The modern synthesis of genetics with evolution slanted our understanding of evolution and of ourselves by rejecting Darwin’s view of animals as participating in their own evolution. Defining evolution in terms of genetics, the modern synthesis indulges excessive individualism and distorted self-images as self-made. At the same time, such gene-centred thought, evoking images of master molecules making us who we are, hollows out volition and so also moral concerns and political alternatives. Drawing on the geography of thought, we argue that stubbornly tacit preformationist biological thought reflects and anchors social processes that limit adaptability in reaching toward sustainable living. We appeal for leveraging sustainability efforts by affirming in theory and in the public square an open image of human nature that recognises the participation of our ancestors in becoming who we are, obliging people to make their history together. Achieving the collective self-regulation sustainability requires may depend on correcting slanted reasoning about ourselves.