary growth. The merging, convergence or unifying of science and spirituality does not mean a mixture of religious doctrine and scientific theory and principle. Rather, it is science growing toward the next steps in its evolutionary path and discovering, uncovering spiritual truths or principles in a measurable way.
Today, many people worldwide (from 30–70% depending on the demography)2 describe their idea of “spirituality” as “spiritual but not religious.” This increasingly prominent demographic group defines spirituality more in terms of values, ethics and ideals than with conventional religious stories, deities or salvation claims. Thus, one could say their worldview is one having to do with a concern about what values to live by, and these being oriented by the value of the ethics and ideals of the Great Wisdom Traditions.
The U-turn Kotama Okada, spiritual leader and founder of the Sukyo Mahikari movement and the Yoko Civilization Research Association in Japan described this convergence—the meeting of science and spirituality—as “spirit comes down and science goes up.” This was one aspect of Okada’s vision that was inspired. This vision articulates what many are talking about these days about a paradigm shift, convergence, evolution etc. Okada called it “The U-turn,” a phrase he coined in 1959.1
Kotama Okada said that this U-turn would commence in 1962, an observation that is poignantly supported by current books of the global integration of our planet’s religious worldviews during this time, and since. For example, in American Veda, scholar Philip Goldberg not only recounts the unfolding of the dialogue of Eastern and Western religions at this time but documents profusely how this dialogue and integration was actually strongest through wide cultural milieus, like motion pictures, pop music, best-selling books (both non-fiction and fiction) and commercial products.3 Another prediction that Okada made was that both science and spirituality
The U-turn refers to a U-turn in the consciousness of
would become engaged in exploring more and more subtle phenomena. This also turned out to be true, in the last decades ranging from quantum mechanics in physics to the esoteric teachings of religious traditions, especially indigenous peoples. Okada said this process would lead to wellestablished theories being seen as outdated, and therefore needing new syntheses.
the eventual U-turn. In other words, ecological issues on a planetary scale have emerged, and Wilson writes, “…policies that benefit the planet must be selected with the welfare of the planet in mind. In our role as policy selectors, we must become
The U-turn speaks of the evolutionary transition being pushed forward by an evolutionary vector of force. Certainly, as in DAE, this vector can be seen as manifesting in a transition of energies (as in human actions) from more selfish (self-focused) orientations to a more altruistic energy and actions. As described Chapter 2 of DAE, this is occurring in both “1) thoughts and feelings that cause people to act and; 2) how people act.” There are also other aspects in the message of Okada that parallel the sequences of change noted in DAE, for whatever reason. Prior to the U-turn, Okada said, for a very long period of time humankind and its societies would have gone through a phase of developing Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist. materials, that is, science and technology, with much of its cosmology turning more to materialism. Interestingly, like planetary altruists (chapter 10).” DAE, Okada said that such societies could be benevolent. Note that in Chapter 7 of DAE, Wilson writes, “The concept of the DSW describes this transformation as “A major evolutionary invisible hand in economics, which posits that a society can transition-from groups of organisms to groups as organisms function well without anyone having the welfare of the society takes place.” Through this we will see a shift from the individual to the community. Okada uses the analogy of the body and its different parts. If the body as a whole represents a The western expression of altruism larger organism, and simultaneously each of the body parts also manifests in a “horizontal” manner, represent an organism, we can see this as the different organs and appendages competing and at conflict with one another, such as love for the individual, one’s evolving into a whole body with all of its organs and parts friend and spouse. On the other hand, working together harmoniously.
in the east altruism is displayed in a more “vertical” expression, such as filial loyalty, love and respect for elders, and love for the community.
in mind…” But, Okada explained, it was also possible, or even likely, that pathological behavior would set into these societies in ways that would make selfishness have more and more intolerable consequences. Okada explains that indeed during this period non-altruistic, self-centered thoughts and behavior greatly benefited materialistic growth and was considered a trait that was aligned with the vision. However, excesses and imbalances in selfserving behavior would steer society off track, necessitating
East and West: Two Parts of the Same Whole In chapter 5, “Psychological Altruism,” DSW writes “Part of taking cultural evolution seriously means that the same altruistic actions might have different psychological motivations in different cultures.” One striking difference exists between the Eastern and Western cultures in terms of altruism. According to Kotama Okada, the Western expression of altruism manifests in a “horizontal” manner, such as love for the individual, one’s friend and spouse. On the other hand, in the East altruism is displayed in a more “vertical” expression, such as filial loyalty, love and respect for elders, and love for the community. To this day, in Eastern cultures love and action for the welfare of the whole community takes precedence over one’s individual interests. Okada states that these two seemingly opposite forms of altruism are complementary and
are two aspects of the same whole, therefore one is not better than the other. He explains that as humankind evolves the merging or union of these two aspects of altruism (Wilson’s “prosocial”) will occur, so that the best of both the East and West can integrate to form a complete whole. Climbing the Mountain to Reach the Summit of Truth Another point about the inspired vision of Okada was the description of all sectors returning to their origin, that is, source. He used the analogy of a mountain and the many paths upon it. As the paths evolve and “grow” they ascend up the side of the mountain and go through successive stages of getting closer and closer to the summit— in the Wisdom Traditions, the process of “awakening.” Ascending through successive integrated (or “integral”) stages, the paths ultimately reach the summit, that is, source. They all discover that everything is profoundly connected, there is distinction but not separation, only one origin. To borrow Ken Wilber’s terminology (see Roundtable 1), this mountain represents the “growing up and waking up” of humankind. Okada envisioned a future world that would continually build on this awakening global culture. He used the term “Forum of the Cross,” describing a forum where future leaders from the fields of science and religion, as well as other fields, would gather together and share their expertise and wisdom to help create a world culture that served all. Through sharing their expertise and wisdom and listening to their conscience, intuition
and wisdom, such leaders would transcend the barriers of race, nationality, science, religions and ideologies. In this way they would contribute to people’s understanding about the world’s condition and how it could respond to what might be unprecedented crises. Okada’s hope was that forums like this might evolve before the world entered into threatening crises, crises which unfortunately appear to be arising today. It was with the wish to create a suitable forum where differing opinions could be shared and where common values could be identified, that Kotama Okada founded the Yoko Civilization Research Association in 1973. This was the predecessor of the Yoko Civilization Research Institute that was established in 1985. The Forum 21 Institute, its sister organization, was created to work concurrently with the Yoko Civilization Research Institute to help actualize the vision of Kotama Okada. References 1. See: Chang, Sidney (ed.). 2007. God’s Light and Universal Principles for All Humanity: An Introduction to Sukyo Mahikari. Ansembourg, Luxembourg: L.H. Europe (10 Rue de la Vallée, L-7411 Ansembourg, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. Johnson, Don Hanlon (ed.). 2008. The Meaning of Life in the 21st Century: Tensions among Science, Religion and Experience. [A collection of essays by prominent scientists speaking at the 2005 Yoko Civilization International Conference organized by Sukyo Mahikari]. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse. “Conventional and Organic Agriculture: Toward a New Agriculture: Proceedings of the 5th Yoko Civilization June 26-28, 2010. International Conference Symposium.” Tokyo: Yoko Civilization Research Institute. 2. Johnson Kurt and David R. Ord. A Spirituality for the 21st Century: Inevitabilities and Possibilities. Kosmos Journal, Fall/Winter 2012. Available at: http://www.kosmosjournal.org/ article/a-spirituality-for-the-21st-century-inevitabilities-and-possibilities. 3. Goldberg, Philip. American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation. New York NY: Harmony, 2010.
Rev. Ken Kitatani is the Executive Director of Forum 21 Institute, a multidisciplinary research, education, and action association for catalyzing positive, integrative solutions and actions for human and environmental sustainability and development. Forum 21 works on all levels of society with a specific interest in three areas: (1) promoting sustainable development and uniting NGO’s of the United Nations to support the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals and their implementation by nations; (2) promoting eco-spirituality, eco-ministry, and eco-justice and supporting eco-ministry as an authentic and necessary form of service within the faith, interfaith, and interspiritual communities; and (3) sponsoring education and training programs on the local, regional, state, national, and international level that deepen and broaden constituencies to foster sustainable practices and leverage sustainability policies at all levels. Forum 21 is publishing a book on the advanced development framework and goals of the United Nations that is based on the adoption of its new Sustainable Development Goals: Ethics, Spiritual Values and the New UN Development Agenda (R. Clugston and M. Vilela Eds.; New World Frontiers, in press). Ken is an ordained minister in Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development and formerly served as the manager of the North American Regional Headquarters. He now works internationally out of Sukyo Mahikari Headquarters in Japan. Rev. Kitatani is the USA representative of 2050.org, an NGO that advocates for gender equality and sustainability. He is also on the Board of “What Shape is Green?” a program of peace sculptures for the environment and is an advisor to the Happiness Alliance promoting the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Program. Ken graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in East Asian Studies. Ken was interviewed on “Interviews with the Leading Edge”, an online program of interviews with persons on the leading edge of transformational change and creating a more sustainable, holistic, and enlightened world. The interview is available at QuantumRevolution.net.
The Role of the World’s Religions in Moving Toward Planetary Altruism
by Diane Berke
n the final chapter of Does Altruism Exist?, David Sloan Wilson answers his own question from the standpoint of evolutionary biology with a resounding Yes. Altruism does exist, as “traits that evolve by virtue of benefitting whole groups, despite being selectively disadvantageous within groups;” “as a criterion that people use for adopting behaviors and policies, with the welfare of whole groups in mind rather than more narrow individual and factional interests;” and as “a broad family of motives that cause people to score high on a PROSOCIALITY scale by agreeing with such statements such as ‘I think it’s important to help other people …’” In that chapter, Wilson writes, “Understanding how groups become functionally organized is a prerequisite for making the world a better place. The fact that single organisms are societies and functionally integrated societies qualify as organisms—not just figuratively but literally—was one of the most important developments of evolutionary thought during the twentieth century… Appreciating the complexity of biological organisms helps us appreciate the complexity of small-scale human societies, which evolved by the same process. Natural selection endowed our ancestors with the ability to function as superorganisms, surviving and reproducing by collective action rather than at the expense of each other. Such function required the suppression of disruptive self-serving behaviors within groups and just the right coordinated
response to dozens of environmental challenges, which varied across time and geographical location… …the actual historical process was one of multilevel cultural evolution. Larger groups created new problems for coordination and the suppression of selfserving behaviors. Some groups solved these problems better than others, and the more successful cultural practices spread … Sometimes the successful practices originated by happenstance, sometimes by intention, but either way, the crucible for their selection was how they contributed to group-level functional organization at a larger scale… Now we are at a point in history when the great problem of human life is to accomplish functional organization at a larger scale than ever. The selection of best practices must be intentional, because we cannot wait for natural selection and there is no process of between-planet selection to select for functional organization at the planetary scale.” (Emphasis added.) As an educator in the field of interfaith/ interspiritual education for nearly thirty
years, as well as a psychologist and student of human development, I find two questions especially compelling in light of the challenges facing us: 1) Can the world’s religious and spiritual traditions (which sadly but obviously can be and have been used to justify acts of violence, hatred, oppression, and destruction) play a beneficial role in helping to bring about a planetary altruism? 2) Are there insights from developmental theories that can support this process? Let me begin with the second of these questions. Despite their variations in specificity, most developmental theories describe consciousness as developing or maturing through several distinct levels, or altitudes, of worldview and identification – from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric, and even, then (to use Ken Wilber’s language), to kosmo-centric. At the egocentric level, identification and primary concern is with the individual self and its well-being (selfish orientation – “me”). At the ethnocentric level, identification and primary concern is with
“my group” (however that is identified) and its well-being (tribal orientation – “we”). At the world-centric level, identification and primary concern is with humanity as a whole (world orientation – “all of us”). And at the kosmo-centric level, identification and primary concern is with the whole of life and the evolutionary movement of consciousness itself. Each successive level includes but transcends the earlier level(s), as the capacity to integrate greater complexity and a greater number of perspectives develops. [One interesting discovery in the research on progression through these developmental levels that may have relevance to the conversation about altruism is the specific research on moral development. The original work in this field was done by Lawrence Kohlberg and his colleagues, and they found that, in fact, moral development did progress from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric levels of orientation and identification. One of Kohlberg’s students who then became a colleague, Carol Gilligan, recognized that Kohlberg’s research subjects had been exclusively men. As she began studying moral development in women, she found that they too followed a progression from egocentric to ethnocentric to world-centric, but also that there seemed to be a different foundation or emphasis in moral reasoning between men and women. Moral reasoning in men rested primarily on a value of justice, whereas moral reasoning in women rested primarily on a value of compassion, or caring. It is interesting to consider
the implications of this in light of the larger conversation about altruism, the re-emergence of the feminine in culture and consciousness, the rebalancing and integration of intellectual intelligence and heart intelligence, etc.] The developmental perspective also has implications for the first question I raised – whether the world’s religious and spiritual traditions can play a beneficial role in supporting planetary-level functional organization. Very important exploration in this area is being done
Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist.
by Integral writer and teacher Dustin DiPerna, in understanding what he calls “developmental religious pluralism.” In his book Evolution’s Ally, DiPerna points out that within every religious tradition, we can find expressions of that tradition through every developmental level. In other words, within each tradition, we can find expressions that are predominantly egocentric (self-protective), expressions
that are primarily ethnocentric (tribal/”my group”), expressions that are primarily world-centric (humanistic/universal), and expressions that are primarily kosmocentric (interspiritual/mystical). Currently, a significant majority of the world’s population operates from a primarily ethnocentric/tribal level of development, and it is this level of worldview that underlies the disruptive, violent religious and ethnic conflicts that threaten our world. But it is also true that there exists, within every tradition, models of how that religion can be understood and practiced from identification with higher levels of functional organization. The understanding that each tradition offers its own specific pathways for individuals to continue to develop in complexity and inclusiveness of worldview and identification - which Wilber refers to as the “conveyor belt” function of the world’s religions – seems entirely compatible with Wilson’s distinction between proximate and ultimate causation and multilevel selection theory and offers hope that religion can, at least potentially, serve as a beneficial force in moving toward a planetary altruism. In conclusion I would answer “Yes” to both of my questions. And this “Yes” offers me hope and optimism.
Yes, the world’s religious and spiritual traditions all have technologies and teachings that can help us all evolve to a whole new level: a kosmo-centric world— “A World That Works for Everyone.”
Rev. Diane Berke, Ph.D, is Founder & Spiritual Director, One Spirit Learning Alliance/One Spirit Interfaith Seminary. Diane holds a Master’s Degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master’s Degree in psychology from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in therapeutic counseling. She was co-founder and Senior Minister of the Interfaith Fellowship and is wellversed in the world’s spiritual traditions, psychology, and the Course in Miracles. Ordained as an Interfaith minister in 1988, Diane became a leading figure in Interfaith education, serving as dean and faculty member at The New Seminary for ten years before becoming its Director from 1998 to 2002. Diane is a psychotherapist and spiritual counselor in private practice for over 25 years, as well as an inspiring teacher for over 20 years. Diane has authored many articles and several books including Love Always Answers and The Gentle Smile.
Navigating Crises Toward Global Ecosophy by Elisabet Sahtouris
am very happy to write this commentary on David Sloan Wilson’s most important book Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes and the Welfare of Others. This much-needed update of the evolutionary paradigm, in light of what is now known about group and multi-level selection and its implications for cultural evolution, fits perfectly with my own work on an evolutionary maturation cycle repeating reliably over 3.8 billion years of evolution and the development of a human “Ecosophy” at this time. It is particularly gratifying that this new work is published by Yale/Templeton’s new series on “The Foundational Questions in Science” and summarizes nearly a decade of professional publications in major scientific journals including the work by D. S. Wilson and Edward O. Wilson in The Quarterly Review of Biology on its implications for sociobiology. I also note that Roundtables published to date, along with the extremely well-viewed video
commentary by integral philosopher Ken Wilber available on YouTube, focus dialogue on Wilber’s “Waking Up and Growing Up.” Their marriage of “inner work” and “outer work” is essential in our ongoing global maturation process. Thus, my comments below. Awakening and Maturation Humanity is at last awakening from western science’s depressingly hopeless creation/demise story—the story of a meaningless, purposeless, material cosmos running down by entropy, with life a temporary but ultimately losing competitive battle for survival. Surely this is the bleakest view of our cosmos and ourselves in the history of human cultures, and our awakening comes in the nick of time, just when the rapacious economic activity it spawned has plunged us into a Perfect Storm of crises. It is as though we are taking a collective Big Breath, and releasing a huge sigh along with the burden of this story. Just as everything seems hopeless, we suddenly have cause to Hope. “We are the Ones
we’ve been waiting for!” has become the mantra empowering us not to wait for saviors but to be them. Conscious creation through changing our stories, our beliefs, becomes the means by which we change ourselves—even our own genesi—as well as the world we experience. Technology developed in the fiercely competitive mode is suddenly turned to seemingly endless Internet capacity for cooperation and collaboration. We talk to each other, empower each other, build community, become human again after an interlude of trying to turn ourselves into cogs within the wheels of industry, of mechanized society, even of a clockworks universe. We know there is something very wrong, very immature, about the competing and fighting and grabbing going on at the highest levels of human society. After all, those are the very things we teach our children not to do to each other. The Occupy Movement that began in North Africa, moved to the Middle East, came
around the Mediterranean to Spain and swept across to America was a natural outburst against such destructive and immature behavior. In many places, Occupy has been a peaceful and overtly loving process.ii It has been an important part of the wake-up call to humanity. Love and other values lost to consumerism are pouring back into our lives like fresh water. Community as a concept, finally having lost the taint of its association with communism, is in wonderful revival as local selfsufficiency and sustainability become very human and very practical goals in an uncertain world. Caring and sharing replace competing and grabbing, especially as women are increasingly empowered. Indeed, many of us see all this as a growingup—the maturation of humanity. As an evolution biologist and futurist, I find this view entirely compatible with my own theory of a repeating evolutionary cycle of maturation.iii Such values made little sense in a meaningless, purposeless material universe operating by mathematically describable scientific laws, including the law of entropy. But western science is not the only source of universal law and there is a considerable revival of the perennial philosophy—the universal truths found common to all religions and popularized in the West by Aldous Huxley,iv as well as other compilations of universal laws honored in various ancient cultures, e.g. Vedic Indian and ancient Egyptian as attributed to Hermes Trismegistos,
elaborated in contemporary scientific terms by Marja de Vries.v These ancient laws, based on human inquiries into cosmology, have to do with Oneness, Correspondence (as in ‘As above, so below’), Vibrations (cosmic energy waves), Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, Dynamic Balance. Such laws are in complete harmony with contemporary findings in physics. Getting back to story, mythologer Joseph Campbell showed us over a quarter century ago that certain themes of mythology were also common to many
ancient cultures, vi notably the Hero’s Journey. Campbell called for a new myth for all current cultures, for all Earth—a call I believe we are now answering as we co-create a new future.
