There Are More Sins Than Meets The Eye
For centuries, the construct of original sin has influenced, if not governed, societies' judgment of individual behavior. Lincoln provided one of the clearest examples in the context of exploitation: "It is the eternal struggle between these two principles--right and wrong--throughout the world. They are the two principles that stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other is the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.'" I broaden the concept of sin here to include adaptations that threaten the survival of the species.
Theological concepts of original sin condemn mankind to a hopeless struggle with evil that only obedience to a priesthood can mitigate. A priesthood claims itself the only link to God. A priesthood can be as vulnerable to the evil of exploitation as anyone else. Such authority presents its own temptations. We see that with Catholic priest pedophiles.
Lincoln's version of original sin reflects one of the downsides of natural selection discussed elsewhere--short-term adaptations by exploitation.1 Lincoln's approach provides an understanding that may lead to ways of overcoming sin that do not require submission to authority.
As in all things human, natural selection provides the starting point for understanding the need to broaden the concept of sin beyond the confines of sex. Simply put, natural selection expresses the truism that those able to adapt to their environment may survive, absent disease, superior enemies, or natural disasters. Through the mechanism of the genome, the species may evolve further adaptations that meet changes in the environment, including the competition.
Strangely, science has said very little about the systemic features of natural selection--the temptations to sin--that inhibit more effective adaptations. Scientists tend to look at such observations as value judgments not within the scope of science. They are of great interest to humanity all the same because overcoming the systemic limitations of natural selection provides a basis for establishing an objective and sustainable moral code. For that purpose, I would include in the concept of sin errors in adaptations, often for financial profit, that weaken long-term survival, including the justice that brings peace.
The three dimensions of life, biology, intellect, and society, require a balancing mechanism to prevent one dimension from overwhelming the others, such as the intellect's ability to reduce everything to a narrow formula, biology's ability to engage in indiscriminate competition, and society's nascent support of class exploitation. Morality's purpose is the preservation of life, which only an ethic like survival of the species can provide.
What are the systemic limits of natural selection that morality must guard against? To begin with, species produce more offspring than needed to maintain a population as a hedge against unpredictable consequences to sustainability. If too successful, the species will overpopulate its environment and strain the resources it needs. That creates a moral dilemma mankind has yet to come to grips with.
Nature provides several limits to overpopulation, like disease and natural disasters. Medicine and technology have severely reduced these population levelers. It may be speculation, but I often feel that when overpopulation reaches some critical point some recessive gene kicks in and people go to war--humanity's natural disaster that unfortunately destroys more resources. Morality is suspended for a competition that does not necessarily produce the genetically superior as the survivors. As often as not, the ruthless prevail and the wise are decimated.
Similarly, intra-species competition may reduce the ability to adapt. Take those species where an adaptation for genetic improvement consists of male competition for a harem. For one example, male deer with bigger antlers have an advantage in such competitions. Under natural selection, antlers have gotten bigger, heavier, and more easily caught in brush. If all male deer had the same smaller antlers, the competition would depend even more on strength. The arms race produces the sacrifices the algorithm of natural selection may require where there is no feedback (morality) to evaluate the result. Natural selection does not distinguish between individuals and the species.
Here lies the basis of government regulations. Arms races occur in a plethora of contexts, from advertising to five-car garages. Regulations that do not advance survival of the governed, but the interests of certain individuals instead, ignore Lincoln's wisdom and discredit government. Corporations are not people regardless of the Supreme Court's travesty of logic that holds corporations have the rights of people under the Constitution.
There are arms races that natural selection does not instigate. People shoot rattlesnakes when they hear the rattle. Those snakes with recessive rattle genes survive. Now we cannot hear the snakes coming. Hunters like to kill the big bucks. Now some pretty scrawny males can have a harem. We interfere with natural selection in a myriad of ways. At some point in the extinction of species it will be our turn. How we use technology will make all the difference.
The greatest irony inherent in natural selection I reference as natural selection's paradox--the trap natural selection holds for all species. Natural selection does not distinguish a short-term adaptation from a long-term adaptation in the short term. It makes no value judgments and supports no ideology or elite. If the short-term adaptation uses up all the resources needed for a long-term adaptation, the species can no longer survive. The only time frame sufficient for avoiding that result requires sustainable adaptations. In the West, we do virtually everything on the basis of short-term profits. Money has no intrinsic value and its use as the measure of good or bad results leads mostly to adaptations to the wrong thing--our technology instead of the genome that defines the limits of our ability to adapt.
Natural selection favors the efficient, not the profligate. Without the ethic of survival of the species, the abuse of technology as a means of exploiting nature rather than as a tool for greater efficiency, will continue. The most telling example in my opinion concerns our use of water. Once we were limited to annual rainfall. Pumps now go down miles to recover water that is thousands of years old. We adapt to the pump by using more energy instead of adapting to annual rainfall by creating more efficient uses of water, which is not sustainable. We cannot survive without the water.
One would expect a reaction to things like global warming that demands a resolution of the problem. Why is the response so tepid? When given the facts, the people usually make the right decision. However, a new class war that started after adoption of the civil rights acts has succeeded in deceiving the public. Millions have been spent by an elite to discourage fact-based decisions. Conservative talk radio even denies global warming to forestall any regulations. The nonsense that there are two sides to every disagreement ignores the facts. Some ideas are just nonsense or worse and others cannot be denied by anything but denial. We have learned something in the last few centuries. The elite invite us to ignore science and the rights gained in the fight for justice, as if facts have no place in discourse and only the powerful dispense justice.
Given our biological limits for adaptation, the intellect's ability to deceive itself, and society's ability to advance class exploitation, how do we avoid the sins described here? Traditionally, the answer has been education or adherence to a code. Education, what is taught, usually controls codes. Nothing challenges us more than maintaining intellectual honesty, without which truth becomes the servant of agendas. Agendas have virtually buried any interest in intellectual honesty. Proofs, consistent logic, and selfless appraisal do not appeal to agendas. The denial of global warming provides a good example. The fact that certain gases trap heat and that we produce million of tons of those gases cannot be denied. Two and two is still four. Measurements confirm the fact. Given what is at stake, any doubt should be resolved by avoiding the risk. The same goes for atomic energy. Endless arguments over what cannot be denied lead to adaptation by default to agendas. Long-term strategies remain impossible.