The Feeling of Evolution

Jeff Carreira Philosophy 14 Comments

Evolutionary Ethics has been a topic of discussion ever since there has been discussion about evolution. In the early 20th century Eugenics was seriously studied at universities. Eugenics is the practice of controlled human breeding for evolutionary purposes. It was believed that if you took the most successful, intelligent and affluent people and coupled them; their children would have their positive characteristics. Some believed that it would take only a few generations to breed a perfected human race. The dark side of this involved forced sterility on criminals and poverty stricken individuals so that their inferior traits would not be passed on.

This type of thinking in regards to creating a perfect human race took its most despicable form in the Third Reich of World War II. After the horror of the Nazi war crimes became common knowledge Eugenics research was quietly shut down in any respectable university. Carnegie Mellon was one large American University that had a fully funded Eugenics Department. This is perhaps of little surprise as Eugenics was very popular among the socially and financial elite of America in the early 20th century. Presumably they could afford to be, as they were likely to be those whose genes were considered worthy of preservation and would probably also be the ones making that decision.

So Evolutionary Ethics has a bad reputation, but does that mean that there isn’t an evolutionarily based ethics that is needed now?  I would say that the reality of the evolutionary nature of our universe is a discovery of such mammoth proportion that it demands a redefinition of ethics. Ethics after all is the philosophy of how to live and the transition from a static universe to an evolutionary universe must necessitate a new way of life.

One way that I can see this needing to happen has to do with our conditioned relationship to feeling. How do we tell what is right and wrong, good or bad. Don’t we more often than not judge these things based on how we feel? Sure, we can logically try to figure out what is right or wrong, we can deduce good and bad, but in the end we more often than not “go with our gut.” And I would postulate that our gut has been largely conditioned by a static conception of the universe. In other words the way we “feel” about what is right and what is wrong is based on a static model of reality.

If we live in a static universe then “change” feels “bad.” If things are supposed to remain fixed then any time we feel things changing we instinctively feel fear. Isn’t that what happens? When things start to change don’t you get uneasy, don’t your alarm bells start to ring? We are conditioned to fear change because as far as human beings knew for tens of thousands of years the universe was fundamentally static and unchanging and so when change happened it felt like the ground shaking under your feet.

Now in an evolutionary universe things are supposed to change. Think of it like traveling in a train, if it comes to a halt in the middle of the tracks you start to get uneasy because something must be wrong, because the train is “supposed” to be moving. An evolutionary universe is also supposed to be moving. Maybe we need to develop this kind of sensibility to our own experience of change. Perhaps when our own attitudes start to change, or the people around us start to change, or things in the world start to change rather than experiencing that as fearful, we need to relate to it is the thrilling experience of evolution. Evolving “feels” like something and we need to learn to enjoy that feeling so that we won’t automatically recoil from the possibility for evolution and change in our own lives.

Anyway, that’s the way it seems to me.

About the Author

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira is a mystical philosopher and spiritual guide. He is the author of eleven books on meditation and philosophy. He teaches online programs and leads retreats throughout the world that teach people how to let go of their current perceptual habits so they are free to participate in the creation of a new paradigm. To put it simply, he supports people to live a spiritually inspired life, free from the constraints of fear, worry and self-doubt, and aligned with their own deepest sense of meaning and purpose.
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Carl
11 years ago

This is a fascinating topic. It is certainly the case that change is often experienced as uncomfortable, although I wonder about the experience of learning, which is one of the main ways that WE change. It seems to me that learning has always been an adaptive, evolutionary capability for humans, and for non-humans as well. Some of us love the experience of learning, although in the beginning the effort required can feel uncomfortable. But if learning is and has been one of our most adaptive abilities and experiences, then wouldn’t we expect — following your logic about feeling — that… Read more »

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

Jeff, Thanks for addressing Evolutionary Ethics’ bad rap. I’ve seen the complaints many times and your words overcome them. The reason Evolutionary Ethics is important is because to behave ethically requires a clear understanding of how things really work, what forces are at play, where we’ve been, and where we might be going.

tony
tony
11 years ago

This is a timely observation. Every day I become more convinced that the train IS moving and we need to realize that we are on the train not on the platform. It’s a profound shift in pecerception from thinking that life should be a static phenomenon punctuated by exciting events of our choosing to realizing that life is hurtling constantly into an Unknown land called the future over which we have no real control. The eugenics work you described sounds like it was all about maximizing control over this unknown so that it becomes known- in other words, channeling this… Read more »

