|THE EVOLUTIONARY MANIFESTO
Our Role in the Future
Evolution of Life
Member of the Evolution,
Complexity and Cognition Research Group, The Free University of Brussels
completely new phase in the evolution of life on Earth has
begun. It will
this new phase evolution will be driven intentionally, by
that emerges from an understanding of our role in the new phase has the
to transform the nature of human existence.
present humanity is lost.
We don’t know what we are doing here.
We are without a worldview that can point to
our place and purpose in
the universe and that can also withstand rational scrutiny.
this difficult period is coming to an end.
The emergence of the new evolutionary
worldview is beginning to lift us out of the abyss.
The new worldview has a unique capacity to
reveal who we are and what we should be doing with our lives. It relies solely on
scientific knowledge and
reason to identify our critical role in future evolution. The evolutionary worldview
can unite us in a
great common enterprise, and provide meaning and purpose for human
the heart of the evolutionary worldview is the fact that
evolution has a trajectory—it heads in a particular direction. However, evolution on
Earth will not advance
beyond a certain point unless it is driven consciously and
this transition to intentional evolution
does not occur, evolution on this planet will stall, and humanity will
contribute positively to the future evolution of life in the
be a failed evolutionary experiment.
is as if evolution is a developmental process.
Just as a human embryo is organized to develop
through a number of stages to produce an adult, evolution tends to
produce a particular
sequence of outcomes of increasing complexity.
Initially, evolution moves in this direction
of its own accord. However,
at a particular point evolution will
continue to advance only if certain conditions are met: organisms must
that awaken to the possibility that they are living in the midst of a
process; they must realize that the continued success of the process
them; and they must commit to actively moving the process forward.
the planet at the beginning of the twenty first
century, individuals are beginning to realize the importance of the
to intentional evolution. They
they themselves have a significant role to play if the transition is to
role requires them to promote the new evolutionary worldview
that will drive the transition. It
calls on them to begin to remake themselves and their societies in
ways are necessary to advance the evolutionary process.
Their efforts, powered by the capacity of the
evolutionary worldview to invest their lives with direction and
purpose, will bring
forth a great wave of evolutionary activism that will change life on
activists use the trajectory of evolution to
identify what they need to do to advance evolution.
Socially, the next great step in human
evolution is the emergence of a unified and sustainable global society. Psychologically, the next
step is to free our
behavior from the dictates of our biological and cultural past, so that
do that which is necessary for future evolutionary success.
organization of a cooperative global society is an urgent
priority. With it,
the threats of world
war and global warming can be easily managed.
Without it, human civilization may end this
Manifesto is an intentional attempt to promote the shift to
and the evolutionary activism that will drive it.
To read, discuss and circulate the Manifesto is to participate in a great
evolutionary transition on this planet.
1 of the Manifesto
provides an overview of the shift to intentional evolution and of the
that is motivating individuals to actively promote the transition. Parts 2 and 3 begin by
trajectory of evolution and showing that its directionality is produced
processes that are fully understandable within mainstream science,
resort to teleology or mysticism.
go on to use the trajectory of evolution to identify the agendas that
activists in their attempts to advance the evolutionary process. In particular, Part 2
deals with our future
social evolution and Part 3 with the future evolution of our
intelligence and creativity.
Part 4 of the Manifesto
explores the power of the evolutionary worldview to provide meaning and
direction for human existence. It demonstrates
the capacity of the worldview to make evolutionary activism the most
significant political force on the planet.
In particular, it shows that philosophical arguments such as the
‘naturalistic fallacy’ do not diminish the force of the evolutionary
presented by the Manifesto.
The shift to
The shift to intentional
evolution has begun on Earth. The
evolutionary process itself is
evolving. It is
transitioning from a
process that stumbles forward blindly to one that advances consciously
Hitherto on Earth,
evolution proceeded largely by trial and
processes that produced
mutations were not guided by foresight or by any intention to advance
The same applies to the
processes that drive human cultural
evolution. When we
scientific discoveries, technological advances, or institute new forms
social organization, we are not consciously attempting to advance the
process. Thus far
in our evolution we do
not intentionally design improvements so that they will be successful
In contrast, if the
transition to conscious evolution is
successful, evolution on Earth will henceforth proceed deliberately and
on Earth, including
human societies, will be made and remade continually with the explicit
of advancing the evolutionary process.
Human nature, culture, technology and social
systems, as well as the
other living processes on the planet, will all be shaped intentionally
they contribute positively to the further evolution of life in the
This transition will
increase enormously the ability of the
evolutionary process to adapt and innovate to meet whatever challenges
by life on this planet in the future.
