August 26, 2014
"Our ancestors spent well over 99 percent of our species' evolutionary history living ...in small, nomadic bands of a few dozen individuals who got all of their food each day by gathering plants or by hunting animals. ... Generation after generation, for 10 million years, natural selection slowly sculpted the human brain, favoring circuitry that was good at solving the day-to-day problems of our hunter-gatherer ancestors ... Those whose circuits were better designed for solving these problems left more children, and we are descended from them." --Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, Primer on Evolutionary Psychology

"...about 10,000 years ago we invented agriculture and underwent the most dramatic of all changes to our lifestyle. From semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, we settled down to a life of farming that led to a dramatic expansion of the population and the establishment of cities and organised religion and culture.
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"[In Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilisation, Spencer Wells] says. 'We spent an enormous amount of time as hominids and as primates living as hunter-gatherers. That is the natural way for us to live, and we're suddenly living in this profoundly unnatural way, and we're still in the process of adapting to it and working out how to live with it.' ... 'We were once used to living in groups of no more than about 150 individuals. Now we live in cities of millions'... " --Spencer Wells: 'At root, we're still hunters,' The Independent, Monday, 7 June 2010
"Depressed? Of course we're all depressed. We've been so quickly, violently, and irreconcilably plucked from nature, from physical labor, from kinship and village mentality, from every natural and primordial anti-depressant. The further society 'progresses,' the grander the scale of imbalance." --M. Robin D'Antan
"I must try to live in society and yet remain untouched by its pitfalls." --Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi
"I tell you, Nerburn, being an Indian isn't easy. ...all of a sudden, we're the only group people are trying to get into. Why do you think this is?" ..."I think it's because the white people know we had something that was real, that we lived the way the Creator meant people to live on this land. They want that. They know that the white people are messing up." --Lakota sage, Dan, Kent Nerburn's, Neither Wolf nor Dog -- On Forgotten Roads With an Indian Elder, (Novato, CA: New World Library 2002) p. 60&61

Rebellion? VClip 1

Click here if video doesn't play after a bit.

Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Color Purple"

Preface --- and, Who Should Read This Book

Are we humans "good?" Or are we "evil?" Are there other alternatives?

Are you comfortable in the modern world? Do you think things are as they should be, that "God is in His heaven and all is right with the world?"

Or do you perhaps feel you are living in "The Matrix?"

Are you in rebellion? Should you be? And no, I'm not just talking to teens and the younger generation.

One of the problems with human design is that we have both the biological equivalent of ROM (genetically based behavioral specifications) and RAM -- that is, we can learn. But one problem with "learning" is that we may learn behavioral patterns at odds with our biological ROM, that is, behavior in conflict with our natural drives and instincts. For example, priests and nuns may learn celibacy. But there's more, lots more - - -

You're stuck with your genes. You inherited them from your archaic ancestors. Your archaic ancestors had those genes because they specified chemical, physical, and behavioral characteristics that, in their archaic environment, helped keep them alive. These genes and their characteristics were chosen by the process of natural selection -- over, literally, millions of years -- because they aided your ancestors to survive. In that archaic environment.

There hasn't been time for any significant human genetic evolution since that archaic environment, that is, since the dawn of "civilization," approximately 10,000 to 13,000 years ago -- which is in the neighborhood of 400 to 500 25-year generations. So you have pretty much the same chemical, physical, and behavioral predispositions your archaic ancestors did. You can either be in tune with these genetic predispositions - - - or not.

The same goes for "culture" and "civilization" -- which are all learned. Although they hopefully have their roots in our ROM, they exist in changeable RAM only. They too can either be in tune with our genetic predispositions - - - or not.

As it turns out, our archaic predispositions have been much maligned in the modern world, as has our "human nature," which, if you think about it, is the result of those archaic genes of ours. The good news is, we will discover that this distrust of our nature is largely unwarranted. I regularly find myself in the position of arguing that we humans are closer to "good" than we are to "evil."

