Whence commeth death?

The one central theme in my research in evolutionary ecology this last 20 years is that in order to understand we (and most other living things) age and die, you have to study the evolution of ecosystems. Imagine my delight when I come across an interview with my favorite modern novelist in which he says just this, and I imagine that in some indirect way, my publications have helped to create the scientific environment in which he has been able to think as he is thinking. — JJM

This prohibition against anthropomorphism in the sciences has created an artificial gulf between us and even those animals that are next of kin to us genetically. If we see all of evolution as leading up to us and all of human cultural evolution leading up to neoliberalism, then we are individuals busily trying to make meaning for ourselves, and death becomes the enemy.

But if we recover this sense of kinship that was essential to so many indigenous cultures through history,

  • That there is no radical break between us and our animal kin
  • That even consciousness to a large degree is shared with many other creatures

…then death stops seeming like the enemy, and starts seeming like an ingenious device for keeping evolution circulating, keeping the experiment running and keeping genes recombining. To go from terror to interbeing — that the experiment is sacred rather than this one outcome of the experiment that happens to be myself — is to immediately transform the way you think about fundamental social and economic and cultural values.

— From an Ezra Klein interview of Richard Powers, about his new book

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