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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/15/13

The Biology of Evil

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Message Carter stroud

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Whatever we are begins with the genome. Only a handful of people possess the necessary physical and mental acuity to succeed as concert pianists. Two different people raised in exactly the same environment may make diametrically opposed decisions--one a humanitarian and the other a serial killer. Twins separated at birth will have more in common than non-twins raised in the same family. In this context, as in all others, only a biological definition of evil will yield an understanding of evil not based on cultural taboos that may vary from culture to culture.

All living things require energy and the tools necessary to process it. The better tools decide who can use energy to the greatest advantage. In the case of humans, two means of acquiring energy prevail in the context of social orders required to support otherwise defenseless individuals. People either cooperate through divisions of labor determined to one extent or another on merit--who performs the work best--or they find some way to exploit other people's labor--from unfair wages to extortion to slavery.

The two strategies often stand side by side. In fact, finding ways to gain the privilege of exploiting other people's labor is what social orders and class systems do. Attempts at liberal democracies hope to establish equality instead. Few have succeeded for very long. While merit- based divisions of labor and communal definitions of wealth produce the most efficient means of distributing energy, the competition following resource depletion and the urge to be "better" than others degenerate into games played for money, which has no intrinsic value and provides the means for being better off than other people. Much of humanity's experiments with equality have evolved with technology's exploitation of huge energy sources now facing exhaustion. The expanded consciousness of the Enlightenment directed some of that energy into humanitarian purposes. Sharing was much easier when energy was cheap.

I use a metaphor, white supremacy, to illustrate the basis for much of the increased conflict we will face with resource exhaustion. I say metaphor because "white" here is not employed as a fact or to identify a specific group. White references those who have achieved the means of exploiting other people's labor. It could be a pimp who exploits certain women with low self-esteem or a third-world dictator supported by American aid or drug traffickers or drug makers. The opportunities are endless. Law and medical schools are full of people waiting their turn to be elites. Race has played a big part in white supremacy because it is easy to identify and difficult to hide--convenient for discrimination, as immigrants discover soon after their arrival.

Some people even find support for slavery in the Bible. Many believe in or stand behind an elite's authority to exploit other people's labor--some are born to rule and others to serve. Fascism provides an example. White supremacy in America did note die with slavery. While mostly in the closet, housing, education, and the justice system often reflect its influence, and you do not have to be colored to suffer the consequences. Being poor will do nicely and many of the poor would rather try for the top than fight the injustice.

The South has not overcome its slave heritage. They fought a war to preserve it and when they lost they managed to frustrate reconstruction with terrorism that Congress did not address because the South controlled Congress through undemocratic voting procedures the Supreme Court appears ready to approve again. Therein lies the most dangerous support for white supremacy in the nation. To this day, nothing comes to a vote in Congress unless approved by its white supremacist supporters. The devil is in the details. A minority still frustrates the majority.

The metaphor of good verses evil follows one of the unrecognized attributes of evolution's design engine--natural selection. That biological basis of evil deserves its own metaphor: natural selection's paradox. Natural selection (NS) does not distinguish between short-term and long-tern adaptations in the short term. NS does not guarantee the best design for the long term. A short-term adaptation may deplete resources before inefficiency eliminates the adaptation under NS, frustrating the adaptation of a better design. Short-term profit prevails. Therefore, practically everything we do employs short-term strategies--the place where money does its worst.

The evolution of democracy sought to replace various forms of divine rule (kings, churches, and dogma) with self-governments, which imploded under domestic and foreign conquest. America's isolation and great riches provided the best hope, time and resources for incubating real self-rule. The world is a lot smaller now. International finance is tearing down protective walls for the benefit of international corporations.

I believe that communal wealth creates the most efficient means of producing and distributing wealth. That is not something we can test in a laboratory but the success of species that could not survive as individuals, like human beings, clearly supports communal wealth. I do not condemn individual possession of that which is individual, such as your hat. In contrast, water comes from the heavens for everyone. To make it private property, gives someone the right to exploit other people's labor.

The same is true for oil and health care. Health care must be supported; doctors educated and paid salaries, but making it a private enterprise allows some to exploit the misfortunes of others, a flip side of white supremacy--exploiting people's inability to work. The war on labor and the middle class expands the cost of basic needs like housing and education along with the cost of disabilities and health insurance. Who is it that wants labor and the middle class beggared? White supremacists. They do not need public education and can afford health insurance when necessary. They love cheap labor and hate the middle class for its support of liberal government.

The fight over who will be the elite at the taxpayers' expense has virtually paralyzed Washington. The peoples' business waits in the wings while white supremacists, who remain incensed at even the idea of a black president, do whatever they can to make liberal government fail, increasing the power of money to decide who wins the race. The American pathology-- making it big as the prime value--creates huge apathy in the face of injustice.

So many permitted conflicts of interest in Washington put democracy up for sale. Expanding health care only occurred because drug companies were allowed carte blanche with your checkbook. All attempts at preventing exploitation are condemned as failed socialism and contrary to market discipline.  Both are lies. Socialism is alive and well wherever it has not been undermined by mafia-capitalism--legalized extortion that makes free enterprise a joke. If we do not abandon the fantasy that there is a free market and it will take care of everything, we will soon become a postmodern feudal society.

His fundamental understanding of human nature and the dynamics of natural selection's paradox informed Abraham Lincoln's political and literary genius. He understood the biological basis of evil that existed for all times. He also employed a metaphor: "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.'"

The divine right of kings has become the divine right of money. We are what we adapt to. Technology has changed the nature of work so drastically that many if not most now engage in activities that create nothing of value, which just move money from one hand to another. That context destroys the ethics and empathy needed to promote the communal wealth required to survive what technology has wrought.

The Civil War made America an industrial power. Again Lincoln anticipated, in that context, the continuation of the ancient struggle:<blockquote> "It has been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war." </blockquote>One hundred years later the corruption has reached a level where I wonder if we should just turn the government over to the mafia. Drug companies and other businesses have mastered legalized extortion .

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I practiced law for 30 years as a city attorney. I taught elementary school before that. I became concerned with the many adaptations to our environment that I could not believe could be sustained. How could so many rational people adopt clearly (more...)
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