Dustin Eirdosh started his career as a small-scale farmer and education specialist in community-based service-learning for a school district on the coast of Maine. As a farmer, Dustin became fascinated by both the evolutionary history of agriculture, but also viewing the complexity of modern food systems through the integrative lens of evolutionary dynamics that span natural and social systems. As an educator, the evolutionary window into the mind convinced him to make a full career change into curriculum design and international teacher training. Since 2012, Dustin has been working with his wife, Susan Hanisch, to develop an international teacher training cooperation between the universities of Madagascar and multiple international partners through their non-profit Big Red Earth. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Biology Education at the University of Leipzig in Germany. There he is studying conceptual change in teacher education students on the topic of adaptive flexibility in humans in relation to Education for Sustainable Development, and developing an international network for learning about evolution with kids.
Let’s cultivate meaningful understanding in the sciences of mind and society!
I am interested in what people believe about how the human brain works, how these beliefs play out in the real world, and what that means for the future of education. I want to know the degree to which a factually realistic understanding of the human brain can yield practical benefits for individuals and communities.
We are born ready to start building and testing theories of human nature1. In the global information flow of our current world, individuals can connect into widely divergent social networks of belief about the nature and potential of our brains. Just consider some possible questions:
- If someone believes that mind and brain are distinct and separate entities, what will this mean for their acceptance of evolution and science in general? 2
- If someone believes our mind is like a magnet, by the law of attraction reorganizing the world around them (sensu ‘The Secret’), what impact will this belief have on their mental health in times of adversity? 3
- If someone believes their mind to be like a muscle, capable of growth and development with effort, how might this impact their academic and social-emotional learning? 4
- If someone understands the more complex scientific perspective that their unified Brain-Mind is considered to be an evolving multilevel ecosystem, more analogous to a network of gardens in a cooperative agricultural landscape than to a mere muscle, what kinds of functional impacts might this narrative manifest? 5,6,7,8,9,10,11
These are open questions to a degree, however, there is pretty good reason to believe schools should be in the business of developing the latter two analogies and not the former two. These neural narratives of human adaptive flexibility really do matter for how we live our lives, how we build our communities, and how we understand the very nature of science.
Specifically, the narrative of the brain as a garden in a cooperative agricultural community, what I have come to call the cooperative brain analogy, offers particular promise. This relatively simple narrative is really an emerging network of interconnected science-driven analogies that can be better summarized in parallel statements:
The human brain is like a garden, a complex multilevel ecosystem of biocultural interactions variously selecting for personally or culturally valued outcomes.
Society is like a collective human brain, a complex multilevel ecosystem of interactions among our garden-like brains, variously selecting for personally or culturally valued outcomes.
The parallels between these analogies and their content connections across the natural and social science curricula hold virtually unexplored educational potential. Can these analogies foster social-emotional learning in students? Can the transferable principles of evolutionary ecosystems help reinforce academic understanding of genetics, brain science, and community development simultaneously? These are truly open questions.
This is a landscape best navigated by evolutionary theory. There is no better outlet for accessible writing that connects the science of evolutionary thinking to pressing and complex societal issues than This View of Life. For this reason, I am committed to the TVOL1000 initiative as a vital piece of sustainable infrastructure to learn about and share the newest thinking in these areas. Please join us in this global network to strengthen the science-to-narrative chain connecting the the evolutionary ecological dynamics of our social minds to applied opportunities in global educational collaboration.
For more on Dustin:
Articles at TVOL: https://new.evolution-institute.org/profile/dustin-eirdosh/
www.GlobalESD.org – Global Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
www.EvoKids.org – Learning about evolution with kids
www.BigRedEarth.org – International teacher training for sustainability
Twitter: @GlobalESD @EvoKidsGlobal
Go here for more TVOL1000 Profiles
Join the TVOL1000 and help educate the world on the meaning of “this view of life”.
- Gopnik, A., Meltzoff, A. N., & Kuhl, P. K. (2000). The scientist in the crib: What early learning tells us about the mind. William Morrow Paperbacks.
- Beniermann, A., & Graf, D. (2015) Measuring attitudes towards evolution as related to religious faith and dualistic thinking. conference paper. ESERA Conference 2015, At Helsinki, Finland [link]
- Wilson, T. D. (2011). Redirect: Changing the stories we live by. Hachette UK.
- Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc..
- Panksepp, J., & Biven, L. (2012). The archaeology of mind: Neuroevolutionary origins of human emotions. WW Norton & Company.
- Gregory, T. R., Elliott, T. A., & Linquist, S. (2016). Why genomics needs multilevel evolutionary theory. Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective, 137.
- Rosenbaum, D. A. (2014). It’s a jungle in there: How competition and cooperation in the brain shape the mind. Oxford University Press.
- Muthukrishna, M., & Henrich, J. (2016). Innovation in the collective brain. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 371(1690), 20150192.
- Liu, E., & Hanauer, N. (2011). The Gardens of democracy: A new American story of citizenship, the economy, and the role of government. Sasquatch Books.
- Biglan, A. (2015). The nurture effect: How the science of human behavior can improve our lives and our world. New Harbinger Publications.
- Wilson, D. S., Hayes, S. C., Biglan, A., & Embry, D. D. (2014). Evolving the future: Toward a science of intentional change. The Behavioral and brain sciences, 37(4), 395.