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
UNIQUE CAPACITY OF THE
EVOLUTIONARY WORLDVIEW TO PROVIDE DIRECTION AND PURPOSE FOR HUMANITY
As we have seen, merely
freeing ourselves from our evolutionary
past will not complete the shift to intentional evolution. Sufficient individuals
will also have to
commit deeply to advancing the evolutionary process.
Fulfilling their evolutionary role will have
to become the source of meaning and purpose in their lives.
Individuals will not make
this critical commitment without a
profound understanding of the evolutionary processes that have produced
Earth and will determine its future.
often this will not be enough. Many
not adopt evolutionary goals until they have begun to actually
themselves as active participants in the evolutionary process. This combination of
understanding will show them that the evolutionary worldview satisfies
aspects of their being, including their rational, intuitive and
From a rational
perspective, they will find that the
evolutionary worldview does not share the deficiencies of religious and
In the past, humanity
developed a diversity of mythological
and religious worldviews that each attempted to explain key aspects of
human condition and to provide guidance about how one should live one’s
life. Humans who
believed a particular
mythological worldview knew their place in the world, what was
life and what was not, and how they should behave in all the key events
their life. They
knew who they were,
where they came from, and where they were going to.
But the rise of
rationality has destroyed every one of these
successfully undermined all mythological and religious worldviews by
that they contradict scientific knowledge.
All rely on gods, spirits, or other
supernatural processes that are
unsupported by evidence. Rational
has been left without a worldview that makes sense of human existence
shows how a life can be lived with meaning and purpose.
worldview outlined in this manifesto is
clearly not susceptible to this form of attack—it relies only on
knowledge and explanations. And
science itself it will adapt to incorporate any new scientific
discoveries. In the
worldview humanity finally has a belief system that provides meaning
purpose without having to invent supernatural entities and processes—it
meaning solely in an understanding of the factual world.
have also attacked all past attempts
to develop worldviews that rely only on scientific knowledge to propose
should do with our lives. They
pointed out that such worldviews usually commit the naturalistic
fallacy argues that it is invalid to
derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. In
words, it is invalid to argue that humans ought to do something solely
basis of facts about the way the world is.
In particular, the
naturalistic fallacy has often been used
against attempts to use evolutionary theories to suggest what we should
our lives. The
fallacy has been used to
argue that just because evolution might have favored aggressive
cooperation), it does not follow that humans ought to follow suit in
lives. The fact
that evolution appears
to favor something doesn’t mean humans ought to.
But the evolutionary
worldview does not suffer from this
derives its ‘oughts’ from
other ‘oughts’ in combination with relevant facts, not solely from
facts. There is no
logical fallacy involved in deriving
‘oughts’ from other ‘oughts’. For
example, if an individual holds a particular value it is perfectly
use the value to derive new values that are consistent with it. Satisfaction of the new
values will lead to
the satisfaction of the original value.
The use of relevant
factual information in this derivation
of new values is also perfectly legitimate.
Particular facts might be highly relevant to
circumstances in which pursuit of the new value is consistent with
the original value.
evolutionaries do not fall into the naturalistic
fallacy—they embrace evolutionary goals because the goals are
their most fundamental values. As
shall see in detail below, they experience this consistency when they
the evolutionary worldview with their emotional, intuitive and
faculties, working together.
worldview with universal values
evolutionary values and our fundamental
values can be demonstrated analytically in those cases where the values
to be articulated explicitly. In
particular, evolutionary goals can be shown to be consistent with key
that are likely to be held universally by sufficiently-developed
The most fundamental of
these universal values is to favor life
over death and oblivion. For
seek to advance the evolutionary process on this planet is consistent
value. As we have
seen, humanity must
pursue this goal if Earth life is to survive successfully into the
future. Life on
Earth will not get far beyond its
present stage by chance or accident.
Unless humanity sets out to advance the
intentionally, life on Earth does not have a future.
We could try to ignore
the large scale processes that govern
the evolution of life in the universe.
We could refuse to do what is necessary for
life on Earth to avoid being
selected out by these processes. But
do so would be to choose irrelevance, meaninglessness, and eventual
for humanity and life on Earth.
