‘FREEDOM’—Chapter 6 End Play for The Human Race
Chapter 6:9 A brief history of left-wing dishonest mechanistic biology
Before introducing this new, ‘improved’ version of the SEM, it should be mentioned that this seductive but patently untrue biological argument that cooperation is more advantageous than competition and can therefore be selected for has a long history of use by cooperation-not-competition-supporting, selflessness-not-selfishness-emphasising, knowledge-opposing left-wing biologists (the pseudo idealistic philosophy of the left-wing was briefly explained in ch. 3:9 and will be more fully dealt with in chs 8:15 and 8:16). For example, in 1880, the zoologist Karl Kessler said that ‘the progressive development of the animal kingdom…is favoured much more by mutual support than by mutual struggle’ (Address titled On the law of mutual aid to the St Petersburg Society of Naturalists, Jan. 1880). This so-called ‘naive’ misrepresentation of natural selection as being socialistic rather than individualistic was still occurring even up to the 1960s, with, for instance, the behaviourist Konrad Lorenz writing frequently of behaviour having ‘a species-preserving function’ (there are many mentions of this phrase in his 1963 book, On Aggression). As was explained in chapter 4, the development of species is part of the integrative process, but the behaviour of a species is characterised by extremely selfish competition between its sexually reproducing members. In fact, it was the biologist George Williams’ exasperation with this misrepresentation of natural selection as not being a selfish process that motivated him to write his famous 1966 book, Adaptation and Natural Selection—a publication that laid the foundations for the selfishness-justifying, right-wing theory of Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology.
When, however, Williams’ theory was dishonestly used to misrepresent our cooperative, moral instincts as being nothing more than a product of kin-selection-based selfish reciprocity (assisting only those who share your genes in order to propagate your own), left-wing biologists then tried to maintain that we do have unconditionally selfless moral instincts by arguing that they are derived from by-products of natural selection—what the biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin described in 1979 as ‘a lot of [building] cranes’ acting in conjunction with ‘natural selection’ (‘Darwin Fundamentalism’, The New York Review of Books, 12 Jun. 1997, in which Gould elaborated upon his and Lewontin’s by-products or ‘Spandrels’ theory). But when Gould and Lewontin were unable to specify what the particular ‘by-products’/‘spandrels’/‘cranes’ were that achieved this feat of creating our genuinely moral instincts (the by-product was nurturing but they couldn’t confront and admit that truth), the left-wing was left with nowhere to go but to loop back to the now highly discredited ‘cooperation is more advantageous than competition and can therefore be selected for’, group-selection-type argument. In 1994, despite the situation where ‘group selection has been regarded as an anathema by nearly all evolutionary biologists’ (Richard Lewontin, ‘Survival of the Nicest?’, The New York Review of Books, 22 Oct. 1998), the biologist David Sloan (D.S.) Wilson desperately tried to ‘re-introduce group selection…as an antidote to the rampant individualism we see in the human behavioral sciences’ (David Sloan Wilson & Elliot Sober, ‘Re-Introducing Group Selection to the Human Behavioral Sciences’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 1994, Vol.17, No.4).
In fact, it was D.S. Wilson’s theory of Multilevel Selection that argued that natural selection operated at the group level as well as the individual level that (as described in chapter 2:11) E.O. Wilson commandeered to re-assert the right-wing emphasis on selfishness by claiming that even though multilevel selection supposedly confirmed we have unconditionally selfless instincts derived, he said, from warring between groups, it still allowed for the existence within us of selfish instincts derived from individual-level selection. But since the idea that our moral instincts were derived from warring between groups was unpalatable to the cooperation-not-competition-supporting, selflessness-not-selfishness-emphasising left-wing, they came up with an alternative, non-warring group-level explanation, which was that our moral instincts arose from having to cooperate to defend ourselves against predators. This argument was first put forward by the anthropologist Robert Sussman in his 2005 book, Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution. In summarising his theory, Sussman said, ‘Our intelligence, cooperation and many other features we have as modern humans developed from our attempts to out-smart the predator’ (presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Annual Meeting, 19 Feb. 2006). But while the threat of predators would have encouraged cooperation, the biological reality is that it was not going to make us social; it was not going to overcome the fundamental problem of genetic selfishness, which is that wherever selflessness develops it is going to be subverted by selfish opportunists. The fact is, species have been living with the threat of predators since life first emerged and that threat has never been able to bring about full integration. What we see instead is the eventual development of dominance hierarchy as a means to try to contain the rampant selfish competition and opportunism. The whole reason E.O. Wilson put forward the argument that warring between groups was the full integration/eusociality threshold breaker was because there had to be an extreme need for cooperation if selfish opportunism was going to be defeated; there had to be a situation of conflict where groups of cooperators would defeat groups of non-cooperators. Arguing that groups of cooperators survived the threat of predators better than groups of non-cooperators doesn’t create anything like the same selection pressure as actual conflict between groups.
