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.
But isn’t evolution just about genetics?
No. Ever since the birth of language the vast majority of human evolution has been cultural rather than 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 Catholic priest to swear a vow of celibacy, or a radical Muslim 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 throughout the population. Genetics still plays a part, but culture is the main driver of human behaviour.
Moreover, cultural evolution happens orders of magnitude faster than genetic 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.
Isn’t this just eugenics?
No. Eugenics seeks to control and direct the evolutionary process, sacrificing diversity in favour of one man’s idea of genetic supremacy.
Conscious evolution seeks to speed up the evolutionary process without attempting to control where it will go.
More concretely, eugenics focusses on genetics, whereas conscious evolution focusses on culture. 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.
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 them 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 successful in your society, and in the modern economy this translates into a selection pressure to be intelligent. Unsurprising then that each generation’s IQ tends to be higher than the last.
The market-place also has staggering rewards for new technologies. And this translates into a huge selection pressure to innovate and research. Thus in the past couple of generations there has been an (at least) exponential explosion in the proliferation new technologies. Technologies are subject to the same forces of variation and selection as our genes, and the ramifications they have for our survival and reproduction are just as significant. This is where our evolutionary progress has been. Genetic evolution is glacial by comparison.