Can We Evolve?

July 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Of course we can! It’s what we do! But can we evolve at will? Can we be a conscious part of our evolutionary process? I’m not trying to get trippy here; it just seems to me like we have to evolve and we have to do it fast. A few weeks back Nicholas Kristoff wrote a piece titled “When Our Brains Short-Circuit,” he tells us that “evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought.” His point is that we might be quick to freak out about terrorism (things blow up right away), but terribly slow to act when it comes to global warming (it unfolds over decades) – but which is more deadly?

And our big problem is that the political process we have forces lawmakers to move swiftly on whatever is freaking out the most people, even if it is at the expense of the long-term, or civil liberties for that matter.

We were intelligently designed to run from a saber-toothed tiger, but we have not yet evolved to deal smartly with the massive problems our own “advancement” has created –seems that we evolved unevenly, very fast industrially but very slow morally. And this is where my question comes back in. Is there anything we can do to advance our own evolutionary process? Are there modes of engagement with our selves that might help to catalyze radical shifts in our awareness? Alarmist communications only take us so far. Technical fixes are moving too slowly. Global warming can only be stopped by a radical shift in what Ron Haifetz would call the level of our values, beliefs and assumptions. I call this an evolutionary shift.

We somehow have to develop the skills to operate at multiple levels, smart mass communications, political activism, getting corporate buy-in, whatever the methods are that will stop the earth from burning. But we have to do so in ways that simultaneously seek the necessary evolutionary shifts. What are social and organizational structures that facilitate transformation as this level? What are the spiritual practices, the therapeutic measures, the educational approaches that will help us tackle this big question? You know what Darwin said about evolution – the species that can not adapt is the species that can not survive. So what do we do to adapt?

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