What might take trial and error many thousands
of millions of years to
discover can be developed almost instantly by intelligent evolution. In a few centuries, human
technology has produced
innovations such as heavier-than-air flight that took past evolution
of generations of genetic trial and error to accomplish.
But the significance of
this transition goes far beyond merely
improving the effectiveness of adaptation to existing circumstances. It will also enable life
on Earth to identify
what it can do to contribute productively to the future evolution of
the universe. Life
on Earth will be able
to envision a creative and meaningful role for itself in future
use the vision to guide its actions and its future development.
Life on Earth will never
be the same.
The potential for the
evolutionary process to ‘awaken’ in
this way has arisen because of the emergence on the planet of organisms
are conscious and highly intelligent—humanity.
We have the capacity to pursue our goals
deliberately and consciously—we
use planning, foresight, anticipation and intent.
To the extent that we begin to use our
intelligence to advance the evolutionary process intentionally,
itself will be powered by intelligence.
Human creativity will drive the advancement of
the evolutionary process
Importantly, this would
not only mean that humanity will
evolve intelligently. Increasingly,
humanity is managing and adapting the other processes on the planet,
non-living, for our own ends. If
humanity embraces evolutionary goals, it will therefore mean that the
and non-living processes of the planet are also managed and adapted
for evolutionary ends.
Because of the central
role of innovation in evolution,
humanity will also set out to enhance the creativity of the
process. This will
mean improving our
own capacity to innovate as well as the creativity of the systems we
embedded in. Understanding
creative processes such as emergence and collective intelligence will
If this major evolution
transition is completed successfully,
humans will henceforth shape their societies, themselves, and all other
processes on the planet to serve evolutionary goals. Through humanity,
evolutionary process on Earth will have become conscious of itself, and
acquired the capacity to advance itself intentionally and consciously. It will have undergone a
extremely significant transformation.
Evolution will have transitioned from a
process that groped its way
forward by trial and error to one that strides knowingly into the
guided by foresight and powered by consciousness.
Humans who are alive
during the 21st century,
13.7 billion years of evolution after the ‘big bang’, are
shift to intentional evolution
is one of the most significant evolutionary transitions that can occur
planet on which life emerges. We
the unique opportunity to contribute to its successful completion on
planet. And if we
choose to make this
contribution, we will do so consciously—we will be aware that we are
contributing intentionally to the successful completion of a pivotal
event on this planet.
The emergence of
As the transition begins,
individuals are emerging who are
choosing to dedicate their lives to advancing the evolutionary process.
evolutionaries recognize that they have a
critical role to play in driving the evolutionary transition and the
evolution of life. Their
lives can be an
important part of the great evolutionary process that has produced the
and life within it. They
know that if
evolution is to continue to fulfill its potential, it now must be
and it is their responsibility and destiny to contribute to this.
participation in the evolutionary process is
increasingly becoming the source of value and meaning in their lives. Redefining themselves
within a wider
evolutionary perspective is providing direction and purpose to their
no longer see themselves as isolated, self-concerned individuals who
live for a
short time, then die irrelevantly in a meaningless universe.
evolutionaries are energized by the knowledge
that their decision to embrace this role is part of the unfolding of
transition itself. They
see that they
are contributing to the success of processes much larger than
will outlast them and potentially live forever.
They know that if they live their lives
incompatibly with the processes
that govern the evolution of life in the universe, their lives will not
any longer-term relevance. They
without leaving a lasting trace.
evolutionaries at the leading edge of the
transition, their commitment is a major act of existential
is not a choice that they are predisposed
to make by their genetic make-up, nor by the society in which they were
raised. It is a
commitment that they can
make only after developing some psychological distance from the goals
perspectives of their culture, and only after achieving a deep
their relationship with the evolutionary process.
evolutionaries are aware that they have set
themselves an extraordinarily challenging task, but know the transition
be completed unless sufficient individuals commit themselves to it. And if life on Earth does
not make the
transition, it will not participate in the future evolution of life in
universe. It will
be a failed
evolutionary experiment. Intentional
know the deepest evolutionary meaning of the challenge: “If not now,
when? And if not
The allegiance of
conscious evolutionaries is not to what
is, but to what can be. They
know that they
are alive at one of those rare times in history when an old phase is
and a new one of infinite possibility is beginning.
They have the courage and wisdom to seize
opportunity and to accept the challenge of the future.
evolutionaries know that they have much in
common with all others who consciously adopt evolutionary goals,
that emerge elsewhere in the universe.
evolutionaries experience a deep connection and kinship with all who
the significance of evolutionary consciousness, even if they never have
direct contact with them. They
united because they know that despite many difference, they share
perspectives, worldviews, goals and conscious experiences. They are bound together as
members of the circle
of conscious life in the universe.
