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Chapter 9 - Fabulous results during our latest 1/100,000 part of existence. Print
Here is just the basic ideas - each one could be expanded into a book of its own. Do that for me! 

Chapter 9. A Fabuous Result.

The fabulous results during the latest one 100,000-part of our existence.

  1. Population growth.

  2. The 2004 Tsunami catastrophe –replaced?

  3. Back to reality.

  4. How to explain the fabulous growth in human lives?

  5. Agri-culture

  6. Religion

  7. The Renaissance and on.

  8. The Superbrains – a new organism.

a. John Maynard Smith

b. language as a sex barrier?

c. food and work

d. what is new?

                energy is internalized

                labour time is increased

                labour efficiency is increased by discrimination

9.   The negative element: arms race.

In this chapter I want to stress our fabulous results in terms of human life. Then I’ll try to explain how they have come about. The least understood of the potential explanations is mankind’s speciation into what I have baptized as “Superbrains”.

1. Population growth.

Mankind has existed as non-chimps for at least six million years.

Between the end of the second world war in 1945 and 2005 lie 60 years.

60 out of 6,000,000 is 1 out of 100,000.

In these latest sixty years the number of human individuals has increased from 2,300 million to 6,500 million. That is an increase by 2,8 times.

Or, a bit more generously, in the latest one single one-hundred thousand part of man’s existence, we have succeeded to increase the number of new individual human lives by almost double as many as during the 99,999 preceding one-hundred thousand parts of our being on the globe.

If that isn’t a fabulous success, as judged by our deepest value, the infinite value of every single human being, I do not know what counts as success!

However many trouble the so-called “population explosion” may give us.

2. The 2004 Tsunami suffering – replaced?

An increase by 4,200 million during 60 years gives an average of seventy million new human beings for every one of these latest years.

We can – and should ! – lament the fact that some 20,000 children suffer an unnecessary death every single day. But we should not forget that some ten times as many new babies, around 200,000, also get bread and shelter, enough to survive, every single of these days.

The most horrible disaster in our short memories that we recently had was the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It gave an infinite amount of individual suffering. We can surely not replace the dead. But we might also remind ourselves that the number of them is replaced by normal population growth in less than forty-eight hours.

Death is horrible! But if we love the living, are not the new children something to be correspondingly happy about?

If each single human being really is our deepest value!

3. Back to reality.

Let us now, after this idealistic musing, go back to the table in chapter one which is bound to give us some perspective.

EVENTS

TIME IN YEARS

PERCENTAGE OF ALL

A. Birth of human life

  6,000,000  

100

B. Human Intelligence

  3,000,000  

  50

C. Out of Africa

      60,000  

    1

D. Agriculture

      12,000  

    0,2

Religion and writing

        4,000  

    0,07

Christianity

        2,000  

    0,035

E1. The Renaissance

          600

    0,01

E1. Founding of the USA

          230  

    0,005

E2. From 2,,5 billion humans

            60  

    0,001 or 1/100,000 part

Everything that seems to be of serious importance for us who live now, in the third millennium after Christ, has happened within a very short period of mankind’s total life. That is the first observation we might make. In less than 0.2 percent of our life as non-chimps agriculture, religions, serious art, technology and national politics have come into existence. And the children of our forefathers have been able to survive in a way that they never could do during the first 99.8 percent of the existence of our species.

Who are we, we who now live and who love to believe that all this “progress” has been created by our inventive “free will”?

We know that biologically we are equal to the chimpanzees to 96 percent. The table above also tells us that all what we call modern progress, from agriculture and on, has taken place in 0,2 percent, that is one 500-part, of the time of the 4 remaining percent that makes us different from the chimps.

Once again we might contemplate the fact that, unless we can show some exceedingly fast biological selection, we are at least to 99,9 percent biologically identical to the primitive savages that lived just before agriculture.

