A More Prosocial World in Theory and Practice

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Listen to “#30 – A More Prosocial World in Theory and Practice” on Spreaker.

In this episode of the Breaking the Fever podcast, we speak with David Sloan Wilson about cooperation—how it evolved in social beings, how culture and norms can support and disrupt it, and how to sustain it across different levels (community, industry, nation, etc).

We discuss:

  • How David got interested in the evolution of positive or prosocial cultural change
  • The intellectual tradition of individualism
  • The idea of society as an organism
  • Why natural selection at the smallest scale is socially disruptive
  • The game of Monopoly as an illustration of multilevel selection theory
  • Polycentric governance in a nutshell
  • Archipelagos of knowledge
  • The spread of new norms, like those constituting the Me Too movement, online and off
  • Elinor Ostrum’s Nobel Prize-winning core design principals of effective groups
  • How nations approximate Ostrum’s core design principles
  • The problem with the invisible hand, neoliberal model of globalization
  • Changing norms in tight versus loose cultures

David Sloan Wilson is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He applies evolutionary theory to all aspects of humanity in addition to the rest of life, both in his own research and as director of EvoS, a unique campus-wide evolutionary studies program that recently received NSF funding to expand into a nationwide consortium. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time and Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others.