Clément Vidal is a member of the research and development team of Human Energy, who identifies himself on his webpage as a big questions philosopher. He is also one of Human Energy’s resident experts on Teilhard de Chardin and the noosphere, which is what his conversation with David Sloan Wilson is primarily about.
Clément is exceptionally well qualified in this regard. He wrote a wonderful illustrated essay on the Human Energy site titled “What is the Noosphere?”, one of the clearest and most accessible explanations of these ideas. He has published an academic paper on the topic as well, “Teilhard’s Formation of the Noosphere: an exegesis and update”.
Early in the conversation with David, Clément addresses one of the core elements of Human Energy’s mission — to tell a positive “Third Story” that provides direction and meaning for human life. He illustrates the need for such a story with an apt analogy:
“The future scenarios that get the most attention are the doom scenarios, the negative scenarios. And yes, for very simple reasons. It’s because they are scary. So we pay attention to them. And if you look, there is actually little vision for the long term future of humanity and planet earth. And so it’s easy to play Nostradamus to explain how things could fail. There are millions of ways evolution could fail and there are not many ways to survive. So the analogy I like to tell is if you go to your doctor and you explain to him what you have, you don’t want your doctor to explain to you all the ways you could die. You want to know the ways to survive.”
Clément and David go on from there to discuss both the big picture cosmological perspective and the biological perspective on evolutionary change, and the differences between living and nonliving processes. Clément references a “universal Darwinism”, a version of development that encompasses “a kind of development where new structures appear — galaxies, stars, planets, life, and intelligent life”.
David explains that for him, there is a key dividing line between cosmological development processes and the evolution of living organisms, in that organisms are functionally organized. Clément essentially agrees with this analysis.
From this key point of agreement, they launch a wide-ranging discussion of biological and cultural evolution, each from their own perspectives, finding both differences and points of agreement along the way. They end, in a sense, back where they began — what kind of a meaning system might inspire people to come together to create a positive future for humanity and the earth.