And, as Mendelian knowledge tells us, the 0,1 remaining percent is most likely distributed along a normal distribution curve. Which might mean that some are primitive savages only to 99,1 percent while others, in the worst of cases, are so to 99,9 percent in their “human nature”. Should we be surprised over the cruelty of human history?

That is the second observation we might care to contemplate, in order to understand the present Human Condition in the world.

As a third observation, may I suggest that what we truly should estimate is the horrendously enormous difficulties we have met during ten thousand years of attempts to civilize these primitive savages. For six million years they had lived a most precarious life in small kinship groups. During the latest 60 years the merging of them into civilized societies, into a “civilization”, has permitted around seven times as many new children every year to live, than could survive at all as hunters and gatherers, seventy million new ones per year instead of ten million as a final total.

These three observations should stimulate us – in spite of all - to be very carefully with what we do to this civilization. Sure, the latest wars have been horrible. The problems in front of us, not least those of the “population explosion” are tremendous. But we should be very careful with destroying that which we have created or – perhaps – a more or less blind and deterministic biological development, by trial and error, has given us.

Might it be so ugly that “whatever is, is right” ?

4. How to explain the fabulous growth in human lives?

How can we explain this fabulous growth of human lives in the latest period?

One easy way is to point to all our technical advances. But how did they come about? Why didn’t they come much earlier in human history?

Another equally common and easy way is to point to economic growth. But the same two questions again arise.

My own attempt to understand what has happen builds upon a combination of some other elements behind technology and economic growth. I believe that behind these obvious elements, we find the activity of amoral, multinational, imperialist and (IQ-)discriminating legal persons, my economic Superbrains, in combination with a warm Christian highly moral belief in a God, whom mankind should thank for its daily bread, and who demands that those who have bread enough should help those who starve. (UB 211)

This somewhat deeper explanation would look upon the eternal imperialist struggle for power between the eternally similar adrenalinomaniacs, wanting to become Number Ones, willing to commit fratricide to succeed.

This has resulted in integration within ever bigger and more un-equal hierarchies, as shown in last chapter.

Already Adam Smith pinpointed the fact that “the division of labour was limited by the extent of the market”. The bigger the market, the better the division of labour, the higher the productivity in both agriculture and industry, and thus the more bread could be produced for helping a growing mankind to survive. That process may have started already with the birth of agriculture.

This division of labour, I want to claim, has now been transformed into “division of thinking” inside ever bigger co-thinking Superbrains, combining ever more individual living brains inside themselves. To that is added that these Superbrains at an increasing rate are equipped with ever more productively efficient artificial intelligence in artificial brains, for instance called computers. This is what all the talk about “human capital” and “cognitive abilities” really is about.

Behind “proximate” explanations, such as technology or GNP-growth, I believe that this, at the deepest level, is the “ultimate” explanation for our enormous success in creating human life not only during the latest one hundred thousand part of our existence but also since the beginning of agriculture.

This requires, perhaps, some more comments before everybody will understand it. Especially as there are many who will not want to understand it. As it goes against much of facile ideology on both the right and the left side.

5. Agri-culture.

I am consciously writing agri-culture. Culture means cultivating, not only of the human mind, but also of natural nature. My own definition of culture is everything that man has created after we started to transform the “natural nature” that existed at the birth of agriculture.

Exactly when the first agriculture came in the big valley’s of some or out biggest rivers can be discussed. But the estimates normally lie between ten and twelve millennia ago.

Why did we get agriculture? A generation ago, a Danish population expert, Ester Boserup, created a big debate when she suggested it was something of a biological response to a Malthusian margin.

To me that seems closest to the truth. This is where we have the “Campbellian margin” that we took up in last chapter, the calculation that as hunters and gatherers we couldn’t be more than ten million on the whole earth. That is the density that probably had been locally reached in the various places where agriculture come into existence, when it so did. That is anyway my hypothesis.

Agriculture demanded two changes in the life of the long existing kinship groups. 

