The Immorality of Morals and the Future of Amorality
Moralistic Conservatives and liberals alike seem to be consumed by a need to establish a baseline of morals, ethics and or virtue in the hopes that society will become better or at least more civil. There are numerous articles and political debates questioning why we have lost our way, why we have become self-absorbed, greedy, uncaring, and basically lacking in morals. Morals are perceived of as a set of values that a society must have to survive, and it seems the pundits have some means of measuring it over time, and as they would have it, we live in a most unethical period in history. This is stated without first defining what means of measurement is used. We no longer practice slavery, infanticide, drawing-and-quartering heretics, etc.! Are we less moral now because we have given up these practices?
On the contrary, I will put forth in this essay that morality (henceforth to include ethics and virtue) is nothing more than an evolutionary strategy that has been with primates and continues on in humans for the singular purpose of promoting the selfish genes that direct our behavior. In essence, I will show that morality is a means to indoctrinate the group to behave in a beneficial way as perceived by the group before the agricultural revolution, and later the group's political and religious elite when modern civilization started to evolve 10,000 years ago. But before I get started I will have to define what it is that I mean by morality.
There are two parts to morality. The first has always been with us to organize our social lives and is called natural morality. The other is concerned with what we should be doing and is called laws (freedom), ethics, or moral philosophy. In Darwin, Dominance, and Democracy, Somit and Peterson state, "But the capacity to believe and then to act on the basis of those beliefs is not limited to any specific set of ideas. There is almost no limit to the range and variety, or eccentricity, of the values humans are capable of accepting and acting upon." They are describing indoctrination, the necessary mechanism that allows a moral system to be accepted by a group, and every human has a need to adopt or subjugate themselves to some moral code, whether from the family, the church, or some new-found cult.
So morality has always been there, not good or bad, just a means to organize small societies or tribes before civilization, to keep the group sound and organized against outside forces. The only criterion was survival in the face of predators or competing bands of humans. Those behavioral genes that did not allow humans to become indoctrinated with the core beliefs of the social group (tribe, troop, clan, etc.) did not survive. So today, our genes make it easy for us to welcome becoming indoctrinated at an early age, and later in life we can shift that acceptance of indoctrination to another set of rules if circumstances warrant (joining a cult). But most of us will adhere to some basic rules of morality.
The concepts of moral philosophy, that is laying down a set of rules that we could all follow from basic notions of the good, has not been as successful in controlling peoples' lives. From the Greeks to St. Thomas Acquinas, Kant and now Rawls, one moral philosopher after another has been trying to formulate a universal set of moral rules that we can all live by. Unfortunately, the only way we will accept these rules is through indoctrination (again from the outside or from within ourselves), and not by pure reason. Kant wrote, "A metaphysic of morals is therefore indispensably necessary, not merely for speculative reasons, in order to investigate the sources of the practical principles which are to be found a priori in our reason, but also because morals themselves are liable to all sorts of corruption, as long as we are without that clue and supreme canon by which to estimate them correctly." And later, "Now it is only in a pure philosophy that we can look for the moral law in its purity and genuineness (and, in a practical matter, this is of the utmost consequences): we must, therefore, begin with pure philosophy (metaphysic), and without it there cannot be any moral philosophy at all."
Since modern humans have been getting along fine without moral philosophy for at least 100,000 years, and we are no closer now than we were two thousand years ago to finding a universal solution, I submit that the path that will unscramble this dilemma is to understand how moral indoctrination came about, from our primate past. Then we can decide what we are to do with morality, and like other artifacts such as inter-tribal murder and genocide, maybe we should think again about how to use our innate proclivity to demand that others think and act like ourselves, and formulate a modern structure of behavior that will make sense in a modern society with many different perceptions of morality.
Churchland presents a moral paradigm as one of a naturally occurring set of rules, learned and adhered to as part of culture, and now is interwoven in the judicial system, using a set of useful rules and precedents, not unlike applying scientific principles to natural phenomenon because the rules work. He equates religious law, the attempts of the egalitarian left to establish rights, and multiculturalism's attempt to establish a new set of laws condemning Western culture with the transcendental moralists trying to establish moral philosophy. Likewise, Wilson equates moral reasoning with natural sciences, based on its origin in our evolutionary past. He argues that either moral values are independent, whether from god or philosophical constructs, or moral values come from humans alone, from our very nature.
In the rest of this article, I will be discussing only natural morality and indoctrinability, that which has always been with us. I will leave the philosophers to their struggle of trying to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
MORALITY AN EVOLUTIONARY CONCEPT was first elucidated by Edward O. Wilson. He asserted that morality was an innate feature of our evolutionary past. This one concept has been attacked almost as much as the research on the differences in intelligence between groups and races. The attack, as always, came mostly from Stephen Gould and Richard Lewontin, always trying to push back science to promote a universalistic Marxist model of how to improve mankind. But as usual, it is impossible to stop science, and that morality is an integral part of our evolutionary past is now well established in the studies of behavior genetics.
Most authors seem to promote one or the other of two functions for morality, internal cohesion and external threat. However morality served both equally well. In Darwinism, Dominance and Democracy by Somit and Peterson, the authors state, "Humans are social primates, closely (almost embarrassingly) akin genetically to the chimpanzees and only slightly less so to the gorillas. Working over at least 10 million years, natural selection has endowed the social primates with a predisposition (to understate the matter) for hierarchical social structures. That is, they invariably form groups, troops, tribes, and societies characterized by marked differences in individual status in terms of dominance and submission, command and obedience, and by unequal access to many of the good things of life. This form of morality then serves inclusive fitness; it is there for one reason, to improve the survivability of the tribe. SOMIT AND PETERSON later state, "Indoctrinability, then, together with dominance, hierarchy, and obedience, is one of the innate behavioral capacities and characteristics of our species. As might be expected, in most instances indoctrinability serves to support and reinforce these generally authoritarian tendencies. Under other and fairly special conditions, though, indoctrinability provides a window of opportunity for the acceptance of democratic ideas and of political actions that, if successful, lead to the establishment of a democratic polity." And later, "From a neo-Darwinian perspective, individual selection for indoctrinability in a language-capable species makes sound evolutionary sense. When individuals accept the same values, conflict and violence will be diminished, resulting in a more stable society. From the vantage point of the conforming individual, relative order and tranquility, in turn, are likely to result in greater reproductive success and, hence, inclusive fitness."
Morality then is a product of evolution, and served the purpose of uniting the group, enforcing internal cohesion by establishing rules (somewhat arbitrary based on the groups history, needs, environment and proclivities) for the purpose of survival. Rules were not discussed to be good or bad or just or right. They evolved along with early humans without formal debate or the use of pure logic. Morality just was. Passed on and varied from generation to generation. An essential part of morality is that it assumes a natural hierarchy or social status in the group, a trait found in canines, monkeys and humans alike (but absent in the common house cat). Along with this morality, or group indoctrination to make members conform to the rules, was gossip, to enforce the rules by management of reputations. This is one of the key factors leading to human's higher intelligence. As we left the time-consuming chores of physical grooming used by our primate ancestors, we learned to groom each other by verbal stroking and controlling the action of members through gossip and reputation.
So those who study the origin of morality see it as a continuum from lower animals to humans. There is no single species that personifies what it means to be moral, it was established over millions of years in those species that needed to stick together as a group for protection from predators. If humans were less vulnerable from predators, we also could have evolved as solitary hunters and gatherers without a need for a moral social structure (like the common house cat), or moral indoctrination. But on the African Savannah, we were ripe for plucking by numerous predators, much faster and more ferocious than us.
And once humans needed to band together from predators, other humans also became a threat because of territorial disputes. Chimpanzees have been observed to commit genocide against other troops, for the obvious selection advantages of securing a larger hunting and gathering territory, but also eliminating the threat of attack from other chimpanzees. Our history is steeped in blood in many ways. So moral indoctrination held the group together in the face of outside threats, and the more cohesive and accepting of orders from those of higher rank, to do as they are told, the more likely it would be that the tribe would survive another war to fight.
Again, it is much easier to enforce moral indoctrination when everyone is involved in gossiping about each other, comparing who can be trusted and who will cheat, and generally using the social coercion of the group to enforce the rules--all long before religion could be established to instill the fear of god and punishment, another level of moral indoctrination added to tightly control the behavior of the group. But the more easily-indoctrinated humans had become with a higher intelligence, the easier it became for humans to succumb to a leader's demand for submission. Because even as we were becoming more intelligent, we were not changing in our obedience to follow. Was the transformation then from a hunter-gatherer's social structure to an agrarian one where we finally bowed down to a master, one who would count the crops yield and each individual's share, after taxation? With its concomitant tyranny and oppression of the subjects, due to our need, our desire, to want to follow orders, our complicity in our own moral indoctrination has led us to the ultimate submission to central authority. It seems that when we realize how we have been duped by kings, tyrants, priests, and presidents, we may not have gained as much value from the our moral acceptance of rules as was once thought.[6,7,8]
Doesn't this description of morality seem much more important than how it is used today? It provided for a survival technique of a primitive culture, now vanished forever. What once was, is no more, and morality is an evolutionary artifact, one that is still used to indoctrinate people in numerous belief structures that make little sense other than people need it like they need sexual pleasure, the pleasure of obeying their masters and feeling all is right. In essence, all of the above authors have a slightly different story to tell about our moral indoctrinability, but the message is the same as far as the certainty that morality is a built-in aspect of human nature, established by our evolutionary past, and it is here with us even now whether we need it still or not. Today, one man's morality is another man's sin. But the need for some personal morality is as strong as ever.
In thinking about this article, I reflected on my own morality and how tenaciously it was ingrained in me. Because of my rural upbringing, one of the real sins is littering. Now that I live in a modern city, where even the police routinely throw their garbage out of the squad car windows, without any angst about their behavior, I become as nonplused as I would if I had witnessed a robbery. To me, littering is a proxy for anyone that is civilized. It is my moral certitude, and I am unable to do it myself even when I know no one will be looking. That is what moral indoctrination is all about.
