Brilliant evolutionary biologist and important social theorist David Sloan Wilson joins Terry to clarify the real implications of what we know about evolution, focusing on how “multi-level selection,” interpersonal cooperation and altruism are no less central to evolution than is competition. Groups of “prosocial” individuals, under the right conditions, robustly outcompete groups of self-interested individuals.
David shares important concrete principles that can be applied by small and medium-sized groups who are attempting prosocial experiments of their own. He gets specific about which special conditions and shared agreements are required to nurture prosocial behaviors — and, very importantly, protect them. We ask: Is rapid social transformation possible? What kinds of behavior would qualify human beings as a “superorganism” that prioritizes the wellbeing of the whole and responds collectively and effectively to its existential crises?
In the coming week, we will release a second “bonus” conversation I had with David. In it, he goes into much greater detail about the core design principles that enable prosocial cooperation to succeed, and the practices of acceptance and commitment that make them possible.
David Sloan Wilson is a “hard” evolutionary scientist who also champions Conscious Evolution. He is the author of books such as Darwin’s Cathedral, Does Altruism Exist? and This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution. His new book is a novel: Atlas Hugged: The Autobiography of John Galt III — a critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism and its impact on the world. In addition to his writing and university teaching, David is President of the nonprofit organization Prosocial World, whose mission is to accomplish rapid positive multilevel cultural evolution in the real world.
Here are some of the questions we explore in the episode:
- How is the latest evolutionary science now contradicting past misunderstandings, and actually validating spiritual and evolutionary perspectives?
- How do groups of altruistic or “prosocial” individuals outcompete groups of self-interested individuals? What makes individuals & groups “prosocial?”
- How can groups of prosocial individuals protect their cultures and ways of cooperating from selfish or predatory individuals and groups?
- Can groups reach a critical level of efficacy or creativity that catalyzes rapid transformation? What agreements, design principles & mechanisms are required?
For more information on David Sloan Wilson and Terry Patten, check out the following resources:
- David’s new novel, Atlas Hugged is gifted, not sold, for whatever the reader wishes to give in return, with all proceeds going to Prosocial World. For this reason, it is available only on its website: www.AtlasHugged.world.
- David’s nonprofit organization, Prosocial World
- David’s book, This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution
- David’s book, Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes and the Welfare of Others
- David’s book, Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society
- Terry Patten’s nonprofit, A New Republic of the Heart
- Terry Patten’s personal website
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