The story most often cited as the quintessential Hero’s Journey is that of Odysseus’ wild and thrilling adventures. But the end of the story seems almost a let-down. We are relieved that Penelope’s faithfulness is rewarded, but Odysseus, with his son’s help, must continue to battle with his wife’s erstwhile suitors to restore order where disorder had reigned in his absence. Thus, the story ends on a note of relief and exhaustion. We are left without a clue to how Ithaca might become a stable, sustainable society. We only know that its strong leader is back and all challengers are dead for the time being. In short, the Hero’s Journey, like the Darwinian evolution story, is one of competitive youthful adventure and ends with no guide for building a mature society that thrives in peaceful prosperity. There is a lovely story attributed to Mark Twain, though never verified, of a youth who leaves home for his own adventures and returns, finding, to his surprise, that his father has gained considerable wisdom in his absence. We smile. It is the son who has changed. Whatever the actual source, the story conveys a kind of folk wisdom about youth and maturity—that a youth cannot perceive the wisdom gained by experience until he becomes experienced himself. We humans now stand on the brink of maturity, in adolescent crisis, just mature enough to seek ancient wisdoms for guidance. For me, that wisdom is inherent in the nearly four billion years of Earth’s evolutionary experience, in which I have
found that species and whole ecosystems, from the most ancient bacteria to us, go through a maturation cycle from individuation and fierce competition to mature collaboration and peaceful interdependence.vii The maturation tipping point in this cycle occurs when species ‘get’ that it is cheaper (more energy efficient and thus truly more economical) to feed your enemies instead of trying to kill them off. The greatest leaps in evolution were the cooperatives formed by ancient bacteria that became nucleated cells, and the multi-celled creatures formed by them in turn. Whenever such cooperatives evolved, they were new, and so began the maturation cycle anew with youthful competition. Even humans have been through the cycle once, completing it with the formation of cities as tribal cooperatives 6 to 10 thousand years ago and still being unearthed now—cities that began the cycle anew when they went into competitive empire building, and apparently ending it anew as we gradually increase our ability to cooperate globally!
his friend Thomas Malthus. As Darwin described his own theory in The Origin of Species: “This is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms.”viii
for survival of the fittest. Thus, we really should talk about economists adopting the Darwinian/Malthusian hypothesis of fierce competition in scarcity and of human nature as inherently competitive.
Malthus was the first professor of history and political economy at the East India Company’s college in Haileybury, England. The East India Company was the first true multinational corporation in the world, with British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish and more national charters. Malthus’ mission was
To explain my intention for ‘ecosophy’, let me go back a few decades to tell a personal story. During the first Clinton administration in the early ‘90s, I lived in Washington DC and attended the meetings of the President’s Commission on Sustainability with great interest and hope. At the end of one lengthy debate on whether the commission needed to include discussion of economics, when its mandate was only concern with environmental issues, I was fortunate to be given three minutes to address the commission.
As the debate had been heavily weighted against including economics, and I had so very little time, I pointed out the etymology of the two words, economy and ecology. Both words come from the ancient Greek word for household: oikos (pronounced ee’ kos, at least in modern Greek). The word ‘economy’ (oikos+nomos = oikonomia) means the rule or governance of the household. The word Enter Ecosophy ‘ecology’ (oikos+logos = Copyright ©David Hoptman. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist. ‘Economy’ once meant the oikologia) means the creative careful, efficient management organization of the household. of households and larger human to assay the world’s resources, which So, I asked, “How can we talk about communities to provide for people as well led him to the famous conclusion that only one of the most important aspects as possible with the least expenditure, human populations always outstrip their of running our human household without but industrial competition led to excesses food supplies and are thus necessarily the other? The problem is not whether that resulted in a complete perversion of competitive in the struggle for to integrate economy with ecology, but the word. Most economists adopted the survival—an observation that justified that we have separated them.” I added Darwinian story of fierce competition in the exploitation of other countries’ my hope that they invite a child and a scarcity that Darwin admittedly got from resources in such inevitable competition Native American grandmother to their
future deliberations—the child to remind them for whom they were working; the grandmother to remind them of the need for wisdom, and for consideration of future generations—at least seven of them, as in the Iroquois nations. That completed my three minutes. It is in concert with these root meanings of ecology and economy, that I give the word ‘ecosophy’ (oikos + sophia = oikosophia) the meaning it would have had in ancient Greece, had it come into use there: Ecosophy: the wisely ordered household of human affairs. This is somewhat different from the meaning of ecosophy as introduced by Arne Naess, father of Deep Ecology, who used it as a contraction for ecological philosophy and stressed its connection with respect for Nature and the inherent worth of beings other than human.ix French psychotherapist and philosopher Felix Guattari is also credited with coining the word ‘ecosophy’. Much influenced by Gregory Bateson (author of Steps to an Ecology of Mind), Guattari‘s ecosophical model follows Bateson’s model of nature as a cybernetic system of interconnected feedback loops and nonlinear causality. Cybernetics is an advanced form of mechanism, but it is still mechanism, which I consider a poor metaphor for any living system, a metaphor missing the system’s very essence.x The aspect of Guattari’s model I do agree with is that it includes three different levels of ecosophy that must be integrated—the human psyche, culture and nature—which clearly reflects the ancient Greek conception of Nature described in the section to follow on The Concept of Cosmos, where I will elaborate on this matter of levels. The aspect of his model I cannot accept, is that each of these levels is cybernetic— in his own words, an “abstract machine.” Guattari argues that cybernetic
machinery, which introduced the capacity to collect all manner of feedback to increase control, has indeed, with the advent of the Internet, made elite control more insidious and effective than ever.xi He is right that elites have learned to control society by deliberately working to construct society itself as machinery, and teach people that it is machinery, because machinery can be controlled. That does not mean that psyche, society and nature are machinery! The confusion of mechanism and organism is extremely widespread in today’s world, even among scientists, especially those in Artificial Intelligence (AI). This accounts for such beliefs as that computers and/or robots will eventually come to life, that living cells can be assembled from molecular components, and so on. Fritjof Capra has done an excellent job of debunking these notions in his book, The Web of Life. I believe the same reasoning, conscious or not, was behind the founding fathers of science modeling the universe as a clockworks and Descartes believing that even animals were mechanisms devoid of feeling. As inventors of machinery themselves, these founders of science completely understood and controlled it; therefore, a mechanical universe would also be understandable and its forces subject to control at least locally on Earth. No wonder they projected their engineering abilities onto God as a Grand Engineer. Unfortunately, there were no founding mothers of science to temper their hubris and work for a better understanding of life. So, while I incorporate Naess’ deep ecology in my version of ecosophy, as well as Guattari’s psyche, culture and nature as levels of ecosophy, from my perspective it is not possible to promote
an ecosophy in cybernetic mechanics terms. Mechanism and organism are created and function by completely different kinds of logic.xii So let it suffice here that my version of ecosophy includes both Naess’ call to our understanding of, and manifested respect for, nature as alive and Guattari’s call for a just human society fully integrated into the rest of nature. While I honor these pioneers, ecosophy for my purposes is very simply, as I said above, what I believe it would have been in ancient Greece given the meanings of the words ecology and economy. Ecosophy would have been oikosophia, the ‘wise household’—the human household in which economy (including
finance) and ecologyxiii are not separated because they are understood as aspects of a single living system, or living economy, that is both organized and governed wisely. Ecosophy in Context In my 2013 presentation to global corporate leaders at the Xynteo Foundation’s annual The Performance Theatre event, I thanked them for having globalized the economy through competition and creative initiative, as that was a necessary evolutionary step, inviting them to lead the way now to a sustainable future based on peaceful cooperation. I apologized for my field of science, as it provided only the Darwinian story that has guided economists and businesses in turn throughout this expansive industrial and globalizing phase, while giving no guidance for the necessary next phase that must now be created with extreme speed. As I had only five minutes to speak, I followed this with my elevator pitch on how this mature cooperative phase in Nature comes about and why it is sustainable, as well as repeatable for developing mature living economies. (This and the Washington DC talk described above were the shortest I have ever given, and thus the most challenging!) In separating economy and ecology, both are failing us. Economy because it cannot get beyond its youthful competition, now in disastrous runaway mode; ecology because it is taken to be no more than the management of resources for human use. This has brought a perfect storm of crises—huge problems stemming from making ecology subservient to our economy, when in truth it is the other way around: that our economy is a subset
of nature’s ecology. We are in desperate need of wisdom as the governing principle of our human household. We must review, re-conceive and reinvent our human way of life beyond such separations and misconceptions to a wise way of life. Thomas Berry, walking in the footsteps of Teilhard de Chardin, one of the authors of the word ‘ecology,’ said cogently: “We cannot tell the human story without telling the Earth’s story.”xiv Berry well understood that we humans are, for better or worse, solidly embedded in and dependent on Earth as one of its myriad species of living
economy is totally dependent upon the biosphere and humans are dependent on the biospheric life support system, why are [we] tolerant of the type of economic growth that damages the biosphere?” He then suggested that “Humankind should only engage in activities that nurture the biosphere.”xv The overarching holistic framework needed to develop a coherent ecosophic strategy for living economies can easily be based on Nature’s lessons for growing sustainable abundance through
cooperative creativity without further physical growth. Nature has role-modeled the way and reveals it to us if only we look! If we follow her way, I believe we will find it to be the way to a genuine leap in humanity’s maturation from our current economics and politics to ecosophy—even a leap in Earth’s evolution by way of her humans as we truly become cooperative, wise Homo sapiens sapiens! creatures, however much our unique brand of consciousness permits us to pretend otherwise—that we are somehow apart from and superior in intelligence to our Earth, that our technologies are superior to her living designs. John Cairns, Jr. asked: “Since the human
Cosmos, Philosophy and Science In modern Greece, as in ancient times, the word cosmos is used for nature’s grand universe as well as for a smaller ‘universe’ of people—a populace, or ‘the public’ (in Greek a polis, from which we get our word ‘politics’). Cosmos is the organizational pattern of the universe as our greatest context and cosmos is also
the organizational pattern inherent in a human society, as well as its collective of people per se.
“Ecosophy will not only encompass and unite our separate categories of economics, ecology, finance, politics and governance, but will also unite science and spirituality, and bring human values into the entire human enterprise.” In ancient Greece, this relatedness of nature and society also held for the human mind or psyche that is preoccupied with them, so all three—universal nature, human society and individual psyche/ mind—were seen as embedded levels of our complete world, and all three were based on the same organizational principles and laws of operation or conduct.xvi In this truly cosmic model, the Greeks believed that if we knew how the greater cosmos was organized, we would know how to organize our human cosmos. The greater cosmos came out of chaos, which was not seen as the disorder for which we use the word chaos, but as the unpatterned no-thing-ness of the universal source, the infinite potential (chaos, more as in today’s chaos theory) within which all arises. Thus, the matter of how cosmos-as-order arose and functions is of supreme importance for human life. To create a harmonious human cosmos within nature’s greater cosmos, the Greeks believed that the human mind and emotions would have to be trained to function by the principles of harmonious cosmic organization.
Epic poems, ancient Greek drama, and eventually logic, were all teaching tools. A contemporary BBC television series on the ancient Greeks begins with the intentional relationship between Greek drama and democracy.xviii Dramas about terrible tragedies wove together the levels of cosmos in order to teach people democracy—what most difficult or horrific situations could befall people, what decisions had to be made, what consequences must be dealt with when bad decisions were made, how cosmic influences moved between levels. Comedy taught similar lessons by spoofing how people actually behaved in order to promote better behavior, as in Aristophanes’ plays Lysistrata and Women in Parliament, in both of which women scheme to make peace when men fail to do so. xvii
Another familiar ancient Greek word, philosophy (philosophia from philos
sophias), meant love of wisdom and was used to designate the pursuit of wisdom by studying the natural world for guidance in human affairs. Clearly the assumption was that the study of nature would reveal patterns of relationships applicable to human society—patterns that would help people organize and conduct their own lives, the lives of their families and their society wisely. Thus, philosophy included all the studies later given the designation of natural science, the term ‘science’ coming into use only in the Middle Ages. When I discovered this ancient Greek goal of science, well after becoming a scientist, it resonated deeply within me as the very mission that had driven me to the study and practice of science. I believed that scientific understanding of nature, including our own human nature, would help us live on Earth more intelligently and peacefully. Sadly, science had
abandoned that mission long ago when philosophy became an independent field while the systematic study of nature became ‘science’, from the Latin scientia, a word implying knowledge and the analytical separation or division of things into parts to understand them. Wisdom went with the name, out of science and (presumably) into philosophy. Philosophy became a very broad pursuit in its own right, based on thinking and reasoning instead of experimentation or other formal research. Its foundation is widely accepted as reason and logic, but it includes values, beliefs and principles in its domain. In everyday use it is the way we think about and reflect on life, and how we steer it in terms of our values. In that sense, we all are—or should all be—philosophers. The ancient Greeks were like many indigenous cultures have been—and like some still are—in their recognition that the levels of individual, family/ household, society and cosmos repeat the
same patterns and principles because they are embedded living systems of different scales. As the perennial philosophy mentioned earlier has it, “As above, so below”—now becoming part of even western science via the fractals and holograms increasingly used by physicists and biologists in describing nature.
anthropomorphic. I pointed out that we were expected to be mechanomorphic— to see nature as machinery—which was actually illogical as machinery was the invention of humans (anthropos), making mechanomorphism secondary to anthropomorphism. Such commentary was not very welcome in graduate school.
Ecosophy will not only encompass and unite our separate categories of economics, ecology, finance, politics and governance, but will also unite science and spirituality, and bring human values into the entire human enterprise. In its core focus on wisdom it must especially draw upon the feminine concerns with wellbeing, with caring and sharing as long promoted by, for example, Hazel Hendersonxix and Riane Eisler.xx
Nevertheless, the wisdom, and even ethics, of the body—of all our bodies— is remarkable in endless ways. Some fifty to a hundred trillion cells, each as complex as a large human city, get along amazingly well. All are agreed to send aid to any ailing part of the body immediately. No organ dominates—not even the brain—or expects other organs to become like itself. While blood is made from raw material cells in bone marrow ‘mines’ all over the body, and becomes a ‘finished product’ when purified and oxygenated in the lungs, the heart distributes it equally to all fifty trillion cells with no hoarding or profit. The ATP (adenosine triphosphate) ‘currency’ in our cells is given out freely
Wisdom Studying physiology in a PhD program in the 1950’s, J.B. Cannon’s book The Wisdom of the Body (1932) was still a text, though a term such as ‘wisdom’ was soon after dropped as
by the mitochondria as banks, thus never becoming debt, while carefully regulated to prevent both inflation and deflation. One can go on and on through all the interdependent systems of the body to show it is a genuine ecosophy, and a clear corroboration of the Greeks’ belief that studying nature can bring wisdom to how we run our human affairs. The wisest, most ethical human ecosophy I know is Dr. A.T.Ariyaratne’s Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka.xxi Founded over half a century ago on the Buddhist principles of inner peace and generosity, this equitable rural development project
now involves 15,000 villages, with 5,000 of them running their own banking system and helping the others develop. Businesses, schools, orphanages, community centers and agriculture are all developed to care for everyone’s need and no one’s greed. In high technology societies, many people are now promoting the observation of nature to learn clean, non-toxic production,xxii full recycling, “Natural Capitalism,”xxiii ethical markets,xxv and fair finance.xxvi Integrating all of these with a myriad peacekeeping and human potential efforts we can see it
Lipton, Bruce, The Biology of Belief (2011), Carlsbad, CA: Hay House. Occupy Love, a film by Velcrow Ripper. Sahtouris, Elisabet, EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution (2000), Bloomington, IL: iUniverse Press. iv. Huxley, Aldous, The Perennial Philosophy (2004), New York: HarperCollins. Huxley’s distillation of common elements in most religions and philosophies. v. De Vries, Marja, The Whole Elephant Revealed (2012), Winchester, UK: Axis Mundi Books. vi. Campbell, Joseph with Bill Moyers; ed. Betty Sue Flowers, The Power of Myth (1991) New York: Anchor. Based on the 1988 TV series by the same name. vii. See Elisabet Sahtouris’ Celebrating Crisis at: http://worldbusiness.org/celebrating-crisistowards-a-culture-of-cooperation, which includes an image of the maturation cycle viii. Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species, Introduction. Available at: http://www.literature.org/ authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/introduction.html. ix. This view has been taken up by the Green Party (as ‘ecological wisdom’) and in the 2010 Cochabamba People’s Accord reached by 35,000 climate activists from over 100 countries. This accord acknowledged Earth as a living being with inherent rights and made humans responsible for respecting and living in harmony with all her beings. After this meeting, the Bolivian President Evo Morales made such Earth rights law in his country, and campaigns are underway to do the same in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and other countries. x. In my book EarthDance and elsewhere, I distinguish between organism as autopoietic (self-creating, self-maintaining) and mechanism as allopoietic (other-created and othermaintained; i.e., engineered and repaired by an outside entity). When we use mechanical metaphors for living entities and systems, including economies, we miss the very essence of life. xi. Additional quote: “What’s striking is the juxtaposition of scales. The capitalist production system now extends to fully global dimensions, but at the same time it has intensified its grip over humanity to the point of charting out detailed mental models and interaction routines, not only for classes, ethnicities, income groups and local populations, but also for the most intimate behaviors of individuals. The aim is to extract surplus value not only from our i. ii. iii.
is possible for us to develop ecosophies. Economy must be made subservient to Ecology if we want to continue our life on Earth as a healthy embedded global human society. A political economy based on principles of a conscious universe’s mature ecosystems, including that of our bodies, becomes an Ecosophy. Thus, the perfect storm of crises we now face may well prove to be the very challenges that lead us to successfully navigate our way to our greatest evolutionary leap, truly becoming Homo sapiens sapiens.
labor but also from our inherent sociability, our desires to love, play, flourish and therefore to produce and consume. As most of us have only recently understood, the computerized mapping capacities of integrated world capitalism allow for seamless transitions between macro and micro scales of intervention. Guattari speaks of a shift toward “intensive imperialisms” that uproot or de-territorialize individual subjectivities and entire social classes, in order to reconfigure them according to the axioms of globally integrated capital.” Brian Holmes on Guattari available at: http://brianholmes.wordpress.com/2009/02/27/guattarisschizoanalytic-cartographies. xii. Explain mechanism vs organism. xiii. See http://worldbusiness.org/the-elisabet-sahtouris-chair. xiv. Berry, Thomas, The Dream of the Earth (2006) Sierra Club Books; 2nd ed. xv. Cairns, John Jr. “The Human Economy is a Subset of the Biosphere,” Asian J Exp Sci. 2010;24(2)269–270. xvi. Naddaf, Gerard, The Greek Concept of Nature (2005), New York: SUNY Press. xvii. The brain, to the Greeks, was a cooling organ regulating the emotional passions of the heart that clearly drove people’s behavior. (Interesting that western science now comes to understand the complex neural system of the heart as a second brain. (The Biology of Transcendence; Emotional Intelligence). xviii. BBC4, The Ancient Greeks 2013. xix. See http://www.ethicalmarkets.com. xx. See http://www.partnershipway.org/about-cps/cps-team/founders. xxi. See http://www.sarvodaya.org. xxii. See http://www.biomimicryinstitute.org/about-us and http://www.asknature.org. xxiii. See McDonough-Baumgart’s “cradle to cradle” production, available at: http://www.mbdc. com. xxiv. See http://www.natcap.org. xxv. See http://www.ethicalmarkets.com. xxvi. See http://beyondmoney.net/monographs/fundamentals-of-alternative-currencies-andvalue-measurement.
Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D, Internationally known as a dynamic speaker, Dr. Sahtouris is an evolution biologist, futurist, professor, author and consultant on Living Systems Design. She shows the relevance of biological systems to organizational design in business, government and globalization. She is a Fellow of the World Business Academy, an advisor to EthicalMarkets.com and the Masters in Business program at Schumacher College, also affiliated with the Bainbridge Graduate Institute’s MBA program for sustainable business. Dr. Sahtouris has convened two International Symposia on the Foundations of Science and written about integral cosmologies. Her books include A Walk Through Time: from Stardust to Us, Biology Revisioned, co-authored with Willis Harman, and EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution.
Better living (in a Complex World)—An Ethics of Care for Our Modern Co-existence
by Gaston Meskens
Vulnerability - In complexity, we became intellectually dependent on each other while we face our own and each other’s ‘authority problem’. We should care for the vulnerability of the ignorant and the confused, but also for that of ‘mandated authority’ (such as that of ‘the scientific expert’ or ‘the elected political representative’). Last but not least, we should care for the vulnerability of those who cannot be involved in joint reflection and deliberation at all. Obviously, without wanting to make evaluative comparisons between them, these can be identified as the next generations, but also as those among us who are intellectually incapable to join (animals, children, and humans with serious mental disabilities).
hat do we mean when we say that we live in a complex world? Whether we speak of clearly observable unacceptable situations (e.g. extreme poverty), perceived worrisome situations or evolutions (e.g. climate change or population growth), or " Sense of engagement - Our practices or proposed policy experiences now extend from the measures with a potential local to the global. As intelligent controversial character (e.g. reflective beings, becoming the use of nuclear energy, involved in deliberating issues genetically modified of general societal concern organisms, or a tax on became a new source wealth), the idea is that of meaning and moral we can characterise motivation for each one them all as ‘complex of us. As citizens, we social problems’ want to enjoy the right with the same set to be responsible in the of 7 characteristics. complexity that binds Based on that us, although not only characterisation, in our own interest. For the paper argues contemporary humans, the that a responsible will to contribute to making dealing with those sense of the complexity problems would of our co-existence can be come down to jointly understood as driven by an dealing with their intellectual need and as a form complexity in a ‘fair’ of ‘intellectual’ altruism. The way. For all concerned, contemporary human becomes this would require fostering frustrated and unhappy if she/he is ‘reflexivity’ and ‘intellectual unable to put that social engagement solidarity’ as ethical attitudes or into practice in one way or another. virtues ‘in face of’ that complexity. Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be Consequently, the paper proposes downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For more information about licensing of In the book Does Altruism Exist?, David advanced methods for politics, science images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist. Sloan Wilson develops a convincing and education to enable and enforce argument on the existence of human those virtues, and motivates them from out of a specific ‘ethics altruism (Wilson 2015). Following his arguments, I think we of care’ perspective. The idea is that the ‘fact of complexity’ need to make one step further in our thinking about altruism and brings along three new characteristics of modern co-existence consider the will to contribute to making sense of the complexity that can be named ‘connectedness’, ‘vulnerability’, and ‘sense of our co-existence as an advanced form of intellectual altruism of engagement’. Their meaning in relation to the complexity of that, however, needs to be unlocked from the traditional methods complex social problems can be summarised as follows: of politics, science and education (as these methods now rather curtail than enable it). In addition, we need a new vision " Connectedness - We are connected with each other ‘in on human moral evolution. Today, we are globally bound in complexity’. We cannot any longer escape or avoid it. Fair complexity, which means that we are morally bound to consider dealing with each other implies fair dealing with the humanity as one group. In my view, transformative change would complexity that binds us. need to lead to a ‘definitive’ state (the advanced approaches to education, research, and political decision making) and thus to
an end phase in human moral evolution. I develop that argument further in the responses to the questions for the round table. 1. The bigger picture: the idea of a fair dealing with complexity 1.1 Living in a complex world It has now become trivial to say that we live in a complex world. Industrialisation, technological advancement, population growth, and globalisation have brought ‘new challenges’, and the global political agenda is now set by issues that burden both our natural environment and human well-being. Sketching what goes wrong in our world today, the picture does not look very bright: structural poverty; expanding industrialisation and urbanisation, and consequent environmental degradation; spill of precious resources, water, food, and products; adverse manifestations of technological risk; economic exploitation; anticipated overpopulation; and derailed financial markets. All of this adds up to old and new forms of social, political, and religious oppression and conflict, and makes the world a difficult place to live for many people. The stakes are high and the need to take action is manifest. What do we mean when we say that we live in a complex world? The need to tackle the problems listed above is clear, even so as the picture of the world we want: we envision a world free from poverty and conflict and in which humans live in a healthy relation with their natural environment. Humans, whether in their private life or as ‘citizens’ share interests that are self-evident in their practical necessity (food, water and shelter) or in their universal desirability (happiness, well-being). And ‘in between’ the practical concern of survival and the universal desire for happiness and well-being are a variety of things we find important and a variety of visions on how to organize our coexistence accordingly. While happiness may have a rather ‘relative’ character, the question of survival is a fairly absolute one. And many of the injustices in that respect seem to be rather absurd. As an example: today, about one in nine people on earth does not have enough food to lead a healthy active life1 but the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations tells us that even today there is actually enough food to feed everyone adequately. Is it only a matter of a proper distribution and of reducing spills in production and consumption or is the problem more complex than that? Theoretical perspectives such as the World Systems Theory (see, among others (Wallerstein 2004)) or that of the Earth Systems Governance project2 may give the impression that the challenge we face is that of a proper organization of our society, in the sense of a complex engineering problem. There is indeed some logic in the claim that, in the interest of making sense of fair and effective global governance, it is important to first try to understand and assess ‘the system’ of the interlinked social practices and their relations with the natural and technological environment. The reasoning is that, once we acquire this understanding, it would be possible to ‘fix the system’ and to ‘get the balance right’. The problem however is that this ‘earth-society
system’ is not a neutral given ‘out there’. It is not only subject to interpretation, it is also and essentially ‘unimaginable’, and this can be understood by taking a closer look at the character of the problems we face. 1.2 A neutral but imperative characterisation of complexity (of complex social problems) Whether we speak of clearly observable unacceptable situations (e.g. extreme poverty), perceived worrisome situations or evolutions (e.g. climate change or population growth), or practices or proposed policy measures with a potential controversial character (e.g. the use of nuclear energy, genetically modified organisms, or a tax on wealth), the idea is that we can characterise them all as ‘complex social problems’ with the same set of characteristics. If science has a role to play in making sense of these problems, it will typically face the fact that it has to deal with factual uncertainties and unknowns, which implies that its challenge in a socio-political context is not the production of ‘credible proofs’, but rather the construction of credible hypotheses. Besides, we know that our judgements on situations, evolutions, practices, and proposed policy measures not only rely on available knowledge about them, but that they are first and foremost influenced by how we value them in relation to things we find important (nature, freedom, equality, protection, etc.).
Taking that into account, I want to propose a specific characterization of complexity of complex social problems that, I believe, will support the insight that fair and effective governance is initially not a matter of proper organisation, but essentially that of a fair dealing with its complexity. The complexity of a complex social problem, such as combating climate change, the provision of affordable access to healthy food for all, or evaluation of the possible use of nuclear energy, may in this sense be described with seven characteristics:
A Neutral Characterisation of Complexity: 7 Characteristics of a Complex Social Problem
1. Diversified impact – Individuals and/or groups are affected by the problem in diverse ways (benefit vs adverse consequence, diverse ‘degrees’ of benefits or adverse consequences). – The impact can be economic or related to physical or psychic health, or individual or collective social wellbeing. – The character and degree of impact may evolve or vary in a contingent way in time. – The impact may also manifest later in time (with the possibility that it manifests after or during several generations). 2. Interdependence – The problem is caused and/or influenced by multiple factors (social, economic, technical, natural) and relates itself to other problems. – Interdependence can change in time. – The context of concern becomes global. 3. The need for a ‘broader’ coherent approach (organizational complexity) Due to diversified impact and interdependence, problems need to be tackled ‘together’ in a coherent, systematic and ‘holistic’ approach. This approach needs to consider the following four additional characteristics of complexity: 4. Relative responsibilities Due to diversified impact, interdependence and the organisational complexity, responsibility cannot be assigned to one specific actor. Responsibilities are relative in two ways: – Mutual – the possibility for one actor to take responsibility can depend on whether another actor takes responsibility or not; – Collective – our collective responsibility is relative in the sense that it will need to be ‘handed over’ to a next ‘collective’ (a new government, next generations). 5. Knowledge-related uncertainty (knowledge problem) Analysis of the problem is complicated by uncertainty due to speculative, incomplete or contradictory knowledge, with respect to the character and evolution of impact and interdependence, and with respect to the effects of the coherent and holistic approach; 6. Value pluralism (evaluation problem) Evaluation of diversified impact, interdependence and organizational complexity and of subsequent relative responsibilities is complicated due to: – – – –
The knowledge problem; The existence of different visions based on different specific values and world views; The existence of different interests of concerned actors; The fact that it is therefore impossible to determine in consensus what would be the ‘real’ problem or the ‘root’ of the problem; – The fact that ‘meta-values’ such as ‘equality,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘sustainability’ cannot be translated unambiguously into practical responsibilities or actions;
7. Relative authorities (authority problem) The authority of actors who evaluate and judge the problem and rationalise their interests and responsibilities related to it in a future-oriented perspective is relative in two ways: – The ‘individual’ authority of concerned actors is relative in the sense that, due to the knowledge and evaluation problem, authority cannot be ‘demonstrated’ or ‘enforced’ purely on the basis of knowledge or judgement. As a consequence, that authority needs to lean on ‘external’ references (the mandate of the elected politician, the diplomas and experience of the scientific expert, the commercial success of the entrepreneur, the social status of the spiritual leader, the appeal to justice of the activist, etc.). – The ‘collective’ authority of concerned actors who operate within the traditional governing modes of politics, science, and the market is relative, as these governing modes cannot rely on an objective ‘authority of method’: the systems of representative democracy (through party politics and elections) and the market both lean on the principle of competition, while science is faced with the fact that it needs to deal with future-oriented hypotheses.
As such, concerned actors have the opportunity to reject or question the relevance and credibility of the judgement of other actors, and consequently to question the legitimacy of their authority.
Characteristics 1, 2 and 3 are characteristics of a ‘factual complexity’ and 5, 6 and 7 refer to a complexity of interpretation as a consequence of that factual complexity. Number 4 (relative responsibilities) might be described as a ‘combination’ of a factual complexity and a complexity of interpretation: the fact that a concerned actor does (not) act according to his responsibility may have practical consequences for other actors, also in terms of their own ability to act responsibly. On the other hand, the actor’s motivation to act according to his responsibility is of course also dependent on his interpretation of the situation and of arguments of others with respect to his responsibility. Due to their factual complexity, complex social problems are social problems that ‘create themselves’ uncertainty and ambiguity related to what is at stake and what is to be done. The complexity of interpretation may thus be understood as a complexity of making sense of the problem. As this complexity also includes ‘the authority problem’, the complexity of interpretation of a complex social problem can be understood as a complexity that is, in principle, experienced by all concerned actors ‘together’, and not only by each actor individually.
1.3. Reflexivity and intellectual solidarity as ethical attitudes or virtues ‘in face of complexity’ This text does not want to propose a manual, procedure, or instrument to solve complex social problems. Rather, the characterisation of complexity is meant as an incentive and a basis for ethical thinking, as it opens the possibility to reflect on what it would imply to ‘deal fairly with the complexity’ of those specific social problems, and of the organisation of our society accordingly. The possibility of doing so is in the fact that the characterisation of complexity in the form of the seven proposed characteristics can be called a ‘neutral’ characterisation, in the sense that it does not specify wrongdoers and victims as such (which, of course, does not mean there cannot be any). Representing the complexity as a complexity of interpretation enables the responsibility to be described ‘in face of that complexity’ as a joint responsibility that is, as such, not divisive, which means that, in principle, it provides the possibility of rapprochement. This joint responsibility ‘in the face of complexity’ has, at the same time, a binding and a liberating character for all concerned. Regarding the binding character, although nobody is blamed or suspected of reckless behaviour or of escaping responsibility, one could say that the characterisation of complexity is imperative for all concerned. First of all, any reflection on what it would imply to deal fairly with the complexity of the problem at stake would imply the need
for each concerned actor to transcend the usual thinking in terms of their own interests, and the preparedness to become ‘confronted’ with the way he/she rationalises their own interests within the bigger picture. At the same time, due to the knowledge and evaluation problem, every concerned actor would need to acknowledge his/her specific ‘authority problem’ in making sense of the complexity of that problem, taking into account that not only the way he/she rationalises the problem as such, but also the way he/she rationalises his/her own interests, the interests of others, and the general interest in relation to that problem is simply relative. That relativity is reciprocal, in the sense that nobody can claim higher authority based on a deeper understanding of the problem that would lead to a view on the ‘solution’ that all others concerned would simply need to accept. Finally, this reasoning provides us now with the possibility to argue that joint responsibility is not only binding but also liberating: as the authority of all concerned actors is relative in relation to the authority of others, it implies that all actors have the right to participate in making sense of the problem, and the right to co-decide on possible solutions to that problem. One more thought on the idea of being jointly responsible ‘in face of complexity’ is relevant here. The fact that we are all jointly and equally responsible ‘in face of complexity’ does not necessarily require us to ‘deconstruct’ the political landscape down to the level of the individual citizen, in the sense that it would be meaningless or unethical for an interest
group to gather around a jointly determined shared interest. In other words: the fact that specific authorities are relative does not mean that they cannot be relevant. The voice of science is relevant because of the scientific method used to formulate a specific factual finding or hypothesis. The voice of a group that gathers in order to stand stronger in its defense of a specific interest in the context of a specific problem is relevant because of that interest and because of the very fact of their gathering around it (and this counts as well for groups that represent business and industry, for groups that want to advocate the importance of a specific value (freedom, the value of nature, gender equity…) as for citizens who, as an example, gather to protect their village against the construction of a large dam). Finally, the voice of a single citizen is relevant because of that person’s right to be recognised as a citizen.3 In other words: although, as a joint responsibility, we all would need to acknowledge the relativity of authority of our voice in face of the complexity of a complex social problem, the relevance of our specific stance, interest and argument connected to that problem would not be affected by that relativity.4
sense of that complexity; for each concerned actor, that preparedness can be reformulated as the preparedness to see ‘the bigger picture and oneself in it’, each with his/ her specific interests, hopes, hypotheses, beliefs, and concerns; 3. (Following 2) The preparedness to seek rapprochement with other concerned actors, and this especially through specific advanced formal interaction methods in research, politics, and education that would enable sense to be made of that complexity.
Recalling the previous considerations on what it would imply to ‘deal fairly’ with the complexity of complex social problems, we could now say that the joint responsibility of all concerned can be rephrased as the joint preparedness to adopt a specific responsible attitude or to foster a specific virtue ‘in face of complexity’. That responsible attitude or virtue is identical for all concerned actors (be it the scientist, the politician, the engineer, the manager, the entrepreneur, the expert,5 the civil society representative, the activist, or the citizen), and can be described in a three-fold manner:
The three-fold preparedness suggested here can be considered as a ‘concession’ to the complexity as sketched above, and it may be clear that, with these reflections, we now enter the area of ethics. A first simple but powerful insight in that sense is the idea that if nobody has the authority to make sense of a specific problem and of consequent solutions, then concerned actors have nothing other than each other as equal references in deliberating that problem. In his book ‘The Ethical Project’, the philosopher Philip Kitcher makes a similar reflection by saying that ‘there are no ethical experts’ and that, therefore, authority can only be the authority of the conversation among the concerned actors (Kitcher 2014). From the perspective of normative ethics, we can now (in a metaphorical way) interpret the idea of responsibility towards complexity as if that complexity puts an ‘ethical demand’ on every concerned actor, in the sense of an appeal to adopt a reflexive attitude in face of that complexity. That reflexive attitude would not only concern the way each actor rationalises the problem as such, but also the way he/she rationalises his/her own interests, the interests of others, and the general interest in relation to that problem.
1. The preparedness to acknowledge the complexity of complex social problems and of the organisation of our society as a whole; 2. (Following 1) The preparedness to acknowledge the imperative character of that complexity, or thus to acknowledge the own authority problem (in addition to the knowledge and evaluation problem) in making
For all concerned actors, as a concession towards that complexity, that reflexive attitude in face of complexity can now also be called an ethical attitude or virtue. However, given that the responsibility as suggested above would also imply rapprochement among concerned actors, one can understand that, in practice, this ethical attitude needs to be adopted in public, and that one needs specific formal interaction methods
to make that possible. The joint preparedness for ‘public reflexivity’ of all concerned actors would enable a dialogue that, unavoidably, will also have a confrontational character, as every actor would need to be prepared to give account of his/ her interests, hopes, hypotheses, beliefs, and concerns with respect to the problem at stake. That joint preparedness can be described as a form of ‘intellectual solidarity’ as, in arguing about observable unacceptable situations (e.g. extreme poverty), perceived worrisome situations or evolutions (e.g. climate change or population growth), or practices or proposed policy measures with a potential controversial character (e.g. the use of nuclear energy, genetically modified organisms, or a tax on wealth), concerned actors would need to be prepared to reflect openly towards each other and towards ‘the outside world’ about the way they not only rationalise the problem as such, but also their own interests, the interests of others, and the general interest in relation to that problem.
an ethical attitude, one may also understand that the ability to adopt this attitude requires reflexivity as an ‘intellectual skill’, seeing the bigger picture and yourself in it (with your interests, hopes, hypotheses, believes and concerns). The important thing is that reflexivity as an intellectual skill may benefit from solitary reflection but it cannot be ‘instructed’ or ‘thought’. Neither can it be ‘enforced’ or ‘stretched’ in the same way as one can do with transparency in a negotiation or deliberation setting. For all of us, reflexivity as an intellectual skill essentially emerges as an ethical experience in interaction with others. That interaction may be informal, but it may be clear that the meaningful and ‘logical’ interactions in this sense are those of the formal methods of knowledge generation and decision making we use to make sense of our co-existence and social organisation: political deliberation, scientific research and education. I will briefly comment on what this would imply for these interaction modes in the last part of the text.
