Page 108 of PDF Version Why do People Lie?
Written by Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith, 2011
The reason why people lie and live in denial is because we humans will not accept that we are fundamentally bad or unworthy—AND NOR SHOULD WE! The greater truth about our less-than-ideally-behaved, seemingly-imperfect, ‘good-and-evil’-afflicted, even ‘fallen’ or corrupted HUMAN CONDITION is that while we humans may appear to be a bad or unworthy species, we are in fact the complete opposite!
How this is possible—how humans could be good when we appear to be bad—is the great paradox of the human condition that the whole human race has sought to explain and understand since our species first became conscious some two million years ago. Unfortunately, however, until we found that clarifying understanding of ourselves we needed some way of coping, of protecting ourselves from the unjust condemnation emanating both from within and from the world at large, and so it was that DENIAL or EVASION or LYING became an unavoidable feature of human behaviour.
So that’s why people lie—to protect themselves from unjust condemnation. Since the greater truth is that humans aren’t fundamentally bad, a lie that said we weren’t bad was less of a lie than a partial truth that said we were. In this sense, the lie that ‘The apple pie fell in my lap’ was actually more honest than the truth that ‘I stole the apple pie’!! Yes, only when we could explain the , explain why we humans are fundamentally good and not bad, would the need for denial/lying disappear from human behaviour.
MOST WONDERFULLY, biology is now at last able to provide this dreamed-of, redeeming, ‘good-and-evil’-reconciling, ‘burden-of-guilt’-lifting, relieving and thus psychologically rehabilitating, human-race-transforming EXPLANATION OF THE HUMAN CONDITION—which means denial/lying IS now redundant and WILL disappear from human behaviour forever, and no one will ever again wonder why do people lie because no one will ever again need to lie!! (And it should be mentioned that this relieving explanation of our species’ deeply psychologically troubled condition is not the psychosis-avoiding, trivialising, dishonest account of it that the biologist E.O. Wilson has put forward in his theory of Eusociality, but the psychosis-addressing-and-solving, real explanation of it.)
Page 109 of PDF Version The dilemma of the human condition arises from the fact that while it’s undeniable that humans are capable of great love, we also have an unspeakable history of brutality, rape, torture, murder and war. Despite all our marvellous accomplishments, the reality is that humans have been the most ferocious and destructive force that has ever lived on Earth! Even in our everyday behaviour, we humans have very often been extremely competitive, aggressive and selfish when clearly the ideals of life are to be the complete opposite, namely cooperative, loving and selfless.
HOWEVER, while all the evidence has seemed to indicate that we are a deeply flawed species, even some terrible mistake, we humans have always believed there had to be a greater truth that would explain and, in the process, bring relieving, healing and redeeming understanding to our ‘’-afflicted, deeply psychologically troubled human condition—and we couldn’t rest until we found it! Every day that we got out of bed and faced the world we were defying the implication that we were bad. When we humans shook our fist at the heavens we were in essence saying, ‘One day, one day, we are going to explain that we humans are good and not bad after all, and until that day arrives we are not going to accept criticism!’—hence our defiant refrains, ‘No retreat, no surrender’, ‘Death before dishonour’, ‘Give me liberty [from unjust condemnation] or give me death’—and hence the reason why people lie, both to themselves and others: we simply will not accept that we are a fundamentally bad, worthless species because we don’t believe we are, and, most wonderfully, we now have the truthful, real explanation for why we are not!
When the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung said, ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’ it was because he recognised that ONLY finding understanding of our dark side could end our underlying insecurity about our fundamental goodness and worth as humans and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’. Similarly, when the ancients emblazoned the words ‘Man, know thyself’ across their sacred temples it was because ONLY understanding of the psychological reason for why we humans have not been ideally behaved could heal that condition. Knowledge, specifically self-knowledge, is what the human race has been tirelessly working towards since the dawn of some two million years ago.
Yes, the eternal hope, faith, trust and indeed belief of the human race has been that one day the all-clarifying, reconciling, healing and thus TRANSFORMING, truthful explanation of would finally be found, freeing humans at last of their insecure, good-and-evil-embattled human condition. And, as incredible as it is, through the advances that have been made in , it is now possible to present that dreamed-of, reconciling and rehabilitating, truthful understanding of ourselves. That day of days, that greatest of all breakthroughs has finally arrived. That holy grail of the human journey of finding first principle-based, truthful biological understanding of the human condition is finally here. (Importantly, understanding of the human condition doesn’t condone or sanction ‘bad’ behaviour, it heals and by so doing ends it.)
From a situation of bewildering confusion and darkness about what it is to be human we have broken through to a world drenched in the light of relieving understanding. The dawn of enlightenment has arrived; the sun is finally coming up to drain away all the darkness from our lives. This is THE most amazing moment in human history.