It's my contention that that argument has become necessary because modern (2007 A.D.) "civilization" has evolved to be largely antithetical to our basic natures. It's only relative to certain aspects and misunderstandings of that modern civilization that our basic human nature may appear in need of defense. That is, it's not "human nature" that's at fault, but, rather, certain basic, probably temporary, "mistakes" in RAM-based modern civilization. I think many of these mistakes will begin to become apparent as we explore "Our ANCESTORS" in Part I of "The HI-JACKING of CIVILIZATION."

This doesn't mean we need to give up hot showers, shopping malls, computers or most of the other modern conveniences most of us have gotten used to. Quite the contrary, as I think you'll see in Part II: The ROOTS of TRADE -- although in some cases, temporarily giving up some of those conveniences may be a useful learning exercise.

But, over all, should we be stuffed into "civilization" --- or, instead, should "civilization" suit us? I would contend that "civilization" should fit us, not the other way around.

In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s there was a controversy, one side of which implied that "the other way around" (learned programs over our inherited programs) was at least possible, that we could be shaped to fit civilization. That controversey showed up in philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc. and found its way onto the political stage in many subtle -- and some not-so-subtle -- forms.

The controversy was the debate over whether we humans were controlled by our genes (our ROM programs) or, alternatively, controlled by what we were taught -- particularly during childhood as we grew up. The short-hand for this debate was "nature vs. nurture." "Nature" was ROM-based -- what we inherited, indelibly stamped into our very essence; "nurture" was what we learned, changeable, and theoretically, everything we were taught. [1]

In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the consensus was that "nurture" ruled, that genetic factors weren't very important in humans, and that we could be shaped into almost any behavioral form by what we were taught. There was in fact, a school of thought called "behaviorism," and particularly "radical behaviorism," propounded by a fellow who went by the name B.F. Skinner.

It's true that under the right circumstances, we humans can be taught to go against our genetic heritage -- for an extreme example nuns, priests, monks, etc. can reach the conclusion not to procreate. This is extreme because if the drive to procreate weren't one of the strongest natural human urges, our ancestors wouldn't have and we wouldn't be here.

In line with the nurture notion, the earliest models of advertising assumed that all you had to do was to get a "prospect" to listen to your message and they would then buy your product. This ultimately resulted in what was known in its day as "high pressure salesmanship." But why, then, was auto-giant Ford not able to sell its Edsel? Etc.

And since western culture, unlike some others, decried homosexuality, why not just nurture those folks into the standard heterosexual model? In fact, the only thing so far discovered that might have been successful in this enterprise was LSD therapy as developed by 60s drug culture guru and psychiatrist Timothy Leary. Whether or not this therapy was effective long term, we'll never know. Though receiving a medal for his work from the State of New York, Leary pursued other avenues which eventually involved escaping from prison. And the state, in its infinite wisdom, outlawed LSD.

As the computer wonks say, GIGO .

Those things based on fallacious information and models are predestined to malfunction, and they regularly do so in unexpected and often spectacular ways, often producing -- in the lexicon of "chaos theory," "emergent systems," and "spontaneous order" -- unintended consequences.

We can see the cracks in the nurture model of human nature in the last quarter of the 20th Century and early days of the 21st Century. One example: the sexual abuse scandals plaguing many churches despite those vows of celibacy. Another example: despite copious advertising, Ford could not sell its Edsel. And homosexuality, apparently incurable, [2] has now "come out of the closet" big time.

Meanwhile the dregs of "nurture" still plague us, particularly in the arena of legislation and law. If nurture is more effective and important, then why not, B.F. Skinner-like, shape human behavior just as we shape animal behavior?

THE case in point, so-called "positive law," is predicated on the notion that human behavior can -- and now should be -- shaped to the increasingly incoherent model patched together by legislators, that is, politicians. Clearly and definitely, this is a "nurture" notion. And even if nurture were correct, who says politicians know what's best? Especially what's best for everyone?

Once this deadly notion is put into practice, there are no significant limits to what legislators think they can do. The result is that the majority of modern so-called "laws" have no connection to human nature, other than to quite regularly violate it.