Similar to Copyright ©2008, Dafna Mordecai. All Rigths Reserved. This image may not be downloaded, reproduced, or modified. For understanding reflexivity Secondly, if reflexivity and a more information about licensing of images or fine art prints feel free to contact the artist. as an ethical attitude or sense of intellectual solidarity virtue, one can understand the sense of intellectual solidarity as as ethical attitudes in face of that complexity would motivate an ethical attitude or virtue, and one could say that the second advanced methods for knowledge generation and decision should and could be ‘stimulated’ by the first. In other words, a making that would enable a fair dealing with that complexity, sense of intellectual solidarity implies reflexivity as an ethical one could of course wonder in which way our traditional attitude with respect to their own position, interests, hopes, methods of democracy and science would (not) be able to take hypotheses, beliefs, and concerns, and this in any formal role up that role. And why would the market system not be able to or social position (as scientist, politician, engineer, manager, fairly deal with the complexity of social organization in its own entrepreneur, expert, civil society representative, activist, way? In the following part, I will briefly sketch in which way, citizen, etc). I believe, our traditional workings of politics, science and the market are unable to fairly deal with the complexity of complex As a conclusion to the reasoning developed here, three more social problems today. In conclusion, I will elaborate an thoughts on the meaning of reflexivity and a sense of intellectual understanding of reflexivity and intellectual solidarity as ethical solidarity as ethical attitudes or virtues ‘in face of complexity’ attitudes in relation to the governing modes of democratic need to be made. Firstly, it is important to stress that reflexivity politics, science and education on the one hand and in relation as ethical attitude or virtue should not be understood as a to the market on the other hand and argue what, in that sense, ‘psychological state of being’ of concerned individuals. The idea the consequences would be for each of them. is that, if a sense of intellectual solidarity implies reflexivity as
Thirdly, it is important to emphasise that intellectual solidarity is not some high-brow elite form of intellectual cooperation. It simply denotes our joint preparedness to accept the complexity of co-existence in general and of specific complex social problems in particular, and the fact that no one has a privileged position to make sense of it all. Intellectual solidarity, as an ethical commitment, is the joint preparedness to accept that we have no reference other than each other. 2. The comfort of polarisation: Postmodernity and the denial of complexity In somewhat abstract terms, one could understand modern representative democracy (within the nation state), science and the market as the three formal governing methods to produce meaning for our modern society. Representative democracy can be seen as the governance of our collective and personal interests, executed by an authority that received its mandate through elections in which different political-ideological parties competed, and the policy pursued by that authority can be seen as the produced meaning for society. Science is the governance of knowledge generation, and its intended meaning consists of the fundamental and general knowledge at the benefit of society on the one hand and the applicable knowledge at the service of politics and the market on the other hand. The market, in its turn, can be understood as the governance of the production and consumption of products and services, and the functional and aesthetical benefits that come with these products and services can be considered as the intended meaning. All three governing methods as we know them today are typical products of enlightenment and modernity, and we can say that their emergence and formation in modernity was, for each in its own specific way, the result of an
emancipation process characterized as modernity. As emancipation processes, all three of them have developed a system with an own ‘internal logic’ to produce their meaning for society, and the basic principles of those systems can be called essential accomplishments of the Enlightenment and modernity: for politics, these are the principles of representative democracy, being the formal possibility to elect our political representatives, the formal possibility of negotiations among different and equally valuable political visions and the formal possibility of a mandated authority and its opposition; for science, it concerns the necessity of independence and objectivity in the generation of knowledge meant to inspire and direct our coexistence and social organization; for the market, it concerns the possibility of innovation and of the variation and quality of products and services thanks to the freedom and competitiveness of that market. However, because of their emergence through emancipation processes, one can understand that the actors in (and protagonists of) representative democracy, science and the market were not concerned with their own ‘problem of authority’ in generating that meaning, in the sense that they saw no reason to give account to society with respect to their own working in producing that meaning. The simple idea was that the internal logic of their system – in the sense of their own method of evaluation with the production of their meaning – was self-corrective and that, in this way, their produced meaning was societally relevant, credible and justified and therefore also ‘authoritative’. For representative democracy, that selfcorrective internal logic is the idea that it is the formally organised and legitimised ‘battle of opinions’ between representatives of the distinct ideological parties that determines what is societally relevant, credible and justified policy; for independent and objective science, that logic is the idea that it is the scientific method and the system of ‘peer review’ that determines what is societally relevant, credible and justified knowledge for policy; for the
market, that logic is the idea that, while the market is the motor for innovation, society will in the end decide for itself which products and services are desirable and which not.6 The idea, however, is that, taking into account the character of complexity of our contemporary complex social problems, that internal logic is bound to fail today: the traditional internal
logics of representative democracy, science and the market are, each in their own way, not (longer) able to ‘grasp’ the complexity of those problems and, as a result, they cannot work self-corrective. Therefore, their governing methods are no longer able to generate relevant, credible and justified meaning for society. For each of them, this idea can be made more explicit in the following way:
Representative Democracy Within the Nation State The working of representative democracy inspired by the ideology of ‘democracy as organized conflict’ and practiced through the system of elections and party politics hinders a deliberate analysis of (the complexity of) complex social problems as it is unable to represent the diversity of visions and interests in relation to those problems. Analysis of complex problems is strategically prepared (to match party ideologies) and causes polarization. In addition, the system tends to stimulate populism and political self-protection and allows strategic interpretation of the possibility and necessity of public participation. In the case of complex problems that require deliberation on a global level, formal democracy remains restricted within the nation state while nation states profile themselves internationally according to the national political vision that happens to be in power on that moment. As interests of nation states with respect to a specific complex problem that requires the global as the context of concern do not essentially differ with respect to the nature of that problem, in global politics, the proclaimed central value of nation state sovereignty tends to rather hinder than facilitate global governance of that problem. Science Science that aims to foster ‘objectivity’ when dealing with complex social problems sees itself confronted with the necessity to work with future oriented hypotheses that cannot be proven. Given that situation, and taking into account an enduring spirit of positivism in the academy that now also tends to affect the social sciences, one can notice that political and commercial pressure on science to deliver ‘usable evidence’ tends to stimulate tailor-made knowledge brokerage and scientific consultancy, expertise adapted to political preferences, political ‘science shopping’ and thin interpretations of the ‘knowledge economy’. The market A ‘self-corrective’ and ‘innovative’ free and competitive market is apparently not able to determine its own ethics, in the sense that its internal market logic is unable to – Determine the limits to economic growth; – Prevent conflicts of interest with politics; – Deal with the justification of controversial products or services; – Rule out labour exploitation; – Prevent environmental pollution; – Justify the relevance of financial speculation; – Determine what would be a correct ‘use’ of animals; – Care for the needs of next generations.
In evaluating the working of politics, science and the market, there is one criterion that is identical for all three of them and of which the legitimacy is supported by as well the critics as their subjects of critique: societal trust. Trust of citizens in politics, of laypersons in scientific expertise and of consumers in the market, is seen by politicians, scientists and entrepreneurs respectively, as the ultimate criterion to evaluate their working. While society perceives this criterion of trust as a way to judge whether those politicians, scientists and entrepreneurs do not misuse the ‘authority’ it ‘delegates’ to them, those same politicians, scientists and entrepreneurs are today still convinced that trust is automatically guaranteed by the socalled self-corrective internal logic of the systems wherein they
function. Not only consistent critical analysis from academia and civil society, but also the daily news feed about detached and populist politics, conflicts of interest among politics and the private sector, contradictory scientific advice on controversial risk-inherent technologies such as genetically modified food and nuclear energy, child labour and horrible working conditions in sweatshops, unbridled financial speculation, indecent CEO bonuses, etc. may serve as support for the observation that politics, science and the market are no longer able to generate trust based on their own internal logic. In the previous section, I argued that, in the interest of a fair dealing with the complexity of our complex social problems,
concerned actors would need to be prepared to adopt reflexivity and a sense of intellectual solidarity as public ethical attitudes in face of that complexity. In practice, this would require them to openly reflect towards each other and towards ‘the outside world’ about the way they not only rationalize the problem as such, but also their own interests, the interests of others and the general interest in relation to that problem. The previous considerations may support the argument that the traditional methods of representative democracy, science and the market do not stimulate and enable reflexivity and intellectual solidarity as described above. Their internal logic is not selfcorrective but self-protective, and this leads us to a conclusion. By emphasizing the problem of authority and adding it as a third dimension to ‘the complexity of interpretation’ (and thus to the classical knowledge – values problem), the idea of a fair dealing with complexity of complex social problems informs in itself the need of critique towards any ‘rational’ attempt to make sense of that complexity. In other words: if there are no privileged positions to make sense of complexity or thus to ‘rationalize’ complexity (no specific political-ideological positions, no specific scientific positions, no market logic), then a fair dealing with complexity would simply be a ‘joint’ making sense of complexity among all those concerned. If the legitimacy of the basic principles of democracy, science and the market remain unquestioned but the relevance, credibility and justification of the meaning they produce at the service of society cannot longer be tested by the internal logic of their method, then the only way to generate societal trust with the meaning they produce is by opening up these methods for the possibility of critique by society, and by ensuring the capacity of society to engage in that critique.
And from this point, the similarity between politics and science on the one hand and the market on the other hand disappears. While politics and science that open up their method towards society would become reflexive and thus more responsible forms of politics and science, a market cannot become ‘reflexive’, as it needs to follow its rigid logic of creating profit as return on investment. Obviously, an entrepreneur in the clothing business can become reflexive with respect to the miserable working conditions in his sweatshops in Bangladesh, but with his eventual individual decision to raise the salaries and improve the working conditions, he would put himself outside of the market logic and his business would decline if there would be no rigid political regulation forcing his competitors to do the same. So for the market, the preparedness to open up its method can be understood as ‘only’ the preparedness to create transparency in its internal working and to accept that the rules of the game are set by politics and science in agreement with society. This conclusion brings us to the end of this part. The idea of reflexivity and a sense of intellectual solidarity as proposed ethical attitudes needed to fairly deal with the complexity of complex social problems, together with the critique that our traditional methods of representative democracy, science and the market do not stimulate or enable that reflexivity and intellectual solidarity, provide us now with the necessary elements to sketch an ethical framework that would follow from the general and neutral characterisation of complexity of complex social problems. The idea is that this framework can consequently inspire new governance methods that would, as previously emphasised, enable a fair dealing with the complexity of our co-existence in general and with the complexity of our complex social problems in particular.
3. An ethics of care for our modern coexistence 3.1 Seeking reference - A short reflection on Western philosophy normative ethical theories What do we talk about when we talk about ethics? Ethics are about being concerned with questions of right and wrong, but there are different ‘levels’ of thinking about these questions. Philosophy identifies ‘meta-ethics’ as that discipline or perspective that deals with concepts of right and wrong (what is rightness? what is goodness?). Next to that, philosophers speak of ‘normative ethics’ as the discipline or perspective that considers the references that can be used to evaluate a specific practice or conduct. In that sense, normative ethics thus refer to ‘what ought to be’ in absence of ‘evidence’ that would facilitate straightforward judgement, consensus and consequent action. That absence of evidence can as well relate to the knowledge as to the values we may want to use to evaluate that specific practice or conduct. However, absence of evidence does of course not exclude the possibility of some type of
Western Philosophy Normative Ethical Theories → → →
Theories that seek reference in ‘universally applicable principles’ (Kantian) deontology, consequentialism (utilitarianism) Theories that seek reference in evaluating particular situations ‘particularism’ Theories that seek reference in virtues (‘being good’)
virtue ethics (Aristotle)
Theories that seek reference in the care for human relationships
ethics of care
3.2 An ethics of care, ‘bound in complexity’ The previous section elaborated on the meaning of reflexivity and (a sense of) intellectual solidarity as ethical attitudes or virtues, and on the need to adopt these attitudes or to foster these virtues because of complexity. In addition to that, it is possible to develop an ethical theory on how to deal fairly with the complexity of
normative reference to assist that judgement. Throughout history, philosophers have tried to formulate specific rationales to defend possible references, and one can distinguish four categories of normative ethical theories in Western philosophy in that sense.7 Since their emergence at various moments in history, all theories have been subject to academic critique with respect to their attempt to ‘universalise’ their approach. The theories and their critiques are summarised in the table below. The context of this text does not allow further elaboration on the table. It is shown here as backdrop for the formulation of a specific ‘ethics of care theory’ that could guide evaluation and action ‘in face of complexity’ in the context of complex social problems as characterised above. The ethics of care theory will not only give the virtue ethics theory on reflexivity and a sense of intellectual solidarity (as formulated in §1.3.) a more concrete meaning but also inspire in what way the advanced methods for knowledge generation and decision making would differ from the traditional ones.8
Danger / Problem
Danger: risk of overlooking the particulars of specific situations
Danger: risk of self-protective relativism (cultural, social, political)
Problem: virtues do not always unambiguously translate into concrete action
Problem: works for close relations with known people; unclear how it could work for distant relations with strangers
complex social problems based on the simple insight that we are all bound in that complexity. The idea that ‘we are all in it together’ informs the view that we should care for our relations with each other, not only in the sense that we need to be reflexive with respect to how our complex relations ‘emerge’ and ‘work’, but also in the sense that we need each other to make sense of complex social problems such as climate change, and to tackle them.
In short, the characterisation of complexity as sketched above enables a formulation of an ethics of care that could work for our distant relationships with strangers. The basic idea is that the ‘fact of complexity’ brings along three new characteristics of modern co-existence that can be named ‘connectedness’, ‘vulnerability’, and ‘sense of engagement’. Their meaning in relation to the complexity of complex social problems can be summarised as follows: " Connectedness We are connected with each other ‘in complexity’. We cannot any longer escape or avoid it. Fair dealing with each other implies fair dealing with the complexity that binds us. " Vulnerability In complexity, we became intellectually dependent on each other while we face our own and each other’s ‘authority problem’. We should care for the vulnerability of the ignorant and the confused, but also for that of ‘mandated authority’ (such as that of ‘the scientific expert’, the ‘teacher’ or ‘the elected political representative’). Last but not least, we should care for the vulnerability of those who cannot be involved in joint reflection and deliberation at all. Obviously, without wanting to make evaluative comparisons between them, these can be identified as the next generations, but also as those among us who are intellectually incapable to join (animals, children, and humans with serious mental disabilities). " (Sense of) Engagement Our experiences now extend from the local to the global. As intelligent reflective beings, becoming involved in deliberating
issues of general societal concern became a new source of meaning and moral motivation for each one of us. As citizens, we want to enjoy the right to be responsible in the complexity that binds us, although not only in our own interest. The idea I want to present here is that, for contemporary humans, the will to contribute to making sense of the complexity of our co-existence can be understood as driven by an intellectual need and as a form of ‘intellectual’ altruism. The contemporary human becomes frustrated and unhappy if she/he is unable to put that social engagement into practice in one way or another. According to the Buddhist thinker Matthieu Ricard, ‘real’ altruism is a mental attitude, motivation and intention (Ricard 2015). However, one can understand that acting upon that attitude, motivation and intention will only have limited and temporal effect if at the same time the traditional governing modes of politics, science, the market and education systematically and strategically curtail our possibility to engage in practice.
We can now connect this ethics of care perspective with the idea of reflexivity, and intellectual solidarity as ethical attitudes or virtues, as elaborated above. Connectedness, vulnerability, and a sense of engagement, identified as new characteristics of co-existence, imply the need to be in ‘intellectually solidary’ with each other in the way we make sense of complexity of co-existence and of our relations in that co-existence. This can be represented as having a sense for interaction modes that are ‘confronting’ or ‘enabling’ at the same time:
Connectedness, vulnerability and a sense for engagement inspire ‘intellectual solidarity as a joint ethical commitment’, in the sense of Connectedness
The joint preparedness to enable and participate in intellectual confrontation with respect to the ratio’s we use - To defend our interests, hopes, hypotheses, believes and concerns; - To relativize our uncertainties and doubts; - The joint preparedness to recognise that the practical limitations to - participation in deliberation cannot be used to question the principle of participation as such.
The joint preparedness - To acknowledge that we are intellectually dependent on each other; - To respect each other’s authority problem and the vulnerability of those who cannot participate.
(Sense of) Engagement
The joint preparedness to enable and support ‘intellectual emancipation’ of others with the aim of providing every human being with the possibility of developing ‘reflexivity as an intellectual skill’, or thus to develop a (self-)critical sense and to be a (self-)critical actor in society.