MORALITY HAS BEEN THE MEANS FOR TYRANNY AND GENOCIDE as stated by Somit and Peterson, "If we were to view some 6,000 years of recorded political society as a landscape in time, there would stretch out before us a vast, desolate desert of absolutism, tyranny, and authoritarianism, only rarely relieved, by an oasis of relative freedom and democracy. To be sure, no two governments are quite the same; still, aside from a small handful, states have differed from each other primarily in the degree of obedience and service demanded from their subjects. Laura Betzig (1986) has described in gruesome detail the often almost unbelievable acts of subservience, submission, and sacrifice compelled by rulers of what we might call primitive political societies. In that respect, the record of more advanced polities, from Babylonia and ancient Egypt to the present, is sometimes only marginally better."
Once humans left the primitive small group that defined our genetic nature, and started forming larger societies, human's need to be submissive or dominant, depending on one's status, made it easy for social structures to form that became severely oppressive. Deprivation, torture, human sacrifice, slavery; it was all done in the name of the few telling the many what to believe in and how to act. And the followers willingly obeyed without questioning what they were told or why they so readily believed what they were told. It was in their nature, they were moral primates, wanting to submit to authority and to believe.
In MacDonald's analysis we may see a glimmer of hope that we may not have to be ethnocentric. In his book, he links different kinds of populations and notes they are not all the same in the way they treat outsiders. Notably, people from the more populated Mediterranean region are more xenophobic and hostile to others than people in areas such as Scandinavia where the population was far less dense. It seems ironic that what the Jews practiced, a form of ingroup/outgroup morality that made genocide of gentiles acceptable was also exactly the same as what the National Socialists preached in their attempt to exterminate the Jews, internal communitarianism (excluding the Jews) and intolerance of outsiders or nationalism. In MacDonald's second book, Separation and its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism, he goes on to explain how the two most prominent features of Judaism, high intelligence and a belief in the need to keep the blood of Jews pure from contamination because they are of higher morality and must be a beacon onto the world was in reality a method of self-deception in order to dominate others. Again, the use of morality as an ingroup/outgroup rivalry for reproductive success and a vigilance to destroy the enemy, the gentiles. He traces three major events whereby the Jews refusal to assimilate and have their blood tainted caused a likewise reaction from the outgroup: the formation of Christendom in the Roman Empire, the Inquisition, and the rise of National Socialism which was a mirror image of Jewish moral principles. None of these historic events would have occurred if xenophobic driven morals or indoctrination of a people had not kept them separate from others.
Today, the same ingroup/outgroup morality is in place and still dividing people. The multiculturalists have singled out white gentiles as the enemy, and the cause of everything that is wrong with the West. And "By labeling any persons who disagree with them as racist or sexist, defenders of the current liberal paradigm are able to protect" their vision of a separation between all people of color and whites, for no other purpose it seems than to show that white gentiles suffer from a lack of moral values and therefore have little credibility in the political process.[11,12] This of course again translates into resource accumulation and reproductive success for the ingroup (people of color) against the outgroup (white gentiles). It is the same moral structure being used for the same purpose as it has been for at least 100,000 years. And it remains ethnocentric and relative only to the group holding the moral high-ground with regards to its effect of indoctrination. The less ethnocentric, more assimilative and universalistic whites will not respond unless they feel threatened, as is now starting to happen. The media and the academic moral paradigm has been one of convincing the public that there was something fundamentally racist with American culture, by using racist tactics to divide groups against each other.
So even today, as we all praise ourselves over how we live in a democracy with open debate, the more astute scholars recognize that instead of logic we continually fall back on moral values to enforce what public policy should be. The masses, taking their marching orders from the elite, are expected to mouth the politically correct messages or they are labeled accordingly, just as the hunter-gatherers did over 10,000 years ago. We always fall back on moral indoctrination as being the truly correct answer among a populace that is too willing to follow rather than thinking for themselves.
But again is this necessarily equally innate in all of us? Can't we see some cultures that are far more intolerant and ethnocentric than others? And if that is the case, must we always carry around with us the natural tendency towards tyranny and genocide? I have always been fascinated with how quickly war-like cultures can seem to change almost overnight, from the Vikings, to the Swiss, the Japanese and the Germans. When war becomes intolerable we have an innate ability to change the way we express our moral indoctrination and we quickly adopt new rules, under the guidance of the post-war political elite telling the masses, "never mind, we were wrong, millions died for nothing." Humans are so easily duped. So society under indoctrination can change. But what about the level of innate xenophobia? That does seem to be at least genetic, and does run in certain groups, as MacDonald pointed out. However, the Roman Empire was very open and assimilated others. And this is where eugenics can be good or bad. As the Jews used eugenics to increase their intelligence, they also increased their ethnocentrism. Using moral scriptures to ensure racial superiority, those members of the Jewish groups who were more xenophobic were more likely stay in the group at any cost. And after 4,000 years of inbreeding, the tendency towards outgroup intolerance increased. This combination of high intelligence, moral certitude, and ethnocentrism then can be used as it has in the past for setting one group against the other with disastrous results like WW II.
But if intelligence is correlated with morality, does this mean that the more intelligent humans are more easily duped than the less intelligent? Something does not seem to be logical here. And noting that the Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average intelligence of any population group (at 117), does it seem logical that they are more easily indoctrinated than less intelligent people? Yes -- intelligence makes people able to obey learned rules more efficiently, able to generalize those rules within the group, but also provides the more intelligent with the ability to self-indoctrinate. What this tells us is that indoctrinability is what allows us to have a moral guidance system, and that system is only as good and as beneficent as the culture evoking the moral rules. So far as I can determine, Western culture has done the best job of indoctrinating its people into believing in democracy and in tolerance. But given straining circumstances, the indoctrination machine, as controlled by the elite institutions that give the marching orders, could easily slip us into another global war of unimaginable proportions. Only a firm understanding of behavior genetics, with a higher average intelligence to understand our own nature, can deter others from turning a group from peace-loving to war-loving through moral suasion.
WOULD WE BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT MORALITY? If morality is an artifact of our evolutionary past, what value does it have for society? It may in fact still have a great deal of value for controlling the behavior of small voluntary groups like clubs and associations, and it has a great deal to due with how family members react with each other. But these are all personal, just exactly what morality evolved to bring about, the control through guilt and gossip of the close members of a tribe or clan. It was never meant to control large political organizations and is not equipped to do so except as an extension by the rule of law of those moral convictions held by a large percent of the public, or as advocated and propagandized by the media and the elite to bring about social change through a change in public opinion. There is no absolute right or wrong, just moral conditioning (indoctrination) on the individual level. So what relevance does it have for the Nation? I would argue none, at least none that cannot be accounted for by the rule of law. If this Nation is made up of free individuals, that are allowed to pursue their own personal happiness within the bounds of the law, what is the purpose of morality?
Morality, as it effects the Nation, can be easily supplanted by law. The government should apply the rule of law to those behaviors and actions that it wants to control. Murder, robbery, extortion, theft, treason, littering, and reckless driving are all actions that can do harm to others by injury or theft. Where the Nation gets in trouble is trying to apply the rule of law where the public thinks morality applies, precisely those areas where Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do (a book by Peter McWilliams). Drugs, prostitution, gambling, abortion, sexual preference, etc. are all regulated because one person's morality is being forced on someone else, outside of the family. I contend that a large number of people, the Nation, cannot be regulated efficiently on these matters and shouldn't be. The desire to do so is nothing more than the evolutionary artifact of morality, where my personal actions drive you crazy because it goes against your personal morality. Well, too bad. We are not the same. And our moralities (our indoctrination) are different and personal. And as long as my personal indoctrination did not make me act in ways that harm you, you have no case for wanting me to quit, other than through an emotional extension of your tribal need to try and control my behavior for a purpose that has long passed.
But morality does have reproductive value at the level of family, friends and associates. And this is where it should remain. To use the family as an example, members must conform to the accepted morality or get out. This can be seen in tough love situations where addicts are told to get out and stop sponging off others. And this is where morality should stay, at the level of the small group, where everyone is evaluated, and if behavior is out of line in accordance to the agreed upon moral code, then the offending person is punished. This is the only reasonable level of moral enforcement. And when my morality is intertwined with my alcoholism and my need to steal, then I will be shunned and probably end up in a new group where we all steal from each other and drink ourselves to death. Conformity is a voluntary response to wanting to be part of a group for mutual aid and support. So what about the homeless, the indigent, the schizophrenic, and the drunk? Make damn sure you behave in such a manner that you always have a support group, and if you do not have the moral fortitude to do so then social controls are doing exactly what evolution intended. (Above, only the orphaned schizophrenic may have an argument for government aid--and I mean maybe.) If those, unable to conform morally to the norms of the group had as much reproductive success as those that were held in high esteem, human indoctrinability would not have come about, and we would be solitary hunters like the cats.
And now for the third form of morality, distributive justice. This great evil is the one where one person has a lot more family support, ambition, and intelligence than others less fortunate, and therefor they have a lot more money than those suffering poor people. This condition, where I have produced far in excess of what the typical family had 100 years ago,it is argued, causes in some strange way suffering in others. Lets analyze this argument, as put forth by Rawls, et al., who advocate egalitarianism. They argue that economic disparity is an evil! And how is that? They never really say. But it is assumed that bad things happen to those who are of low intelligence, and I accept that. But that is not my fault, nor should it be any different. Why would we be so bold as to destroy the very mechanisms that brought us to where we are, the striving for material wealth in order to enhance reproductive success. Man has been on a path of evolutionary progress with regards to intelligence for six million years, starting with the primates. This has all come about because we first used our intelligence in order to control the group through gossip. It was a lot more efficient than physical grooming, grunting, and copulating alone that the primates must rely on for social control. We now started to use language for the purpose of talking about each other, and those with more intelligence had more children because they were more successful at acquiring resources, even if through deception! Was this process, carried our over many thousands of years, just plain wrong? Now that we have evolved to this state, do we want to turn it around and start heading backwards, where the less intelligent will have more off-spring than the more intelligent? Nature doesn't give a damn about distributive justice, in fact nature abhors such concepts.