And, since legislatures are "hu-manned" by politicians -- folks who are good at getting elected and usually little else -- they are regularly hi-jacked by lobbyists, nearly always retained by economic interests which donate to re-election campaigns. As a result, modern legal systems, largely the result of how legislatures pass the time, attempt to shape us, to the tune of the mercantilist model, into "good taxpayers" -- and targeted consumers.

There are also other strong ideological elements in politics and legislatures, in particular, religious elements that attempt to shape human nature into the forms suggested by their evolved mythology. And, of course, there is more than just one evolved mythology attempting to shape things.

These are some of the main forces that have molded cultures into forms that no longer suit our basic genetic predispositions. This is especially true of modern Western cultures, which have been moulded into proto-totalitarian mercantilist forms mentioned above. Until we realize this explicitly, we will tend to measure our behavior against what have become the accepted cultural "norms" -- rather than judging the current (2007 A.D.) cultural "norms" against our genetically decreed nature.

And not everyone is "normal" -- and why should they be? In fact, we'll discover that, for good reason, our genetic predisposition includes biases against "normal."

Judging us -- rather than the current "norms" -- is a serious mistake: Even in the unlikely situations where we can be bent and twisted against our genetic nature, why should we be? While it is possible to transport the space shuttle on the back of a specially designed 747, it's not something you want to do regularly. Likewise, if you expect us humans to perform in ways inconsistent and/or incompatible with our basic genetic predispositions -- and to do so regularly -- you can regularly expect unintended consequences. And eventually spectacular failures.

And, if we can sometimes be shaped not to procreate, how else might we be shaped by outside forces? And just exactly what are we really like? Are we "good" or are we "bad?" Do we shape ourselves, or are we shaped by others? How can we tell which "parts" of ourselves are of our own, inherent nature and which are cultural artifacts?

On the other hand, which parts of modern cultures make life easier and better and are either positive or at least neutral to our genetic predisposition? Or even a little negative, but worth the price? And are there characteristics of our human nature which legitimately need to be addressed by modern cultures because these characteristics ^^w significantly degrade our quality of life?

The answer to that last question is, "Yes," particularly in one major case. We'll look at the ironically perverse problems caused by our instincts to "take care of our own" beginning in Part III: The HI-JACKING -- and continuing thru Part IV: The AFTERMATH.

See, the language gets it wrong. It's not nature versus nurture. Each has its use. We do learn and sometimes pass on what we learn to later generations. And there's no good reason that what we learn and pass on needs to be inimical to what we inherit in our genes. But when we frame things as "good" versus "evil" and emphasize competition rather than co-Operation -- which is something we regularly do in many areas -- we chance losing one side or the other and thus risk losing the balance. You can see this loss of balance, particularly in Western cultures. All those things you see and read about today -- and feel deep down are wrong -- probably are. We'll see if there may be some ways to fix some of these things in Part V: Re-BALANCING.

Who should read this book? Anyone who feels out of step with the modern world. Or more accurately, feels that the modern world is out of step with them. You will find important parts of yourself here. I suspect you will find things that will help you give voice and substance to many of the subliminal and suppressed feelings and instincts you may have been experiencing from time to time. And just as importantly, I expect you will find as well the parts of our culture that are true to our natures -- and be able to separate them from the parts that have been, as you will see, hi-jacked.

Health, happiness & long life,
L. Reichard White
March 25, 2006

P.S. The story I'm attempting to tell here isn't an easy read. It was an even harder write. An anecdote occurs to me:

It seems that anthropologist Gregory Bateson, after a particularly arduous attempt to explain a nicety of semantics to his students, overheard one of them telling another, "Bateson knows something, but he's not telling."

From the responses of early readers, I suspect that at first, you and I are going to have a similar relationship. But there are worthwhile ideas here, and if you bear with me and think diligently, I'm pretty sure you will be able to tease them out of my often clumsy but well-intentioned attempts to explain them.


NOTES:

[1] We will discover Theodore Roosevelt's "Brain Trust" at the center of a great deal of the dissemination of this "nurture over nature" notion. return

[2] Homosexuality being "incurable" ass-u-me_s that homosexual behavior is a disease, and assumption that isn't supported by the facts, such behavior being fairly common in other species for example. return



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