3.3 Trust by method: intellectual solidarity in science, democracy and education. Moving now from normative ethical thinking to applied ethical thinking, the advanced formal interaction modes to enable reflexivity and a sense of intellectual solidarity referred to above can be given a name and a practical meaning. Taking into account the knowledge problem and the evaluation problem as the central characteristics of the complexity of complex social problems, reflexivity and a sense of intellectual solidarity as public ethical attitudes or virtues would need to inspire the method used to generate knowledge about these problems, and the method used to negotiate and make decisions related to them accordingly. So, the question becomes, in what way could these virtues inspire the practice of research and decision making? With the presentation of virtue ethics as one of the four traditional theories of ethics (of Western philosophy), it was noted that the problem with virtue ethics as a theory of normative reference is that virtues do not always translate unambiguously into concrete action. First of all, virtues such as being ‘good’, ‘honest’, or ‘prudent’ obviously need to be considered in a practical context or situation in order to understand their practical meaning. However, even then, different virtues can come into conflict with each other, or acting from the perspective of one virtue can be complicated because of the existence of conflicting values to take into account. In the same perspective, it is true that neither reflexivity nor a sense of intellectual solidarity can unambiguously inspire concrete action of concerned actors but, perceived in the ethics of care perspective presented here, they can inspire interaction methods that would enable and enforce them as virtues in the interest of meaningful dialogue. The following reasoning may clarify this. In the first part, it was said that reflexivity as an intellectual skill may benefit from solitary reflection but also that it cannot be ‘instructed’ or ‘thought’. Neither can it be ‘enforced’ or ‘stretched’ in the
same way as one can do with transparency in a negotiation or deliberation setting. For all of us, reflexivity as an intellectual skill essentially emerges as an ethical experience in interaction with others. That interaction may be informal, but it may now be clear that, from a joint concern to make intellectual solidarity and thus that experience for everyone possible, meaningful interactions in this sense are to be organised in (what I would call) the three formal and ‘neutral’ methods9 we use to give meaning to our coexistence: scientific research, political deliberation and education.10 In the interest of keeping this text concise, I will briefly comment on how this can be understood for all three of them. " As the challenge of science in making sense of complex social problems is no longer the production of credible proof but the construction of credible hypotheses, reflexivity and intellectual solidarity as ethical attitudes inspire the need to engage in advanced methods that are self-critical and open to visions from outside the traditional disciplines of science. In other words, in an advanced method of science, knowledge to advise policy is generated in a ‘transdisciplinary’ and ‘inclusive’ way, or thus as a joint exercise of problem definition and problem solving with input from the natural and social sciences and the humanities as well as from citizens and informed civil society. " An advanced method of political negotiation and decision making inspired by the ethical attitudes of reflexivity and intellectual solidarity would be a form of ‘deliberative democracy’ that sees deliberation as a collective self-critical reflection and learning process among all concerned, rather than as a competition between conflicting views driven by selfinterest. Political deliberation liberated from the confinement of political parties and nation states, and enriched with opinions from civil society and citizens, and with well-considered and (self-) critical scientific advice would have the potential to be fair in the way it would enforce actors to give account of how they rationalise their interests from out of strategic positions, but also in the way it would enable actors to do so from out of
vulnerable positions. It would be effective as it would have the potential to generate societal trust based on its method instead of on promised outcomes. While the utopian picture sketched here would imply a total political reform on all levels, intellectual solidarity can already open up old political methods for the good of society. At both local and global levels, politicians could organise public participation and deliberation around concrete issues, and engage in taking the outcome of that deliberation seriously. " Last but not least, there is the need for a new vision on education. Fair dealing with complex social problems needs an education that cares for ‘critical-intellectual capacity building’. It would be naïve to think that scientists, politicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, managers, experts, activists, or citizens will adopt the ethical attitudes of reflexivity and intellectual solidarity simply on request. The preparedness of someone to be reflexive about her/his own position and related interests, hopes, hypotheses, beliefs, and concerns can be called a moral responsibility, but it essentially leans on the capability to do so. Insight into the complexity of our co-existence in general and into our complex social problems in particular, and an understanding of the ethical consequences for politics, science, the market and education itself, need to be stimulated and fostered in basic and higher education. Education should move beyond the 19th Century disciplinary approaches and cultural and religious comfort zones, and should become pluralist, critical, and reflexive in itself. Instead of educating young people to function optimally in the strategic political, cultural, and economic orders of today, they should be given the possibility to develop as a cosmopolitan citizen with a (self-) critical mind and a sense for ethics in general and for intellectual solidarity in particular. An ethics of care perspective on our modern co-existence ‘bound in complexity’ provides a powerful reference to defend the value of (and the need for) these advanced interaction methods.
Recognising the meaningful relations between the advanced approaches to education, research, and political decision making presented above, together they not only enable and stimulate reflexivity and intellectual solidarity based on their discursive potential, but also provide the possibility to generate societal trust with their working. That societal trust considered here is not the trust that the outcome of deliberation will be the ‘correct one’, but that its method has the potential to be judged as fair by everyone involved, given the complexity of the problem. So what is the real problem with living in a complex world? Whether we speak of clearly observable unacceptable situations (such as extreme poverty), perceived worrisome situations or evolutions (such as climate change or population growth), or practices or proposed policy measures with a potential controversial character (such as the use of nuclear energy, genetically modified organisms, or a tax on wealth), we can say that our social challenges became more complex. The real trouble with these challenges is not their complexity as such, but the traditional governance methods we use to make sense of them in politics, science, and the market. Inherited from modernity, the idea is that these methods are no longer able to ‘grasp’ the complexity of these social problems. In part 2, it was argued more in depth why and how these traditional governance methods are not inspired by reflexivity as an ethical attitude and intellectual solidarity as an ethical commitment, driven as they still are by the doctrine of scientific truth and the strategies of political ‘positionism’ and economic profit.11 On the other hand, it may be clear that we do not need deep utopian reform of our society to make research transdisciplinary and inclusive, and to make education pluralist, critical, and reflexive. Even in the old modes of political conflict, steered and limited by party politics and nation state sovereignty, it is possible in principle to organise public and civil society participation in deliberation around concrete issues, and to take the outcome of that deliberation seriously. So although we do not live in a society inspired by intellectual solidarity, we have the capacity to foster it and to put it in practice.
Gaston Meskens holds master degrees in theoretical physics and nuclear physics from the University of Ghent in Belgium. He works with the Centre for Ethics and Value Inquiry of the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of the University of Ghent and with the Science and Technology Studies group of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN. At the Centre for Ethics and Value Inquiry, his research advances on a critical analysis of the working of the knowledge-policy interface in the context of ongoing global governance policy processes and focuses on a human rights perspective related to intellectual capacity building in the interest of global sustainable development governance. Motivated to apply the philosophical research and activism to a practical case, he cofounded the ‘Programme of Integration of Social Aspects into Nuclear Research’ of the SCK•CEN in 1999. The programme takes nuclear technology as a case to critically study the complexity of riskinherent technology assessment from the perspective of social justice and sustainable development. At SCK•CEN, he is now working as researcher, writer, lecturer and mediator of dialogue on ethics in relation to science, education and democratic decision making. Based on the idea that ‘philosphical activism’ also needs some kind of meta-reflection, Gaston Meskens developed an art practice parallel to his philosophical work. This ‘art as research’ practice advances from the question of what social agency and humanism can mean ‘in a world still struggling with the cramps of modernity’. In practice, the art suggests the existence and working of a hypothetical research institute that engages in the study of ‘a new humanism beyond the comforts of ideological polarization, political detachment and social pseudo-tolerance’, and this in all possible art forms (web presence, text, visual materials, music & soundscapes, installations, performances and happenings).
Footnotes 1. Source: The World Food Programme (http://www.wfp.org/). 2. See http://www.earthsystemgovernance.org/ 3. Note that the meaning of ‘citizenship’ remains open to interpretation and that, as characterised in (Howard-Hassmann and Walton-Roberts 2015), the ‘human right to citizenship’ remains a ‘slippery concept’. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights states in its Article 15 that “… Everyone has the right to a nationality…” and in its Article 21 that “…Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives…” (United Nations 1948) but makes no mentioning of the notion of citizenship as such. The general understanding of the meaning of citizenship is ‘the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a member of a state’ (Wikipedia 2015) but the term is also used in broader political, social and cultural contexts. 4. Also the ‘relevance’ of a specific joint political interest is a concept open to interpretation. It can be ‘officialised’, as in the case of an NGO officially accredited to the United Nations or become ‘established’, as in the case of Greenpeace, but in many other cases it needs to be defended as such, as in the case of ad-hoc citizens’ movements and pressure groups. 5. In the context of this text, ‘expert’ denotes any person with a special expertise compared with others involved. This could be a scientist in an advisory role towards a political authority, or someone who works for a regulatory commission, but also a medical doctor in relation to a patient. 6. Note that also ‘education’ can be considered as a formal governing method to produce meaning for society (the systematic and programmatic way to provide humans with ‘capabilities’, and this by way of teaching them general and specialised knowledge, skills and competences). However, in the reasoning developed here, education is not considered in the same way as representative democracy, science and the market. Obviously what is ‘taught’ in our education programmes today has been influenced by modernity as an emancipation process, but the method of education itself is not a result of that emancipation process, and neither was it ever set up with the aim to work ‘self-corrective’. Obviously the role of education is crucial in a reasoning on a better dealing with the complexity of our social problems, so I will highlight that role in part 3 of this text. Also ‘culture’ in its different expressions can be considered a method to produce meaning for society (with possible meanings such as aesthetics and social critique, but also the feeling of connectedness or alienation). What can be said, written, done and shown in culture today has of course in various ways been determined by modernity as an emancipation process, but, similar to education, culture itself is, as ‘method’ not a result of that modernity as emancipation process. In the same sense, it has never been set up to work ‘self-corrective’. Last but not least, I need to note that the idea of a self-corrective logic does of course not apply to the human sciences, as their statements about reality do not necessarily need to be empirically tested. 7. The focus on ‘Western philosophy’ has no other meaning than to provide a ‘pragmatic’ framework for the reasoning developed here. Obviously thought from ‘Eastern philosophy’ may be relevant here too. I see the major differences between them mainly in an historical evolutionary perspective and not caused by different ideologies or deeper insights. 8. In addition, from a philosophical perspective, the idea is that both the vision on virtue ethics and ethics of care formulated here do not face the traditional problems formulated above, as they do not aim to instruct concrete practical action of concerned actors, but rather inspire specific modes of reflective and deliberative interaction among them. A further discussion on this philosophical problem falls outside of the scope of this text. 9. The specification of ‘formal’ and ‘neutral’ methods is important here, in the sense that it denotes
interactions that happen according to specific rules and guidelines to be agreed upon jointly in the interest of the meaning they aim to produce. This marks the difference with the other interaction modes we use to give meaning to life and our co-existence, being (in the broadest sense) ‘culture’ (including art), ‘play’, spirituality and religion. See also the next footnote. In part 2, I have characterised representative democracy, science and the market as the three formal governing methods that, each in their own way, create meaning for our society. I also said that education, despite the fact that it can be understood as another method to create meaning for our society, is not to be seen in the same perspective, as its method itself is not a result of modernity as an emancipation process, and neither was it ever set up with the aim to work ‘self-corrective’. The difference between creating meaning for our society as organisation and giving meaning to our society as co-existence is subtle but important. The second refers to interaction methods that give meaning via ‘discursive interaction’ using specific ‘languages’. This is the reason why democracy, science and education belong to this category and the market not. On the other hand, also culture can be understood as an interaction method to give meaning via specific languages (literary fiction, poetry, visual art, dance, theatre, …). However, culture is not taken into account here for the simple reason that its ‘methods’ are obviously not determined by formal agreements, rules and laws (rather on the contrary – cultural expression should be ‘free’). Also organised religion can be understood as a way to give meaning to our society as co-existence. However, given that the ‘separation of church and state’ is now widely recognised as a criterion for democracy, similar to ‘culture’, religion is not taken up in the category of ‘advanced formal methods’ here. Of course religious thought has the right to be taken into account in political deliberation and education (and even in science), but the idea is that it may not influence the methods of democracy, science and education. This is of course theory, as we know that this influence exists in many ways today (although not necessarily in more problematic ways than from out of a positivist approach to science). Because of practical reasons, a further discussion of these matters falls outside of the scope of this text. In (Meskens 2015), I develop that reasoning from the perspective of ‘global governance’ as an ethical commitment.
References Dewey, John, and James H. Tufts. 1908. Ethics. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Gouinlock, James. 1994. The Moral Writings of John Dewey. Rev ed. New York: Prometheus Books. Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E., and Margaret Walton-Roberts, eds. 2015. The Human Right to Citizenship: A Slippery Concept. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Kitcher, Philip. 2014. The Ethical Project. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Meskens, Gaston. 2015. “Global Governance as Ethical Commitment - A New Vision on Solidarity for Sustainable Development.” In Sustainability - Global Issues, Global Perspectives. San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing. United Nations. 1948. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Available at: http://www.un.org/en/ universal-declaration-human-rights. Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham: Duke University Press. Wikipedia. 2015. “Citizenship.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/ index.php?title=Citizenship&oldid=695640571. Wilson, David Sloan. 2015. Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others. London: Yale University Press.
In June 2016, Colorado thought leaders involved in the Roundtable II were hosted at Colorado’s Gold Hill Historic Landmark by members of The Convergence team, shooting a further video discussion (available online here under Episode 4 “Continue the Conversation/ Boulder Roundtable Discussion”). Attending from Roundtable II were Steve McIntosh and Steve Farrell (front, left and center), Kurt Johnson (back, right) and Yanni Maniates (back, center), joined by Marc Barisch and John Latham (2nd row, left, center, with landmark host Karuna, right), Woody Vaspra (front right) and, in back with Kurt and Yanni, local host Richard Oxley and videographer Mel Sellick.
by Roundtable II Contributors Contributors were also given three questions about which they could have an open discussion. Although not all contributors were able to participate in this segment, below are the exchanges that did occur. Question 1 Global pundits often note multiple factors, and manifold emergent developments across many fields, appearing today to be bringing the world into a new conversation toward transformative change that “works for all.” How, for you, is the new “altruism discussion” in evolutionary biology one of these convergent points for important, new, and urgent international discussion? Herman F. Greene Biological understandings unequivocally have consequences and the evolved biology that Dr. Wilson describes in his book can certainly be the basis for leading edge discussions of a new sociality and morality that could lead to solutions of the many practical problems of our world. Planetary altruism could become the new narrative of our world civilization and evolutionary science could help to solve real world problems. All of this, then, could create a world that “works for all” and world that in effect would function as one organism working synergistically together rather than as a group of divided, competing cells. Steve McIntosh Dr. Wilson’s approach to advancing cultural evolution may prove fruitful especially if he embraces a more vigorous appreciation of the reality of values in the development of culture and consciousness. “A world that works for all” will not evolve because of biological evolution solely. It is cultural evolution (values) that will lead the way. For those in the purely scientific reductionist mode this book will definitely help them to seriously reconsider the “survival of the fittest” worldview and open them to a more “altruistic” one, but they, as well as Dr. Wilson, need to be introduced to a discussion about the evolution of values. Laura M. George Yes, altruism certainly trumps selfishness as Dr. Wilson so clearly proves for us in his seminal book Does Altruism Exist? Clearly his book both inspires and motivates those of us who are working to create “a world that works for all.” For it gives us hope and scientific evidence that no matter what our individual, inherent belief systems are, our “good works” can and will spread. It’s in our biological and cultural genes, so to speak. Catherine Bell We must choose policies with the welfare of the whole world in mind.” There are many planetary challenges: climate change, water, poverty, non-state fueled actors, acting in the name of religion, etc. People will feel the most urgent issue as the one closest to them. The root of these challenges is our ego, which fuels our deep sense of disconnection and separation from ourselves, our relationships, our communities, and the planet, leading to less than ideal behavior. All of these issues can be resolved by people working together differently. As an example, climate change is one of our most significant planetary challenges. We need to identify ourselves as members of the human race, all of whom are affected by climate change, and must agree to how much we are emitting and stick to it. If countries do not stick to it, we must have appropriate conflict resolution mechanisms and be internationally coordinated. Matthew Fox The nineteenth century concept of “altruism” is not applicable at all. Other concepts like “justice,” “compassion” and “love” offer a more authentic convergent point. At the heart of today’s science and ancient wisdom is the term “interdependence” which is in fact the basis of “compassion.” Altruism is the very opposite for it posits “others.” All beings are part of a whole and are involved in one another and interdependent with one another. That is true from the creation story of the original fireball from which we all derive; and it is true in any serious understanding of compassion. Great mystics of the past such as Eckhart have written explicitly about this. Steve Farrell It is bringing a significant contribution. The “altruism discussion” in evolutionary biology is challenging the paradigms and assumptions we’ve made about how life works. The door has been thrown open. Perhaps humanity will now burst through and we’ll come into important new understandings about life. Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler The new “altruism discussion” in evolutionary biology plays an important role in today’s environmental and social problems. It provides both a larger context, of which human beings are part, and a foundation that
helps us to understand our humanity, ethics, business, politics, and religion. In today’s society, we frequently see our altruistic tendencies challenging human selfishness and profit-driven, single-minded and destructive agendas. The higher intelligence embedded within our altruistic nature has enabled us to be innovative and inventive in the ways we behave, work, and think—this is palpable in the fast growth of social businesses that focus on and support positive and humane missions, as well as in the way our global community demands a higher level of social responsibility. Mainstream education has typically emphasized competition and the accumulation of bare facts, neglecting basic emotional and human intelligence that is nurtured and cultivated through social interaction, awareness of each other and the environment. Now, educators are beginning to review the role of altruism and how to implement a curriculum that emphasizes solidarity with the whole human being—our emotional intelligence, social relationships, and our relationship to nature—as opposed to an overachieving, abstract curriculum that emphasizes our spiritual and emotional inelegance and disconnection with all. This important discussion will also help to highlight the malaise of disconnection and selfishness created through the use of modern media as a machine that spreads political propaganda, misinformation, violence, pornography, and profit-driven messages. While the proliferation of personal electronic devices has resulted in greater alienation on a person-to-person basis, the new “social” media helps alleviate some of the negative aspects of media by serving as a platform for groups that have already begun to come together and advocate for greater social justice and environmental responsibility to connect. Premised on the understanding that altruism is about connectivity, that it is part of the fundamental fabric of intelligence and expanded consciousness and that it demonstrates a universal knowledge that we are all interrelated and interdependent, the “altruism discussion” can then be the foundation on which new media principles are created and implemented. This “new” media could strengthen existing networks and foster other platforms to facilitate the construction of a more humane society, one in which we are more aware of our connectivity and interdependency with each other and the rest of nature. It would thus become part of human evolution—Evolutionary Media. Diane Berke One of the interesting convergences I’ve been aware of is the alignment of the new altruism discussion in evolutionary biology with the work that been done by disaster sociology researchers, who have found that in the face of both natural and man-made disasters, an overwhelming majority of people respond with generosity, altruism, caring, financial, practical, and emotional support, and spontaneous expressions of community formation. What actually occurs in the immediate aftermath of most disasters (beautifully documented by historian Rebecca Solnit in her book A Paradise Built in Hell) flies in the face of social Darwinist predictions of destructive mob behavior and “survival of the fittest” tooth and claw competition for resources. The one thing that tends to interfere with this natural expression of altruism in the face of disasters is when those in authority operate from and make decisions based on assumptions of the worst in human nature rather than the best. Given the increase in the likelihood of both natural (geological and climate/weather-based) and man-made disasters, these findings have broad-ranging and practical implications. Question 2 How do you think institutions and organizations should increasingly exhibit Elinor Ostrom’s “Design Principles”as they pursue this transformative change? Herman F. Greene As people become aware of Ostrom’s Design Principles and begin to incorporate them, or a version of them, more and more functional action groups will form. And these groups will act as models that could cross-pollinate other less functional groups and this could raise the bar for all. . Laura M. George Besides Elinor Ostrom’s “Design Systems,” there are other similar systems being experimented with that actually work quite well. My research on intentional communities supports this hypothesis and as I wrote in my commentary, we at “Valley of Light” are a group of people who is in the process of building such a community. We hope our community can be a model and inspiration for many to come in the future. Catherine Bell What I have learned from working with leading organizations is that energizing and engaging people must be included in defining why an organization exists and what deeper need than mere profit it responds to. We must create a community culture and value set that people in organizations support. Gone is the justification for CEOs to be remunerated way more than the average worker. Clear boundaries must be drawn so that people understand the consequences of their actions. Giving people choice and control is key.
