Freedom: Expanded Book 1—The Old Biology
Part 4:11 Darwin stopped short of participating in biological denial
Part 4:10 provided an overview description of the route science has taken—we now need to look more closely at what happened on that journey.
The area of enquiry within mechanistic science that was most relevant to finding the clues that would eventually make explanation of the human condition possible was biology, which deals with the science of life. As biological knowledge accumulated, questions, for instance, about the behaviour of different animals, were addressed and answers found. Eventually the question of the origin of the variety of life was addressed and the answer, discovered independently by both Charles Darwin and his contemporary Alfred Russel Wallace, was the process of ‘natural selection’. It was at this point that the origin of human behaviour came into focus, which caused a great deal of nervousness because obviously human behaviour involves the issue of our human condition, the issue of why humans aren’t ideally behaved.
I will now follow what happened in the quest to explain human behaviour when Charles Darwin put forward the idea of natural selection in his seminal 1859 book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.
Natural selection is the process by which some individuals in a population reproduce more than others in a given environment. Most significantly, in the first edition of The Origin of Species Darwin rightfully left it undecided as to whether those individuals who reproduced more could be viewed as winners, as being ‘fitter’, however, in later editions Darwin’s associates, Herbert Spencer and the aforementioned Alfred Russel Wallace (see letter from Wallace to Darwin, 2 Jul. 1866), persuaded him to substitute the term ‘natural selection’ with the term ‘survival of the fittest’. While Darwin’s friend and staunch defender, the English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley described the term ‘survival of the fittest’ as an ‘unlucky substitution’ (Charles Darwin, Sir Gavin de Beer, 1963, p.178 of 290), from the point of view of humanity needing to contrive an excuse for its divisive selfish, competitive and aggressive behaviour it was a lucky substitution because it suggested that the object of existence was to survive, providing upset humans with an excuse for their divisive selfish, have-to-take-care-of-self, aggressive and competitive behaviour.
As mentioned, the idea of natural selection states that some individuals reproduce and some don’t, but as to whether that means that those that survive are ‘fitter’ or better, Darwin properly left that undecided. To understand why I’ve said it was ‘rightfully’ left undecided, the process of natural selection needs to be explained more fully.
As explained in Part 4:4B, one of the truths that the upset human race has had to live in denial of is the truth of Integrative Meaning, the truth that matter tends to come together or integrate to form ever larger and more stable wholes. For matter to integrate, and a larger whole to form and hold together, the parts of that developing whole have to, in effect, consider the welfare of the larger whole over their own. Selfishness is disintegrative while selflessness is integrative. Selflessness is the glue that holds wholes together; it is, in fact, the theme of the integrative process and actually what we mean by the word ‘love’, with the old Christian word for love being ‘caritas’, meaning charity or giving or selflessness (see Col. 3:14, 1 Cor. 13:1-13, 10:24 and John 15:13). Therefore, if God is our religious term for the integrative theme and meaning of existence, then it is true that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8,16), or selflessness—and in fact, not just selflessness but unconditional selflessness, the capacity to, if required, make a full, self-sacrificing commitment to the maintenance of the larger whole. As explained in Part 4:4D, the limitation of the gene-based learning system is that it normally can’t develop unconditional selflessness, because if an unconditionally selfless trait develops it doesn’t tend to carry on, and in order to continue to exist genetically traits have to carry on. While unconditional selflessness is the glue that best holds wholes together, if an unconditionally selfless trait emerges and practices such self-sacrificial behaviour it won’t tend to carry on and therefore it normally can’t become selected for genetically. This inability of genes in almost every situation to develop unconditionally selfless or altruistic traits means that the gene-based learning system is limited in its ability to integrate matter. (The reason I have said that ‘normally’, ‘in almost every situation’ genetics can’t develop unconditional selflessness is because there was, in fact, one way it could, which was the way our primate forebears developed an instinctive capacity to behave unconditionally selflessly. How this was achieved, which was through the nurturing, love-indoctrination process, was also briefly explained in Part 4:4D, and will be fully explained in Part 8:4B.)