It would mean that
everything humanity has experienced until
now, the misery, wars, holocausts, triumphs of the spirit, transcendent
inventions and scientific breakthroughs; all the personal dreams,
struggles, and strivings; and all the political movements, work, fame,
fortunes, families and civilizations would be for nothing. Everything would be as if
happened. Life on
Earth would disappear
without trace. The
only way we can
contribute to something that is not ephemeral is if humanity continues
successful in evolutionary terms.
Individuals are more
likely to favor life over oblivion in
the sense used here if they achieve some freedom from the selfish
inherited from their evolutionary past.
The capacity to stand outside desires and
motivations tends to undermine
self-centered values and strengthens those that support evolutionary
However, some individuals
may never develop this fundamental
value. They may,
for example, claim that
they value their own life and pleasures above all else.
They may say they would be unmoved if the
universe and all life within it was to end when they die.
genuinely embody such values they will not
be intentional evolutionaries. And
planetary life that fails to develop values that support evolutionary
will fail to complete the transition to conscious evolution. Life on such a planet will
be meaningless and
irrelevant to the future evolution of life in the universe. It will be an egg that
consciousness is the culmination of a long developmental sequence
For a deeper realization
of how evolutionary values spring
from our existing values, it is important to understand that the
the evolutionary worldview is the culmination of a developmental
that begins at birth. As
grow, they progressively acquire an understanding of wider and wider
and learn to take them into account when deciding their actions. As a child develops, its
moves from encompassing its mother as well as itself to also including
of the family, then the school, then a wider community, then a nation,
perhaps the planet.
At each step of this
developmental sequence the individual
learns that its previous world was in fact only a small part of a much
world. It learns
that much of what was
important in its previous world is strongly influenced by what happens
new, wider world, and cannot be properly understood or dealt with
larger processes are taken into account.
Things that were meaningful and important in
its previous world may
prove to be futile and pointless when the larger context is taken into
To adapt to the wider
context, individuals typically need to
adjust their strategies, values and goals.
An individual who is unable to adapt to the
next wider context at the
appropriate time is generally seen to suffer from a developmental
The largest context that
we yet know about in any detail is
the evolutionary context outlined in this manifesto.
It is the widest, deepest and fullest context
and it determines the destiny of all smaller contexts.
The evolutionary context is the next context
for humanity to grow into. Like
contexts before it, living into this wider context demands a
revaluation of the
strategies, values and goals that made sense in earlier contexts.
The evolutionary context
is particularly powerful in this
respect because it is the first context of sufficient breadth in space
to encompass all the processes that have produced each of us and all
is the first context
that enables us to stand outside ourselves and see what it is that has
every aspect of ourselves and everything we experience.
Growing into the evolutionary context
therefore causes the most radical reassessment of values—it changes
Of course, as with every
developmental step to a wider
context, some may not make it. Some
never adapt to the evolutionary context, just as some children are
to leave their family and function effectively at school, and instead
home forever. However,
as we have seen,
the naturalistic fallacy should not be a particular impediment to
evolutionary context—it is no more relevant at this level than when
change their goals and values at earlier steps in the sequence of
Furthermore, growing into
the evolutionary context will
become easier. As
embraces the evolutionary worldview, our cultures will develop
processes to facilitate adaptation to the wider evolutionary context,
children are currently provided with a nurturing environment to
their transition to school life.
Whenever living processes
move into and master a wider
context, they must increase the scale over which they are organized and
coordinated if they are to have a meaningful impact at the larger scale. And they must increase
including by developing the capacity to model and understand the larger
This process of building
capacity to adapt to ever-widening
contexts may never end. There
be wider contexts yet to be discovered.
For example, it is possible that our universe
is embedded in a larger
context in which universes compete, reproduce, and evolve. Or universes may
participate in other
large-scale processes that are unimaginable to us, just as our lives
unimaginable to the bacteria that live in our gut.
Life can never know that
any particular context is
final. No knowledge
or event could ever
prove that there is not an even wider context yet to be discovered.
It follows that there
could never be such a thing as a
context that renders life meaningless and irrelevant.