Page 110 of PDF Version So, what is the wonderfully reconciling, exonerating and thus psychologically rehabilitating, truthful biological explanation of the human condition that brings about the long dreamed-of TRANSFORMATION of the human race—in the process rendering denial/lying obsolete and thus ending the need to ask ‘why do people lie?’
Before presenting the truthful explanation of the human condition, the false excuse/lie that we employed to justify our species’ divisive competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour while we couldn’t truthfully explain it needs to be mentioned. Yes, in one of the most extreme examples of how humans have used denial/lies as a defence against the unjust condemnation of our seemingly-imperfect human condition, biologists asserted that our competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour is a product of savage animal instincts in us that make us fight and compete for food, shelter, territory and a mate. Of course, this ‘explanation’, which has been put forward in the biological theories of Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, Multilevel Selection and E.O. Wilson’s Eusociality and basically argues that ‘genes are competitive and selfish and that’s why we are’, can’t be the real explanation for our competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour. Firstly, it overlooks the fact that human behaviour involves our unique fully conscious thinking mind. Descriptions like egocentric, arrogant, deluded, artificial, hateful, mean, immoral, alienated, etc, all imply a consciousness-derived, psychological dimension to our behaviour. The real issue—the psychological problem in our thinking minds that we have suffered from—is the dilemma of our human condition, the issue of our species’ ‘good-and-evil’-afflicted, less-than-ideal, even ‘fallen’ or corrupted, state. We humans suffer from a consciousness-derived, psychological HUMAN CONDITION, not an instinct-controlled animal condition—our condition is unique to us fully conscious humans. (A brief description of the theories of Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, Multilevel Selection and Eusociality that blame our divisive behaviour on savage instincts rather than on a consciousness-derived psychosis is presented in the in this, The Book of Real Answers to Everything!, with the provided in the freely-available, online book Freedom: Expanded Book 1.)
The second reason the savage-instincts-in-us excuse can’t possibly be the real explanation for our divisive, selfish and aggressive behaviour is that it overlooks the fact that we humans have altruistic, cooperative, loving moral instincts—what we recognise as our ‘conscience’—and these moral instincts in us are not derived from reciprocity, from situations where you only do something for others in return for a benefit from them, as Evolutionary Psychologists would have us believe. And nor are they derived from warring with other groups of humans as advocates of the theory of Eusociality would have us believe. No, we have an unconditionally selfless, fully altruistic, truly loving, universally-considerate-of-others-not-competitive-with-other-groups, genuinely moral conscience. Our original instinctive state was the opposite of being competitive, selfish and aggressive: it was fully cooperative, selfless and loving. (How we humans acquired unconditionally selfless moral instincts when it would seem that an unconditionally selfless, fully altruistic trait is going to self-eliminate and thus not ever be able to become established in a species is briefly explained in the above-mentioned , and more fully explained in —however, the point being made here is that the savage-instincts-in-us excuse is completely inconsistent with the fact that we have genuine and entirely moral instincts, NOT savage instincts. Charles Darwin recognised the Page 111 of PDF Version difference in our moral nature when he said that ‘the moral sense affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals’ (The Descent of Man, 1871, p.495).)
So, what is the truthful, denial/lying-free, human-condition-addressing rather than human-condition-avoiding, biological explanation of our species’ present seemingly-highly-imperfect, competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour? The answer begins with an analysis of consciousness.
Very briefly, nerves were originally developed for the coordination of movement in animals, but, once developed, their ability to store impressions—which is what we refer to as ‘memory’—gave rise to the potential to develop understanding of cause and effect. If you can remember past events, you can compare them with current events and identify regularly occurring experiences. This knowledge of, or insight into, what has commonly occurred in the past enables you to predict what is likely to happen in the future and to adjust your behaviour accordingly. Once insights into the nature of change are put into effect, the self-modified behaviour starts to provide feedback, refining the insights further. Predictions are compared with outcomes and so on. Much developed, and such refinement occurred in the human brain, nerves can sufficiently associate information to reason how experiences are related, learn to understand and become CONSCIOUS of, or aware of, or intelligent about, the relationship between events that occur through time. Thus consciousness means being sufficiently aware of how experiences are related to attempt to manage change from a basis of understanding.
What is so significant about this process is that once our nerve-based learning system became sufficiently developed for us to become conscious and able to effectively manage events, our conscious intellect was then in a position to wrest control from our gene-based learning system’s instincts, which, up until then, had been controlling our lives. Basically, once our self-adjusting intellect emerged it was capable of taking over the management of our lives from the instinctive orientations we had acquired through the natural selection of genetic traits that adapted us to our environment.
HOWEVER, it was at this juncture, when our conscious intellect challenged our instincts for control, that a terrible battle broke out between our instincts and intellect, the effect of which was the extremely competitive, selfish and aggressive state that we call the human condition.
