In his newly published bestseller “Evolutionaries” Carter Phipps defines evolution as an idea that transcends biology. Evolution says Phipps, “is better thought as a broad set of principles and patterns that generate novelty, change, and development over time.” He defines “Evolutionaries” as generalists willing to engage in cross-disciplinary thinking who have or are developing the ability to contemplate the vast timescales of our evolutionary history as they embody a new spirit of optimism.
Phipps cautions against leaning into Neo-Darwinism with its focus upon competition and the principle of the survival of the fittest as the driving forces behind evolution. Instead, Phipps points to current biologists whose theories of symbiogenesis have shifted the scientific and cultural conversations about evolution from a focus on competition to a new appreciation of cooperation. “The spoils of evolution go not to the fastest or the smartest but to those who can find the best relationship between creative individuality and cooperative sociality.”
For those of us whose understanding of evolution is limited to our hastily studied and quickly forgotten high school biology classes, the word co-operation may not spring to mind when we think of evolution. Indeed, when thinking about our cultural evolution we all too often look to our violent past and point to the survival of the fittest to determine the ways and means by which humanity has evolved over time. But if as biologists insist, co-operation and the ability to form relationships are determinative factors in the evolution of species, we would do well not only to re-examine our history but also look toward the future with an eye toward improving our abilities to co-operate and form relationships, so as to help determine what we might become.
Phipps explains that, “Evolution happens at the edges. Evolution happens on the borders, the boundaries, the in-between zones. This is true whether we are talking about nature or culture. It as the case in ancient glucose gradients that helped spur the creation of eukaryotic cells, as well as in the primordial mud between land and sea where scientists suggest that life first emerged.”
Inspired by Matthew Fox’s “Creation Spirituality” I have come to believe that religious institutions must work to enable their adherents to take seriously our call to be co-creators in the ongoing process of creation. Evolutionary thinkers like Phipps encourage me to wonder what role the church may or may not play in humanity’s need to foster co-operation and the ability to form relationships so that we might evolve into all that we are created to be???
Below is an interview that sheds more light on Carter Phipps’ evolutionary thinking. Enjoy!