If I believed in reincarnation, I would think that Elisabet Sahtouris was Homer in a previous life. She writes with the grand sweep and musical throb of an epic poet and, as she says in her introduction to this new edition of EarthDance, she honed her writing skills as well as gestated her ideas on a "small pine-forested Greek island." While EarthDance is grounded in a thorough knowledge of Sahtouris' own field of evolutionary biology and a wide-ranging grasp of both science and philosophy, it also draws deeply on her personal experience of having lived among indigenous peoples and gained a profound respect for the traditional science of their cultures.
EarthDance prophetically represents the new and rapidly expanding Post-Darwinian evolutionary biology. Sahtouris explains how, in cycle after cycle, the living entities or "holons" in the realm of Gaia have merged, through negotiation and symbiosis rather than ruthless competition, in a constantly self-creating and re-creating "holarchy" of living systems.
Death even plays a crucial role in this ongoing dance of life. "Every dancer knows," says Sahtouris, "that each dancer can only perform one step at a time; that old steps must be abandoned so that the dancer's body will be free to perform new ones, which may then repeat or change the pattern of old steps." However, it is life, not death, which attracts the passion and vision of the author. She challenges the human species to live as the new biology now recognizes life has evolved, cooperatively and symbiotically rather than "red in tooth and claw." Unlike Edmund O. Wilson or Richard Dawkins, she does not have to explain love and altruism as a "strategy" to gain selfish ends but celebrates them as the very heart of evolution.
The impact of a massive boloid 65 million years ago wiped out all the big dinosaurs. Barring another such catastrophe, it seems likely that the human species is the best candidate for bringing about its own extinction unless, as Sahtouris emphasizes, we grow up as humans and "take the responsibility for using our freedom in healthful ways, to help rebalance the great ongoing dance of Gaian creation and to develop harmonious new patterns within it." Perhaps the most remarkable thing about EarthDance is the way Sahtouris extends her grasp of cosmic, biological, and social evolution into more than simply a vision but a program for restructuring the economic and political forces of our human world from the ground up rather than the top down. With extraordinary insight she sees this restructuring as beginning with the endogenous creativity of the World Wide Web as well as the thousands upon thousands of new "cells" of human creative communion that are springing up all over the world. In one more stage of autopoesis, "self-creation," she notes how all these individuals and groups come together in conferences and seminars to share their insights, pool their talents, and barter their resources. EarthDance is Elisabet Sahtouris' invitation to the entire human species to join the cosmic dance that alone can instill new life into the planetary ballroom we call Earth.
One final observation: Sahtouris does not simply represent the new post-Darwinian biology but is one of the leaders in the new twenty-first century science. In Biology Revisioned, a book he co-authored with Sahtouris, the late Willis Harman called the new science "Wholeness Science" as contrasted with the old "Separateness Science." When you read EarthDance, you are reading "Wholeness Science" in its most elegant, poetic and visionary expression.