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.
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
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.
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