In 2005, Newt Gingrich gave a several minute summary on the NPR series, “This I believe.” He started out by saying, “I believe that the world is inherently a very dangerous place, and that things that are now very good can go bad very quickly.” In the following talk, he gave many examples from all the genocide that has occurred in the 20th century with the strong implication that human nature is evil. According to this political philosophy, history takes on the character of a never-ending defensive holding action. His answer is to continue to “work towards solutions,” but he does not address the basic question, which is. . .
IF HUMAN NATURE IS EVIL, WHAT IS THE SOURCE OF VIRTUE THAT WILL COUNTERACT IT?
The idea that we are fundamentally evil is supported by a residue of belief that has filtered down into our commonly held notions about human nature from two enormously influential thinkers: Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud. At the very heart of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is that life is fundamentally a competitive struggle to acquire scarce resources. Darwin also invented the idea of group selection in which instead of individuals competing for “fitness,” groups similarly struggle to be “victorious” over other groups.
At the very center of Sigmund Freud’s vision of the human mind is the powerful id which “drives” the individual into ape-like competition for domination. In the Freudian dynamic, the superego is comprised of the same kind of aggressive motivations as the id, but they are “reversed” in the course of childhood development and “aimed” back to punish the child’s antisocial id with anxiety and guilt. Mediating this vicious internal struggle is the ego, which, according to the “reality principle,” adjudicates which id-driven behaviors are socially acceptable. Of course, all this is a cartoon of the nuanced subtleties of current Freudian thought, but is exactly the residue from these two thinkers that lends Gingrich-type pessimistic cynicism “scientific” authority.
The most important question about human nature is. . .
WHERE DOES THE GOOD PART COME FROM?
There are religious answers, which this blog does not discount, but here I will deal with the other principal response, which is that virtue is the result of our very recently (on an evolutionary timescale) acquired REASON. The framers of the constitution used REASON to set up a system of government which tamed our evil tendencies by incorporating them into vying institutions. The philosophy that reason is the only source of good within us leads to a belief that the constitution is the sole bulwark that protects us from our inherently evil nature, which is what Ted Cruz believes.
So our beliefs about what makes up human nature theoretically should determine our politics.
This blog has made the case that our superego is not merely a psychological transformation of our (ape-like) id during our childhood development but is more like Carl Jung’s collective unconscious which has been slowly evolving a human CONSCIENCE for six million years. During all this time a robust mental agency has evolved an innate sense of JUSTICE, which has been deeply established and refined through the eons.
This sense of human justice arose when harsh climates pushed ape populations to collapse into near extinction, causing natural selection into a fateful shift from the sterile competition for individual fitness over to the
“PASSIVE” NATURAL SELECTION FOR THE MOST PRODUCTIVELY FERTILE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS.
So the struggle of evolution defined by Darwin essentially turned in upon itself—becoming a struggle against this ape-like id in early hominids. The most fertile social structure that naturally emerged was a monogamous system in which a collective sense of justice evolved to weed out the disruptive (and non-productive) bad guys generation after generation. Thus morality was selectively bred into us over time (self-domestication). The evolution of hominins shifted from one of barren sexual appropriation to one of pair-bond production.
I have presented evidence that 200 thousand years ago our own Homo sapiens species evolved a strong penchant for self-display (vanity), leading to a reawakening our latent violent tendencies within us. But, putting those “recent” developments aside, stop and think a moment, how much it changes your political outlook if you believe that. . .
WE HAVE INHERITED DEEP INSTINCTS FOR JUSTICE AND MORALITY THAT ARE THE LEGACY FROM MILLIONS OF YEARS OF THE STRUGGLES OF OUR NOBLE ANCESTORS WHICH HAVE BEEN VOUCHSAFED TO US AS A SACRED COVENANT TO FULFILL OUR DESTINY TO FORGE PEACE ON EARTH.