So there we have it. The conservatives lament the loss of morality because they want others to behave the way they think they should, and egalitarians (now liberals) want a new moral system for distributing wealth. Fortunately, the conservatives have been losing their battle as we understand more about our human nature and where we have come from, but the egalitarians are indifferent to human nature, denying it exists. They are expanding their demands for equality in hopes of a Marxist utopia. (Who said Ronald Reagan defeated Communism--now they are amongst us and we are even less vigilant. Sorry Ronnie.) Welfare, equality, affirmative action, etc., strips away every incentive for reproductive success by making it easier for the less intelligent and lazy to have more children than the more intelligent and productive. But this problem has been around for at least 2000 years. Empires have always been concerned with the wealthy not having enough children, but in the past we did not have Marxism around trying to exacerbate the problem. Now, thanks to the left, we are in a nose dive to a dysgenic dystopia. The less intelligent are having more children, are less productive, and are demanding more and more from those who do provide for the Nation's wealth.
So what do we do with morality? End it as a principle of governing and replace it with eugenics and principles of fairness and law. You reap what you sow. If you want socialism, join a socialist commune and leave me out of it. Your despair at not having enough material wealth, not based on need, but based purely on the fact that I have been so successful at accumulating much more wealth than you, may cause you some discomfort, AS IT SHOULD! That is exactly why nature made women want men with money (meat) for support, and the reason it made men try so hard to make money (go hunting), so that they could copulate with as many women as they could. That is HOW we evolved these large brains. Because men were horny and women needed men to help raise the children, and greed was and is an integral part of that process. There is never a point where anyone has enough wealth, because it is not what wealth is all about. It is about attracting women (for men), and for women to attract men with money. The welfare state, and everything that goes along with it, is out of sync with nature, and it is only perpetuated because a lot of easily duped European-Americans are so easily shamed into believing that the poor are poor because of some form of political inequality. This universal altruism is also an evolutionary artifact found primarily in Northern Europeans, where the sparsely populated region made cooperation a useful evolutionary strategy, whereas xenophobia is more common in population groups found in areas more densely populated. How ironic then, under multiculturalism, that the more xenophobic and racist groups from Africa and the Mediterranean regions are shaming the more altruistic groups from Europe into accepting a universalist socialism that will ultimately destroy the United States as it was envisioned by its founding fathers. The good thing is, groups always fight back once they realize they are in fact at war. And ending morality outside of the family or group is the first step to recovery. Universal altruism must never again be of concern to a nation, only the health of the nation is important. Much of this dilemma is due to our absurd concept of speceisism. Instead of seeing all population groups as one, we must look at evolution as a continuum of change, from primates to humans to ethnic groups and nations, in order to encourage change and experiment with different ways of niche-building. That is, what groups with both genetic and social uniqueness are better equipped to evolve a higher intelligence and a more productive social structure in comparison to others, as evolutionary competition demands of us.
four things must be met for humans to act with self-control or in a moral sense, for the benefit of the group: sympathy (without which group living would be impossible), a sense of fairness or justice, taking responsibility for one's actions, and a sense of duty or group loyalty. Though different individuals need to belong to groups more than others, the cohesiveness of the group can be defined by these basic principles. The glue of course being an evolutionary process that selected for those who could be easily indoctrinated and would follow the rules blindly. MacDonald, in Separation and its Discontents, discusses studies showing that Jews are prone to joining cults because of their extreme ethnocentrism. And the Indian Caste system is likewise similar in that it is closer to a secular religion based on heredity and was originally established to keep the Aryan population separate from the non-Aryans. That is, the need to be part of a group and to follow it blindly is a variable trait found in different population groups that goes from extreme individualism to extreme groupishness (ethnocentrism, xenophobic, racialists, etc.). But all normal humans have a moral sense (aside from the occasional sociopath). And we all follow our leaders unquestioningly as a group whether we want to or not. Note I said as a group, for every group will have its skeptics, whether because they perceive some injustice or they think they should be giving the orders. In fact there is ample evidence that elitists will take on causes for the underclass more as a means of gaining control than out of altruism or caring, as I contend President Clinton has been doing with his socialistic programs. His was an elitist "I feel your pain" in order to attract adoring women so he could "feel their private parts." But governments are only the largest definable group that most people submit to, there are no real rules regarding which or how many groups can function in a large state.
Religion, cults, gangs--they have always attracted differing levels of fanaticism from their members, and the level of commitment is often in parallel with the groups recognizing or being in competition with what are perceived as outgroups. Just as nationalism rises during times of war, and partisan politics (Democrats and Republicans) becomes dominant during times of peace, groups form with different amounts of glue depending on the groups they are against. The new Catholic immigrants over a hundred years ago formed into a cohesive group, formed their own educational system, and remained as a cohesive group until they were no longer perceived as a threat by being ruled by a foreign Roman Pope. The Sicilian Mafia formed into a tight group with a strict moral code for the advancement of the group, now being replaced by new gangs from many different countries (Russian Jews, Jamaicans, etc.). But what makes a group more cohesive than another? Several factors: their innate ethnocentrism or indoctrinability on the one hand, the perception of an ingroup/outgroup conflict, and the general intelligence of the members. What? Intelligence is required to be indoctrinated? It seems so, and is contrary to what we usually expect, that intelligent people will be able to see the facts more clearly and will be less susceptible to being duped. But what if they are looking to be duped, as part of the need to belonging to a well-glued group? Dawkins makes an interesting note with regards to religion. It is the only area of culture where children are expected to be indoctrinated by their parents in one religion, and are expected to accept it unquestioningly, and are discouraged from evaluating the truth as they grow up. It is probably one of the best examples where religious beliefs are solely the product of indoctrination and most people don't really expect there to be much in the way of discoverability of facts, so just indoctrinate and let it go at that. Why bother searching for truth when deep in our hearts we know there is none. This is one of the most glaring examples of self-deception, practiced by all religions, dogmas and cults.
Take a look at gangs. Today's gangs are made up of a new class of ingroup/outgroup phenomenon, where black urban gangs perceived as having nothing to lose, have a need to belong, and yet are not very successful. Large numbers of them are arrested, and the sense of true solidarity is missing, as gang members will often turn in fellow gang members for a lighter sentence. The difference here is intelligence, and the ability to plan far in advance. The Sicilian Mafia was made up of more intelligent members on average, and they could foresee the costs of betrayal, while making sure that violators were punished. Cohesion was enforced by intelligent behavior. The black gangs on the other hand are on average of far lower intelligence, and group cohesion, or moral indoctrination, is far less rigid. So intelligence is a two-edged sword. If a person does not want to be part of a group, and has an innate preference for individualism rather than collectivism, they will use their intelligence in efforts not be duped by the government or any other group or organization. But under different circumstances, when there is a perceived threat, the same individual can become easily indoctrinated and communitarian, as happened when National Socialism formed in Germany because of a troubled economy and the Jewish threat in their midst's, what MacDonald in Separation and its Discontents, call a mirror-image response to Jewish nationalism. One group formed because of the other. (Also note that the Russian Jews have become the latest, and by far the most dangerous organized crime syndicate -- they are highly intelligent, ethnocentric and without any compassion for lesser sub-humans in keeping with their Talmudic religious teachings and culture.)
Understanding that indoctrination of the public is required to accept democracy is the most compelling reason for studying behavior genetics with regards to the moral sense. Somit and Peterson [25,26,27] are taking the first steps in asking whether we can assume that democracy is a natural state or an exception, and they then go on to show that it is only through indoctrination that Western governments established democracy as the norm. For it to exist, there must be an ongoing complicity by the government, the press, academics, and intellectuals to portray what the United States is doing at any particular time as the correct thing to do in a democracy, even though humans tend to prefer non-democratic forms of government. Take for example multiculturalism and diversity. If anyone bothered to look at history and at current nations with diverse ethnic populations under democracies, it is glaringly obvious that homogeneous nations fair far better on any number or parameters than multicultural nations. And yet, it is stated as an unquestioned fact that diversity is good, and the more diversity a nation has the stronger it will be. This is an example of an extremely efficient propaganda machine, made to make acceptance of multiculturalism as integral to our democratic principles, where in fact this ideology was plucked out of thin air for political purposes by elite groups for a specific purpose (see my review of MacDonald's book The Culture of Critique).
No matter how universally altruistic or sympathetic a culture may be, it will only last as long as resources are seen as in excess of what is needed or demanded, and that the aid given to others outside of the group are deserving and recipients would reciprocate if the situation was reversed. For this universal altruism to exist, Western culture had to be extremely productive to create a society where the citizens would allow money to be transferred from those who have to those who are in need. For this to continue, those giving must be sufficiently indoctrinated by the American polity to believe that it is deserved. This giving runs counter to our human nature, where giving and altruism has always been coupled with the ability to determine if those in need are living in accordance to the rules or morality of the group. Once tribes gave way to cities, and cities to nations, we lost the ability to hold people accountable for their actions, and to give aid only if it is deserving. Look at the average beggar on the street; are they deserving of a hand out and how do we know? Are those on welfare worthy of assistance or are they incapable of ever reciprocating and becoming productive members of society? Altruism in the past has always been a group evolutionary strategy. It never evolved to include universal compassion. Only through religious and now government sponsored indoctrination have we been able to convince the dominant culture that this altruism is deserving, and yet we know those who receive the aid, coming from more ethnocentric cultures, would reject reciprocity out of hand as not benefiting them. But again, in order for the current egalitarianism to succeed, the public had to be indoctrinated into believing that it was in our national and moral interests to aid all those in need. But now after forty years of such aid, it is now becoming clear that we were duped. The majority of those receiving aid will never be productive citizens, in large part due to their low average intelligence (see American Psychological Association's report Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns at http://lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/apa_01.html).