A main pleasure for our top managers in the West is to go hunting, for elks in Sweden or elephants in Africa. Those are the remains of the hunting and gathering societies which some ten millennia ago had to transform themselves into agricultural ones. That was probably quite difficult task. Most likely the first peasants to a large extent were slaves from defeated enemies. But slowly an increasing number of hunters and gatherers had to change themselves into peasants, until the end of feudal times half-slaves under the owners of the land, whoever that may be.

In his summary of “The Human Condition”, William McNeill has give us a most plausible picture of life at that juncture of history, showing how migrating hordes on horses were changed into ministers of finance, taxing the hard working settled agricultural communities throughout history.

My main point here is, however, only that agri-culture is not a spontaneous result of brilliant human intelligence. It was invented by mankind when the Malthusian limit was changed into the Campbellian limit in order to satisfy mans needs for food cum sex. It may have been the start of a virtuous circle with cumulative result between population pressure and intelligent inventions.

6.     Religion.

The next item in my table is religion.

In the beginning of our third millennia after Christ there has come a spate of books on religion. Not few of them have been about the relation between religion and biology.

One of the more discussed ones is Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.[1] The wisdom of which has been and can be questioned.

The religious puzzle can, according to my taste, be divided into a number of more or less serious questions.

a. Does God exist? 

That has been discussed in eternity between those who say they know and those who say that only belief is possible. Already Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog, showed that as you cannot disprove the existence of a metaphysical God, atheism is not logically possible, only agnosticism is so, which, however, asymptotically can approach atheism.

b. Why did the idea of God come up?

Most likely because the societies that started to integrate had enormous difficulties in keeping together. Religion or belief in some mystical power could serve as excellent glue for so doing, creating peace on the inside of a community and strength in the struggle against other communities. Which normally were led by another God who, to us, in reality was a Satan.

c. When was monotheism created?

We know a bit more about when essentially naturalistic religions were changed into the main monotheistic religions which still dominate a great part of the world.

The first monotheistic God was the Sun, a rather rational proposition that was suggested by Pharaoh Akhenaten around 1350 BC.  The idea was picked up by a person called Moses. “No traces have ever been found of his historical existence” a leading expert in the field says[2]. Which doesn’t prevent a few million of Jews to be certain about his existence.

As we all know, the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent monotheistic God was then recycled into Christianity around 2000 years ago and into the Islamic faith around 1400 years ago.

All this is within the latest 0,7 percent of man’s existence as non-chimp. A late arrival but one that now dominates our lives.

d. Why is religious belief so deep in mankind?

Hegel looked upon human history as a “butcher-block, on which the happiness of nations, the wisdom of states, and the virtues of individuals have been sacrificed”. He wanted an answer: “for what ultimate end have these, the most monstrous sacrifices been made?”

The question we might ask with Hegel is if mankind can live without some belief in an ultimate end, without some meaning in life, legitimated by a higher power.

We have pointed to man’s utterly realistic scare of death as well as to his huge capacity, with about one million billion connections in the brain, to dream any unrealistic dreams. We have tried to describe the structural problems in a big integrated society, with more than 90 percent of its members by necessity being pushed down to the lowest levels. We have been audacious enough to refer to studies which show that half of mankind tests below 101 on IQ-tests. We have also described the biology of present mankind and of ourselves as 99,9 percent primitive pre-agricultural savages. And, above all that, we have made it probable that our deepest emotions from an evolutionary point of view are at least 200 times older, and probably deeper, in us than the only three million years old intelligence.

Considering all that, should we be surprised that a majority of mankind prefers to believe in beautiful dreams, the most beautiful ones even promising us a life in paradise after death down here?

e. How should a scientist react in front of such contradictions?

A natural scientist might well react as Richard Dawkins or Carl Sagan, concluding that “it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity” and that we, thus, should give up all metaphysical religions.

This is where social science isn’t natural science. We cannot experiment with societies with or without religion. We cannot replicate experiments with various religions in the same society.

As a social scientist you are forced to look upon reality as it historically has been and now is.

