The Human Condition Documentary Proposal—Part 2 Soul
The Selfish Gene ‘Excuse’
It will be proposed that there have been two ways in which multicellular animals have been able to become fully integrated. However, before presenting these explanations it is necessary to re-examine humanity’s need to live in denial of the condemning truth of integrative meaning, and all other human condition-confronting truth.
The main point argued thus far is that while genes behave selfishly, the genetic learning system is primarily concerned with developing the order of matter on Earth. In fact, as has been emphasised, genetic refinement gave rise to the great variety of ordered matter we call life. However, as a tool for developing order genetic refinement has a particular limitation, in that it requires traits to always be selfish since unconditionally selfless traits tend to self-eliminate.
Although genetic refinement is dedicated to integrating matter, humans’ need to find an excuse for our divisive behaviour has been so great that we chose to ignore this greater truth and focus only on the fact that genes are selfish as a means to justify our own competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour. Indeed an entire industry of denial has developed around the ‘selfish gene’ excuse. (If we could be honest with ourselves we would admit that our competitiveness and aggression is psychologically derived, as will be explained in the synopsis of Part 4 of this proposed series.)
The history of humans’ misrepresentation of the gene-based learning system had its origins with the excuse that argued competitive and aggressive behaviour ‘is only natural because, after all, we are only animals and animals are always competing with each other, fighting and killing one another. Animals are “red in tooth and claw”—so that’s why we are.’
With the development of science this original misrepresentation of what is going on in nature, namely the integration of matter, was given an equally erroneous biological basis. It was referred to as Social Darwinism, the corruption of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection as being concerned with ‘the survival of the fittest’. As emphasised, the real concern or objective of genetic refinement, or ‘natural selection’ as Darwin originally termed the concept in his 1859 book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, was the integration or development of order of matter on Earth. Order is what Page 18 of
Print Edition was being learnt or refined or developed. Indeed the word ‘development’ will come to replace the word ‘evolution’ in biology because evolution can be, and has been, misrepresented as meaning change is undirected, meaningless and random.
It was Darwin’s associates, Herbert Spencer and Alfred Russel Wallace, who persuaded him to replace the term ‘natural selection’ (as used in the first editions of this great book) with the term ‘survival of the fittest’. They argued the term ‘natural selection’ could be interpreted as implying the involvement of a personal selector. Darwin’s friend and great defender, Thomas Huxley, called it an ‘unlucky substitution’ (Charles Darwin, Sir Gavin de Beer, 1963, p.178 of 290), and it certainly was. While a personal, interventionist God was not involved, God in the form of an integrative purpose to existence was. While Darwin’s idea of natural selection did not recognise the involvement of integrative purpose in change, the concept of natural selection did not preclude it. Natural selection simply recognised that some varieties of a species reproduced more than others. Whether those that reproduced more could be viewed as winners, as being ‘fitter’ or more worthwhile or ‘better’ than others, was not decided. With integrative meaning acknowledged, it can be seen that ‘losing’ in the sense of not reproducing can be consistent with integration. Acts of unconditional selflessness, where an individual gives their life for the maintenance of the larger whole, and as a result does not reproduce, can be very meaningful, a fitter, ‘better’ way of behaving.
Social Darwinism became further refined with the publication of Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson’s famous 1975 book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. This work claimed to be ‘the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior’, and asked readers in its final chapter to ‘consider man in the free spirit of natural history, as though we were zoologists from another planet.’ Sociobiology maintains that all behaviour can be explained in terms of genetic selfishness. In the case of social behaviour, Sociobiology argues that individuals will foster others who are related to them because they will, in effect, be selfishly fostering the reproduction of their own genes. Much social behaviour in animals can be explained by this ‘genetic nepotism’ or ‘kin selection’ as it is termed, however not all social behaviour. As will be explained shortly, cooperative, social behaviour in humans is not a result of genetic selfishness but of genuine selfless, loving concern for others. Wilson’s encouragement to view ourselves as biological free spirits is a reference to his view that God or purpose is not involved and that both our selfish and cooperative behaviour can be explained by gene selfishness.
The latest refinement of this contrived excuse that ‘genes are selfish and that’s why we are’ appeared under the guise of Evolutionary Psychology. This theory argues that even acts of unconditional selflessness or altruism amongst humans can be explained in terms of genetic selfishness. In his 1994 book The Moral Animal: Why We Are The Way We Are—The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Robert Wright attributed a cooperative inclination in humans—our ‘morals’—to biological situations of reciprocity, to situations where animals cooperate for mutual benefit. He maintained that acts of selflessness amongst humans are really acts of biological selfishness, of our genes ‘saying’ ‘I’ll scratch your back on the condition you scratch mine’. With this theory, denial-compliant biologists finally found a means to misportray the cooperatively orientated, altruistic, moral, ideal-world-aware instinctive self or soul in humans as being nothing more than an expression of a subtle form of selfishness in the human make-up. How humans’ genuinely altruistic instinctive self or soul was formed will be explained shortly.