We can now see why it was ‘right’ for Darwin to leave it undecided as to whether individuals who do manage to reproduce are ‘fitter’ or better than those who don’t. It can be very meaningful for someone to give their life in the interest of the good of the whole and thus not reproduce their genes, as humans frequently do in war and in situations, for instance, where a person gives their life trying to save another from drowning. In fact, as mentioned, it can be completely consistent with the integrative meaning of existence for someone to give their life in the cause of maintaining the larger whole of their society and thus not reproduce. Self-sacrifice for the good of the whole is, in fact, the very theme of existence. While mechanistic science has not been able to admit the truth of Integrative Meaning (because it is too dangerously condemning of humans’ divisive competitive, aggressive and selfish behaviour) and Darwin therefore couldn’t explain why it was wrong to replace the word ‘natural selection’ with ‘survival of the fittest’, at least he initially knew to limit his description of how organisms adapt to change to the term ‘natural selection’. In Darwin’s Second Part of his Big Species Book (a book that Darwin wrote between 1856-1858 but never published in his lifetime, which he was going to call Natural Selection and that The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was a summary of) he explained what he meant by ‘nature’: ‘By nature, I mean the laws ordained by God to govern the Universe’ (1975 Cambridge edition, ed. R.C. Stauffer, p.224). So Darwin was not an atheist, as many people believe—rather, he was secure enough to not have to live in denial of Integrative Meaning; he was able to recognise that natural selection was a process dedicated to developing the order of matter, as are all systems in the natural world (as has been explained in Part 4:4B). Further, Darwin was secure enough to readily admit the existence of an altruistic moral sense in us humans, writing in his 1871 book The Descent of Man that ‘the moral sense affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals’ (ch.4). While Darwin agreed to use the term ‘survival of the fittest’ because he accepted that talking about ‘nature’ ‘selecting’ was a somewhat misleading anthropomorphic personification of the process, he did prefer ‘natural selection’ because ‘“Survival of the Fittest”, he told [Alfred Russel] Wallace, lost the analogy between nature’s selection and the [pigeon] fanciers’ (Darwin, Adrian Desmond & James Moore, 1992, p.535 of 856). Unlike Wallace who determinedly wanted to deny it (see Darwin’s Metaphor and the Philosophy of Science, by Robert M. Young. Accessed 14 Oct. 2010 at: ), Darwin wanted to relate natural selection to humans’ purposeful, albeit artificial, selection because he wanted to preserve the idea of natural selection being a purposeful, teleological, integrative, order-developing, ‘Godly’ process. As mentioned, by ‘nature’ Darwin explicitly meant ‘the laws ordained by God to govern the Universe’. Clearly Darwin wasn’t like most of the human race, so upset and thus insecure that they desperately needed to embrace whatever excuse they could to escape the pain of the human condition and misrepresent natural selection as a purposeless process. Like Moses and Plato, and the other truthful thinkers mentioned in the First and Second Categories, Darwin had no trouble admitting both Integrative Meaning and that we have an ideal-behaviour-orientated, moral soul.
Genetics is a way of processing information—some individuals and species manage to reproduce while others don’t—but genetics normally can’t develop unconditional selflessness because if an unconditionally selfless, altruistic trait emerges it doesn’t tend to carry on. So although unconditional selflessness is meaningful, unconditionally selfless traits normally can’t be developed genetically. Genetics is a limited tool for learning how to integrate matter because it normally can’t learn unconditional selflessness—it would if it could, but the fact that it normally can’t has been used to justify upset humans’ selfish behaviour. The fact that selfish behaviour is almost universal in nature led upset humans to say, ‘Well, that means that the meaning of existence is to be selfish.’ Selfish, self-preservation, it was argued, was the natural way to behave. The most you can normally do in terms of supporting the integration of matter using genetic refinement is to develop reciprocity, where you behave selflessly on the condition that others will behave selflessly in return, which in the final analysis means the behaviour is still intrinsically selfish, as traits have to be to carry on genetically. Reciprocity works on the basis of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.’
Most significantly, in The Origin of Species, apart from referring to the way humans select pigeons and manipulate animals through breeding, Darwin made no attempt to explain human behaviour, despite the fact his book was called The Origin of Species and by inference should also account for the origins of human behaviour. It was a stark omission that can now be understood.