Taken to the level of the Nation's capital and the partisanship of the rancorous accusations on both sides of the aisle in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair, it is easy to see why morality, and its discussion, falls short of meeting any political goals that can be grasped by the public. If the very same philandering were occurring in the home, or in a small cohesive group with strict prohibitions against such behavior, the situation would entail punishment and corrective action. But morality just does not operate at a distance, where the players are presented to the public filtered by the media. The morality in Washington is a local matter, where gossip keeps track of who is doing what to whom and why. But their moral codes are not those of the public's. Our representatives are portrayed as caring, concerned people, in Washington to represent their constituency back home. But upon arrival in Washington, that quickly changes (if it did ever exist in any one candidate for office). As we have learned with Bill Clinton, the public is eager to be lied to, to believe in, and to accept everything that is said as long as the person merely represents one's partisan choice. It has little reality in fact. Our evolutionary past has forged a human nature that must rely on the signals, punishment, altruism, and regulation of the group, all of whom were known personally by each other. Humans are evolutionarily incapable of determining what is right and wrong, based on a moral sense that has no current operating mechanism for evolutionary advancement. It is time to move past using morality as a public goal and formulate a means to deal with democracies that are out of control and serving no one but those who run the government. Manipulation of the public is too easy, when that public is not equipped to deal rationally with deceit and treachery at a distance. It is hard enough to spot deceptors that are dealing with us personally.
A good analogy of this phenomenon is found in Steven Mithen's book The
Prehistory of The Mind. As an archaeologist, he explains that the human
brain evolved in stages. We first evolved language and social intelligence over
2 million years ago. During that time to about 100,000 years ago humans used
very crude stone tools that were the same in vary different environments, until
our intelligence increased through evolution and we integrated technology into
our general intelligence with a subsequent explosion of new tools. This is very
similar today, where morality and indoctrination still make up a hidden set of
faculties that we are unable to integrate into higher level intelligence.
Perhaps the only way to get beyond the hazards of an archaic moral system is to
truly evolve to a level where our intelligence can finally integrate what
morality is into a rational system of understanding.Only then will we have moved
beyond the absurd notion that we can know what is right or wrong, rather than
using empiricism to understand how we behave naturally and then decide how want
to structure society to make it work the way we desire, without the shackles of
the artifacts of indoctrination.
I started this article several months ago, and as usually happens when you
keep setting something down and returning to it, sometimes the main message
changes or could be stated in a different way. Over that period of time, and
also because in the interim I read several important books by Wilson, Churchland,
and MacDonald dealing in part with morality, I see myself shifting conceptually.
It may not be sufficient to dismiss morality but may be necessary to supplant a
transcendental approach to morality with a national commitment to eugenics based
on a scientific morality--or ethics if you prefer. That is, one where the health
of the nation is too important to be left to a libertarian approach to freedom
and individualism, and we must now return to a more regulated policy of closing
our borders to the low intelligent immigrants, and making a commitment to
increase the average intelligence of our citizens, and reject the Kant/Rawls
formulations that will eventually lead to ruin. There is a fundamental dilemma
with indoctrination and scientific knowledge. What if the only way we can move
humans to a level of intelligence necessary for them to understand morality, is
to use the instruments of indoctrination to fight those who use these tools to
reject science for the specific purpose of destroying Western culture because of
their unabashed hatred for a culture that has worked. What an odd twist--and a
return to past conflicts that never were resolved.
1. Churchland, The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul: These
parallels are reinforced when we look past declared social policy and written
legislation to the institutions that enforce them, in particular, the judiciary
branch of all levels of government. If continuing legislative activity in the
social domain corresponds to continuing theoretical activity in the scientific
domain, then society's judiciary corresponds very roughly to science's
engineers: they both have the job of actually applying the current abstract
wisdom case by case to the real world, to the social world in the former case
and to the natural world in the latter. As with our institutions of engineering,
our judiciary comes to embody an additional layer of wisdom and know-how, a
layer beyond what appears in the standard science textbooks or the written
legislation. How best to interpret the current abstract wisdom, as one attempts
to bring it to bear on an endless variety of novel cases, is something that can
never be exhaustively articulated in a set of written laws, whether scientific
or social. In the latter domain, the burden of such ongoing interpretation is
assigned to the judiciary, and their practice here displays an old friend:
prototypes, or paradigms. They are called "precedents" in the legal
profession, but they play a role comparable to that played by paradigms or
prototypical examples in science. A precedent is an earlier judicial decision on
a specific legal issue, carefully written up by the presiding judge and then
published in the judiciary's legal record, a record that reaches back several
centuries and encompasses hundreds of thousands of cases.
2. Wilson, Consilience: CENTURIES OF DEBATE on the origin of ethics come down to this: Either ethical precepts, such as justice and human rights, are independent of human experience or else they are human inventions. The distinction is more than an exercise for academic philosophers. The choice between the assumptions makes all the difference in the way we view ourselves as a species. It measures the authority of religion, and it determines the conduct of moral reasoning. The two assumptions in competition are like islands in a sea of chaos, immovable, as different as life and death, matter and the void. Which is correct cannot be learned by pure logic; for the present only a leap of faith will take you from one to the other. But the true answer will eventually be reached by the accumulation of objective evidence. Moral reasoning, I believe, is at every level intrinsically consilient with the natural sciences. Every thoughtful person has an opinion on which of the premises is correct. But the split is not, as popularly supposed, between religious believers and secularists. It is between transcendentalists, those who think that moral guidelines exist outside the human mind, and empiricists, who think them contrivances of the mind. The choice between religious or nonreligious conviction and the choice between ethically transcendentalist or empiricist conviction are cross-cutting decisions made in metaphysical thought. An ethical transcendentalist, believing ethics to be independent, can either be an atheist or else assume the existence of a deity. In parallel manner, an ethical empiricist, believing ethics to be a human creation only, can either be an atheist or else believe in a creator deity (though not in a law-giving God in the traditional Judaeo-Christian sense). In simplest terms the option of ethical foundation is as follows:
I believe in the independence of moral values, whether from God or not,
I believe that moral values come from humans alone; God is a separate issue.
Theologians and philosophers have almost always focused on transcendentalism
as the means to validate ethics. They seek the grail of natural law, which
comprises freestanding principles of moral conduct immune to doubt and
compromise. Christian theologians, following St. Thomas Aquinas' reasoning in
Summa Theologiae, by and large consider natural law to be the expression of
God's will. Human beings, in this view, have the obligation to discover the law
by diligent reasoning and weave it into the routine of their daily lives.
Secular philosophers of transcendental bent may seem to be radically different
from theologians, but they are actually quite similar, at least in moral
reasoning. They tend to view natural law as a set of principles so powerful as
to be self-evident to any rational person, whatever the ultimate origin. In
short, transcendentalism is fundamentally the same whether God is invoked or
3. De Waal, Good Natured: Without agreement on rank and a
certain respect for authority there can be no great sensitivity to social rules,
as anyone who has tried to teach simple house rules to a cat will agree. Even if
cat lovers fail to see a nonhierarchical nature as a shortcoming--on the
contrary!--it does place their pets firmly outside the human moral realm.
Evolved as solitary hunters, cats go their own way, indifferent to what the rest
of the world thinks of them. For the child, it is the adult's approval that is
sought; for the adult, it may be that of an omnipotent God infused with absolute
moral knowledge. There is obviously more to morality--Kohlberg's scheme counts
six stages up to and including an autonomous conscience--yet submission to a
higher authority is fundamental. This feature is also less peculiarly human than
some of the abilities involved in the later stages: submission to authority is
part of a primordial orientation found not only in our fellow primates, but in a
host of other animals as well." And again, "The second condition for
the evolution of morality, then, is conflict within the group. Moral systems are
produced by tension between individual and collective interests, particularly
when entire collectivities compete against one another. If the need to get along
and treat each decently is indeed rooted in the need to stick together in the
face of external threats, it would explain why one of Christianity's most
heralded moral principle, the sanctity of life, is interpreted so flexibly,
depending on which group, race, or nation the life belongs to. Human history
furnishes ample evidence that moral principles are oriented to one's own group,
and only reluctantly (and never evenhandedly) applied to the outside world.
4. Dunbar, Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language: He
concluded that one of the most important things gossip allows you to do is to
keep track of (and of course influence) other people's reputations as well as
your own, Gossip, in his view, is all about the management of reputation. Taken
together, these observations provide strong support for the suggestion that
language evolved to facilitate the bonding of social groups, and that it mainly
achieves this aim by permitting the exchange of socially relevant information.
5. Anders, The Evolution of Evil:. . .intelligence is a two-edged
sword.... the more flexible an organism is the greater the variety of
maladaptive, as well as adaptive, behaviors it can develop; the more teachable
it is the more it risks being exploited by its ancestors and associates; the
greater its capacity for learning morality the more worthless superstitions, as
well as traditions of social wisdom, it can acquire; the more cooperatively
interdependent the members of a group become the greater is their collective
power and the more fulsome are the opportunities for individuals to manipulate
one another; the more sophisticated language becomes the more subtle are the
lies, as well as the truths, that can be told.
6. Hartigan, The Future Remembered: At the risk of anthropomorphizing,
we might call it the animal group's "public morality." what else can
it be called? If morality is the sum total of the mores, customs, and
conventions of a group, passed on, revised, or abandoned, why can we not say
that the rites and rituals of order in a baboon pack, for example, constitute
its public morality? Its source may be more automatic, spontaneous, instinctual
than in us, but the result and function are the same. It is the "do's"
and "don'ts" of the group, transgression of which brings swift
retaliation from the group's enforcer(s) of public order. Anarchy cannot be
permitted. The group must, for its survival, meet threats from predators or
other conspecific groups with a solid front, while, within the group,
instability will threaten the ultimate safety of all.
7. Dawkins, The Origins of Virtue: Our minds have been built by
selfish genes, but they have been built to be social, trustworthy and
cooperative. That is the paradox this book has tried to explain. Human beings
have social instincts. They come into the world equipped with predispositions to
learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to
commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods
and information, and to divide labor. In this we are on our own. No other
species has been so far down this evolutionary path before us, for no species
has built a truly integrated society except among the inbred relatives of a
large family such as an ant colony. We owe our success as a species to our
social instincts; they have enabled us to reap undreamt benefits from the
division of labor for our masters--the genes. They are responsible for the rapid
expansion of our brains in the past two million years and thence for our
inventiveness. The evolutionary perspective is a long one. This book has in
passing tried to nail some myths about when we adopted our cultured habits. I
have argued that there was morality before the Church; trade before the state;
exchange before money; social contracts before Hobbes; welfare before the rights
of man; culture before Babylon; society before Greece; self-interest before Adam
Smith; and greed before capitalism.