If you then find that the oldest and least unstable institution in the history of our integrated societies are the religious ones, like the Jewish rabbinate and the Catholic Church, and if also you find that the Chinese communist leadership, still with monotheistic dictatorial power, are groping for the Confucian religion to get some stability in their fast changing nation, and if you to that add the fervent religious fire in the political life of the present USA, you are bound to ask if it is wise to try to get rid of religion too fast, as the Soviet Communists brutally tried to do in old Russia.

You do get a bit sceptical against the attitude of natural scientists. Instead you feel forced to ask if civilized societies at all can exist without some type of religious belief? Must society have a number of lies, or myths, to keep its stability?

Those are the questions coming to my mind, probably inspired by my early reading of Dostoyevsky’s Karamzov with his Grand Inquisitor who tells Jesus: “There are three powers, only three powers on the earth that are capable of eternally vanquishing and ensnaring the consciences of those feeble mutineers, for their happiness – those powers are: miracle, mystery and authority.”

The more I look upon the present behaviour of mankind in the worlds poorest nations in Africa, as well as in the richest one, I fear that Dostoyevsky understood the Human Condition better than any social scientist.

f. Let me add two of my own possibly irrational emotions.


[1] Bantam 2006.

[2] Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian. The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Harvard UP 1997, p. 23.


 Many years ago my wife took me to the Scala Santa close to the Lateran Church. If you on your knees climb this soft leaning stair you will be granted years of release from your coming troublesome future together with the devils in purgatory. So a document of the wall promised.

Most of those who climbed there were older, evidently rather poor women, dressed in the blackest of black. They probably didn’t do it for themselves but for husbands and sons who died, perhaps in the not too distant second world war.

The question I put to my unbelieving self was: “which better consolation are you able to give them?”

I had none. Should I then question the one they had? Wouldn’t that be close to sadistic?

On Capri I have had the favour of participating in a number of weddings. They are all deeply religious. The Church is filled with friends and relations who are strong believers. Stimulated by an old jolly priest, getting the partners to repeat all the nice promises that only half of all couple in Europe are keeping these days. There is a great joy in the atmosphere as well as at the dinner after Church.

Would my friends in any way be happier if I started to talk about my doubts?  Of course not!

Based on such experiences, I have decided to accept all more or less true, or false, attitudes of my fellowmen without actively challenging them on a personal level. Unless somebody preaches physical violence!

And that is, of course, the big trouble with religions. Throughout modern history, too strong a belief, of all sorts, has had the tendency to turn fundamentalists into fanatics, able and willing to kill ad magiorem Gloriam Dei.

Which, of course, is the problem among the hotheads today in West Asia    

7. The Renaissance.

For most people who live today, the Renaissance is something very far away, possibly as far back as many school books take us in history.

Had this book been ten thousand pages fat, only on the last one would everything that has happened to mankind after 1400 A.D. be treated. Mankind’s latest 600 years is only one single ten thousand part of our existence.

This is, however, the period when agricultural had created so great fortunes in Europe that its rulers had the money to finance not only eternal wars and power plots against each other but also a marvellous effort of painters, sculptors, architects, researchers and whatnot to embellish and decorate the powerful and their cities.

This is also the period in which the Europeans take over and continue the expansive behaviour of their African forefathers. Equipped with marvellous new shipping and weapon technology Europeans try to realize the Genesis command to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”, including all other men and women.[1]

In the process of so doing, it created what is now called the United States of America some 230 years ago. That nation, which today dominates the world, has existed for less than one single twenty thousand part of mankind’s existence. Had this book been 20,000 pages thick, the United States would have been mentioned only on the last page.

The creation of the USA was part of a European expansion as late as between 1820 and 1930, when the statistical figures have become a bit better than before. What they tell us is that in this short period some fifty million Europeans expanded out over the world and, with weapons and astuteness, took over the ownership of some thirty million square kilometres of the rest of the world.[2]

Had this book now been 100,000 pages thick, two thirds of mankind’s population growth would have been condensed to the latest page, to what has happened after the Second hot World War.

