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The Evolutionary Role of D&D

Originally posted by Loretta Donavan for the 2006 NCDD Conference…

Presenters: Peggy Holman and Tom Atlee

Is it the title of the session . . . the term “evolutionary” that has been the attractor since the group in the room is notably on the “wiser and more experienced” side?

Peggy invites everyone into their own inner conversation about the topic as a starting point with a chime.

Tom does a quick run-through of 6 themes of evolution and conversation:

  1. Characteristic of Evolution:
  2. Direction – increasing complexity, the inclusive non-zero sum games are more important in the larger world
  3. Modes – crises and catastropy create major change – we are facing crises
  4. Emergence – there is massive creativity in the environment and natural selection of choosing what works and we can incorporate that trial and error in our learning
  5. Interactivity – among diverse entities there is an eco-system that is information rich which generates change over time
  6. Challenge – there is a lot of stuff converging to create a major crisis in the not too distant future

Peggy shares her latest ideas on evolution: The connection between dialogue and evolution is emergence. It is is the way the universe learns and is at the core of evolution.

The nature of emergence in human systems is the movement from divergence to convergence, facilitated by appreciative, compelling questions. Differentiation (each of us bringing our own quirky understanding) and the weave of the dialogic process, exposes a repeat of certain pattens. The sense of purpose emerge that brings us to a place of convergence and the result is innovation.

After another brief personal reflection on the thoughts the presentations inspire, the participants pair in conversation about their reactions. Lots of buzz in the room.


  • I would like a story or example of non-violence.
  • The model of conscious emergence shows a balance of the 2 modes . . . would like to compress the process the movement to increase coherence
  • It seems we are talking about the rational method of creating nonviolence – is this just the mind? What happens to the instinctual self?
  • Biologic organisms evovle in order to survive. Is the human organism evolving for the same reason?

Tom believes that evolution was once learning by things dying off – collective interiority – incremental and with sudden leaps. Evolution is now ongoing and is generative.

Peggy suggests that we are the big bang still happening. She tells of working on the topic of leadership with Palestinian women. Peggy heard these women talk about fear, danger etc and asked then to write questions about the occupation. These included ones on good that came out of checkpoints, imagine a future when checkpoints are no longer needed what would be happening. In using the questions and sharing the responses with one another, they were knit into a different form of community.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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