8. Levin, In Why Race Matters: Rules that endure do so, therefore,
because heeding them, training one's offspring to heed them, and encouraging
one's cohort to heed them, enhance the fitness of cohort members. It follows
that the function of a group's morality is group survival, and it is easy to see
how typical moral rules discharge that function. Injunctions to within-group
honesty, cooperativeness, and nonaggression facilitate trade, construction
projects, organizing for battle, and other activities helpful to all. Such rules
become entrenched because the behavior they prescribe is adaptive. And since
obedience to such rules enhances group fitness, so does the reinforcement of
obedience. However, while a functional account explains why rules persist once
they start being followed, it does not explain the origin of rules, how they
come to be followed in the first place. Finishing the story evidently requires
appeal to biology.
9. Dawkins, The Origins of Virtue: Hartung does not stop there. The
ten commandments, he reveals, apply to Israelites but not heathen people, as
reaffirmed throughout the Talmud, by later scholars such as Maimonides and
repeatedly by the kings and prophets of the Torah. Modern translations, by
footnotes and judicious editing or mistranslation, usually blur this point. But
genocide was as central a part of God's instructions as morality. When Joshua
killed twelve thousand heathen in a day and gave thanks to the Lord afterwards
by carving the ten commandments in stone, including the phrase Thou shalt not
kill, he was not being hypocritical. Like all good group-selectionists, the
Jewish God was as severe towards the outgroup as he was moral to the ingroup.
This is not to pick on the Jews. No less an authority than Margaret Mead
asserted that the injunction against murdering human beings is universally
interpreted to define human beings as members of one's own tribe. Members of
other tribes are subhuman. As Richard Alexander has put it, 'the rules of
morality and law alike seem not to be designed explicitly to allow people to
live in harmony within societies but to enable societies to be sufficiently
united to deter their enemies.' Christianity, it is true, teaches love to all
people, not just fellow Christians. This seems to be largely an invention of St
Paul's, since Jesus frequently discriminated in the gospels between Jews and
Gentiles, and made clear that his message was for Jews. St Paul, living in exile
among the Gentiles, started the idea of converting rather than exterminating the
heathen. But the practice, rather than the preaching, of Christianity has been
less inclusive. The Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Thirty Years War and the
sectarian strife that still afflicts communities like Northern Ireland and
Bosnia, testify to a continuing tendency for Christians to love only those
neighbors who share their beliefs. Christianity has not notably diminished
ethnic and national conflict; if anything, it seems to have inflamed it. This is
not to single out religion as the cause or source of tribal conflict. After all,
as Sir Arthur Keith pointed out, Hitler perfected the double standard of ingroup
morality and outgroup ferocity by calling his movement National Socialism.
Socialism stood for communitarianism within the tribe, nationalism for its
vicious exterior. He needed no religious spur. But given that humankind has an
instinct towards tribalism that millions of years of groupishness have fostered,
religions have thrived to the extent that they stressed the community of the
converted and the evil of the heathen. Hartung ends his essay on a bleak note,
doubting that universal morality can be taught by religions steeped in such
traditions, or that it can even be attained unless a war with another world
unifies the whole planet.
10. MacDonald, A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Ethnocentrism is a
schismatic ingroup/outgroup differentiation, in which internal cohesion,
relative peace, solidarity, loyalty and devotion to the ingroup, and the
glorification of the "sociocentric-sacred" (one's own cosmology,
ideology, social myth, or Weltanschauung; one's own god-given social
order) are correlated with a state of hostility or permanent quasi-war (status
hostilis) towards outgroups, which are often perceived as inferior, sub-human,
and/or the incorporation of evil. ethnocentrism results in a dualistic,
Manichaean morality which evaluates violence within the ingroup as negative, and
violence against the outgroup as positive even desirable and heroic.
Socialization in collectivist cultures stresses group harmony, conformity,
obedient submission to hierarchical authority, the honoring of parents and
elders. There is also a major stress on in group loyalty, as well as trust and
cooperation within the ingroup. Each of the ingroup members is viewed as
responsible for every other member. However, relations with outgroup members are
"distant, distrustful, and even hostile". In collectivist cultures,
morality is conceptualized as that which benefits the group, and aggression and
exploitation of outgroups are acceptable. People in individualist cultures, on
the other hand, show little emotional attachment to ingroups. Personal goals are
paramount, and socialization emphasizes the importance of self-reliance,
independence individual responsibility, and "finding yourself".
Individualists have more positive attitudes toward strangers and outgroup
members and are more likely to behave in a pro-social, altruistic manner to
11. Rubin, The Assault on the First Amendment: By labeling any persons
who disagree with them as racist or sexist, defenders of the current liberal
paradigm are able to protect it. Disagreement is not only viewed as a sign of
intellectual dissension; it is characterized as an indicator of low moral value.
Because of the theoretical weakness of the paradigm this argument carries
particular weight. Ambitious scholars would attack the paradigm if it were not
protected by morality. The effort to convert intellectual disputes into moral
disputes may be a more general method of attack; McCarthyism proceeded by
accusing those with certain sets of beliefs as being not only misguided, but
also as being traitors.
12. Hartigan, The Future Remembered: It must first be admitted that we
are a naturally aggressive animal who will respond violently in order to protect
his territory, and that security of territory is a prerequisite to personal
survival and the production of the species' future generations. Organized,
lethal conspecific violence, what we call war, is not an aberration of the
species nor is it a vice. It is a distinctively human activity resulting from
our big brain ability to forestall a future perceived threat by permanently
eliminating an enemy. As a species it is part of our evolution.
13. Levin, Why Race Matters: Cattell (1950) reports a significant
correlation between "general ability" and being "morally
intelligent." Herrnstein and Wilson comment that "a person's level of
moral reasoning is correlated with intelligence, particularly verbal
intelligence" (1985:169). Herrnstein and Murray (1994) report an r of .28
between IQ and a measure of prosocial behavior they call the "Middle Class
Values Index" (1994: 622). Lawrence Kohlberg, well known for his sequencing
of the stages of moral development, describes findings which "support what
we all know: you have to be cognitively mature to reason morally. . . . IQ tests
correlate with moral maturity" (1981: 138-9). Among (white) preadolescents,
Mussen et al. (1970) found correlations ranging from .32 to .62 between IQ,
altruism and honesty. IQ also correlates slightly with sense of humor, stature
14. Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul: Someone
might well ask at this point, "What about humanity's great religions? Are
they not also historical institutions that hold up models of worthy and unworthy
behavior, models that shape our lives accordingly?" They are indeed, and
very powerful, too. Moreover, those institutions will no doubt endorse my claim
that moral knowledge is real knowledge. Their grounds for this claim, however,
will be very different from mine. In these pages I have been attempting to
support this claim by highlighting the unfolding process by which we learn from
our mistakes. Moral knowledge, broadly speaking, is real knowledge precisely
because it results from the continual readjustment of our convictions and
practices in the light of our unfolding experience of the real world,
readjustments that lead to greater collective harmony and individual
flourishing. If this is the way one wishes to argue for the rough objectivity of
moral knowledge, then the world's great religions, the Western ones anyway, are
poor examples to help one do it. The reason is simple and not without some
irony. In order to purchase a compelling authority for their respective
catechisms, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all claim a divine origin for the
moral wisdom that they contain. Their moral laws are held out to us as the
revealed truths or irrevocable commands of God. Putting aside the awesome
presumption of those who would speak for God Himself, the tactical gain
purchased by the claim of divine authority eventually matures into the profound
liability of not being able to change the relevant body of law. Their dubious
claim to authority returns to haunt these institutions. It returns as the
awkwardness or complete inability to learn from mankind's subsequent moral and
social experience. For if those religions have already been given God's final
word directly from God Himself, how can they subsequently claim to find fault
with it? This situation is worse, I think, than mere irony: it is a continuing
tragedy. Some of the most powerful institutions on the planet, for preserving
and teaching such moral wisdom as humanity had already achieved ten or twenty
centuries ago, have now become the principal barriers to the wholly natural
processes by which humanity might ascend to still higher levels of moral
understanding. While important, perhaps, these remarks on religion are a
digression from my main purpose, which is to outline a more modest authority for
moral knowledge; namely, the imperfect but very real authority of our collective
social experience. Let me conclude this section by returning to that theme.
Focus now on the single individual, one who grows up among creatures with a more
or less common human nature, in an environment of established social practices
and presumptive moral wisdom already in place. The child's initiation into that
smooth collective practice takes time, time to learn how to recognize a large
variety of prototypical social situations, time to learn how to deal with those
situations, time to learn how to balance or arbitrate conflicting perceptions
and conflicting demands, and time to learn the sorts of patience and
self-control that characterize mature skills in any domain of activity. After
all, there is nothing essentially moral about learning to defer immediate
gratification in favor of later or more diffuse rewards. So far as the child's
brain is concerned, such learning, such neural representation, and such
deployment of those prototypical resources are all indistinguishable from their
counterparts in the acquisition of skills generally. There are real successes,
real failures, real confusions, and real rewards in the long-term quality of
life that one's moral skills produce. As in the case of internalizing mankind's
scientific knowledge, a person who internalizes man-kind's moral knowledge is a
more powerful and effective creature because of it. To draw the parallels here
drawn is to emphasize the practical or pragmatic nature of both scientific and
broadly normative knowledge. It is to emphasize the fact that both embody
different forms of know-how. How to navigate the natural world in the former
case, and how to navigate the social world in the latter. This portrait of the
moral person as a person who has acquired a certain family of cognitive and
behavioral skills contrasts sharply with the more traditional accounts that
picture the moral person as one who has agreed to follow a certain set of rules
(e.g., "Always keep your promises", etc.), or alternatively, as one
who has a certain set of overriding desires (e.g., to maximize the general
happiness, etc.). Both of these more traditional accounts are badly out of
focus. For one thing, it is just not possible to capture, in a set of explicit
imperative sentences or rules, more than a small part of the practical wisdom
possessed by a mature moral individual. It is no more possible here than in the
case of any other form of expertise--scientific, athletic, technological,
artistic, or political. The sheer amount of information stored in a well-trained
network the size of a human brain, and the massively distributed and exquisitely
context-sensitive ways in which it is stored therein, preclude its complete
expression in a handful of sentences, or even a large book full. Statable rules
are not the basis of one's moral character. They are merely its pale and partial
reflection at the comparatively impotent level of language. If rules don't do
it, neither are suitable desires the true basis of anyone's moral character.