From our basic value point of view, this population growth is simply what we may call a “Dostoyevskyan miracle”. But, as we are narrow-minded enough not to see it as such, and dumb enough to take life as something completely self-evident, this miracle is not without ugly consequences, too.

It may, indeed, be European and American technology, innovations, organizations, democracy and, not least its entrepreneurial spirit that have created the preconditions for this fabulous increase in life on the rest of the planet, taking place during only the latest one single one hundred thousand part of man’s existence as non-chimp.

But neither we ourselves, nor the others, understand this. What we instead understand, remember and concentrate upon is all the killings, all the cruelty, all the egoistic greed, all the blind will to power, all the fratricidal struggles between various European imperialist nations, and the hecatombs of corpses we have sacrificed in this process.

Not that others would have behaved differently. But that is forgotten. Our Western guilt is remembered and ruminated. As such is the case, should we then be surprised that in the rest of the world these white colonialists and imperialists are both blamed for all present misfortunes of all others and, consequently, also suspected and hated for whatever they do?

No, we shouldn’t!  Not as long as we do not understand that this is part of a biological tragedy, starting in a blind Malthusian margins, creating a new type of human organisms and possibly ending in either one global world, or none.

What is it that we must understand, all of us, if we want our grandchildren to live?

8. The Superbrains, a new organism.



[1]  Genesis 1:28, cnf Habakkuk 1:14.

[2]  One of the very best studies of this period is Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism. The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900.  Cambridge UP 1986.

 One of the most important things we need to understand, I believe, is that the Darwinian competition for life is not any more an individual struggle, but a collective one, inside what I call Superbrains.

My hypothesis is quite simple:

Bacteria do not know when they mutate, neither when they become new species. But bacteria do mutate and do become new species.

The same is true for mankind.

I believe that it is possibly true and certainly useful to look upon our modern societies as various forms of a new organism. It is possible, and certainly analytically useful to assume that the small societies of the primitive savages, around the birth of agriculture, started to mutate into a bigger and since then growing form of “co-thinking Superbrains”.

In 1996 I published a fat book with an embryo of that idea, but unfortunately only in Swedish. The title was The Struggle between the Superbrains. Those who can read that tiny little language can find the text on my website, www.philosophicalpark.org

The idea that human society is an organism is, of course, not new. It has been discussed since Aristotle and Augustine.[i]  It may seem outrageous to most people. But lately those who want to think in these terms seem to have got some support from a couple of eminent biologists.

a. John Maynard Smith.

The one who, to my taste, has formulated it best is the late John Maynard Smith, one of last century’s leading biologists, together with Eörs Szathmáry in a book on The Major Transitions in Evolution.[1]

Maynard Smith and Szathmáry suggest that there are five good examples of major transitions in evolution: the origin of chromosomes, of eukaryotes, of sex, of multicellular organisms and the origin of social groups. The most important criteria for such transitions is thus defined: “entities that were capable of independent replication before the transition can replicate only as part of a larger whole after it.” (p.4)

On the transition into social groups the two authors write: “Individual ants, bees, wasps and termites can survive and transmit genes...…only as part of a social group: the same is effectively true of humans.” (p. 7, emphasis added).

That is, I find, a similar idea to that which I suggest, that agricultural and later human societies, to a growing extent, are new forms of organisms, of  “co-thinking Superbrains”.

b. Language as a sex barrier?

These two authors also suggest that the basic factor for human replication before and after a major transition is language. I doubt that.

It is utterly questionable if Genghis Khan, who is the great great grandfather of half a percent of mankind, could speak with all the captive maidens who were forced to become our great great grandmothers. But he sure could replicate!

How much Swedish sex tourists to Thailand can communicate, linguistically, with their prey, can also be discussed.

c. Food and work.

The truly important element, I believe, is food. If you do not get food for yourself and your children, you cannot successfully replicate.

During six million years mankind got its food by hunting and gathering. During the latest 10,000 years, land has increasingly become public or private property. The ability to feed oneself on “free” land has gradually diminished.

