The “COOPERATION” Category is devoted to show that the evolution of Life on Earth has a direction. This direction is toward increasing the scale of cooperation among living processes. Also, the direction of evolution is toward increasing the adaptability of individuals and communities to better face the challenges of Life. The Butterfly-Community Open-Project is aiming to be the humanity step further in its evolution.
This article is compiled using texts from John Stewart’s book, Evolution’s Arrow
A better understanding of the barriers to evolution can be had by imagining the following scenario: you are able to travel back in time, and you have been given the job of going back 20,000 years to show a band of hunter-gatherers how they can change to achieve future evolutionary success. You are to use your knowledge of how evolution has unfolded since then to get them to change in the ways necessary for them for future success. How likely are you to get them to change?
Would they freely choose to reorganize themselves in the ways that have proven successful for human groups since then? Would they want to band together with other tribes, give up their nomadic way of life, give up hunting and instead grow crops? Would they accept being ruled by a king who would collect taxes from them and use these to fund irrigation canals, an army and, of course, a personal lifestyle befitting a king?
If they could have chosen to change their behavior and organize themselves in this way 20,000 years ago, they would have founded an empire that would have had a lasting impact on human history. But to do so would mean acting contrary to their most fundamental beliefs about how they should behave as members of their band. Based on our experience of the few hunter-gatherer tribes that have survived until recently, many of their attitudes, values and moral beliefs would have clashed with the changes needed to progress in evolutionary terms. In hunter-gatherer bands, a man could not be respected if he did not hunt. A male who wanted to plant and tend crops would be despised. The members of other tribes were often seen as enemies who had to be driven out of the tribe’s territory before they stole their game and women. To band together with them would be unthinkable. And anyone who tried to set himself up above the other members of the tribe as a ruler would be seen as a threat to all, and to be stopped at all costs. Anything gathered by an individual was not his or hers, it was the tribes’. Only a deviant would try to accumulate possessions. And deviants were seen as a danger to the band who should be expelled if they did not change their ways. Such a band would have very little capacity to change its fundamental values and beliefs, and little desire to do so. The members of the band would not have the psychological ability to find motivation and satisfaction in whatever behavior and lifestyle was needed for future evolutionary success. Merely showing them how things would evolve in the next 20,000 years would not enable them to change their ways. They would continue to find satisfaction, dignity, security and meaning in their existing way of life.
But you don’t have to go so far in history to see that people have always behaved this way: they preferred behaviors and values that proved successful only in the past but were disastrous for the future. All the societies that collapsed – be they large and powerful such as the Roman, Inca or Aztec empires, or relatively small communities such as the Viking colony in Greenland or the Polynesian colony in Easter Island – all collapsed because they were unable to change their ways. And that’s because the individuals themselves could not change their survival strategies, but they continued in their obsolete way, although it was increasingly obvious that their choices would lead to an inevitable disaster.
What did the Vikings in Greenland or the Polynesians on Easter Island think and feel when they cut down their last tree? How could they hope that they will ever be able to make ships again? Exactly in this situation we are now. Each of us is continuing our “high standard of living”, competing and struggling in our capitalist society, although we are all aware that this cannot be a solution for the future of our civilization. But none of us can see another immediate solution for its future. And even if someone sees it, what good is it to choose something else, when the vast majority will choose the same and the end outcome will be the same?
But we have our chance: humanity is about to take a big evolutionary step forward and find a better mechanism for adaptation and co-evolution – conscious evolution. For a person that develops a better understanding of the evolutionary process, it will be more likely to break free of its biological and social past and develop the capacity to do whatever is necessary for future success. Such a person is aware that its existing emotions, beliefs, motivations and values have no eternal or absolute validity. It is aware that its old predispositions are incapable of producing the emotions, motivations and behaviors needed for future success. Such a person is able to model its external environment, but also its internal adaptive processes. Increasingly, this will enable him/her to manage its emotional and motivational states, its beliefs and different mental processes in whatever ways are necessary to ensure its future success.
Developing the capacity for conscious evolution, we are becoming self-evolving beings, able to change our behaviors and objectives by conscious choice. We are perceiving ourselves as evolutionary work-in-progress, with no fixed characteristics, able to find motivation in doing whatever we choose. Only those who choose to develop this psychological capacity are likely to make a significant contribution to the future evolution of Life on this Planet. Those who choose instead to continue to serve obsolete values and motivations will become irrelevant to Life, and face eventual extinction.