Certainly they are not sufficient. A person might have an all-consuming desire
to maximize human happiness. But if that person has no comprehension of what
sorts of things genuinely serve lasting human happiness; no capacity for
recognizing other people's emotions, aspirations, and current purposes; no
ability to engage in smoothly cooperative undertakings; no skills whatever at
pursuing that all-consuming desire; then that person is not a moral saint. He is
a pathetic fool, a hopeless busybody, a loose cannon, and a serious menace to
his society. Neither are canonical desires obviously necessary. A man may have,
as his most basic and overriding desire in life, the desire to see his own
children mature and prosper. To him, let us suppose, everything else is
distantly secondary. And yet, such a person may still be numbered among the most
consummately moral people of his community, as long as he pursues his personal
goal, as others may pursue theirs, in a fashion that is scrupulously fair to the
aspirations of others and ever protective of the practices that serve everyone's
aspirations indifferently. Attempting to portray either accepted rules or
canonical desires as the basis of moral character has the further disadvantage
of inviting the skeptic's hostile question: "Why should I follow those
rules?" in the first case, and "What if I don't have those
desires?" in the second. If, however, we reconceive strong moral character
as the possession of a broad family of perceptual, computational, and behavioral
skills in the social domain, then the skeptic's question must become, "Why
should I acquire those skills?" To which the honest answer is,
"Because they are easily the most important skills you will ever learn.
15. Fox, Moral Sense and Utopian Sensibility: The evolutionary process
was not concerned with producing some type of ethically ideal good
person, but with a person who could survive. You are constructed to survive in a
world without philosophers, popes or policemen, with an often hostile
environment, including groups like yours but hostile to it, and your own kin as
your only resource.
16. Somit and Peterson, Darwinism, Dominance & Democracy: Homo
sapiens display, we have argued, the genetically transmitted proclivities for
dominance, hierarchy, and obedience that also characterize the other social
primates. Our species has also evolved, however, a behavioral trait that is
unarguably unique among living creatures. We refer, of course, to the capacity
to accept and then to act on the basis of beliefs and values-even when the
resulting actions run counter to our innate inclinations or our personal
desires. As one of our most eminent biologists put it, "of all living
creatures, human beings are uniquely capable of disobeying those biological
inclinations that whisper within them. We alone are able to say 'No' to such
genetic tendencies as may predispose some of us to polygyny, theft, murder,
etc." (Barash, 1994:16). It is this truly remarkable trait that is denoted
by the admittedly awkward and cumbersome term, "indoctrinability."
Because of indoctrinability, ideas, values, and beliefs can profoundly alter the
behaviors of those who embrace them. In a sense, to follow up our earlier
discussion, we become obedient to ideas and ideals. Or, to put the matter in a
more epigrammatic form, "Humans have become intrinsically different from
apes by becoming, in a very limited but real sense, artifacts of their own
artifacts" (Kingdon, 1993:3).
17. Anders, The Evolution of Evil: And so throughout this book I have
lumped the two together under the single broad category of evil. It is my
belief that the ultimate source of both physical and moral evil is the same, and
that that common source is the capacity for suffering. If there did not exist
sentient beings capable of suffering from them, after all, then disease and
hunger would not exist. And such things as earthquakes, floods, and other
natural disasters would not be evil because they would have no victims.
Similarly, without the capacity for suffering that exists in all victims of
immoral acts, there could be no immoral acts. And without the capacity for
suffering that exists in all criminals (and potential criminals), there would be
no criminality. To be sure, if no one ever suffered the pain and frustration
of wanting but not having, then no one would ever be motivated to take what
he wanted by force, and crime would have no purpose. The ultimate source of
moral, as well as physical evil, in short, is the biological capacity for
suffering. And if we are to find the root of all evil anywhere, we are to find
it in this capacity.
18. Rubinstein, Capitalism, Social Mobility, and Distributive Justice:
Kai Nielsen, arguing for socialism, contends that: 'There is . . . a plain and
evident disparity in terms of the whole life prospects of the child of a doctor
and the child of a dishwasher, even when these children are equally intelligent,
hard-working, and the like. We feel that it is wrong--unfair--that their whole
life prospects should be so very different.' One of the most common arguments
for equality in Thomas Nagel's recent book, Equality and Partiality, is
the heritability of inequality: 'Class stratification is clearly an evil: How
could it not be an evil that some people's life prospects at birth are radically
inferior to others' ?' Nagel adduces four sources of inequality: intentional
discrimination, hereditary advantage, natural ability, and effort--and he
describes them 'as forming a progression of increasing moral
acceptability.'" And again, "The sheer vastness of inequality in the
U. S. is troubling. The lowest income quintile receives less than 5% of the
annual income total while the top quintile receives nearly 50%. Inequalities of
wealth are even greater. The top 1/2% of U.S. families owns over 35% of all
wealth, the next 1/2% owns an additional 6.7%, and the top 10% owns over 70% of
19. Norm, Humanism and intelligence: a critique of 'The Bell Curve.':
Though these are noble aspirations, they cannot be achieved if so many people
lack the natural intelligence and propensity toward ethical behavior that
scholars such as Murray and Herrnstein believe are essential for life in modern
society. They argue that a wealthy, intelligent elite will inevitably arise due
to the supposed dumbing down of America. And if such is to be the case, justice
and fairness cannot be secured under such conditions, and discrimination,
intolerance, and authoritarianism will rise dramatically. There will be no sense
in supporting the disadvantaged and handicapped, because they will be
permanently unable to help themselves and will be a burden upon society. It
would be useless to cultivate moral excellence in many people, because they
would be inherently inclined toward immorality. A belief in the fullest
realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings
certainly could not be applied to all human beings, particularly those with low
IQs. Indeed, if biodeterminism is true, humanism is largely a mistake.
20. Pearson, Heredity and Humanity: Thirty-three years ago, Sir Julian
Huxley pointed to the perversion of altruism that has resulted from the rise of
large urbanized, multi-racial communities, and the dysgenic result of this
re-direction of a natural impulse into unnatural channels in an overcrowded and
heavily acculturated world: 'In that long period of human history during which
our evolving and expanding hominid ancestors lived in small and tightly knit
groups competing for territorial and technological success, the social
organization promoted selection for intelligent exploration of possibilities,
devotion and cooperative altruism: the cultural and genetic systems reinforced
each other. It was only much later with the growth of bigger social units...
that the two become antagonistic... and gave way to the possibility and later
the probability of genetic regression and degeneration.'" And again later
"Today the doctrine of egalitarianism dominates the Western nations with a
quasi-religious mystique rooted in the notion of biological uniformity, but the
resultant spirit of universal altruism is primarily restricted to the culture of
the Western world. If the East Eurasians eventually achieve world dominance --
and already there is evidence that this may come to be--they will surely one day
reflect upon the history of the "dog-eyed" West Eurasian race, and
wonder at the stupidity of a people who could uncover the secrets of biology but
still destroy themselves by refusing to abandon the more dysfunctional aspects
of the confused melee of dysgenic social mores they had inherited from their
21. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Such is the breathtaking speciesism
of our Christian-inspired attitudes, the abortion of a single human zygote (most
of them are destined to be spontaneously aborted anyway) can arouse more moral
solicitude and righteous indignation than the vivisection of any number of
intelligent adult chimpanzees! I have heard decent, liberal scientists, who had
no intention of actually cutting up live chimpanzees, nevertheless passionately
defending their right to do so if they chose, without interference from the law.
Such people are often the first to bristle at the smallest infringement of human
rights. The only reason we can be comfortable with such a double standard is
that the intermediates between humans and chimps are all dead.
22. Fox, Moral sense and Utopian sensibility: In other words, moral
should not be equated with good but with human. To be human is to be moral, that
is, to act within a definite framework of specific judgmental concerns in
interacting with other humans. Another way of putting this, which some western
philosophers to their credit--even before Darwin--recognized, is to say that we
have, as humans, a "moral sense"--indeed Darwin counted himself as one
of their number. I agree that we have a moral sense for the same reasons Darwin
gave. Natural selection would have favored the development of what we call
morality in any organisms that developed the levels of intelligence,
consciousness, foresight and sociality that humans did. Those individuals that
acted towards other in a "moral" way would be more likely to survive
and have offspring and so on until genes favorable to this moral behavior came
to dominate their amoral alternatives (which did not necessarily disappear
however). A major component of this morality is what I have stressed as
"inhibition" or "equilibration" (after Michael Chance), and
which Wilson deals with under "self control." It is the psychologists'
"deferred gratification, " and without it living according to rules
(morality) is impossible. Other major components are sympathy, without which
group living would impossible; a sense of fairness or "justice,"
without which the settlement of inevitable disputes and the control of cheating
would be impossible; the attribution of responsibility, without which praise and
blame, the system of rewards and punishments, and the raising of children would
be impossible; and again, the sense of duty or group loyalty, without which
(along with sympathy) true altruism would be impossible. In the parlance of
modern evolutionary psychology, these would be "domain specific
algorithms" (or modules) showing a high degree of design adaptedness
perhaps we should always talk of "moral senses" in the plural. Wilson
has caught them all (except perhaps the attribution of responsibility) and done
a fine service in showing the psychological underpinnings which make them work.
I am only concerned that he too is perhaps still stuck with assuming that they
should produce a "good" result. I agree with him that most of the time
they do, in the sense that people do get on with their lives, morals and all,
with a minimum of harm to other people, despite the temptations and distractions
towards selfishness and greed that are all-pervasive. But I find no built-in
guarantees. As he sees, the "moral sense," in this sense, is fragile.