To get the food necessary for replication, an increasing number of individuals, lest they fall down into misery, have been forced to overcome their natural laziness and to work. To get work they have had to sell themselves as classical slaves, wage slaves, career slaves or, in the academic community, as grant slaves.

This is why the issue of “unemployment” today is so central to all political life. To get lazy people to work you need some form of fear. A degree of unemployment, threatening misery, is one. The communist nations did claim to have created full employment, but how? Italian cynics formulated the answer in the phrase “o miseria o Siberia”, the fear of either misery or of hard work in icy Siberia made you diligent.

d. What is new?

What happens, essentially, inside these new Superbrains? I would suggest three elements.

The first is that the energy that before was devoted to individual reproductive success now is channelled into an energy maintaining and defending the Superbrain in which you happen to live.[ii]

Why? Because, I think, the culturally created altruism, mostly by a common religion, that does pacify the inside of a Superbrain, at the same time increases the energy in fighting against other Superbrains. The peace that is gained on the inside is lost on the outside.

 

But those who belong to such an internally peaceful Superbrain can replicate, unless they die too young in the external warfare.

The second element is the increase in labour time for the toiling masses. Some studies of primitive people suggest that they only work three or four hours a day for their material needs, or 700 to 800 hours per year. By the various forms of externally enforced, or by internally desired slavery that I suggested above, most modern societies have much increased that working time. Many today probably work double as much as primitive savages have done for six million years.

To that should be added that by the division of labour, which Adam Smith long ago considered a key factor in the growth of the Wealth of Nations, the work we now do is infinitely more productive than in times passed.

What is more, and highly important for understanding the fabulous increase in population after the second world war is, thirdly, the conscious discrimination to which our economic Superbrains are exposing their employees.

Mendelian knowledge does indicate that we are unequal in all important characteristics. Why shouldn’t that be true also for the ability for abstract thinking, called intelligence?

Adam Smith suggested that the efficiency of the division of labour was restricted by the size of the market. I want to suggest that today the division of thinking is equally restricted by the market. That is, the bigger the market, the greater the possibility of useful discrimination, the more efficient become both co-operation and co-thinking, and by this questionable but useful method, the more food can be produced to feed the growing masses of mankind.

That discrimination of IQ is a subject that is taboo in the media. A good discussion of the bad results of this situation is to be found in an article by Charles Murray, "The Inequality Taboo" in Commentary, September 2005, p. 13. However much that taboo is maintained by well-meaning intellectuals, this discrimination is a hard reality for the weakest ones on the labour market. 

It is also a new element explaining the extreme productive efficiency of the economic Superbrains.

9. The arms race.

However, the fourth and most important result of all these improvements in the quantity and quality of work is that our tools and weapons have become infinitely improved. The instinct of getting better weapons than the next of neighbours, sixty million years old, has exponentially speeded up the arms race between the Superbrains.

This is the debit side of the fabulous success in replication that mankind has had since the end of the second world war.

These wars with the new horrible weapons, now possibly even drifting into a new world war, may become our final biological tragedy. If so, also annihilation is a result of the wonderful biological triumph over death that mankind has had during my life time.

Which of these two tendencies, the biological tragedy or the biological triumph, death or life, that will take over during the next two generations, that is still an open question.

However that will turn out, for the moment you now have some of the elements that, I believe, help us understand why mankind has been able to treble its numbers during my lifetime.



[1]  Oxford UP 1995.



[i]  A good survey can be found in W. Stark, The Fundamental Forms of Social Thoughts. Routledge, 1962.

[ii]  There has been quite a bit of discussion of similar ideas, not least connected to religions. One excellent example is David Sloan Wilsons - not E.O. Wilson ! – in Darwin’s Cathedral  Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society. U of Chicago Press 2002. Which, however, to my thinking is much too optimistic. Another is Not by genes alone. How culture transformed human evolution by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd. U of Chicago Press 2005.

 

 

 

 

 
 


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