NES’s Dr. Kurt Johnson (co-author of The Coming Interspiritual Age with David Robert Ord) with Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize recipient regarding Climate Change at the September 16th Center for Earth Ethics conference at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In former Vice President Gore’s left hand is a copy of Dr. David Sloan Wilson’s book Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes and the Welfare of Others, a new book from Yale University Press’s “Foundational Questions in Science” Series, which they were discussing at the conference. The Center for Earth Ethics was founded by Gore’s daughter Karenna, and among principal collaborators with CEE are Kurt and Dr. Rick Clugston (an author of the Earth Charter), both of the Interspiritual Network (www.interspirituality.com) an international association and website founded around the vision of The Coming Interspiritual Age.
Kurt and Rick were part of summer programs on Earth Care (www.fromselfcaretoearthcare.com) which also featured Wilson and integral philosopher Ken Wilber (see YouTube video here). Wilson’s new book elaborates the current vision of modern evolutionary biology that nature actually prefers and selects for processes and structures and serve the whole, and not self interest groups, and provides a stinging rebuke of current exploitive politics and economics based on the doctrine of “survival of the fittest.”
As discussed at length in The Coming Interspiritual Age, Wilson also recounts how Darwin’s theories (which, in his The Descent of Man, mention “survival of the fittest” only twice but moral and ethical responsibility, and love, nearly 200 times) were hijacked by exploitive politics and economics to create what Wilson calls “a world full of dysfunctional organizational principles now on the verge of collapse.” The evolutionary answer, argues Wilson (as do Johnson and Ord) is a new recognition that Cultural Evolution, based on nature’s own laws, prefers processes and structures that serve the whole, not self interest groups. This recognition can begin a new era of cultural design and experimentation based on holistic, not exploitive principles. Wilson emphases the work of the recent Nobel Prize winner in Economics, Elinor Ostrom, who demonstrated that holistic systems are sustainable without exploitive control of one group over another.
As Gore emphasized in his presentation at the CEE conference, these matters are not just political or scientific issues, but truly monumental moral and ethical issues rooted in the original messages of all the world’s religions that centered on teachings of interconnection, mutuality, love, care, kindness, and concern with the well being of the whole. Gore called special attention to Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical on Climate Change and his September visit to the United States and United Nations which set the stage for the CEE meeting itself. The spectrum of ongoing climate change, with all of its implications regarding resource availability and attendant social and economic justice issues on a global scale, emphasize the importance of the kinds of shifts spoken about at length in The Coming Interspiritual Age.