It is easily overwhelmed. It has a narrow range of application. Universal moral
standards are not part of the universal moral discourse--only the meta-discourse
of the philosophers. We may all operate in all our societies around a fixed set
of moral senses, and this will give a remarkable "sameness" to human
moral systems despite their surface differences of rules and standards (much as
there is a sameness to all human languages in the jobs they do despite often
staggering differences in surface grammar, the same with kinship systems). But
it does not mean that there is a universal basis for "goodness"--only
23. Pearson, Heredity and Humanity:. . . Indeed, most Indo-European
peoples, including those who resided outside the geographical borders of Europe,
seem to have placed considerable trust in the powers of heredity. Max Weber
documented the same emphasis on heredity among other lndo-Europeans. In The
Religion of India (1958), Weber described the semi-magical xvarenah attributed
to Indo-Iranian kings as a belief in inherited ability, calling it
"familial charisma." The Indian caste system, he maintained, was
sustained by a similar belief in the genetic inheritance of human qualities. The
charisma of a caste, of a sib, and of a family, was genetically transmitted; its
roots were to be found in the concept of inherited ability.
24. Dawkins, Is Science a Religion?: From a 1996 "Humanist of the
Year" award speech available at http://www.infidels.org/org/aha/publications/humanist/dawkins.html:
. . . What is not sweet and touching is that these children were all four years
old. How can you possibly describe a child of four as a Muslim or a Christian or
a Hindu or a Jew? Would you talk about a four-year- old economic monetarist?
Would you talk about a four-year-old neo-isolationist or a four-year-old liberal
Republican? There are opinions about the cosmos and the world that children,
once grown, will presumably be in a position to evaluate for themselves.
Religion is the one field in our culture about which it is absolutely accepted,
without question--without even noticing how bizarre it is--that parents have a
total and absolute say in what their children are going to be, how their
children are going to be raised, what opinions their children are going to have
about the cosmos, about life, about existence. Do you see what I mean about
mental child abuse?
25. Somit and Peterson, Darwinism, Dominance & Democracy: The
proposed explanation promptly triggers the second question: How, then, can we
account for the undeniable occasional emergence of democratic polities? Many of
those who have wrestled with this problem find the answer in some unique
concatenation of economic, social, historical, and political
"facilitating" factors. These factors undoubtedly play a role.
Nonetheless, paradoxically enough, we must again turn to evolutionary theory for
the necessary, though not sufficient, condition that makes democracy sometimes
possible. Although it shares the proclivity of its fellow social primates for
hierarchical social organization, Homo sapiens is the only species capable of
creating and, under some circumstances, acting in accordance with cultural
beliefs that actually run counter to its innate behavioral tendencies.
The generally accepted, if lamentably awkward, term for this truly unique
capacity is "indoctrinability." Celibacy and the (presumably) less
demanding ideal of faithful monogamy are obvious examples of indoctrinability at
work. Democracy, an idea almost as alien to our social primate nature, is
another. It is indoctrinability, then, that makes it possible, given some
conjunction of the aforementioned facilitating social, economic, and other
conditions, for democracies occasionally to emerge and to have some chance to
26. Somit and Peterson, Darwinism, Dominance & Democracy: . .
.there must also concurrently evolve, in Eibl-Eibesfeldt's phrase, "a
disposition to accept subordination and obedience". In short, however
repugnant the idea, natural selection has endowed us with "a readiness to
comply with a submissive role" or, as Barash would have it, with "an
inclination to follow orders, an appropriate behavior for a species organized
along distinct lines of dominance." Acts of obedience are of two sorts. In
one, the organism does something that it would prefer not to do; in the other,
the organism refrains from doing something that, left to its own choices, it
would prefer to do. An example of the former would be a situation in which a
subordinate chimpanzee gives up a desirable resting place to a dominant; in the
latter, it refrains from copulating with a receptive female because of the
threat, explicit or implicit, of a dominant. In the case of chimpanzees--or
members of any other social species--obedience is rendered to a more dominant
fellow conspecific, that is, one who occupies a superior place in the group's
social hierarchy. Humans, to be sure, live in many hierarchies. In this
discussion, though, we are concerned only with political obedience, that is,
actions taken by subordinates in response to the commands, again implicit or
explicit of those above them in the political (or sometimes military) hierarchy.
So long as that hierarchy is perceived as "legitimate," our genetic
tendency is to obey. As Kelman and Hamilton stress, one "striking
phenomenon of hierarchies of authority ... is the readiness of citizens to
accept orders unquestioningly ... even when obedience entails enormous personal
sacrifices or the commitment of actions that, under other circumstances, they
would consider morally reprehensible". Obedience is thus a behavioral
correlate of dominance and hierarchy. If inclusive fitness is to be optimized, a
social species must evolve all three behavior--dominance relations, hierarchical
social systems, and obedience. All three, surely, are characteristic of Homo
sapiens. Not surprisingly, this disposition or inclination can be discerned at a
very youthful age: according to Stayton, Hogan, and Ainsworth, the
"earliest manifestation of obedience in an infant appears in the final
first quarter of the first year of life". Discussing similar results
achieved with slightly older children, they continue that: "These findings
cannot be predicted from models of socialization which assume that special
intervention is necessary to modify otherwise asocial tendencies of children.
Clearly, these findings require a theory that assumes that an infant is
initially inclined to be social and [somewhat later] ready to obey those persons
who are most significant in his social environment.
27. Somit and Peterson, Darwinism, Dominance & Democracy: All of
us have made sacrifices, too, often very substantial sacrifices, in behalf of
some deeply felt belief system, whether social, religious, or political. The
capacity to hold abstract values, and their reciprocal ability frequently to
dictate our actions, are simply further aspects of indoctrinability. In short,
whether manifested in the form of conscience or of ideational commitment,
indoctrinability is demonstrably capable of inducing behaviors that run counter
to our own desires and, on occasion, to our genetic inclinations. To be sure,
given the basic bias of our evolutionary inheritance, humans are predisposed to
embrace authoritarian political, social, and even religious beliefs. Until the
early 1800s, the history of political philosophy shows, philosophical and
popular opinion alike strongly favored authoritarian and decried democratic
political doctrines. In helping to reinforce our hierarchical bias,
indoctrinability has probably contributed significantly to the predominance and
persistence of authoritarian governance throughout human history. But the
capacity to believe and then to act on the basis of those beliefs is not limited
to any specific set of ideas. There is almost no limit to the range and variety,
or eccentricity, of the values humans are capable of accepting and acting upon.
This is true in religion, in philosophy, in ethics, in art and in politics.
28. De Waal, Good Natured: Altruism is bound by what one can afford.
The circle of morality reaches out farther and farther only if the health and
survival of the innermost circles are secure.
29. Hartung, "A Review of A People That Shall Dwell Alone" in the
journal Ethology and Sociology volume 16:335-342 (1995): Like all human
groups that compete long enough to be counted, Judaism entails codes of behavior
that curtail competition within the group in order to facilitate competition
with other groups. In addition, Judaism added the ultimate foundation for
cooperation: "Love thy neighbor as thy self" (from Leviticus 19:18).
MacDonald reviews a prodigious number of secondary sources, authored almost
entirely by Jewish historians, which substantiate the argument that Judaism's
moral code stopped at the border line--that this apex of morality was meant, and
has for practical purposes been taken to mean, "love your coreligionist as
30. Kalb, "Freedom, Discrimination and Culture" in PINC Online Magazine, July 1997: Cultural discrimination must therefore be forbidden if the civil rights laws are to achieve their goal. However, culture can not be separated from how men carry on practical life. When close cooperation is required it is absurd to ignore the things that give us our sense of who we are. "Cultural differences" mean that people who differ in ethnically differ in upbringing, and taking upbringing into account is no less reasonable than taking formal education into account. An ethnic culture, after all, is a system of habits and attitudes that has grown up among people who have dealt with each other for a very long time, and it continues to exist because it is an aid to living and working together. There would be no Little Italy's or Chinatowns if those who shared such things gained nothing by staying together. The civil rights laws prohibit recognizing the public functions of culture; since culture exists in relation to its functions, the effect is to require its destruction. In addition, traditional morality always involves "racism" and "religious discrimination." A tradition must be that of a particular people, so to recognize the importance of traditional morality is to accept the significance of ethnic and religious affiliations. Since the traditional moralities of immigrants and minorities often differ on important points from that of the dominant majority, an emphasis on traditional morality puts the former at a disadvantage. Differences in moral outlook are important even when both sides are highly moral and similarities in a sense go deeper than differences. Anglo-Saxons and Chinese both respect experience, but they express their respect differently, the Anglo-Saxons by honoring legal tradition and the Chinese by honoring old people. Mix the two races together and each will complain about the other's moral character; in a society run by one in accordance with its own view of right and wrong the other will be perpetually at odds with established institutions.
31. Fox, Moral sense and Utopian sensibility: If goodness--or at least the definitional problem of goodness-- has very little to do with morality, what does? We find this hard to swallow precisely because of our confusion of "moral" with "good." Let me put it graphically: to say that we live moral lives has nothing to do with saying that we live good lives. Many Nazis lived very moral lives. Headhunters and cannibals live very moral lives. Inner-city gang members live very moral lives. Maximum security prisoners live complicated moral lives. Columbian drug lords live very moral lives. Most terrorists live super-moral lives. You are shocked because you assume that this must mean that they lead "good" lives according to your notions of the good. But whether or not these are bad people, and some assuredly are, they still live according to rules and standards or morality framed in the universal discourse. Drug lords will argue fiercely about the fairness of the division of spoils according to effort versus the division according to investment. Gang members will reward the loyal and punish the treacherous and assume that those so acting are responsible for their acts. Nazis would insist on strong family, sound racial hygiene, and devotion to the fatherland. Headhunters will despise a man who cheats in his method of taking a head. Terrorists will give up their own lives in the name of a higher value and argue that in their struggle there are no innocent victims since all are in part to blame for injustice even through passive acquiescence. (They have problems with children, although I have heard elaborate justifications here too.) In fact, only a relatively few psychopaths and sociopaths and total sadists (that is, people who are constitutionally incapable of developing a social conscience) can be said to live outside the iron necessity of operating within the universal framework of moral discourse. Thus, groups of people doing what seem to us very bad things still do them in a very moral way. And this is my point: since they are organized groups of human beings trying to live highly social human lives--whatever their aims and objects they have no choice but to live according to a moral order. This is what human groups and societies are; this is the only way they can operate. Do a simple thought experiment: try to design a society or organized group that operates according to "pure reason," taking everything on its merits without preconceptions, making no prescriptions on the basis of descriptions, assigning no responsibilities, and so on. It is inconceivable of course. It would not be a human society. Nor would a society operating on the "greatest happiness principle" or the "categorical imperative" or the "original position" or any other of the fantasy states of the philosophers. Even the designers of utopias have to accept the framework of the universal moral discourse; they simply alter the content to suit their own prejudices about the good life. The more they depart from this, the more lunatic their creations appear. The only real alternative to the moralizing, moralistic and morally obsessed human society is ultimately the genetically engineered caste system of Huxley's Brave New World or Hellstrom's Hive. The totally rational and non-judgmental society of Spock's Vulcan might exist, but as all Star Trek fans recognize, it is not a human society, and Spock is only made plausible by being half human himself.