Matthew Fox The author says the world “is full of programs that work but don’t spread” and attributes the cause to a lack of “a common theoretical framework.” (p. 128) I think the deeper reason is that money is restricted to those who abide by a scientific orthodoxy that is utterly ignorant about the depth and diversity of wisdom traditions. I have been involved in academia for over forty years and have developed proven alternative pedagogies that are about bringing justice and compassion alive, i.e. “making the world a better place” (p. 65) and have proven over that time that theoretical frameworks of the “Four Paths” and the “Ten Commandments” accomplish profound results. Academia for the most part remains illiterate about mysticism and intuition (just as Einstein decried) and how to teach them and therefore values (Einstein). Funding is needed to develop wisdom schools and not just more tired and outmoded knowledge factories. Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler Enacting transformative change requires dedication to and investment in our own sustainability and our understanding that we need to preserve a healthy environment. Organizations and institutions represent a universal unit subdivided into smaller groups to accomplish the broader mission—each group needs to feel that they are achieving something tangible. Weaving Elinor Ostrom’s “Design Principles” into the very fabric of an organization will help ensure the progress of humanity and inspire us to nurture, love, and respect each other. The broader mission is better served, and organizations benefit more, when each individual is invested as a whole rather than pushing the single-minded personal gain of materialistic goods, reputation, and power in an unhealthy, separated and unfriendly environment. Question 3 If we may use these terms, many commentators worldwide suggest we are trying to move humanity from just “intellectual intelligence” toward a “heart intelligence”, and, that together these might more effectively serve the collective human future. Can you comment on that in light of your reading of Does Altruism Exist? Herman F. Greene Yes, humans evolve behaviorally, culturally and physically and thus “heart intelligence” is the next emerging step of global cultural evolution that can help the human race to both act as and metaphysically be one new integrated organism. “Heart Intelligence” has long been rooted in the religious traditions of the past and now evolutionary biology has seen that it is rooted, as well, in science and also has practical efficacy. Social and moral theories developed with reference to multilevel selection theories will be superior to those based on individual selection alone. The multilevel selection theories are less at odds with traditional understandings of sociality and morality. They do offer a basis for a critique of understandings of sociality and morality based on individual selection theories alone. Wilson has well illustrated how to apply this critique. His is a fundamental critique of much of modern social science. This is very, very important. For sure humanity will be better served by these understandings of evolutionary biology. And, no doubt, many practical problems will be solved by those inspired and informed by these new understandings. Steve McIntosh As I wrote in my commentary, the higher emergent domain of cultural evolution cannot be adequately understood or theorized from the vantage point of the lower domain of biological evolution. What is required is the recognition of an authentic domain of metaphysical meaningfulness which can only be found beyond the horizon of physicalist Darwinian thinking. Then a true “heart intelligence” can, is and will emerge. Cultural evolution is not a function of biological determinism. Laura M. George We are totally in resonance with the “heart intelligence” paradigm. For it is precisely what is making possible the success of our community and has been the foundation for other successful intentional communities. Catherine Bell Humanity needs an approach that values intellectual intelligence, heart intelligence, and bodily intelligence. Incorporating all of these will lead to more holistic solutions for everyone. There currently exists a serious knowing-doing gap when it comes to the findings of management research and how organizations actually behave. As an action step, I suggest we all check in with our head, heart, and hands, so that we learn to respond to life in a manner that meets genuine needs. Matthew Fox The book “Does Altrusim Exist?” ignores entirely the heart intelligence of the various mystical traditions of the world which are the heart intelligences of our ancestors. I am scandalized by the absence of such great teachers from this book as Isaiah or Jesus, Rumi or Hafiz, Eckhart or Hildegard, Aquinas or Francis, Cusa or Julian, Howard Thurman or Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Merton, Rabbi Heschel, Martin Buber or Howard Thurman, Lao Tzu or Kabir. None of them would be at home with talk about “altruism.” All offer profound teachings about compassion, justice and eco-justice. (Instead of these spiritual giants the
founder of Seventh Day Adventists and of Mormonism are invoked.) Shocking really. Steve Farrell In the not too distant future I believe we will see that “heart intelligence” is a crucial part of the collective human. David’s book moves us one step closer to this awareness. Tanja Andrejasic Wechsler The book Does Altruism Exist? supports the notion that a combination of “intellectual intelligence” and “heart intelligence” will more effectively serve the collective human future. Altruism is perceived as an integral part of “heart intelligence”, and as more evolved and better suited to creating sustainability and promote universal justice. It represents the integration of reasoning, logic, and spiritual and emotional intelligence. The connection of mind, body and soul exhibited by altruism suggests that, when all systems are integrated, humanity can become a more evolved species, serving a higher purpose that supports the evolution of its species and a healthy environment. To most people, it is evident by now that we are all interrelated, interdependent and connected with all life on earth. Heart is the central intelligence, the source of that understanding of connection, as well as a compass that will show us the way to a sustainable and more enlightened humanity. Diane Berke It is interesting to consider that in the Pali language of Buddhist teachings, there is a single word for mind and heart – the Buddhist understanding of “mind” is actually heart-mind or intelligent heart - the marriage of the clear/critical/discerning thinking of the intellect with the deep compassion of the heart, with the natural impulse within us to alleviate suffering. To those who came to him with endless abstract, intellectual musings and questioning, the Buddha said: “You are like someone who has been shot with an arrow, and you are standing here asking about who made the arrow, what kind of wood the bow was made out of, the name of the archer’s great-grandmother, and so on. What is truly important is that you take out the arrow – in other words, that you attend to the suffering that exists in a practical and life-giving way.” Again, it is very evident that in the face of disaster, this basic compassion arises naturally in many, many people. After the devastating San Francisco earthquake in April 1906, the activist Dorothy Day (who was 8 years old at the time) watched her mother and the other adults around her reaching out and caring for total strangers without hesitation. She observed, “People already know how to love each other,” and asked herself, “Why can’t we live that way all the time?” Does Altruism Exist? offers clear scientific evidence to back up Dorothy’s observation, that this capacity for compassion, caring, altruism is already hard-wired into human beings. The discussion of Ostrom’s “Design Principles” offers direction for how we can begin to design organizations, institutions, and social structures that can help society move in the direction of altruistic behavior even if we have not yet reached subjectively experiencing world- or kosmo-centric caring and love. But the willingness to keep asking how we can live that way, if not all the time, at least more and more of the time, is central to our survival as a species.
Synopsis of Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others by David Sloan Wilson Introduction: Altruism and Evolution. The question “Does Altruism Exist?” might seem like a silly topic for a book but the claim that it does not exist has a long history in philosophical, political, economic, and biological thought. Add to this that the word “altruism” did not exist until coined by the humanist philosopher Auguste Comte in 1851 and we have a question that takes into deep intellectual waters. In this book I use evolutionary theory as a navigational guide. The question of whether altruistic traits (defined in terms of action) can evolve has been controversial among evolutionary theorists in the past but has been largely resolved. This book offers a “post-resolution” account. Chapter 1: Groups that Work. Two meanings of altruism need to be distinguished, which refer to: 1) how people act and; 2) the thoughts and feelings that cause people to act. These two meanings exist in a one-to-many relationship; any given action can be motivated by more than one set of thoughts and feelings and our preference for one set over another is based primarily on the actions that they produce. Altruism defined in terms of action is closely related to grouplevel functional organization, which requires members of groups to perform services for each other. We can therefore begin with the question “Do functionally organized groups exist?”, which is simpler to answer than “Does altruism exist?”. The answer is “yes” for both human and nonhuman species. At least some of the time, social groups are so functionally organized that they invite comparison to single organisms. Chapter 2: How Altruism Evolves. The following premises are so basic that they are unlikely to be wrong: 1) Natural selection is based on relative fitness; 2) Traits that are “for the good of the group” seldom maximize relative fitness within groups; 3) A process of between-group selection is therefore required to explain the evolution of functionally organized groups. As E.O. Wilson and I put it in a 2009 article, Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary. In a multi-tier hierarchy of units (Multilevel Selection Theory), the general rule is adaptation at any given level requires a process of selection at that level and tends to be undermined by selection at lower levels. These statements are true not only for the highly selfsacrificial traits typically associated with altruism, but also for most of the coordination mechanisms required for groups to function as adaptive units. The balance between levels of selection is not static but can itself evolve. A major evolutionary transition—from groups of organisms to groups as organisms—
takes place when mechanisms evolve that suppress disruptive forms of selection within groups, causing between-group selection to become the primary evolutionary force. Chapter 3: Equivalence. The controversy over group selection was resolved, not because one side “won” but because all theories of social evolution (e.g., MLS theory, Inclusive Fitness Theory, Evolutionary Game Theory, and Selfish Gene Theory) were shown to rely upon the same three premises listed in Chapter 2. They offer different perspectives on the same causal processes, rather than invoking different causal processes. Arguing one against the others is like someone who knows only one language arguing that other languages are wrong. The concept of Equivalence—theoretical frameworks that deserve to coexist by virtue of offering different perspectives—should be part of the basic training of scientists, along with the concept of paradigms that replace each other and the process of hypothesis formation and testing that takes place within each paradigm and equivalent framework. The amount of time and effort saved avoiding pointless controversy would be colossal.
Chapter 4: From Nonhumans to Humans. Answering the question “Does Altruism Exist?” requires a consideration of humans per se in addition to the evolutionary forces that apply to all species. Our starting point is the concept of major evolutionary transitions described in Chapter 2. In most primate species, members of groups cooperate to a degree but are also each other’s main rivals. Our ancestors became evolution’s newest major transition through the ability to suppress disruptive self-serving behaviors within groups, so that between-group selection became the dominant evolutionary force. Teamwork is the signature adaptation of our species. Teamwork includes physical cooperation such as hunting, gathering, childcare, defense against predators, and offence and defense against other human groups. Teamwork also includes mental cooperation, including maintaining an inventory of symbols with shared meaning and transmitting large amounts of learned information across generations. Cultural evolution is a multi-level process, no less than genetic evolution, leading to the megasocieties of today. The concept of human society as like a single organism has a venerable history as a metaphor, but now it stands on a stronger scientific foundation than ever before. Chapter 5: Psychological Altruism. The previous chapters were required to make sense of altruism defined in terms of action. The distinction between proximate and ultimate causation in evolutionary theory can make sense of altruism defined in terms of thoughts and feelings. Ultimate causation refers to the environmental forces that act upon heritable variation, winnowing certain traits from many other traits that could have existed. Proximate causation refers to the mechanistic basis of any given trait that evolves. Human thoughts and feelings are proximate mechanisms, resulting in actions that are winnowed by natural selection. Proximate and ultimate causation stand in a many-to-one relationship. Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, any given altruistic act can be caused by more than one set of thoughts and feelings. It is
important to know the motives of a social partner to predict how he or she will behave in the future, but insofar as two sets of motives result in the same suite of behaviors over the long term, there is no reason to prefer one over the other, any more than we care much whether a person who owes us money pays by cash or check. Proximate mechanisms that cause people to behave altruistically, defined in terms of action, need not qualify as altruistic, defined in terms of motives. Part of taking cultural evolution seriously means that the same altruistic actions might have different psychological motivations in different cultures. The fate of any given psychological mechanism that leads to altruistic action depends critically on the environment, including the human-constructed environment. Chapter 6: Altruism and Religion. The secular utility of religion, as Emile Durkheim put it, has been debated ever since religion became the subject of scholarly debate, but the study of religion from an evolutionary perspective has established its secular utility better than ever before. In other words, most enduring religions do an impressive job fostering altruism, defined in terms of action, among members of religious communities. Surprisingly, however, altruism defined in terms of thoughts and feelings is foreign to the imagination of most religions. Instead, religious narratives tend to portray normative behaviors as good for everyone and deviant behaviors as bad for everyone. This portrayal is more motivating and leads to more decisive action than puzzling what to do when a behavior is good for self and bad for others or good for others or bad for self. This begins to explain why the word altruism didn’t exist until it was coined by the humanist philosopher Auguste Comte in 1851, as a way to portray his “Religion of Humanity” as morally superior to the Christian doctrine of original sin and salvation through Christ. Chapter 7: Altruism and Economics. The concept of the invisible hand in economics, which posits that a society can function well without anyone having the
welfare of the society in mind, poses one of the strongest challenges to the question of whether altruism does or should exist (e.g, whether it should be replaced by a price system that relies on self-interest and does a better job of organizing largescale society). The idea that the unregulated pursuit of selfinterest robustly benefits the common good is absurd from a multilevel evolutionary perspective. Nevertheless, nature offers outstanding examples of the invisible hand in the form of societies that function well because they are units of selection (e.g., multicellular organisms or social insect colonies) without their members having the welfare of the society in mind (e.g, cells and social insects, which don’t even have minds in the human sense of the word). When applied to human societies, this view of the invisible hand leads to the robust conclusion that policies must be formulated with the welfare of the society in mind, even if the proximate mechanisms that are selected do not require having the welfare of society in mind. Chapter 8: Altruism in Everyday Life. The broad conception of altruism mapped out in this book can also be called “prosociality”—any attitude, behavior, or institution oriented toward the welfare of others and society as a whole. Abstract arguments about the invisible hand in economics can be brought down to earth by considering individual differences in prosociality in realworld environments such as city neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Converging lines of evidence suggest that prosociality is a master variable for human welfare. Being surrounded by highly prosocial people results in multiple assets. Being surrounded by people who are low in prosociality results in multiple deficits. Highly prosocial people are vulnerable to exploitation by people low in prosociality, however, and most people are conditional in their expression of prosociality. In other words, the basic dynamic of multilevel selection plays itself out in everyday life, with the conditional expression of behaviors occupying a role that is roughly analogous to genetic evolution. Hence, the same social environments that would result in the genetic evolution of prosociality also result in the expression of prosociality among behaviorally flexible people. Knowing this is profoundly useful for public policy formulation.
we have the basic dynamic of multilevel selection, which causes altruism expressed within lower-level units to become disruptive for higher-level units (e.g., terrorism). These pathologies remind us that altruism is worth wanting only to the extent that it leads to prosocial outcomes at a planetary scale. Chapter 10: Planetary Altruism. Altruism exists—in the form of traits that evolve by virtue of benefitting whole groups, as a criterion that people use to select their behaviors and public policies, and as a broad family of thoughts and feelings that cause people to agree with a statement such as “I think it is important to help other people.” Yet, this book has been critical of some ways that altruism is traditionally studied. Philosophical discussions and psychological research often place too much emphasis on defining altruism in terms of proximate mechanisms (thoughts and feelings) when a more fully rounded approach is needed that includes proximate causation, ultimate causation, and their many-to-one relationship. Philosophers rely excessively on their own intuition, as if what they regard as altruistic is likely to be culturally universal, whereas cultural variation in proximate mechanisms is expected from an evolutionary perspective. The more fully rounded conception of altruism outlined in this book is needed to solve the problems of modern existence, which require functional organization at the planetary scale. Key insights are that the design principles required for group-level functional organization are scaleindependent and that policies that benefit the planet must be selected with the welfare of the planet in mind. In our role as policy selectors, we must become planetary altruists.
Chapter 9: Pathological Altruism. It is common to think that selfishness comes in good and bad forms but that only good can come from altruism. As soon as we begin thinking about altruism as a social strategy that can evolve under some circumstances but not others, then it becomes obvious that altruism, too, can have pathological consequences. Counseling someone to be altruistic when they live in a social environment that does not favor altruism is like declawing an alley cat. It is the alley (i.e., the social environment) that needs to be changed. Altruistic thoughts and feelings can result in pathological outcomes when evaluated in terms of actions, such as negative codependency. Then
We are ONE - Conversations An Emmy Award-Winning Filmmaker Turns His Attention to Change Makersand David Sloan Wilson by the Editors
After sharing an Emmy Award for the show “Give,” in the “Best Children’s/Family” category in 2016, filmmaker William Holden (www.ValisPictures.com) turned his attention to global change makers. It did not take long in William’s search for leading paradigm-shifters to discover David Sloan Wilson and David’s landmark work on evolution and altruism. And, with that, William also discovered the inherent link between these major recent shifts in science and the global inter-religious discussion known as “interspirituality.”
Drs. David Sloan Wilson, Kurt Johnson and colleagues from SUNY Binghamton and the Binghamton religious community gathered for a briefing on the TV pilot by William Holden.
A ten-year member of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, William has worked on shows such as Louie, Celebrity Apprentice, and Onion News Network, and has produced nine of his own short films. But the spirit of our current times soon focused William’s attention on a passion for piloting a series for television that has to do with change. He teamed with up with David Sloan Wilson to produce the pilot episode of a TV Series based on the pivotal themes of paradigm shifters who make change happen. Ten scientists will be featured, each of whom touch the subject from a different field of study. As William explains, “David’s episode on group selection is so important because it proves that evolution does not just take place blindly at the genetic level but is fundamentally inherent in our culture as well. Worldview influences behavior, behavior determines habits, habits become
morals, morals establish societies.” William goes on to explain his passion this way, “In the long run we seem to all start to notice what might be called SelfOrdering Principles. If we throw a ball up in the air it falls back to the ground. After doing this enough times, we declare that there is a force called “gravity” at work on the ball. We leave a stack of papers on a table in a room with the windows open and take off for an hour. When we come back the papers are scattered on the ground. After repeating this exercise enough times, we declare that there is a force at work on the papers called entropy (the tendency of order to dissolve into chaos). Yet, when we observe life evolve and living
structures become more and more complex, our current mainstream scientific consensus says it’s random. There is no universal principle or direction that creates order out of chaos. But, to me, for life to thrive in a universe of entropy, there must be some counter balancing force responsible for and driving evolution; in other words, tossing paint against a canvas will never get you the Mona Lisa.” So, when William familiarized himself with the “Prosocial” principles (among them the Design Principles of Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom), through David Sloan Wilson’s work at Evolution Institute, he clearly aligned with their vision that “someone needs to be at the wheel—at least in cultural evolution!” The shooting of the pilot series brought Dr. Kurt Johnson of The Convergence team to State University of New York at Binghamton to join Dr. Wilson and other colleagues for two days of discussion and filming about this synchronicity. After all, David Sloan Wilson has done extensive work on the sociology of religion and is the author of the well-known book Darwin’s Cathedral. William noted that he sees the same awareness of relationship of conscious choice and evolution in the interspiritual paradigm. “The acknowledgement of this self-ordering principle in nature is what attracted me to the interspiritual work of Dr, Kurt Johnson and his many colleagues. The understanding of this life forming principle as a recurring archetype across almost all religion – Brahman in Hinduism, the Holy Spirit in Christianity, Tao or Chi in Chinese
Dr. David Sloan Wilson. “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary” ~David Sloan Wilson and E. O. Wilson in The Quarterly Review of Biology.
tradition, etc – is now more important than ever. Because when we all agree on the archetypal commonalities across broad cultures, we are able to delineate and establish larger groups across broader regions of territory. When larger and larger populations of people cooperate in a system of trade, more and more people are given the opportunity to work and provide for their families. We can all have our patch of honeycomb in the beehive. It’s unfortunate that this idea is so often considered fringe. How do we change that? We make magazines, create symbols (the Flower of Life is great for this concept as well as the Yin Yang and countless others), and produce films. This is another reason I’ve teamed up with David Sloan Wilson to produce the pilot episode of a TV Series based on the synchronicity of these ideas—full sail. Humanity seems to be just discovering that it needs both its subjective (ideals, ethics, values, spirituality) and objective (scientific) skill-sets to succeed at building a world that will work for everyone.”
