Activity and Assessment:
1. After reading the following article respond to the question below with a blog post (located at the bottom of the article.)
Is evil a necessary part of nature? Give examples to back your response.
2. After our fishbowl discussion on this topic, hand in your ‘Outside the fishbowl’ assignment. Outside the Fishbowl Discussion On the back of sheet, give your evolved or modified answer to the above question. (Please note: This assignment can only be completed if the student is present for class.)
Standard: Career Related Learning Standards
- Exhibit appropriate work ethic and behaviors in school, community, and workplace.
- Demonstrate academic, technical, and organizational knowledge and skills required for successful employment.
From The Lucifer Principle
Mother Nature, the Bloody B***h
“W e do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing around us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life….” Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species
“Mankind has always been cutting one another’s throats…. Do you not believe…that hawks have always preyed upon pigeons…? Then…if hawks have always had the same nature, what reason can you give why mankind should change theirs?” V oltaire, Candide
In 1580, Michelle de Montaigne, inspired by the discovery of New World tribes untouched by Europe’s latest complexities, initiated the idea ofthe”noblesavage.” Nearlytwohundred yearslater,Jean JacquesRousseau popularized theconcept when hepublished four works proclaiming that man is born an innocent wonder, filled with love and generosity, but that a Luciferian force ensnares him: modern civilization. Rousseau claimed that without civilization, humans would never know hatred, prejudice or cruelty.
Today, the Rousseauistic doctrine seems stronger than ever. Twentieth century writers and scientists like Ashley Montagu, Claude Levi-Strauss (who hailed Rousseau as the “father of anthropology”), Eric Jantsch, David Barash, Richard Leakey and Susan Sontag have reworked the notion to condemn current industrial civilization. They have been joined by numerous feminist, 2 environmentalist and minority rights extremists. Even such august scientific bodies as the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, and the Peace And War Section of the American Sociological Association have joined the cause, absolving “natural man” of malevolencebyendorsing”TheSevilleStatement,” an internationalmanifestowhich declaresthat “violenceisneither in our evolutionary legacy nor in our genes.”
3As a result, we are told almost daily that modern western culture–with its consumerism, its capitalism, its violent television shows, its blood-soaked films,and itsnature-manglingtechnologies–“programs” violenceintothewide-eyed human mind.Our societyis supposedly an incubator for everything that appalls us.
However, culture alone is not responsible for violence, cruelty, and war. Despite the Seville Statement’s contentions, our biological legacy weaves evil into the substrate of even the most “unspoiled” society. What’s more, organized battle is not restricted to humans. Ants makewar andeither massacreor enslavearivalswarm.Cichlidfishgangupandattackoutsiders. 4 Myxobacteriaform”wolfpacks” that corner and dismember prey. 5 Groups of lizards pick on a formerly regal member of the clan who has become disfigured by the loss of his tail. Female bees chase an overaged queen through the corridors of the hive and lunge, biting over and over until she is dead. And even rival ” super coalitions” of a half-dozen male dolphins fight like str eet gangs, often inflicting ser ious injur ies. 6 Ants do not watch television. Fishseldomgotothemovies.Myxobacteria,lizards,dolphinsandbeeshavenotbeen”programmed” byWesternculture.
A host of writers gained attention in the late eighties and early nineties with books that celebrated a return to a mothering earth. They felt that if we scraped away large-scale agriculture, internal-combustion engines, televisions, and air-conditioners, nature would return to bless us with her primordial paradise.
Unfortunately these authors held a distorted view of pre- industrial reality. A pride of lions at their ease enjoys the kind of nature the radical environmentalists dreamed about. You can see the smiles on lions’ faces as they lick their paws and stretch out on the ground side by side, clearly pleased with the comfort of each other’s warmth. You can see the benevolence with which a mother keeps a cub from playfully tearing her tail apart. She lifts her huge paw and gently shoves the infant aside when his nipping becomes too painful.
But nature has given these lion mothers only one way of feeding their children. The hunt. This afternoon, these peaceful creatures will tear a gazelle limb from limb. The panicked beast will try frantically to avoid the felines closing in on her. But they will break her neck and drag her across the plain still alive and kicking. Her eyes will be open and aware as her flesh is gashed and torn.
Suppose for a minute that lions were suddenly stricken with guilt about their feeding habits and swore off meat. What would they accomplish? They would starve themselves and their children. For nature has given them only one option: to kill. Killing is not an invention of man. It is an invention of nature.
Nature’s amusements are cruel. A female sea turtle crawls painfully up the beach of a tropical island, dragging her bulk across the sand. Slowly she digs a nest with her hind flippers and lays her eggs. From those eggs come a thousand tiny, irresistible babies, digging out of the sand, blinking at the light for the first time, rapidly gaining their orientation from a genetically preprogrammed internal compass, then taking their first walk, a race toward the sea. As the infants scoot awkwardly across the beach, propelling themselves with flippers built for an entirely different task, sea birds who have been waiting for this feast swoop down to enjoy meal after high protein meal. Of a thousand newborns, perhaps three will make it to the safety of the ocean waves.
Are the birds sadistic creatures whose instincts been twisted by an overdose of television? No, they’re engaged in the same effort as the baby turtles–the effort to survive.
Hegel, the 19th century German philosopher, said that true tragedy occurs not when good battles evil, but when one good battles another. Nature has made that form of tragedy a basic law of her universe. She presents her children with a choice between death and death. She offers a carnivore the options of dying by starvation or of killing for a meal.