Imants
Imants
11 years ago

This topic is so important for the evolution of the human race. I have recently been reading about the life of Einstein. I was very surprised to find out that he was so set on a stable or static universe. This position he held even when Hubble discovered in 1919 that that the universe was expanding. Einstein’s lambda or cosmological constant was invented to hold the universe at a standstill. I read that one commentator said he Einstein seemed to have a fundamenatlly aesthetic reason for preferring a stable cosmos. This aesthetic preference is also one of the underlying assumptions… Read more »

Mary
11 years ago

It seems to me that both stability and the ability to change are required for evolution to take place. That is, if evolution is the change to higher, more creative, or provide some stability on which to build. We could not have thousands of types of beautiful tropical fish, if the lower forms did not establish a platform of capabilities upon which to evolve. Likewise, perhaps our egos are a tool that builds stable structures with which we have learned to survive (and thrive) and create a platform on which our consciousness could depend. And the next step is to… Read more »

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

Our evolutionary philosophy is prone to a few common problems that we need to avoid.

Tautology – “we are this way because of evolution” well yeah

Just So stories – “our hunter-gatherer ancestors were sitting around a campfire when…”

Is-Ought – “just leave it all up to natural selection”

Antonietta Francini
11 years ago

Dear Jeff,
I just happen to bump into your Blog…great, but, do you open up to me if I have nothing to do with “American” Philosophy???
You see, I like “evolution”, but I come from the jungle….and there we have a very clear vision of evolution…nothing ever stays put! The wind, the storms, the flods, the tiger, the …whatever…is changing everything all the time
You must be born among cement, lived all your life on asphalt and never had an earthquake…yes I understand…Is that the American way??? Look better. Maybe not!
(suggestion: Human Evolutionary Philosophy)
Lots of Love!
Antonietta

Antonietta Francini
11 years ago

Dear Jeff,
Thanks for accepting me…and I shall continue: You are right, cycles are not necessarily equivalent to evolution, BUT, if you envision evolution as a spiral, then you see that cycles belong to a spiral, just as the DNA. If you study just a bit of Sacred Geometry, you realize that Spiral is essential in many manifestations of Form. No need for deep mathematics to enjoy Sacred Geometry…it makes you understand a lot! Try it!
Thanks and good luck!
MAF

KonstantinMiller
11 years ago

I think I will try to recommend this post to my friends and family, cuz it’s really helpful.

Frank Luke
10 years ago

I guess to observe evolution evolving is like watching cosmic paint drying, in increments too subtle to see. I wonder if most can agree that human evolution (that has planetary effects) is now making more observable strides interiorly, psychically? With tech and electronics making such an impact worldwide, I think it’s significant and not a passing thing. The young and even not so young are already seemingly born affected profoundly by electronic toys and tech. Whether destined or otherwise, it’s happening, baby!

Frank Luke
10 years ago

Hey Jeff, re: “An evolutionary universe is also supposed to be moving. Maybe we need to develop this kind of sensibility to our own experience of change.” A cat usually lands on its feet and we need to have that to go on evolutionarily. As change can create “winners” and losers”, those who can use the change to advantage will be those who benefit and thrive. Of course it’s not easy often but who said it would be? Resourcefulness, going with the flow, and taking the hits and going on as well as possible is what it takes. And some… Read more »

Frank Luke
10 years ago

Hey Brian, re: “Evolutionary Ethics is important is because to behave ethically requires a clear understanding of how things really work, what forces are at play, where we’ve been, and where we might be going.” In addition, I submit that behaving grossly unethically is a self-inflicted wounding in many cases. There are those who complain about high taxes and yet waste a lot of resources that lead to high taxation. These thoughtless folks raise taxes for themselves and the rest of us taxpayers, very unethical. They still haven’t gotten it that we’re all connected, their actions affect others too. In… Read more »

Frank Luke
10 years ago

Evolving is maintaining health. Like growing plants, when that process is thwarted, the plant becomes deformed and may die. With human growth, I think we all know individuals, lamentably many, who have settled into a rut and seem to be uncaring of growing. This we can observe in people who become uncaring of thinking seriously about existence, leading unexamined lives. Requiring more energy, imagination and will, change is often considered negatively. Status quo is often a lazy resort to comfort and can become a slough of despond unacknowledged. Healthful personal development depends on monitoring physical and mental health. Healthy people… Read more »