Dr. David Sloan Wilson conducting a strategy session for the Prosocial Movement.
We at The Convergence, magazine and radio, look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of William Holden’s exciting project. Take a look at his website and enjoy getting a feel for everything he has created to date.
This would manifest, he said because of “a new set of historical circumstances,” something that particularly rings true today.” In the article published online in The Interfaith Observer, Kurt traces the history of the global interspiritual paradigm from its seminal time with Br. Wayne Teasdale through the subsequent growth of The Interspiritual Network and other interspiritual organizations, associations, and networks worldwide—now totaling nearly 100,000 entries at search engines like Google.
The Growing Edge of Interspirituality by the Editors
he Interfaith Observer invited Dr. Kurt Johnson to write an article for its October 2017 issue recounting the growth of the global interspiritual paradigm since publication of his book The Coming Interspiritual Age with David Robert Ord in 2013. In introducing the article, The Interfaith Observer says: “Br. Wayne Teasdale is famous for his “interspiritual” worldview embracing all the spiritual narratives of the world as one collective heritage, arising historically from the consciousness experience of our species, and seeks to draw from these resources the tools for altruistic behaviors that can actually build a world so envisioned. In Mystic Heart – Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions (1999), his seminal work on interspirituality, Wayne Teasdale heralded: We are at the dawn of a new consciousness, a radically fresh approach to our life as the human family in a fragile world. This journey is what spirituality is really about. We are not meant to remain just where we are. We cannot depend on our culture either to guide and support us in our quest. We must do the hard work of clarification together ourselves. This revolution will be the task of the Interspiritual Age. The necessary shifts in consciousness require a new approach to spirituality that transcends past religious cultures of fragmentation and isolation. We need to understand, to really grasp at an elemental level that the definitive revolution is the spiritual awakening of humankind.
Kurt further emphasizes the close association of the interspiritual paradigm with other interfaith and holistic movements worldwide, particularly the integral community of philosopher Ken Wilber, the Prosocial movement of Dr. David Sloan Wilson, and the non-governmental organization and agency community of the UN. Kurt and The Convergence Team work with integral philosopher Ken Wilber and his team regularly and have hosted some of his most well-known videos on the future of religion, like the video from our Self Care to Earth Care Conference with nearly 100,000 views on YouTube. Ken Wilber and the “namer” of interspirituality, Br. Wayne Teasdale, were close friends. Their discussions are also available online at YouTube. One purpose of The Convergence magazine will be to provide regular updates on the relationship of the global interspiritual phenomenon and the work of myriad global initiatives addressing every aspect of holistic problem solving across the global commons.
Kurt Johnson and integral philosopher, Ken Wilber.
We are ONE - Circle of Friends
Remembering our United Nations Program Just One Year Ago—and Looking Ahead by the Editors During the 2016 Week of Spirituality at the UN we were privileged to cooperate with the UN NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns (www.csvgc-ny.org) in presenting a diverse and dynamic program in The Tillman Chapel of the UN Church Center in New York City. Created with the Sacred and Transcendental Arts Working Group of that Committee, the program was entitled, “Opening to the Spirit of the United Nations: Music, Mindfulness and Meditation.” “The UN Chapel event was a refreshing and exhilarating experience of the power of like minds when we gather together in a spirit of Oneness. Such like events lift our spirits and empower us to embody the message and radiate it out in loving fellowship with all. It is events such as these which kindle our hopes and inspire us to move with every greater zeal toward the One Being the source of all that is.” ~ Dr. Andrew Vidich (USA), Keynote Speaker
In this section—reprising this inspiring event—we fondly remember the program with photos and brief remembrances from presenters and major participants about their
experiences on that important day. United Nations NGO hosts included Dr. Kurt Johnson, Sharon Hamilton-Getz, and Deborah Moldow. Musical headliners included GrammyNominated Reggae Artist Pato Banton, Antoinette “Rootsdawtah” Hall, and legendary Reggae bassist Ras I Ray. Keynote speakers were Dr. Andrew Vidich and, from The Convergence Team, Ben Bowler. Tamir and Zuleikha Storydancer offered moving inspirations and Drs. J. J. and Desiree Hurtak provided a closing indigenous meditation.
“Our experience at the “Music, Meditation and Mindfulness” event was a clear sign of the excitement building around Interspirituality & Unity in Our Diversity. There were no barriers or boundaries in the “Arena of the UN Chapel” as everyone was fully engaged and fully supportive of each other’s presentations and each person’s values, viewpoints and visions! Now, a year later, we are already seeing fruits from the seeds of our desire to be more inclusive and seek for opportunities to work together in Spiritual Unity.” ~Ministers Pato Banton (Grammy Award Nominee) & Antoinette Rootsdawtah, Musical Headliners
Dr. Kurt Johnson, host Committee, introducing the event
held at the Colorado College Baca Campus (formerly The Aspen Institute facility) in Crestone, Colorado. A list of all these organizations, with links to their leadership, can be found at the conference report page. Please see the now classic videos by Ken Wilber for these events, some which have garnered now nearly a hundred thousand views at YouTube, click here for the videos. “This event was a model of cooperation between the UN NGO Community, organizations doing all kinds of transformative work, and the wider public. It was inspiring and put many other things into motion.”
We hosted simultaneously during the Week of Spirituality at the UN, a summit meeting of change-makers, gathering at One UN Plaza around a shared vision, “The Road to 2020,” coordinated by The Convergence team’s Yanni Maniates. Many changemaking associations, networks, and organizations were aiming major events and initiatives at, or around, the year 2020, and accordingly, we wanted to pool those efforts in the most cooperative way possible.
These groups and networks will be moving forward with important events worldwide over the next years. Many of these events highlighted at the end of this issue and more details are available online at Unity.Earth.
Following this summit, regular “Zoom” discussions continued, weekly and monthly. Then followed a second in-person meeting of such leaders, called “The Crestone Convergence,”
The first episode of our Convergence radio series on VoiceAmerica opened subsequently to the Week of Spirituality at the UN, on November 3. Its purpose was to run from the
~ Dr. Kurt Johnson, UN NGO Committee Host
The “U.N. Chapel Program in 2016, the “Road To 2020” was fulfillment of a dream. From the “Crestone Convergence” until this very day; we courageously continue on to our programs in Ethiopia, India and Israel as we work and pray. On this “Road To 2020” we can confidently say; nothing can stop us, and we are well on our way! WE are the ONES that we’ve been waiting for! ~ Ras I Ray, Legendary Reggae Personality
banner for each episode. We were pleased to assemble a listening audience of over 20,000.
Pato Banton, Grammy Award Nominee, Musical Headliner Click this link for Emperor Haile Selassie’s famous speech to the UN, provided by Pato’s colleague Ras I Ray.
Week of Spirituality until the UN’s Week of Interfaith Harmony in February 2017 and bring to the table world change-makers to discuss the direction of these perilous times. Initial episodes were framed by interspiritual pioneers Ken Wilber and Fr. Thomas Keating and a full look at all the guests and episodes follows this article, with the
The program on Oct. 28, 2016, at the interfaith Church Center for the United Nations offered a profound and colorful demonstration of how the sacred arts can support U.N. Sustainable Development Goal #16, “Promote Just, Peaceful and Inclusive Societies.” It was an honor to offer a Call to Purpose to which the more than 100 leaders gathered all responded by spontaneously repeating the prayer, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” This event launched a powerful “gathering of the tribes” on the Road to 2020. ~ Rev. Deborah Moldow, UN NGO Host
It’s been wonderful moving forward with all these groups and leaders in a coordinated manner—a real experiment in holarchical and cooperative leadership! The Convergence radio show began a second series as of the UN’s International Day of Peace on September 21, 2017. It featured the Peace Day messages of Deepak Chopra, Karenna Gore, and multi-Grammy Award winner Kabir Sehgal, in cooperation with We.net and The Shift Networks 11 Days of Global Unity Summit, another step on the road to 2020 and beyond.
Zuleikha Storydancer outside the United Nations
Live video from Music, Mindfulness, and Meditation at the UN Church Center! See more from the program at the World Peace Prayer Society Blog. 73
“The October 28, 2017, event at the UN Chapel, to mark the UN Week of Spirituality and kick off the Road to 2020 series of global events, was an energetic convergence and a true beginning to a grand interspiritual journey.” ~ Ben Bowler (Australia), Keynote Speaker
Ben Bowler (Australia), Keynote Speaker
Dr. Kurt Johnson, Guru Dileepji, and from “Until That Day,” Ras Emmanuel
Ras I Ray and Friends-- “Until That Day” reprising Haile Selassie’s famous UN speech
This seminal Celebration and the Summit of interspiritual leaders that preceded it were the launching ground for the whole inspired, inclusive, international Unity.Earth platform and all of its Convergence events. This Convergence Magazine is one of the many substantial fruits it has already borne. ~ Yanni Maniates, Road to 2020 Summit Coordinator
Deborah Moldow, Ben Bowler (center), Yanni Maniates, Ras I Ray (left) and Friends from the “Until That Day” Presentation
S R A D I O
E R I E S 1 75
O Click any of the epsiode images to listen at The Convergence.
Our “Forever” Commitment to Peace and Yoga by the Editors
long with our commitment to Altruism we have a deep alliance with those involved in global peace initiatives and the spiritual practice of yoga. Yoga-Unity-Peace: pretty strongly connected! Our premier Convergence episode for 20172018 is on peace, with Deepak Chopra, Karenna Gore and others from the International Day of Peace celebration at the United Nations (UN). You can see the videos at the Unity.Earth website. Deborah Moldow, one of our core team, is the long-term representative for the World Peace Prayer Society at the UN, famous for its “Peace Poles” around the world.
Group photo from an UN NGO Committee meeting for International Yoga Day with Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji (center) and His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji (center left), with Committee Chair Denise Scotto to his right.
H.H. Shrivatsa Goswami and Dr. Darrol Bryant with the Mystic Express participants
Dr. Kurt Johnson of our team serves on the UN NGO Committee for International Yoga Day and works with SHIFT Network’s Director of Peace and SHIFT’s Yoga Day director Philip Hellmich, an old friend from the early interspiritual days with Br. Wayne Teasdale. Kurt and Philip have recently authored two book chapters on what’s going on with Peace Studies worldwide and both are available online. From The Crestone Convergence event this summer, Unity.Earth will soon release a video on peace with Philip, Deborah, and legendary peace activist and author James O’Dea. At the Convergence series, in Episode 1, “More to Explore,” you’ll also find videos on peace work with Philip and two major leaders in peace work at the UN, Avon Mattison and David Kirshbaum.
Rinpoche Dobook Tulku and Dr. Darrol Bryant with Mystic Express participants
The Delhi Convergence team
Key in the spiritual life of all these persons is the friendship of Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji and His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, who also hosted one of our many Mystic Express visits to India. Pujya Swami also named one of our major Yoga teachers, Karuna, who has been working with us, and related UN NGO summer programs for several years. She is an Associate Level Trainer in the Aquarian Trainer Academy in the tradition of the great Sikh yogi Yogi Bhajan. This summer Karuna taught at the prestigious European Yoga Festival outside Paris, France. Her work is available online at Light on Kundalini, including retreats and internet-based yoga education, now all available on iTunes and Google Play. There is also a GoFundMe campaign for Karuna’s wonderful Yoga app. This amazing connection between yoga and peace can only continue to grow. We hope you enjoy the photos here which reprise many of the relationships mentioned above, including photos from our Delhi Convergence event in March 2017. In 2018, The Convergence will host a yoga radio special with yoginis Karuna, Shiva Rea, Elena Brower, and Snatam Kaur.
Philip Hellmich, Kurt Johnson, James O’Dea and Jonathan Granoff join for a Peace Day Event in New York City
Karuna and legendary Sikh Yogini Gurmukh. Ancient yoga catches up with modern technology in Karuna’s new apps.
Evolutionary Leaders: In Service to Conscious Evolution By Deborah Moldow and Diane Williams
The Source of Synergy Foundation holds that The Power of Synergy holds the key to one of the most potent emergent forces in the Cosmos: the capacity of the collective human spirit to usher in the change we wish to see. Synergy is energy that expands through cooperation. We recognize that when individuals, organizations, communities and nations come together in a shared sense of responsibility for the common good our collective efforts have a far greater effect on the whole. The Source of Synergy Foundation has been bringing together visionary authors, educators and social activists who are forging a movement for the conscious evolution of humanity since 2006. In 2008 the Evolutionary Leaders Circle made up of leaders in the consciousness movement formed to collectively inspire, support and serve conscious evolution. The Evolutionary Leaders Circle grows each year through its members nominating new ELs. There are currently 116 on our roster, united by a shared commitment to strategically engage our collective field of potential. The Source of Synergy Foundation provides opportunities for synergistic engagement among these leaders by organizing an annual retreat, as well as local Synergy Circles, salons and roundtables, and by providing an online communications platform. The Evolutionary Leaders Circle gathers annually in retreat to
come into communal relationship with one another, deepening our collective consciousness and strengthening our mutual intention, thus setting the foundation for the emergence of the next steps of our evolutionary journey. We seek to make insights that emerge from our exploration accessible to the public through diverse media, educational, and other relevant platforms. Our engagement with one another inspires cooperative partnerships within the EL Circle and also enhances and amplifies the work we are already doing in our various fields of endeavor. Members of the community have formed deep friendships and collaborations. The fruits of our community experience have been a profound appreciation of the collective field of love and intention that has emerged and grown stronger from year to year. This has intensified through smaller self-selecting groups coming out of the retreats. One group of ELs at the 2014 retreat have continued to engage in exploration of the nature of consciousness together. Another group that was randomly assigned to be a clan at our 2016 co-evolutionary vision quest retreat has continued to meet on line as a laboratory for evolutionary practices, building a collective field that is immediately palpable. These efforts contributed to the success of our 2017 retreat, at artists Alex Grey and Allyson Greyâ€™s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, which
offered a highly conducive setting for a deep dive together.
What’s next for the Evolutionary Leaders?
At our last EL retreat, three Synergy Circles have formed around Building Coherence using subtle activism to make change; Evolutionary Cells to assist in the formation of local pods of evolutionary leaders; and Community Impact to leverage our collective outreach through support of projects within the community. Our first Community Impact project will be Stand Up for Humanity, to be held at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on November 3, 2017. Evolutionary Leader Reverend Sylvia Sumter, Senior Minister of Unity of Washington, DC, is the host and architect of this inspiring event. We are planning our Evolutionary Leaders 2018 retreat in Santa Barbara to continue our exploration into evolutionary leadership. In October 2018, the Source of Synergy Foundation will be cohosting with The Findhorn Foundation an Experiential Synergy Circle at Findhorn in Scotland focused on “Co-Creation with the Intelligence of Nature.” In the summer of 2019, we will
be journeying to Greenland to bear witness to climate change there, listen deeply and gain insight on how not only heal our relationship with nature but partner with it to make the shifts necessary to protect our Earth. The Source of Synergy Foundation and its EL Circle will continue to strive to inspire and support evolutionary leadership and visionary action throughout the world by giving voice to conscious, transformational and evolutionary ideas that meet the challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.sourceofsynergyfoundation.org and www.evolutionaryleaders.net
“Synergy creates a state of consciousness in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It is a doorway into a greater intelligence, from which wisdom emerges in a state of flow, and greater human capacities are uncovered. We are at a time in global development where collective synergy can make the difference between planetary evolution and planetary dissolution.” ~Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., member of the Evolutionary Leaders Circle
We are ONE - Commentaries
Editor’s Note We’re pleased to offer this commentary on “Evolutary Insights” by Richard A. Bowell, from our UN NGO colleagues at Human Evolutary Change (HEC). HEC has provided programs on an integral worldview at the UN for several years and Richard has contributed video discussions with Dr. Kurt Johnson regarding Ken Wilber’s framing of The Convergence vision in Episode 1 of the radio series, “Continue the Conversation.” Richard has also weighed in on Ken Wilber’s moniker of “Waking Up and Growing Up”, framed by Ken at both our Interspiritual Network’s 2015 Self Care to Earth Care Conference and at The Crestone Convergence. Richard’s work on this includes a book also titled Waking Up, To Our Evolutionary Purpose; Growing Up to Our Conscious Contribution.
Human Evolutary Change – “Insights” by Richard A. Bowell Evolution Is Occurring Inside What We Already Do Part One Dr. Wayne Dyer talked of it as a position of witnessing oneself. Oscar Wilde spoke of watching oneself as if one was ‘other’. Many people have described the experience we have, either deliberately induced or in a moment of dissonance, when we see ourselves (how we are and what we are doing) ‘as if’ we were someone else. This kind of awareness of self has often been taken as a starting point for change – but nothing has been more locking i on human evolution and change than this assumption. This short introduction explores the why level (the purpose ‘why’ we do what we do) to see that this is the fulcrum of real (evolutary) change. Try asking yourself in any i “Keeping things right where they are.”
random moment what purpose (why) what you do is serving.
purpose we want to serve – a much more fundamental question about change.
You may be in a queue in a bank, as an example, and you edge forward with small seemingly innocuous steps encroaching on the space of another person in front of you. You are aware of yourself doing it but ‘why’ what purpose is it serving?
It is the purpose (why) that prints the balances and alignment of our self (how we do) that determines the behaviors we enact (what we do) – diagram to the right. Our level of self is a consequence of the purpose we are aligned to.
Is it not to occupy their space (what) and to create pressure in them as a mild form of threat (how the self is positioned) to get them to move out of the way to give you the edge and gain some advantage (why)?
Why How What
The purpose is a small territorial battle being fought at the level of our survival purpose?
Once you see this level, you can see who you (from purpose) are and what you do that habitually re-enforces who you are in alignment to the purpose.
