For the Love of Darwin: Beyond the Selfish Gene

David LoyeAudio, Cognitive, Conversations, Editor's Picks, Perspectives, Science & Technology

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David Loye, author of Darwin in Love, talks to Ken Wilber about the life and often-distorted legacy of Charles Darwin, as well as Darwin’s belief in LOVE as a critical driver of the evolution of species.

Survival of the fittest is taken by many as the end-all, be-all of Darwinian evolution — that all evolution comes down to the solitary drive to propagate one’s genes at any cost, giving rise to all sorts of “selfish gene” interpretations of life, evolution, and society.

Which is kind of funny, considering that in The Descent of Man, where Darwin focused on human evolution in particular, he only used the phrase “survival of the fittest” twice — and one of those times was to suggest that the phrase not be used at all!

Compare this to the 95 times Darwin used the word “love” and 92 mentions of “moral sensitivity” as important drivers of evolution, and it becomes clear that something important is missing from our current discussions of evolution, natural selection, and Darwin’s tremendous legacy.

As Darwin himself explains, pure survival is but the lowest of evolutionary drivers, and are eclipsed by a number of other drivers as we move up the evolutionary chain. In Darwin’s mind, evolution was guided by an entire spectrum of critical drivers that ranged from sexual instincts on the lowest end to the Golden Rule on the highest, with parental instincts, social instincts, emotion and reason, cultural habits, etc. filling out the rest of the picture.

From sex to the Golden Rule — just using this simple frame, we can see three critical dimensions of evolutionary unfolding that are almost always missed by contemporary readings of Darwin:

  • Darwin’s belief in higher-stage, non-physical drivers of evolution, which argue against reductionism.
  • Darwin’s attention to the interior dimensions of evolutionary selection, which argue against scientific materialism.
  • Darwin’s emphasis upon mutuality, reciprocity, and other intersubjective/interobjective factors, which argue against selfishness, opportunism, and narcissism

Taken together, this leads to a much more comprehensive understanding of our own evolution, and helps cut through the distortion of books like The Selfish Gene or Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.

Join us as we take a closer look at the life and legacy of one of history’s greatest pioneers, and examine an evolutionary process that is anything but blind when it selects for beauty, is anything but dumb when it selects for truth, and is anything but amoral when it selects for goodness.

David Loye

About David Loye

David Loye is the founder and initiating developer and facilitator of The Darwin Project and the prospective Great Adventure distance-learning and theory-building programs. He is the author of Darwin's Lost Theory of Love, which has now been expanded into a six-book Darwin Anniversary Cycle.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.