This isn't about the intelligent design debate, although it does consider a driving or guiding force to evolutionary adaptation that I guess some might consider godlike (some mother goddess thing, maybe).
The first post was preamble really; ground rules. It's taken me a while to get to the follow up.
The point I really want to make begins with this line from that first post: "Generation after generation making the same dumb mistakes in the same way, in the same place; generation after generation of predators exploiting the fact."
Or in our case, generation after generation of rulers deploying the same techniques to keep generation after generation of the ruled in line.
So how does it work? Is something in the evolutionary process preventing us from progressing, stopping us learning from the past?
Firstly, to address this, I think we have to separate the interests of the species and the individual.
In the adaptive evolution model (which seems to fit the evidence), it is clearly in the interest of the species for generation after generation to make the same mistakes. The interests of species and individual are not congruent here – the species gets individuals who meet the basic 'fitness' criteria (i.e. they survived), perhaps breeding for luck as much as apparently more obvious criteria like agility and fast learning. Perhaps breeding for traits we can't yet discern.
But the main point is this, not only are the species and individual not congruent, they are diametrically opposed. It actually seems to be in the interests of the species that these individuals die. How does that work for human beings? Generation after generation, who keeps dying in the interests of the 'species'?
Well, in our 'modern' societies, that's pretty easy – it tends to be the young, same as with the birds. Even more, it tends to be young men – through suicide, drugs, war, violence etc.
There are lots of reasons for this, some more obvious than others. In the simplest terms, we are animals with over-developed brains. These brains, and the self and the mind they engender, are not fully survival oriented – they can be hard to live with. Consequently we are afflicted with a range of mental disorders – depression, bipolar, schizophrenia etc.
And unsurprisingingly, adolescence is when these problems can be sharpest – the individual, moulded by the ideals and moral truths of childhood literature, often faces the betrayal of their personality as understood to that point, in the service of animal sexuality. Hormonal drives and competition for partners create very different people of us.
As do the mechanics of lust. Perhaps nowhere else do the the interests of the species assert themselves more clearly over the individual. Do you understand why you find certain types sexually attractive and not others? We can bang on about parental types and Freud, but really we have no idea. And here I think we see some sign of our quarry. This movement from childhood innocence and aspirations to adolescent betrayal is a major theme in our cultures.
I've riffed before on the subject of eusociality – essentially the idea that our species has 'personality' and intent which is nothing to do with our character as individuals, or even groups, and especially not our pretensions to political morality and rationality.
To deploy this idea as metaphor – what do we know about this creature, it's aims and methods?
Nothing reassuring: disdain for individual life, a preference for violent and military solutions, and a apparent preference for the potential over the actual (evidenced in the killing of individuals to serve future generations).
We might even observe signs of our quarry in Elliot wave theory – the apparent fibonacci ratio between optimists to pessimists. Which in electoral terms suggests a reality-oriented pessimism is unlikely to ever win out over optimists in denial.
Of course it's obvious that optimism is beneficial for species survival and breeding – you have to be optimistic on some level to build for the future, for future generations. And optimism can also favour future potential over current pain. We see this in child rearing practices constantly, the deferral of hoped for benefit to a notional future, as parents make sacrifices to provide opportunities for their children, for their line.
So for those of us concerned with injustice, this supra-organism revealed in evolution is probably the real problem, not politics – certainly not the farcical decaying credibility of propagandised two party politics.
Perhaps our problem is not that we are alienated from our animal roots and primitive past, but that we haven't escaped them.
For as long as this creature breeds humans who are viscerally addicted to violent solutions – like all those parents so easily swayed by the witchdoctor's skull on a stick – we are completely doomed to a dark and bloody future, regardless of our achievements in the sciences and material culture. We will continue to breed a core constituency, a majority, able to bear and ignore injustice (including against its own) and its wider implications (even environmental catastrophe), by focussing on the good news and mythical future potential.
Given all this, it's not surprising that intelligent young idealists and pessimists turn to suicide. Especially since adolescence is also the age of social adapation – the transition from the ideals instilled in childhood to the less attractive reality of social existence and competitive economics.
Anyway, just one point to take from this, the interests of the species and individual can be and often are diametrically and violently opposed.
I'm hardly the first to notice this, and Part 3 (when I get round to it) will look at insights and strategies from the past on this subject – including the experience and practices of early Christian ascetics, and the institutions they created to pass their values down to future.Powered by Sidelines