This brings a new insight—we can alter our behavior and the way we act but when we see the purpose ‘why’ we do what we do, we can ask ourselves if this is the
Why How What
Part Two Human Evolutary™ Change (a new term) shows that when we choose the purpose it is the purpose that changes us and until we align ourselves to a new purpose we can only continue to apply the same level of solution to the problems we face that created the problems in the first place. Let’s see this in a simple everyday example. One can be aware of oneself walking from the witness position and see that ‘how’ we walk is a consequence of either pressing need (in which case we go quickly), or slowly (with time to spare…). But what purpose does walking serve beyond getting from point A to point B which has served us in our survival
for hundreds of thousands of years? (Notice that the exploratory ‘why’ question is serving the purpose of trying to bypass the same old answers and evoke a larger field of reference.) We walk with ideas, with thoughts with unresolved questions and the act of walking can serve to aid the purpose of exploration.
And what of human action? Would this not be a contribution from service to enhance all things in this world and not just the pursuit of personal gain? Is this not the basis of altruism (which can never be discovered in studying what we do or who we do what we do alone) – that when we give, we are enhanced by higher (spiritual) purpose.
So many great thinkers have described this, not least Einstein who talked of spending hours trying to work things out and getting nowhere, but when he walked away he discovered bounteous truths appear in him.
To be in this unique relationship with the unseen and unknown is to discover our true human purpose in living – to facilitate what may be resonating from fields of knowledge beyond the easily and habitually available…
Everyday actions can serve a larger purpose. Now one can see that how we walk and what we do expresses an INSIGHT that would not be accessible otherwise. Walking is an alternation between positive and negative signals (left foot/ right hand together and right foot/left hand together) and this can allow things to cook in our head, to ferment and for something new to emerge in a third intelligence. Now to truly serve the purpose of exploration (as walking can) fashions a very different kind of self than the one with no other thought than getting from A to B—one becomes more conscious of what one is really doing—in this case, allowing some idea or question to find explanation of itself through the act of walking. Walking need not be just about getting somewhere, but can be about the birth of new thought through the process of walking. True exploration is a ‘higher purpose’ than survival. It grants the human access to more of the evolutionary narrative to SEE and KNOW what one does not yet know and does not yet see. We can deliberately walk inside this exploratory purpose. Have you ever seen Japanese Noh Theater and the power of
Einstein on a walk walking with an idea? Consider the power of this in learning, mediation and so much more… All that I have learnt of note I have acquired exploring in this way. Let us step further to the evolutary level of why, to the great questions of our human purpose where all things originate.
This is our adult relationship to the universe and when we connect to the living pathway of life we are being printed by the universe no less as a new human model (purpose – self – action) as a new appearance in the sequence of human maturing life. Discover more from the Human Evolutary Change Team, receive a free copy of the EVO News and explore the EVO Process of Evolutary Change.
The purpose of exploration expands our intelligence into a larger field of intelligence from which we can ‘farm’ new answers, but if we resist letting ‘answers’ become an ultimate upon us – what then? Try to SEE that our awareness / consciousness of our higher purpose is in facilitating NEW… intelligence, feeling, perception, spiritual in breath… to be conducted through our open systems. Human life’s EVO purpose is to be a conduit for evolutionary update. What kind of self would that form? Surely a level of self that was not self-centered, but open and without attachment (ego-less), a service-centered self.
Richard A. Bowell and Kurt Johnson with Richard’s book on Ken Wilber’s moniker of Waking Up and Growing Up.
A Roundtable Epilogue: “Steering Toward the Omega Point” with the Evolution Institute, This View of Life, and PROSOCIAL.world by the Editors
n addition to his own intellectual contributions, most recently in his book Does Altruism Exist?, David Sloan Wilson is taking the lead in building the institutions that will be required to translate theory into action. He co-founded and presides over the Evolution Institute, which calls itself a “Think-Say-Do” Tank, combining basic scientific research, communicating to the public and expert policy audiences, and implementations that improve the quality of life in real-world settings. Please visit the EI website to learn about its ongoing projects, including:
• A databank of world history to study the cultural evolution of large-scale societies.
• A focus on Norway as a case study of cultural evolution leading to a high quality of life.
• A new academic society for the study of cultural evolution.
• A charter school in Tampa Florida that applies the insights of evolutionary theory to child development and education.
magazine is supported by a group of donors called the TVOL1000, who become personally engaged in helping to create content for TVOL and otherwise promoting “this view of life”, in addition to their financial assistance within their means. Readers of this magazine are cordially invited to join the TVOL1000! Dr. Kurt Johnson, host of The Convergence radio series on VoiceAmerica and a contributing editor of The Convergence Magazine, is among the thought-leaders profiled at TVOL where he says of the magazine: “This View of Life has become a crossroads for discussion among secular and sacred activists who see transformative change in an evolutionary context”. PROSOCIAL.world helps groups around the world cooperate more successfully, both internally and in their interactions with other groups. It also helps groups become more flexible in adapting to change. It has been used for groups as diverse as businesses, schools, government agencies, inner city neighborhoods, and villages in the African nation of Sierra Leone, where it was used to combat the ebola epidemic in 2014. Please visit the website for more and consider using PROSOCIAL for the groups in your life! Wilson is proud to be a member of the Interspiritual movement and sees his role as providing a strong scientific foundation for it through both his intellectual and institutional efforts.
Two projects of special interest to readers of this roundtable are the online magazine This View of Life (TVOL) and PROSOCIAL.world, a practical method for creating strong prosocial groups and multi-group ecosystems. TVOL reports “anything and everything from an evolutionary perspective” and is arguably the best way for a general reader or public policy expert to become more literate about evolution in relation to human affairs. The 83
Editors’ Note: In the spirit of rounding out the Roundtable process, we share here the original introduction— “Science in a Spiritual Key”—written by Drs. David Sloan Wilson and Kurt Johnson for the first “Steering Toward the Omega Point” discussion available online at the Evolution Institute. With a few edits as to the realities of time, it is just as valid today as it was at that gathering in 2015.
oes Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others (hereafter DAE), uses modern evolutionary theory as a “navigational guide” to answer a question that has been posed for centuries. It also offers a “postresolution” account of multilevel selection theory, which has been controversial among evolutionary theorists for over half a century. These roundtables provide a discussion of DAE by commentators who have diverse backgrounds but share two things in common: 1) They are thoroughly accepting and informed about science; and 2) they are each in their own way “spiritual.” The very concept of blending science and spirituality is likely to ring alarm bells in the minds of many people. Whatever spirituality is, it lives next door to religion. Religion and spirituality can be studied with the tools of science, but that’s not the same thing as being religious and/or spiritual. People who call themselves spiritual but not religious are likely to be suspected by some of being self-indulgent New Agers who will believe anything and have questionable taste in music and art to boot. The same people might also sometimes regard scientists as boring, narrow-minded, and clueless about the questions most worth asking about life. The story of how we started to work together and organize these roundtables might help to explain how science and spirituality can be blended, like a two-part harmony. Both of us have our PhD’s in evolutionary biology. David Sloan Wilson (DSW) specializes on the evolution of social behavior and Kurt Johnson (KJ) specializes on insect systematics and biogeography, including the Blues, a group of butterflies that was also studied by the novelist Vladimir Nabokov, causing KJ to become a biographer of Nabokov as a scientist in addition to his own career as a scientist.
Both of us have a strong interest in religion and spirituality. DSW studies them as a scientist, in academic articles and books such as Darwin’s Cathedral and The Neighborhood Project, which includes one chapter (“We are Now Entering the Noosphere”) on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and another (“Body and Soul”) on how words such as “soul” and “spirit” can be understood from a purely naturalistic perspective. KJ became a Christian monk between obtaining his Masters and PhD degrees and now helps to lead a worldwide movement called Interspirituality, as he recounts in his book with David Robert Ord titled The Coming Interspiritual Age (hereafter CIA). Thus, one might say that DSW studies spirituality while KJ lives it in a way that he regards as fully compatible with being a scientist. We met in the spring of 2015 thanks to one of DSW’s research projects funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which studies religion and spirituality in the context of everyday life in Binghamton, New York. A pastor named Wilfredo Baez approached DSW with the idea of organizing a symposium on Interspirituality featuring KJ as the main speaker. The event was held in the First Congregational Church on the corner of Main and Oak streets, whose pastor, Arthur Suggs, had become enthusiastically involved. The audience included mostly residents of the city with only a sprinkling of academic types. Binghamton is like Everytown, USA and most of the people sitting in the pews looked like regular churchgoers. They had become disillusioned with the Christian religious experience, however, and were animated by the concept of Interspirituality. What is Interspirituality? KJ was able to explain it in very simple terms. He said that all major religious traditions converge on a common awareness that everything is interconnected. When this awareness is taken seriously, certain ethical conclusions follow.
Namely, it becomes difficult to defend parts of the system against other parts of the system. Reflecting and acting on this basis allows people to transcend their particular religious and spiritual traditions (what KJ called “first-tier consciousness”) and find common ground (what KJ called “second-tier consciousness”). This is true for people who devote their whole lives to contemplation, such as His Holiness the Dali Lama (e.g., his book titled Beyond Religion: Ethics for the Whole World) and Brother Wayne Teasdale, who was one of KJ’s spiritual mentors. Judging from the people attending the Binghamton event, it could also be true for residents of Everytown, USA. Listening to KJ caused DSW to have a 2 + 2 = 4 moment, an epiphany that immediately seemed obvious in retrospect. Religious traditions were not alone in reaching the conclusion that everything is interconnected. They were joined by scientific traditions such as physics, complex systems thinking, and ecology. No wonder that scientists from these traditions had a way of developing their own forms of spirituality, such as the creed of “Deep Ecology” developed by the Norwegian ecophilosopher Arne Naess. Second-tier consciousness was truly a place where religion, spirituality, and science could meet on common ground. Our first encounter is captured as an interview that DSW conducted with KJ at the end of the Binghamton symposium, which was published in the Evolution Institute’s online magazine This View of Life. Afterward, we dove into each other’s work. KJ read DAE and could immediately appreciate its import for the Interspiritual movement. As he recounts in his contribution to the roundtable, Interspiritualists have already embraced evolutionary and ecological concepts, especially of the holistic variety. Their appreciation is reflected in book titles such as Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution by Ken Wilber and Birth 2012 and Beyond: Humanity’s Great Shift to the Age of Conscious Evolution by Barbara Marx Hubbard. However, their holistic view of evolution ran counter to the main narrative in scientific thought that evolution is all about selfishness. The “postresolution” account that KJ encountered in DAE was a far cry from what he had learned as a graduate student. Group selection was now accepted as a strong evolutionary force (especially for human evolution), altruism could be explained at face value as a product of group selection, the concepts of “organism” and “society” had merged, and planetary altruism required
consciously selecting policies with the welfare of the planet in mind. For the Interspiritualist, the new scientific account reported in DAE was like sailing with the wind rather than against it. DSW read CIA and was added as a speaker to an event in Colorado titled From Self-Care to Earth-Care, which also included Ken Wilber. KJ was especially eager to get DSW together with Wilber, whose books on what Wilber called Integral Spirituality have been translated into over 30 languages. When DSW began familiarizing himself with Wilber’s writing, he was pleased to discover that although Wilber might be guilty of being an extreme generalist, he was thoroughly committed to methodological naturalism and was not tempted by the excesses of New Age beliefs or post-modernism. Health issues prevented Wilber from personally attending the event but he met privately with the other participants and prepared a lengthy video that was shown at the event and is available online. An excerpt is included in this roundtable. DSW has written about the event and its aftermath in a series of essays titled “My Spiritual Journey” on the Evolution Institute’s Social Evolution Forum. These roundtables, which now number seven (two as printed features, five as videos) feature diverse thought leaders. Some specifically identify with the Interspiritual movement, while others are better characterized as engaged in discussions of evolutionary consciousness, social change from moral and ethical perspectives, and in meeting major global challenges at the level of politics and policy. Some of them know each other through mutual participation in international forums and committees, particularly those of the UN non-governmental agency community. We conclude here with an observation about the tone of the commentaries. The word “spirit” is derived from the Latin “spiritus”, which means “breath” and is also the root of “inspire”. Spiritual prose is designed to inspire, to appeal to the heart in addition to the mind and above all to move the reader to act, since spiritual experience is empty if it doesn’t lead to practice. This kind of prose might seem odd and even inappropriate to some readers who are accustomed to more value-neutral scientific prose, but it is part of what it means to sing science in a spiritual key. What makes it spiritual is its inspirational quality. What makes it compatible with science is its commitment to methodological naturalism. It is indeed possible to be spiritual and scientific at the same time.
Artists We are honored to feature the inspired illustrations and photography of two uniquely creative artists in this issue. We have known Dafna Mordecai for many years through her activities in the New York City transformative community noted in her biography below. Every aspect of her artistic skills mentioned there have been used in service of major spiritual teachers and activists and for not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations associated with the global community, especially at the UN. We met David Hoptman in the summer of 2016 when several of us attended the Evolutionary Leaders annual gathering, that year held at Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch heritage area near Abiquiu, New Mexico. While visiting the nearby home and ranch of the legendary Sikh teacher Yogi Bhajan, in Espanola, New Mexico, we met friends of David who offered to show us his work by a trip up through the mountains to his home and studio. David graciously offered a selection of his work for the vision of this magazine.
Dafna Mordecai’s life and work spans several continents and cultures. Born in India she lived in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East before settling in New York City. There, she attended the High School of Art and Design and the Parsons School of Design before studying personally with famed artist David Passalaqua, both in New York and Florida. This diverse training has made her adept as an illustrator, draftswoman, painter and sculptor. Dafna Mordecai
She is also a spiritual adept and a well-known figure in the New York transformative community where she works as the Director of Student Affairs & Oneness Center Liaison for spiritual teacher Ronit Singer at The Oneness Center of New York City.Dafna has been a participant in local and international activities of the Interspiritual Network for over a decade and provided the art and design for the Interspiritual Multiplex website. For more information visit Dafna’s website at www. dafnamordecai.com and email: email@example.com. David Hoptman was born and raised in Detroit, MI. He studied at Oakland University before moving onto College for Creative Studies where he majored in Photography with a minor in Printmaking. David has been an artist, educator and commercial photographer for over thirty years. David’s fine art background and familiarity with a multitude of artistic genres is what enables him to create originally distinctive imagery. David teaches workshops relating to iPhone Artistry, Digital Printmaking, PolymerPhotoGravure, and mixed media, including a class for Santa Fe Photo Workshops this year, “Breaking down the Borders.” He is founder of InviroVR, dedicated to creating virtual reality environments to bring nature into any setting, particularly for therapeutic benefits & well being (www.INVIROVR.com). He also teaches at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. David Hoptman
David lives and works in his beautiful home and studio in the mountains north of Espanola, New Mexico. See more from David Hoptman Fine Arts on his website, www.davidhoptman.com.
JOIN US at The Convergence Magazine at Unity.Earth Community We welcome you to join us at Unity.Earth in furthering the realization of spiritual unity throughout the world. Click here to join us at Unity.Earth Community and have these special opportunities for The Convergence Magazine: 1. Be on The Convergence Magazine distribution list and receive updates 2. Make suggestions for future issues of The Convergence Magazine around your own passions and projects 3. Make suggestions for future episodes of The Convergence radio series on VoiceAmerica 4. Special download privileges regarding The Convergence Magazine 5. Future additional opportunities that can stem from being a member of the expanding Unity.Earth community Episode 1 (click to listen) to the 11 Days of Global Unity Broadcast
R A D I O
Episode 2 (click to listen)
S E R I E S 2 87
Editors in this issue of The Convergence Magazine Kurt Johnson, PhD, Contributing Editor
Dr. Kurt Johnson, a co-founder of Unity.Earth, has worked in professional science and comparative religion over 40 years. A prominent figure on international committees, particularly at the United Nations, he is author of the influential book The Coming Interspiritual Age (2013) and two award-winning books in science: Nabokov’s Blues (2000) and Fine Lines (2015). Kurt has served on the faculty of New York’s Interfaith Seminary for 12 years and, for 25 years was associated there with the American Museum of Natural History. In 2016 he became host for Unity.Earth’s Convergence radio series at VoiceAmerica, a series featuring global change-makers. Kurt has a PhD in Evolution and Ecology and is author of over 200 scientific articles and seven books, along with further articles at Kosmos Journal, The Contemplative Journal, Evolution Institute, Integral Life with Ken Wilber and peace studies with Philip Hellmich of the SHIFT Network. Kurt, a former monastic, is a member or founder of The Evolutionary Leaders, the international Contemplative Alliance, the Gaiafield and Subtle Activism Networks, the Self Care to Earth Care network, the UN NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, the NGO Forum 21 Institute, and the UN Committee for International Yoga Day, and is President of the Friends of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
Yanni Maniates, MS, Contributing Editor
Yanni Maniates is the North American Regional Director of Unity.Earth and is part of Unity.Earth’s Core Team. His work is primarily focused on the U Day India Festival 2019; The Road to 2020 USA “Caravan of Harmony;” and the Convergence Academy’s Inner Awakening Program. Yanni was the Director of a large, international, interfaith, ecumenical conference organization in the 80’s; Director of a medium sized book publishing house in NYC for 5 years; and built an interfaith seminary library of 100,000 volumes from scratch. As well, Yanni has been teaching Meditation, Intuitive Development, Healing, Hermetic Wisdom, Ancient Mystery School and Metaphysical subjects for 30 years. His intention is to translate ancient wisdom teachings into modern, real-day, life skills. The primary focus of his work is to help people experience the “still, small voice within” or as he prefers to call it, “The Embrace.” He is the author of six Kindle books on Meditation and Intuition, three Meditation CDs and a myriad of courses. His personal website is: www.InsideOutJourneys.com.
Shannon M. Winters, MS, Managing Editor
Shannon Winters is Senior Director of Scientific Publications in the corporate sector where she leads the strategy and planning of publications and communication plans for early through late-stage clinical development programs. She is an author of numerous clinical research publications and presentations on good publication practices and planning. Originally from the sunny state of California, Shannon completed her undergraduate degree in Science from Portland State University in Oregon and Master’s degree in Biomedical Writing from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her graduate capstone research brought together two of her passions—science and spirit—as she studied spirituality and prayer in Western medical practices. Shannon is also a lifelong explorer of theologies, interspirituality, and mindfulness studies. She is equally as passionate about scientific inquiry as she is about consciousness and intuition. With the confidence that anything is possible, she enthusiastically dares to dream beyond boundaries with a penchant for alchemy, navigating with the compass within her heart. Shannon is completing the interfaith/interspiritual seminary program at One Spirit in New York City with ordination in June 2018, holds certification as an Intrinsic Coach, and is a Reiki Jin Kei Do practitioner (the way of wisdom and compassion). She resides in Central New Jersey with her family and joyful menagerie of rescued dogs and cats.
We are ...ONE people ...ONE planet ...One family We are ONE.
Published on Oct 27, 2017
Published on Oct 27, 2017
In this inaugural issue, we feature a roundtable discussion on “Altruism.” Current evolution studies have shown that at the level of groups,...