WHAT IS CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION?
Conscious Evolution is the intentional effort to drive forward our individual and collective evolution.
It is deliberately and consciously leading our lives, and designing our societies to unleash our evolutionary potential.
Consciousness and culture are evolving. Conscious Evolution calls on each and every one of us to facilitate that evolution through whatever means possible.
It is through evolution that life became aware of itself on this planet. And it is through evolution that we can make the change from stumbling through blind trial and error with all the pain and suffering that entails, to striding forwards with awareness, foresight and purpose.
For the first time on earth we have the opportunity to become conscious agents of our evolutionary future. It's as if we are mice which have suddenly realised that we are in an experiment and can now choose which door to run through to determine the outcome.
But isn’t evolution just about genetics?
No. Ever since the birth of language human evolution has been cultural, not just genetic. In fact there are all sorts of culturally determined human behaviours which actively work against the interests of genes. It is not the impulse to pass on genes that leads a priest to swear a vow of celibacy, or a radical to become a suicide bomber; it is his culture.
Ideas, beliefs, and values; languages, businesses and religions are all subject to variation and selection, and just like our genes they jostle and compete to drive our behaviour. They are what Richard Dawkins calls “the new replicators”, proliferating, jumping from person to person, and spreading through the population. Genetics lays down some parameters, but culture is the main driver of human behaviour.
Moreover, cultural evolution happens orders of magnitude faster than biological evolution. Genetically we are still much the same as our hunter-gatherer ancestors 40,000 years ago; our behaviour is radically different. This is because of cultural evolution.
But Conscious Evolution is also about the intentional evolution of consciousness itself. Consciousness has evolved from matter to biology to mind and beyond. As Hegel boldly proclaimed, “God does not remain petrified and dead; the very stones cry out and raise themselves to Spirit."
By enhancing our own individual consciousness in whatever way suits us best, we become active participants in that process.
Isn’t this just eugenics?
No. Eugenics seeks to control the evolutionary process, sacrificing diversity in favour of one man’s idea of genetic supremacy.
Conscious Evolution seeks to facilitate the evolutionary process without attempting to control where it will go.
More concretely, eugenics focuses on genetics, whereas Conscious Evolution focuses on culture and consciousness. Conscious Evolution does not presume to tell you with whom you should have your children. It has a lot to say about what you should teach them.
In any case the logic underlying eugenics has broken down in the face of recent developments in the science of cultural evolution. If poverty, violence or addiction can develop due to environment, upbringing, or simply bad ideas, then eugenics, which focuses exclusively on genetics, is not the right tool for solving humanity's problems.
Eugenics was an attempt to make everyone the same. Conscious Evolution recognises that diversity is the lifeblood of evolution and invites differences of culture to play out freely in the cultural melting pot. We do not need to worry about our cultural values being “diluted” or “eroded” by immigration. If they are truly valuable then natural selection will favour them. And if they are favoured by natural selection, then allowing cultures to mingle will actually spread these values faster.
But with the advent of modern medicine, people with diseases can now survive to have children. Aren’t we devolving?
Physically, yes, we might be getting weaker, and it’s true that with modern medicine a genetic disease probably has a greater chance of being passed to the next generation now than it would have done 20,000 years ago, when an active hunter-gatherer lifestyle favoured a high degree of physical health.
But this only goes to show that selection pressures are not as physical and genetic as they once were. There is still plenty of evolutionary pressure to be adaptive culturally, whether we're talking about technology, the economy or the arts.
In these realms we're evolving faster than ever.