Mandatory Volunteerism & the
Search for More Giving
Ever since the April, 1997 volunteerism summit in Philadelphia, where THE PRESIDENTS all agreed that Americans must give even more of themselves back to their communities, we have been getting moral dictates from government that we shall not only work for the government and the poor for the better part of each year through our taxes, but now we must also give our time, or we are just not good citizens. They have finally taken the pound of flesh their egalitarian minds have wanted for some time. Taxes are just not personal enough, they want to see us toil for the poor face to face.
But of course these bullies don't dare demand this service from everyone, so they extract it from those who have no choice, school children. Under the pretext that mandatory volunteerism is somehow a necessary part of education, they want schools to force kids to donate time to their communities or not graduate. Aside from the issue of whether this is a violation of the 13th Amendment prohibiting involuntary servitude, which I think it is, do we really want a society that keeps extracting more and more from its citizens, taking from the productive and giving to the poor, even as the less well-off are refusing to participate in their own self-sufficiency? I have numerous objections to mandatory volunteerism, whether it is giving more money to others via the United Way forcing our employers to make us contribute at work, or it is imbuing our children with the propaganda that socialism is good, and self-sufficiency is no longer a viable perspective for those who do not adhere to left wing doctrines.
One aspect of education is to teach children to think. If mandatory volunteerism is not just another way of getting free labor from kids and is in fact meant to teach, then after performing their charity obligations they should be required to report on their experiences. This should include an opportunity to criticize or praise the programs and services they performed, as well as be critical of social services. If not, then mandatory volunteerism is just a form of brain-washing, no different than that under fascism or communism where children are told what to believe in. Morality and virtue should reside in the family, not dictated by the state. We should know better than to accept any state mandated moral position from the top down. People must come to terms with their own perspective on what has value for them or we are no longer a free people.
Helping the "At Risk"
One of the summits aims is to ". . . help more than 15 million of the nation's youth who are the most vulnerable to society's dangers including gang violence, drug abuse, homelessness, teen pregnancy and illiteracy." according to William Douglas of Newsweek. Well, if these kids are the ones to be saved, then why don't we just arrest them when they get in trouble and have them perform the mandatory volunteerism from jail? If it is such a good program, let those that need the help do the work. And criminals can be forced to do work without compensation as part of their punishment.
But the first line of defense is to find out why the children are at risk. It is usually fairly predictable which families will have children at risk from sociological profiles, just make them get a permit before they can have children. If you want fewer children at risk then stop the families from having them. Many of these children are from mothers who are already on welfare, just make them accept voluntary sterilization before they get any monetary assistance. It is kids from the underclass who are usually at risk, so get rid of the underclass and a large part of the problem will go away. I hear over and over again how some families just cannot afford to live on their incomes; both parents working and they can't raise their children without help. So then don't have children!! It is your choice to decide whether you can afford to have children or not. If you are not intelligent enough to make enough money to have a family, you'll just have to not have a family. I would love to have a Mercedes Benz sports car, but I'm not smart enough to afford one. Too bad for me.
Douglas later reports, "The summit's aim is to unleash a force of volunteers to offer about 2 million young people an ongoing mentoring relationship with a caring adult [where's the parents?]; structured activities in safe areas in the evenings and after school [stay home and study]; . . .; an opportunity to develop marketable job skills through education [no different than any other kid]; and the chance for them to give back through community service." Notice the incessant "giving back something" for the privilege, I guess, of already working most of the time to pay taxes. Since when did my productive life "take from the community.?" All most of us do is give and give again. Do we only exist to serve the state with no end to how much we owe? What hypocrisy. I will be happy to give back to any community a fair share of what that community has given to me, and that usually ends up being my family and friends, not the government, not the church, not the homeless shelter, or any other organization trying to separate me from my own self interest.
Finally, if children at risk should have "structured activities in safe areas," why are we sending our productive and intelligent children into risky environments to perform community service? The first time one of these kids gets raped, injured, or murdered while being forced by the school to leave a safe learning environment to acquire a state mandated value system, we will be reconsidering this whole screwy idea.
Charity starts (and ends) at home.
I contend that we would have a better society if there was no transfer of money or services from one group to another, by way of government or open charitable organizations. By open charitable organizations I am referring to those do-gooders who want to help anyone in distress, even those not deserving of help. Lets go back to a simpler time as hunter-gatherers when people lived in small communities of 150 or less. Charity did not come without cost. If one person needed help, and they in the past showed that they were willing to help others, people practiced reciprocal altruism (as do vampire bats). But if a certain person was a free-rider, a complete jerk, they were ostracized or punished as necessary to pay for their behavior. Nothing was given or taken without everyone keeping mental notes. Some truly were handicapped, and from what we know even of some monkeys, the truly needy some times were given help without expectation of them paying the group back.
Now egalitarianism is trying to expand this concept to everyone, all 260 million of us, without us being able to determine who is a free-rider, a criminal, a jerk, a predator, a sociopath, or someone who really can't help themselves. We have no way of keeping score and becoming a free-rider looks better and better all the time. This system will fail without personal accountability.
A better way? I suggest that we encourage by example our children not to help just anyone, but for them to help only those that they know; others in a family, friends, associates, classmates, etc. In this way we can get back to keeping score. Teach children that the only ones they can trust to get them out of a jam will be their family and friends, so they had better learn how to treat others. If they turn into assholes and jerks, and no one wants anything to do with them, they deserve to be on the streets freezing to death, the harsher the better. This does not mean that we shouldn't stop and help someone in distress, in fact I think most people enjoy doing something heroic when called upon, its in our nature. It just feels good, just like going to war to defend one's country feels right and just when necessary. As humans, we come pre-equipped with mind modules for such behavior. But our evolutionary hardware did not prepare our species for the productive perpetually propping up the underclass, those permanently caught in despair because THEY have nothing to give or contribute to society.
Giving something back to the community?
Again, virtually everyone who is productive already gives about half of their resources to the government for redistribution to those less productive. Is their any limit to how much I should be required to give? And how about the families where both husband and wife have to work so that others can sit around and collect transfer payments for doing nothing? And I'm not just talking about welfare recipients but politicians with fat retirement pensions they stole for themselves and friends. Anyone who pays more to the government than they receive is not the beneficiary of any largesse, they pay.
One ruse of the left, for example, is to label mortgage deductions for homeowners in the same category as a welfare payments, but they are nothing alike. The definition of welfare is: "receiving regular assistance from the government or private agencies because of need." A mortgage deduction is not a benefit to me, a homeowner, because of need, but to the government as a means of promoting a policy of home ownership. I would rather have them repeal the mortgage deduction and all the other coercive tax laws and let me decide how to spend my money. This is no benefit to me, just a loss of freedom. They take ten dollars, and if I do the right thing they will only take nine dollars instead. No thanks, I'll decide what to do with my money. Corporate welfare is in the same category: if the net gain is positive then it is welfare, but in most cases what the left calls corporate welfare is just a reduction of taxes owed by companies for doing what the government wants them to do. Go to a flat tax, eliminate coercive government policies, and we will all be better off with a more robust and efficient government.
The only people who don't want to give back are those on welfare
A new bill out of Congress (Section 105 of H.R. 2) requires that poor people must work eight uncompensated hours per month in exchange for living in public housing. How is this uncompensated for? They are getting money in the form of lower rent payments! Jesse Jackson Jr. says "This bill . . . denies that shelter is a human right [ya got that right] and argues that it is a privilege, for which poor people must work eight uncompensated hours per month in exchange for living in public housing, and if they don't, be evicted." Well that's just great. But Jesse don't like it. Poor people, with little to do, without work, can't give back to the community like the rest of us? But of course, all that Congress had to do was to charge everyone the prevailing rate for rent in public housing, and to get a reduced rent, instead of tugging at the purse strings of big government, the poor could get vouchers for their so called voluntary work in exchange for housing. Now it is just like what the rest of us have to do, we work to provide for shelter. No work, no shelter. It has been that way for 10,000 years or more. And if you don't like it, go sleep in a cave, a drain pipe, or up a tree like we did before we discovered how to make a shelter.
Jesse goes on to say "If we mandate volunteerism in exchange for government assistance in the form of public housing, why not require the same from those who receive any form of federal assistance, farm subsidies, corporate welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, Food Stamps, mortgage deductions or mining rights? Why stop with the poor living in public housing?" Well I agree with that, if by government assistance we mean anyone or any organization that has taken more from the government than what they have given. That would exempt most hard working Americans, however. But not the underclass, that's all they do is take. In fact why not cut off all aid, to anyone, unless they do some work for the service. We won't call it volunteerism, we'll call it labor for benefits received, what most people call wages.
Let me reiterate the formula for whether your family owes anything to the
government, the community, or an open charity; the so called giving back to the
community. My wife and I both work, we have no children, we don't go to the
parks, we do use the highways a lot going to work, I buy my own books rather
than using the libraries, we do have two dogs and a parrot that we have to pay
someone to watch when we're gone. The way I figure it, except for my share of
national defense, the highway system, and the basic services all Americans
receive, I am an overall net contributor to the poor in this redistributionist
society. Therefore, I owe nothing, the poor owe me. And I have a list of things
I would like to have them do to improve the community, including picking up
trash, painting over graffiti (I'll supply the paint), ride around with the cops
to keep them honest, shovel snow for those too old to do so, etc., etc. I'm sure
we could keep them busy some how.