To elaborate, when our conscious intellect emerged it was neither suitable nor sustainable for it to be orientated by instincts—it had to find understanding to operate effectively and fulfil its great potential to manage life. However, when our intellect began to exert itself and experiment in the management of life from a basis of understanding, in effect challenging the role of the already established instinctual self, a battle unavoidably broke out between the instinctive self and the newer conscious self.
Our intellect began to experiment in understanding as the only means of discovering the correct and incorrect understandings for managing existence, but the instincts—being in effect ‘unaware’ or ‘ignorant’ of the intellect’s need to carry out these experiments—‘opposed’ any understanding-produced deviations from the established instinctive orientations: they ‘criticised’ and ‘tried to stop’ the conscious mind’s necessary search for knowledge. To illustrate the situation, imagine what would happen if we put a fully conscious mind on the head of a migrating bird. The bird is following an instinctive flight path acquired over thousands of generations of natural selection, but it now has a conscious mind that needs to understand how to behave, and the only way it can acquire Page 112 of PDF Version that understanding is by experimenting in understanding—for example, thinking, ‘I’ll fly down to that island and have a rest.’ But such a deviation from the migratory flight path would naturally result in the instincts resisting the deviation, leaving the conscious intellect in a serious dilemma: if it obeys its instincts it will not feel ‘criticised’ by its instincts but neither will it find knowledge. Obviously, the intellect could not afford to give in to the instincts, and unable to understand and thus explain why its experiments in self-adjustment were necessary, the conscious intellect had no way of refuting the implicit criticism from the instincts even though it knew it was unjust. Until the conscious mind found the redeeming understanding of why it had to defy the instincts (namely the scientific understanding of the difference in the way genes and nerves process information, that one is an orientating learning system while the other is an insightful learning system), the intellect was left having to endure a psychologically distressed, upset condition, with no choice but to defy that opposition from the instincts. The only forms of defiance available to the conscious intellect were to attack the instincts’ unjust criticism, try to deny or block from its mind the instincts’ unjust criticism, and attempt to prove the instincts’ unjust criticism wrong. In short—and to return to our human situation because we were the species that acquired the fully conscious mind—the psychologically upset angry, alienated and egocentric human-condition-afflicted state appeared—and with it, the art of lying. Our ‘conscious thinking self’, which is the dictionary definition of ‘ego’, became ‘centred’ or focused on the need to justify itself. We became ego-centric, self-centred or selfish, preoccupied with aggressively competing for opportunities to prove we are good and not bad—we unavoidably became selfish, aggressive and competitive.
What is so exonerating, rehabilitating and healing—and eliminating of the need for denial and deception—about this explanation of the human condition is that we can finally appreciate that there was a very good reason for our angry, alienated and egocentric lives; in fact, we can now see why we have not just been ego-centric, but ego-infuriated, even ego-gone-mad-with-pathological-lying-and-murderous-rage for having to live with so much unjust criticism. We can now see that our conscious mind was NOT the evil villain it has so long been portrayed as—such as in the Bible where Adam and Eve are demonised and ‘banished…from the Garden of Eden’ (Gen. 3:23) of our original innocent, all-loving, moral state for taking the ‘fruit…from the tree of knowledge’ (ibid. 3:3, 2:17). No, science has finally enabled us to lift the so-called ‘burden of guilt’ from the human race; in fact, to understand that we thinking, ‘knowledge’-finding, conscious humans are actually nothing less than the heroes of the story of life on Earth! This is because our fully conscious mind is surely nature’s greatest invention and to have had to endure the torture of being unjustly condemned as evil for so long (the anthropological evidence indicates we humans have been fully conscious for some two million years) must make us the absolute heroes of the story of life on Earth.
And BEST OF ALL, because this explanation of the human condition is redeeming and thus rehabilitating, all our upset angry, egocentric and dishonest, denial/lying-based alienated behaviour now subsides, bringing about the complete TRANSFORMATION OF THE HUMAN RACE. From being competitive, selfish and aggressive, humans return to being cooperative, selfless and loving. Our round of departure has ended. The poet T.S. Eliot wonderfully articulated our species’ journey from an original innocent, yet ignorant, state, to a psychologically upset ‘fallen’, corrupted state, and back to an uncorrupted, but Page 113 of PDF Version this time enlightened, state when he wrote, ‘We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’ (Little Gidding, 1942).
Yes, finding the exonerating, redeeming understanding of our dark, troubled, psychologically upset, human-condition-afflicted existence finally enables the human race to be healed and thus TRANSFORMED—it makes us ‘whole’ again, as Jung said it would. To quote Professor Harry Prosen, a former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, on this dreamed-of, greatest of all breakthroughs in science: ‘I have no doubt this biological explanation of the human condition is the holy grail of insight we have sought for the psychological rehabilitation of the human race’ (FREEDOM, 2016, Introduction).