The goals of
The goals and objectives
of intentional evolutionaries are
guided by a comprehensive understanding of the evolutionary processes
produced life on this planet and that will determine its future. They are aware of how past
shaped all aspects of their being—their bodies, motivations, values and
thinking—and how it has shaped humanity’s economic, social and
as well as all the other living processes on the planet. But even more importantly,
they also have a
deep understanding of the evolutionary processes that will unfold in
and will ultimately determine the relevance of their lives.
evolutionaries, this understanding of future
evolution is indispensable—it points to how life on Earth must remake
it is to participate successfully in the future evolution of life in
universe. It also
identifies the types
of living processes that will not survive future evolution. It shows how life on Earth
needs to change
now if it is to play a significant role as evolution advances.
The direction of
The task of identifying
what will work in the future is made
easier because evolution has a trajectory.
It has headed in particular directions in the
past, and there is every
reason to believe that it will continue to do so in the future. It is possible to locate
humanity and life on
Earth on this trajectory, and to see what needs to happen if we are to
to advance along its path.
Not only does this
understanding emphasize that humanity and
life on Earth is evolutionary work-in-progress, it also enables
to identify the next great milestones in the evolutionary process on
milestones are the evolutionary goals
and objectives that they deliberately choose to pursue.
They point to how individuals would live
their lives if they are to contribute to the advancement of evolution. They are the lights on the
distant hills that
draw us forever onwards.
The trajectory of
evolution is not produced by an external
force, or by some impulse that is intrinsic to the universe, or by an
end-point that somehow attracts evolution towards it.
Directionality can be explained and
understood fully without resort to mysticism.
evolutionaries, scientific explanations have
a major advantage. They
identify the forces,
processes and conditions that produce directionality.
Scientific understanding can therefore be
used to work out the kinds of interventions that will advance the
contrast, a readiness to accept mystical explanations
can be counterproductive—it can impede the acquisition of the detailed
evolutionary understanding that is essential to guide intentional
Life tends to evolve in a
particular direction simply
because there are particular capacities that provide organisms with
advantage across a wide range of circumstances.
Irrespective of the specifics of the organism
or its environment, these capacities
enable it to do better in evolutionary terms. And the more an organism
has of each
of these capacities, the better it will do (e.g. the greater its
So as evolution unfolds,
it will tend to favor increases in
these capacities across all life.
in these capacities are discovered, life will tend to evolve
course, this trajectory will often be
masked by meandering, halting and back-tracking, particularly where the
that searches for improvements relies on blind trial and error. Furthermore, improvements
in these capacities
will be favored only when the advantages they provide outweigh their
cost. As a
consequence, directional change will
often stall until evolution discovers a cost/effective way of enhancing
Two attributes that
increase as evolution proceeds are the
scale of cooperative organization, and evolvability (i.e. the ability
successfully through the discovery of effective adaptations). As a result, the
advancement of evolution is
marked by greater interdependence and cooperation amongst living
by improvement in the ability to respond effectively to adaptive
Both of these attributes
have the potential to provide
evolutionary advantage to living processes across a wide range of
is because they are
meta-adaptive capacities—they improve the ability to adapt in all
circumstances, although they are not themselves an adaptation to any
In particular, the larger
the scale of a cooperative organization,
the more resources commanded by the cooperative, the greater its power,
the impact of its actions, and therefore the wider the range of
challenges that it can meet successfully.
And the greater the evolvability, the greater
the capacity to respond
effectively to any challenges.
For example, once
intelligent life evolves that is organized
cooperatively on a global scale, it will have the power and creativity
protect itself from asteroids that would otherwise collide with the
devastating collisions would
be unavoidable to life that is less evolvable and smaller in scale, as
case on Earth in the age of the dinosaurs.
And left to their own devices, bacteria are
unlikely to survive the
engulfment of their solar system by a dying sun.
If living processes were to set out intentionally to develop
strategies that would enable them to succeed in future evolution, these
that they would boost. Both are capacities
that conscious evolutionaries will intentionally attempt to enhance
life on Earth.
For Part 2 of
the Manifesto (html version) go here
For a Kindle
Book that combines The Evolutionary
Manifesto with its companion article Strategies for Advancing
Evolution go to the book's page at Amazon here (US$1.99)
easy-to-print and easy-to-circulate PDF version of the full Manifesto
go here (34 pages)
further technical justification of the evolutionary trend to increasing
cooperation (including references to relevant scientific publications)
see my book Evolution’s Arrow which is online here