No matter what the implications of any
particular context, an even larger context may change its implications
sense of all smaller contexts. Nor
there ever be such a thing as a context that resolves all
answers all questions and brings evolution to an end.
A bigger picture may change everything.
Nor can sentient life
ever be completely sure that its
interpretations and understandings of existing contexts are correct. Ineradicable mystery and
accompanies finite existence.
Strategically, it will
therefore always make sense for life
to continue to build its adaptive capacity, no matter how dark the
matter how pointless existence seems to be within known contexts. Such a strategy will put
it in the best position
to take advantage of any new possibilities that emerge, including any
arise from larger, more meaningful contexts.
As well as meeting the
tests of rational analysis, the
evolutionary worldview is also deeply satisfying to the values embodied
intuitive and emotional systems. Most
these values are implicit—we are unable to articulate them. We therefore cannot check
their consistency with
evolutionary goals analytically. We
do this only by responding to the evolutionary worldview emotionally
But a profound intuitive
and emotional response is unlikely
to be evoked by a mere verbal description of the evolutionary worldview. Our emotional and
intuitive systems operate
primarily with patterns of information, such as images, simulations and
analogical representations. This
thought-based analytical descriptions of situations have little
impact, at least until we translate them into image-based
So a full emotional and
intuitive response to the
evolutionary worldview is unlikely on first exposure.
Individuals will need time to integrate the
separate strands of an analytical, thought-based description of the
into dynamic mental models that are run largely without any conscious
thought. When the
sufficiently developed, the individual will be able to ‘inhabit’ and
around’ the dynamic representations.
They will be able to read observations and
conclusions off the models in
the way they do with a picture. When
this has been achieved the full array of intuitive and emotional
the mind can then assess the diverse consequences and implications of
Again, this emotional and
intuitive processing will occur
largely without conscious thought.
Silently, and in a very short period of time,
these resources will work
out the implications of the various aspects of the worldview for the
individual’s existing values, strategies and beliefs.
This will often occur all at once as a major
epiphany. It can
also unfold over a
longer period as a series of epiphanies.
In such an epiphany,
individuals experience a sudden
revolution of ideas, beliefs and strategies, as well as an exhilarating
diverse emotional responses to them.
They experience directly the capacity of the
evolutionary worldview to
make sense of many experiences and beliefs that were previously
actually feel the
linkages being made and feel the reorganization of their beliefs into a
coherent and unified whole. And
flooded by the surge of emotional responses to this meaning-making.
When the epiphany is
complete, individuals will never be the
same again. The
will have been checked, tested and implemented at every level of their
being. They will
know many implications
of the worldview that they have not deduced consciously. Individuals will know far
more about the evolutionary
worldview than they can tell. They
be strongly committed to it at all levels of their being, rationally,
intuitively and emotionally.
Of course, such
epiphanies cannot occur until an individual
has developed the cognitive capacity to translate analytical,
knowledge into complex mental models.
This is the capacity discussed earlier that is
necessary for the
understanding and management of complex systems.
As we saw, to develop this capacity,
individuals have to learn to some extent to stand outside their thought
epiphanies will be triggered as
individuals begin to actually experience themselves as part of the
evolutionary process. If
you develop in
this direction, you will find that this begins to occur as your mental
representations of the evolutionary process develop in detail, scale
turning point is when
you find that you yourself have a role in the representations. You will begin to see that
your life and
actions are part of the unfolding of the evolutionary process. And you will begin to see
that you have the
potential to play a significant role if you choose to do so.
In particular, you will
see that the next great step in the
evolution of life on Earth is the transition to intentional evolution. You will realize that
evolution will continue
to progress on this planet only if enough individuals dedicate their
to its advancement. The
evolution on Earth depends on individuals awakening to the nature of
process, realizing they have a role in driving it forward, and
You will realize that
your study of the evolutionary process
is itself part of the unfolding of the great transition to intentional
evolution. It is an
essential element of
the evolutionary awakening that is needed to power the transition. And you will see that your
you have an important role in advancing evolution is itself a
in the shift to conscious evolution.