While Darwin was, as will now be explained, a very honest thinker (in fact, he was so honest he can be considered a denial-free thinker or prophet) he clearly knew he wasn’t upset-free and thus sound and thus secure enough in self to fully confront the issue of the human condition. Darwin would have known full well that the next issue in biology that had to be confronted once the idea of natural selection was understood was obviously the issue of human behaviour, but he would have also been fully aware that doing so meant having to confront and try to explain the human condition, a confrontation he clearly felt he couldn’t and, to his credit, didn’t undertake. It is true that 12 years after the publication of The Origin of Species Darwin did publish a book titled The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex that discussed the idea of sexual selection being involved in the development of humans, however, while this idea of sexual selection was very insightful (because sexual selection did play a part in the nurturing that gave our species our instinctive orientation to behaving utterly cooperatively—as will be explained in Part 8:4D, females selected for more integrative males to mate with) it represented only a very tentative step in the exploration of the issue of the human condition.
While The Origin of Species contains no reference to human behaviour, it does feature this one very significant sentence at the end of the book: ‘In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation…Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history’ (p.458 of 477). With this statement Darwin has clearly acknowledged that to undertake the ‘far more important’ research into the development of our species’ way of behaving—to understand our ‘history’, our selves, our less-than-ideal, corrupted human condition no less—‘light’ was going to have to be ‘thrown on’ our ‘psychology’, on what has been going on in our species’ heads, with our species’ psychosis no less.
So Darwin knew that the next step biology had to take was to explain human behaviour, but he also knew that step, if truthfully undertaken, would involve confronting the issue of the human condition, the unbearably depressing issue for all but the exceptionally sound of the apparent imperfection of humans—for it would involve the issue of the psychosis and thus the ‘psychology’ of humans—and by actively avoiding that step he clearly didn’t feel secure enough in self to take it. So while Darwin was secure enough to acknowledge our moral soul and to cope with relating humans to animals, it’s clear he wasn’t sufficiently secure to fully confront the issue of the human condition.
Of course, there weren’t many who were secure enough in self to even cope with the initial step that Darwin took of relating humans to animals, a situation Darwin was keenly aware of and greatly distressed by, to the extent that he developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a debilitating illness that affected him for many years. (Although CFS hadn’t been officially identified as an illness in Darwin’s day, we know it is what he suffered from because of the accurate description he gave of his condition, such as ‘I believe to a stranger’s eyes, I should look quite a strong man, but I find I am not up to any exertion, & I am constantly tiring myself by very trifling things’ (Letter to Charles Lyell, 1841, The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol.2, p.298). Indeed, there has been some discussion about renaming CFS the ‘Charles Darwin Syndrome’ (Roger Burns, ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Changing the Name’, Sep. 1996; see <>). The responsibility Darwin felt to bring his critically important, albeit limited, biological understanding of nature to an immensely insecure, human-condition-afflicted populous, many of whom were only able to cope with a non-confronting, abstract interpretation of our world—in particular that we humans weren’t related to animals, but were divinely created by a personal, cosmic-magician-type, deity-in-the-clouds, abstract version of God—caused him immense anxiety and stress. Indeed, when the insecure, paranoid response to ‘natural selection’ subsided some 10 years after the publication of The Origin of Species Darwin’s health quickly recovered: ‘He was sending off letters to…his Cambridge friends and clergymen and he was saying “you long to crucify me alive” and so on…He felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. For 20 years he struggled against his destiny. For 20 years he had lived a double life, now his silence was over. In November 1859 he published The Origin of Species and waited for the coming storm…It created an immediate uproar…[because] he said that monkeys and humans came from a common ancestor…[Then] In just a decade his ideas had become part of the mainstream. With the great burden of evolution finally lifted from his shoulders his health improved dramatically. The miserable symptoms of over 30 years all but vanished’ (Charles Darwin: Evolution’s Voice, Biography, A&E Television Networks, 1998). To know that you can and therefore must bring demystifying understanding to humans who are entrenched in all manner of mysticism and denial is an extremely burdensome and stressful responsibility.