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Drwinists 2 The Progressive Drwinists 3 The Collectivists 4 The Complexity Theorists 5 The Directionlists 6 The Trnshumnists 7 The Intelligent Designers 8 The Theistic Evolutionis

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The Directionalists

1 The Neo-Darwinists

2 The Progressive Darwinists

3 The Collectivists

4 The Complexity Theorists

5 The Directionalists

6 The Transhumanists

7 The Intelligent Designers

8 The Theistic Evolutionists

9 The Esoteric Evolutionists

10 The Process Philosophers

11 The Conscious Evolutionists

12 The Integralists

Core idea

The process of evolution is progressing toward broader and deeper cooperation and complexity—evidence, if not exactly proof, that it may even be shaped by some form of purpose or design.

What they say. . .

Each of these thinkers and synthesizers, whose work draws variously from the many streams of modern evolutionary science and philosophy, emphasizes the same basic premise: that evolution, far from being random and aimless, is unmistakably directional. In the long arc of both biological and cultural history, they see clear upward trends toward more and more cooperative interaction, richer and richer complexity, and ever-vaster webs of interdependence at all levels, from gene to cell to organism to society. As evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright puts it, the emergence of life and intelligence from the primordial ooze, if not quite divinely preordained, was nevertheless “so probable as to inspire wonder.”

What it means. . .

Building on the neo-Darwinian framework but drawing radically different conclusions about the nature of the evolutionary process, the Directionalists are coming out stronger than ever against anyone and everyone who seeks to reduce the epic of evolution to the mere story of selfish genes and cosmic accidents. And for this diverse array of evolutionary scholars, the recognition of directionality in evolution has repercussions far beyond biology: “We muddy the waters of the debate,” writes noted British paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, “if we fail to acknowledge that the processes of evolution have metaphysical implications for us.”

To be clear, these are scientific thinkers, not religious ones, and while some draw more than a little inspiration from mystic evolutionary philosophers such as Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, they stop well short of mysticism themselves. “Even if there were proof,” says Wright, “that evolution is teleological—a product of design, a process with a purpose—we would still be a long way from Teilhard de Chardin’s worldview, complete with a God and a happy ending.” But it is precisely by keeping the terms of their argument strictly within the bounds of science that they’ve been able to help wedge open the doorway to something more, making space within the prevailing orthodoxy of reductionism, materialism, and atheism for an account of evolution that can begin to transcend all three.

“How can [we] possibly overlook the evidence—or, at the very least, the appearance—of directionality in evolution: the sense that the force of evolution propels life inexorably toward ever-greater complexity, diversity, mastery over its environment, and, eventually, consciousness?”

James Gardner


The Selfish Biocosm

Why are the physical laws of the universe so perfectly—and oddly—oriented toward the emergence of intelligent life? This is the question lawyer, complexity theorist, and science writer James Gardner asks in Biocosm and then proceeds to answer in a dizzyingly lucid blur of cosmic speculation. You might call him a Directionalist with an attitude. His “Selfish Biocosm” hypothesis—which one-ups Richard Dawkins by proposing that just like one massively supergigantic “selfish gene,” the entire universe is driven by the materialistic need to replicate itself—takes the search for overarching purpose and design about as far out as you can possibly get without veering into spiritual territory.

Major Figures Major Works Influences 

Simon Conway Morris

James Gardner

John Stewart

Robert Wright

The Moral Animal (Wright, 1995)

Evolution s Arrow (Stewart, 2000)

Nonzero (Wright, 2000)

Life s Solution (Morris, 2003)

Biocosm (Gardner, 2003)

Henri Bergson (1859–1941)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955)

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