This is a realization that has to be had by
sufficient individuals on a
planet if the transition is to be successful on that planet. You will see that the
successful evolution of
life on Earth depends on you having this realization.
These realizations are
exhilarating and energizing and
capable of providing a deep sense of meaning and purpose. Increasingly you will
cease to experience
yourself primarily as an isolated and self-concerned individual. Instead, you will begin to
see and experience
yourself as a participant in the great evolutionary process on this
planet. The object
self-reflection will change. When
think of yourself, you will tend to see yourself as
will experience yourself as the most recent representative of an
evolutionary lineage that goes back billions of years.
participation in evolution will increasingly
become the source of value and meaning in your life.
You are likely to
experience a developmental epiphany that
is similar to one that often accompanies the most powerful experience
self-recognition that occurs in childhood.
Around the age of two, when looking in a
mirror, we are struck for the
first time by the realization that the person looking back at us from
mirror is our self. Typically,
of self-recognition triggers a moment of ecstatic dancing in front of
mirror as we repeatedly confirm that the image is us.
The person looking back
at you from a pivotal role in the
future evolution of life on Earth is you.
You are life on Earth becoming aware of itself
and deciding to
consciously advance its own evolution.
the transition to intentional evolution
As the transition to
intentional evolution unfolds,
intentional evolutionaries know that they are participating in
have universal aspects. The
the living processes that emerge elsewhere in the universe will differ. But the general direction
of evolution and
the major transitions will follow similar principles everywhere.
Wherever life emerges,
living processes will progressively
become organized into cooperatives of greater and greater scale; this
accompanied by a long sequence of improvements in evolvability;
organisms will emerge that can build mental models of their environment
themselves; they will use this capacity to develop a comprehensive
understanding of the evolutionary processes that have produced them and
determine their future; for the first time they will have a powerful,
science-based story that explains where they have come from, and their
the unfolding of the universe; they will see that evolution is headed
somewhere—it is directional; they will begin to see themselves as
reached a particular stage in an on-going and directional evolutionary
individuals will begin to emerge who see that evolution will progress
only if they commit to working consciously to advance the process; they
realize that this realization is itself an important step in the
transition to conscious
evolution; as part of this transition they will develop in themselves
capacity to free themselves from the dictates of their evolutionary
becoming self-evolving beings, able to evolve in whatever directions
necessary to contribute positively to the future evolution of life in
universe; a unified and cooperative organization will emerge that
the living processes that arose with them and all the technology,
energy and other resources available to them, eventually developing the
capacity to adapt as a whole, transcending the particularities of its
evolutionary past, becoming a self-evolving being in its own right,
in scale, linking up with other organizations of living processes that
elsewhere, expanding in scale again and again, moving forever onwards
upwards, without end.
And everywhere that
living processes emerge, the transition
to intentional evolution will include something like The
Of course, life on some
planets may not complete the
critically important step that currently faces humanity: the emergence of a unified
global society. Life
at the threshold of
this step is likely to be precarious, as it is for humanity at present. At this stage, life still
warring groups that compete destructively with one another. Like us they will be
enough to destroy their civilizations in a war to end all wars. At the same time, the lack
of global controls
to restrain competition for ever-diminishing resources will inevitably
in environmental despoliation, as it has on this planet at this time. This in turn will increase
the potential for
further conflict and war.
One way or the other,
civilizations at this precarious
threshold will be temporary: either
will be driven urgently by evolutionary consciousness to form a unified
society that restrains internal conflict and environmental harm; or
Humanity is at a dangerous stage in the evolution of
planetary life, poised somewhere between oblivion and the opening of
extraordinary new opportunities. The
fate of humanity is likely to be decided this century, by our actions.
easy-to-print and easy-to-circulate PDF version of the full Manifesto
go here (34 pages)
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)
further technical justification of the evolutionary trends to
cooperation and evolvability (including references to relevant
see my book Evolution’s Arrow which is online here.
For more technical detail on the
future evolution of consciousness (including comprehensive references) see
Stewart, J. E. (2007) The future evolution of consciousness,
Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 14, No. 8, Pp. 58-92. Also
see ECCO Working Paper No. 10 of 2006 which is online here