Indeed, this ‘defence against predators’ argument overlooks the basic reason Wilson put forward the supposedly plausible, but actually still flawed, between-group warfare argument, and, apparently sensing this deficiency, what left-wing biologists then did was try to bolster it by adding the old ‘by-products/many cranes/matrix of influences’ illusion that Gould and Lewontin had first used. In a desperate attempt to somehow find a cooperation-emphasising biological account of human origins, the left-wing were now being forced to throw everything into the pot—group selection and a multitude of vague ‘influences’! This is evident in the 2011 book Origins of Altruism and Cooperation where, for example, Robert Sussman and Robert Cloninger wrote in the Foreword that ‘Research in a great diversity of scientific disciplines is revealing that there are many biological and behavioral mechanisms that humans and nonhuman primates use to reinforce pro-social or cooperative behavior. For example, there are specific neurobiological and hormonal mechanisms that support social behavior. There are also psychological, psychiatric, and cultural mechanisms’ (viii of 439). Yes, it was being alleged that a matrix of ‘many biological and behavioral mechanisms’ created ‘pro-social or cooperative behavior’, but the question remains, how exactly did it do it? The illusion is that the origin of our moral instincts has been explained when it hasn’t—but, again, in the desperation to counter the right-wing’s selfishness-emphasising doctrine such extreme illusion was deemed necessary!
(As was mentioned in chapter 2 when the human-condition-avoiding, fundamentally dishonest right-wing biological theories for human origins were first presented, a much more complete description of all these right-wing and left-wing dishonest biological theories about human origins can be found in Freedom Expanded at <www.humancondition.com/freedom-expanded-the-denials-in-biology>.)
Clearly, avoiding the nurturing explanation for our moral instincts meant that neither the right-wing nor the left-wing was ever going to provide an accountable explanation of our moral instincts. While the selfishness-emphasising-but-still-human-condition-avoiding right-wing at least had the advantage of being able to truthfully emphasise that natural selection is a selfish process to support their position, the selflessness-emphasising-but-human-condition-avoiding left-wing had to rely on the patently dishonest ‘cooperation beats competition’ group-selection-type argument. And since both camps were, in any case, avoiding the entire issue of the human condition itself and, therefore, denying Integrative Meaning, it wasn’t possible for either to explain what was explained in chapter 4, which is that even though the gene-based natural selection process is dedicated to developing the order of matter it couldn’t, outside of the love-indoctrination scenario, select for the self-eliminating, unconditionally selfless traits that would allow full integration. And unable to access this human-condition-confronting reconciling explanation of the paradoxical nature of the gene-based natural selection process, these two positions became more and more desperate, with the right-wing position, which stressed the fact that genes are selfish, producing the selfishness-justifying theories of Social Darwinism → Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology → and Multilevel Selection that were described in chapter 2; and the idealism-stressing left-wing position, which attempted to emphasise the greater truth that natural selection is an integrative process, embarking on the journey just outlined, where group selection was put forward as the explanation for the origin of our moral nature, then, when group selection was dismissed as unsound biology, a multitude of influences was proposed, and then, when that failed, group selection was once again brought back into play, and then, when that inevitably fell short, a completely desperate combination of both group selection and a matrix of influences was resorted to! Of course, without the reconciling explanation as to why the right-wing and the left-wing emerged in the first place, both strategies were bound to become sillier and sillier, and, in the end, completely mad—and, as is being described, that is what happened: the right-wing ended up developing the extremely mad and dangerous theory of Multilevel Selection, while the left-wing ended up developing the extremely mad and dangerous theory of the SEM.
(I have written more about just how farcical science has become in Freedom Expanded at <www.humancondition.com/freedom-expanded-science-a-farce>. Based around the shocking revelations in the 2010 documentary, Secrets of the Tribe (directed by José Padilha), I describe the equally dishonest and thus never can be reconciled and thus now totally polarised right-wing and left-wing anthropological theories that are reviewed in the documentary and which seek to account for the behaviour of the relatively innocent Yanomamö Indians of the Amazon. This ridiculous situation that so characterises science now, where no one cares about the pursuit of truth-based understanding anymore, only about imposing their own twisted philosophy on the world, was perfectly captured at the end of the documentary when it played George and Ira Gershwin’s well-known song Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, which features the lyrics, ‘Things have come to a pretty pass…It looks as if we two will never be one…You like potato and I like potahto…Let’s call the whole thing off’ (1937). Yes, science is so dishonest and thus inept now it may as well ‘call the whole thing off’; abandon its task of finding understanding of human behaviour! I might also mention that right-wing anthropologists’ portrayal of so-called ‘primitive’ ‘races’ as not being relatively innocent, but fierce and aggressive—as described in the program in relation to the Yanomami—will be exposed for the lie that it is later in pars 862-868.)
Significantly, in relation to the two arguments employed by the SEM to explain bonobo behaviour—that stable parties allowed bonobo females to form coalitions to counter male aggression for mating opportunities, and that those coalitions are successful in dominating males and eliminating aggression—in 2009 the leading architect of the SEM, Richard Wrangham, admitted that ‘The circumstances in which females are able to form effective alliances among each other, and the frequency and effectiveness of this strategy, remain important [unexplained] problems for detailed examination in bonobos, chimpanzees, and other primates’ (Sexual Coercion in Primates and Humans, 2009, p.464 of 504). So the whole basis of the SEM, of the ‘circumstances in which females are able to form effective alliances among each other’, and the ‘effectiveness of this strategy’ in stopping male aggression, is being undermined by its leading architect and proponent! This is somewhat like E.O. Wilson conceding there were serious problems with his theory of Sociobiology when he moved on to develop his Multilevel Selection theory for eusociality! But where else could nurturing-avoiding biologists go in their efforts to explain bonobos? Nowhere—so, despite its ‘important problems’, support of the SEM continued. What will now be described is how nurturing-avoiding, mechanistic biologists tried to make the SEM more accountable of bonobos’, and our ape ancestors’, extraordinarily integrative, moral behaviour.