Sustainability Is Not a Number – Climate Crisis and Human Cultural Evolution

Meet two of the world’s leading scholars on the relation between biological and cultural evolution - David Sloan Wilson, SUNY Binghamton and Terrence W. Deacon, UC Berkeley. Subsequent panel discussion with Kalle Moene, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Henrik Sinding-Larsen and the audience.

Terrence W. Deacon (University of California at Berkeley), David Sloan Wilson (State University New York, Binghamton) 

Two of the world’s leading scholars in evolutionary science, both extraordinarily interdisciplinary, will engage in a public conversation and debate on how we can understand humanity’s current environmental challenges as a maladaptation in light of modern evolutionary theory. Wilson and Deacon agree on much but do also differ in important and interesting ways on what went wrong when humans’ evolutionary success story turned into what now looks ever more like a disaster of global maladaptation.

Humans are not the first species to face “self-inflicted” environmental challenges that threatens their existence. We are not even the first species that may become extinct because of atmospheric change produced by the species itself. There have in recent years been important new discoveries about the basic dynamics of evolution that profoundly challenge but also builds upon and expand Darwin’s view on what made humans different from and similar to other animals. A deeper understanding of both differences AND similarities may hold the key to a better understanding of the current climate and biodiversity crisis. And these discoveries of the critical differences may also hold the key to a new era of interdisciplinarity across the natural and human sciences.

Even 1,5 ⁰C global warming is not a safe target because sustainability is not a number. Rather, sustainability is a complex dynamics that recent evolutionary theory can help us to understand.

The presentations from Wilson and Deacon will be commented from the perspective of economics by professor Kalle Moene (UiO), and the following panel discussion and debate (including questions from the audience) will be chaired by prof Thomas Hylland Eriksen and researcher Henrik Sinding-Larsen both from the project OVERHEATING, Department of social anthropology, University of Oslo, who arranges this meeting.

David Sloan Wilson’s latest book Does altruism exist?: culture, genes, and the welfare of others (2015) is also published in Norwegian. Wilson is central in the foundation of The Cultural Evolution Society, a global interdisciplinary society for the study of cultural evolution currently comprising researchers from more than 50 countries and 400 different academic affiliations.

Terrence W. Deacon’s latest book Incomplete Nature: How mind emerged from matter (2012) has been highly acclaimed and the focus of study and conferences on an astonishing number of different disciplinary departments at important universities around the world. He is currently working on a synthesis of this book with his previous award-winning book The symbolic species: the co-evolution of language and the brain (1998).

Free entrance

Published June 8, 2016 12:30 PM - Last modified June 16, 2016 10:55 AM