In his 1998 book, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Wilson took the art of denial to its absolute extremity, suggesting Evolutionary Psychology’s supposed ability to explain the moral aspects of humans means biology and philosophy, the sciences and the humanities—indeed science and religion—could be reconciled. He spoke of ‘the attempted Page 19 of
Print Edition linkage of the sciences and humanities…of consilience, literally a “jumping together” of knowledge…to create a common groundwork of explanation’ (p.6 of 374), and went so far as to say, ‘The strongest appeal of consilience is…the value of understanding the human condition with a higher degree of certainty’ (p.7). An extract from Consilience, published in the prestigious journal The Atlantic Monthly (Apr. 1998), and boldly titled ‘The Biological Basis of Morality’, featured this introduction: ‘Philosophers and theologians have almost always conceived of moral instincts as being transcendent or God-given. Is it possible, though, that ethical reasoning derives not from outside but from our very nature as evolving material creatures?’ Just how bold Wilson was in his claims to have made sense of the philosophical aspect of human life using biology can be illustrated by one of the headings used in the extract, ‘The Origins of Religion’. Religions have been the custodians—albeit using abstract, metaphysical terms—of the truth of the existence of the Godly, integrative ideals of life, and all the other great truths associated with those ideals. In particular it has preserved the truth that within humans there exists a soul and spirit imbued with awareness of the Godly, moral, integrative, ideal state. These truths can be explained biologically (as will be done shortly), as can ‘the human condition’, the dilemma of the existence of good and evil in the human make-up (this will be done in the synopsis of Part 4 of this proposed documentary series). However to use biological lies to ‘explain’ them is an act of extreme dishonesty, the ultimate denial.
Having dismissed the human soul as merely a subtle form of selfishness, Wilson brazenly summarised his argument by saying ‘[Jean-Jacques] Rousseau claimed [that humanity] was originally a race of noble savages in a peaceful state of nature, who were later corrupted…[but what] Rousseau invented [was] a stunningly inaccurate form of anthropology’ (Consilience, 1998, p.37 of 374). As will be explained shortly, the ‘stunningly inaccurate form of anthropology’ is Evolutionary Psychology and the stunningly accurate interpretation is in fact Rousseau’s view that humans have a pure, altruistic instinctive awareness or moral nature within them.
In the following quote, Randolph Nesse, Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Michigan, expresses a justified feeling of alarm and revulsion towards the theory of Evolutionary Psychology: ‘The discovery that tendencies to altruism are shaped by benefits to genes is one of the most disturbing in the history of science. When I first grasped it, I slept badly for many nights, trying to find some alternative that did not so roughly challenge my sense of good and evil. Understanding this discovery can undermine commitment to morality—it seems silly to restrain oneself if moral behavior is just another strategy for advancing the interests of one’s genes. Some students, I am embarrassed to say, have left my courses with a naïve notion of the selfish-gene theory that seemed to them to justify selfish behavior, despite my best efforts to explain the naturalistic fallacy’ (The Origins of Virtue, Matt Ridley, 1996, p.126 of 295).
A comprehensive list of the contrived excuses that have been used for humans’ divisive behaviour include the original excuse that ‘animals are red in tooth and claw and that’s why humans are’; Social Darwinism, with its focus upon the need to compete for survival; B.F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory, which argued that man is a slave to reward and punishment; Konrad Lorenz’s Theory, which excused humans’ divisive behaviour by saying it is stereotyped and the product of past experiences—that it is instinctive; Robert Ardrey’s Theory, which stated human competitiveness was due to an imperative need to defend our territory; Edward O. Wilson’s Sociobiology Theory, which argued that our selfishness is due to humans’ need to perpetuate our genes; Chaos Theory, with its emphasis (at least in its title) on the world being chaotic rather than ordered; and finally, Evolutionary Psychology, with its use of reciprocity to account for any acts of altruism in human behaviour.
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Print Edition While proponents of the excuse that humans’ divisive behaviour is a result of selfish genes have seen their contrivance through to what is now the ultimate denial—that humans don’t have genuinely altruistic, moral instincts—evidence will shortly be given showing we do have an ideal-world-aware, unconditionally selfless, moral instinctive self or soul.
In summary, the genetic learning or refinement or information processing system is an integrative process, a way of developing the order of matter on Earth. It is not a ‘survival of the fittest’, divisive process, as Social Darwinism, Sociobiology and Evolutionary Psychology have argued. While genetic refinement has enabled the development of a great deal of ordered matter, the great variety of ‘life’ on Earth, as a tool for developing order it was limited in that it could not develop unconditionally selfless traits. Unconditional selflessness—the ability to consider the good of the whole above the good of self—is the ultimate integrative trait for parts of a whole to have, and the inability to develop it is a serious limitation in the development of larger wholes.