Written by Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith, 2011
Environmental problems are promoted everywhere as the great ‘Save the World’ issue, BUT the is we have only been focusing on the symptoms of the devastation of our world and the disintegration of society that is happening everywhere we look, not the cause, which is us humans–our , competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour. And the deeper truth is, to change that behaviour and, by so doing, truly save the world, we needed to find the reconciling, redeeming and thus rehabilitating biological explanation of our seemingly-highly-imperfect so-called HUMAN CONDITION! As the author Richard Neville so accurately summarised our species’ plight: ‘we humans are locked in a race between self destruction and self discovery’ (Sydney Morning Herald, 14/10/86).
MOST WONDERFULLY, however, biology is now, at last, able to provide this long dreamed-of, exonerating and thus psychologically rehabilitating and human-race-transforming understanding of ourselves that will actually save the world! Yes, at the absolute eleventh hour for our species, the arrival of ‘self discovery’ finally and thankfully gives us the real means to defeat the threat of ‘self destruction’ and save the world! (And it should be mentioned that this explanation of our species’ deeply psychologically troubled human condition is not the psychosis-avoiding, trivialising, dishonest account of it that the biologist E.O. Wilson has put forward in his theory of Eusociality, but the psychosis-addressing-and-solving, real explanation of it.)
The reality has been that until we found the reconciling, redeeming and thus healing truthful explanation of the we could hardly afford to admit that the issue even existed, let alone acknowledge that it is the underlying, core, real question in all of that we needed to solve if we were to save the world. Yes, are humans good or are we possibly the terrible mistake that all the evidence seems to unequivocally indicate we might be? While it’s undeniable that humans are capable of great love, we also have an unspeakable history of greed, environmental indifference, brutality, rape, torture, murder and war. Despite all our marvellous accomplishments, we humans have been the most ferocious and destructive force that has ever lived on Earth–and the eternal question that we needed to answer if we were to actually save the world has been ‘why?’ Even in our everyday behaviour, why have we humans been so competitive, selfish and aggressive when clearly the ideals of life are to be the complete opposite, namely cooperative, ? In fact, why are we so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet?!
So while the human condition has been the real, underlying issue we needed to solve if we were to exonerate and thus rehabilitate the human race and save the world, we have been so fearful of the issue that instead of confronting it and trying to solve it we have been preoccupied denying and escaping it. The truth is, rather than an attempt to save the world, focusing on environmental problems was a way of avoiding the issue of ‘self’; it was a way of relieving ourselves of the real issue of our troubled condition through finding a cause that made us feel good about ourselves–as the editor of Time magazine, Richard Stengel, recognised, ‘The environment became the last best cause, the ultimate guilt-free issue’ (Time mag. 31 Dec. 1990).
Environmental problems are certainly real enough but the fact is, to save the world we had to resolve the issue of our less-than-ideally-behaved condition that has been causing all the environmental issues and social problems that plague our world. Carl Jung was forever saying that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’ because he recognised that only finding understanding of our dark side could end our underlying insecurity about our fundamental goodness and worth as humans and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’. The pre-eminent philosopher Sir Laurens van der Post was making the same point when he said, ‘True love is love of the difficult and unlovable’ (Journey Into Russia, 1964, p.145) and ‘Only by understanding how we were all a part of the same contemporary pattern [of wars, cruelty, greed and indifference] could we defeat those dark forces with a true understanding of their nature and origin’ (Jung and the Story of Our Time, 1976, p.24).
So, what is the all-important, reconciling, exonerating and thus psychologically rehabilitating, makes-us-‘whole’, human-race-transforming, biological ‘true understanding’ of our often ferocious and destructive competitive, selfish and aggressive human condition that alone has the power to actually save the world?
Certainly, we have invented excuses to justify our species’ seemingly-imperfect competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour, the main one being that we have savage animal instincts that make us fight and compete for food, shelter, territory and a mate. Of course, this ‘explanation’, which has been put forward in the biological theories of Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, Multilevel Selection and E.O. Wilson’s Eusociality and basically argues that ‘genes are competitive and selfish and that’s why we are’, can’t be the real explanation for our competitive, selfish and aggressive behaviour. Firstly, it overlooks the fact that our human behaviour involves our unique fully conscious thinking mind. Descriptions like egocentric, arrogant, deluded, artificial, hateful, mean, immoral, alienated, etc, all imply a consciousness-derived, psychological dimension to our behaviour. The real issue–the psychological problem in our thinking minds that we have suffered from–is the issue of our species’ ‘good-and-evil’-afflicted, less-than-ideal, even ‘fallen’ or corrupted condition. We humans suffer from a consciousness-derived, psychological human condition, not an instinct-controlled animal condition–our condition is unique to us fully conscious humans. (A brief description of the theories of Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, Multilevel Selection and Eusociality that blame our divisive behaviour on savage instincts rather than on a consciousness-derived psychosis is presented in the in The Book of Real Answers to Everything!, that this article also appears in, with the complete account provided in of the freely-available, online book Freedom Book 1.)
The second reason the savage-instincts-in-us excuse can’t possibly be the real explanation for our divisive, selfish and aggressive behaviour is that it overlooks the fact that we humans have altruistic, cooperative, loving moral instincts–what we recognise as our ‘conscience’–and these moral instincts in us are not derived from reciprocity, from situations where you only do something for others in return for a benefit from them, as Evolutionary Psychologists would have us believe. And nor are they derived from warring with other groups of humans as advocates of the theory of Eusociality would have us believe. No, we have an unconditionally selfless, fully altruistic, truly loving, universally-considerate-of-others-not-competitive-with-other-groups, genuinely moral conscience. Our original instinctive state was the opposite of being competitive, selfish and aggressive: it was fully cooperative, selfless and loving. (How we humans acquired unconditionally selfless moral instincts when it would seem that an unconditionally selfless, fully altruistic trait is going to self-eliminate and thus not ever be able to become established in a species is briefly explained in the above-mentioned , and more fully explained in –however, the point being made here is that the savage-instincts-in-us excuse is completely inconsistent with the fact that we have genuine and entirely moral instincts, not savage instincts. Charles Darwin recognised the difference in our moral nature when he said that ‘the moral sense affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals’ (The Descent of Man, 1871, p.495).)