Nature is like a sculptor continually improving upon her work, but to do it she chisels away at living flesh. What’s worse, she has built her morally reprehensible modus operandi into our physiology. If you occasionally feel that you are of several minds on one subject, you are probably right. In reality, you have several brains. And those brains don’t always agree. Dr. Paul D. MacLean was the researcher who first posited the concept of “the triune brain.” According to MacLean, near the base of your skull you’ll find the stem of the brain, poking up from the spinal column like the unadorned end of a walking stick. Sitting atop that rudimentary stump is a mass of cerebral tissue bequeathed us by our earliest totally land-dwelling ancestors–the reptiles. 8 When these beasts turned their backs on the sea roughly 300 million years ago and hobbled inland, their primary focus was simple survival. The new landlubbers needed to hunt, to find a mate, to carve
out territory and to fight in that territory’s defense. The neural machinery they evolved took care of these elementary functions. MacLean calls it the reptile brain. The reptile brain still sits inside our skull like the pit at the center of a peach. It is a vigorous participant in our mental affairs, pumping its primitive, instinctual orders to us at all hours of the day and night.
Eons after the first reptiles ambled away from the beach, their great, great grandchildren many times removed evolved a few dramatic product improvements. These upgrades included fur, warm blood, the ability to nurture eggs inside their own bodies, and the portable supply of baby food we know as milk. The remodeled creatures were no longer reptiles. They had become mammals. Mammals’ innovative features gave them the ability to leave the lush tropics and make their way into the chilly north. Their warm blood allowed them, in fact, to survive the rigors of the occasional ice age. But warm blood exacted its costs. It demanded that mammal parents not simply lay an egg and wander off. It forced mammal mothers to brood over their children for years. And it required a tighter social organization to take care of these suckling clusters of mammal mamas and kids.
All this demanded that a few additions be built onto the old reptilian brain. Nature complied by constructing an envelope of new neural tissue. That tissue surrounded the reptile brain like a peach’s juicy fruit enveloping the pit. MacLean called the add-on the mammalian brain. The mammalian brain guided play, maternal behavior, and a host of other emotions. It kept our furry ancestors knitted together in nurturing gangs.
Far down the winding path of time, a few of our fuzzy progenitors tried something new. They stood on their hind legs, looked around them, and applied their minds and hands to the exploitation of the world. These were the early humans. But proto-human aspirations were impractical without the construction of another set of add-ons to the brain. Nature complied, wrapping a thin layer of fresh neural substance around the two old cortical standbys–the reptilian and mammalian brains. The new structure, stretched around the old ones like a peach’s skin, was the neo-cortex–the primate brain.
The primate brain–including the human brain–had some awesome powers. It could envision the future. It could weigh a possible action and imagine the consequences. It could support the development of language, reason and culture. 9 But the neo-cortex had a drawback. It
was merely a thin veneer on the two ancient brains. And those oldsters were as active as ever, measuring every bit of input from the eyes and ears, and issuing fresh orders.
The thinking human, no matter how exalted his sentiments, was still listening to the voices of a demanding reptile and a chattering ancient mammal. Both were speaking to him from the depths of his own skull.
Richard Leakey, the eminent paleoanthropologist, says war didn’t exist until men invented agriculture and began to acquire possessions. In the back of Leakey’s mind, one hears a wistful prayer that agriculture would go away so we could rediscover peace. But Leaky is very wrong. Violence is not a product of the digging stick and hoe.
In the Kalahari desert of southern Africa live a people called the !Kung. The !Kung have no agriculture and very little technology. They live off the fruit and plants their women gather and the animals their men hunt. Their way of life is so simple that hordes of anthropologists have studied them, convinced that the !Kung live as our ancestors must have over ten thousand years ago, before the domestication of plants. In the early years of !Kung ethnography, anthropologists became wildly excited. These simple people had no violence, they said. Anthropology had discovered the key to human harmony–abolish the modern world and return to hunting and gathering.
Richard Leakey used the !Kung as his model of paradisal pre-agriculturists. The !Kung way of life proved that without the plow, men would not have the sword. Yet later studies revealed a blunt and still under-publicized fact. !Kung men solve the problem of adultery through
murder. As a result, the !Kung have a homicide rate higher than that in New York.
!Kung violence takes place primarily between individuals. In both humans and animals, however, the greatest violence occurs not between individuals but between gr oups. It is most appalling in war .
Diane Fossey, the woman who devoted nineteen years 12 to living among and observing the mountain gorillas of Central Africa’s Virunga mountains, felt these creatures were among the most peaceful on earth. Yet mountain gorillas become killers when their social groups
come face to face. Clashes between social units, said Fossey, account for 62% of the wounds on gorillas. 74% of the males Fossey observed carried the scars of battle, and 80% had canine teeth they’d lost or broken when trying to bite the opposition. Fossey actually
recovered skulls with canine cusps still embedded in their crests.
One gorilla group will deliberately seek out another and provoke a conflict. The resulting battles between gorilla tribes are furious. One of the bands that Fossey followed was led by a powerful silverback, an enormous male who left a skirmish with his flesh so badly ripped that the head of an arm bone and numerous ligaments stuck out through the broken skin. The old ruling male, whom Fossey called Beethoven, had been supported in the fight by his son, Icarus. Icarus left the battle scene with eight massive wounds where the enemy had bitten him on the head and arms. The site where the conflict had raged was covered with blood, tufts of fur, broken saplings and diarrhetic dung.
Such is the price of pre-human war in the Virunga mountains.
Gorillas are not the only sub-humans to cluster in groups that set off to search for blood. In the early ’70s, Jane Goodall had lived fourteen years among the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania’s Gombe Reserve. She loved the chimps for their gentle ways, so different from the violence back home among humans. Yes, there were simian muggings, beatings and rage. But the ultimate horror–war–was absent.
Goodall published a landmark book on chimpanzee behavior–In The Shadow of Man–a work which to some proved unequivocally that war was a human creation. After all, the creatures shown by genetic and immunological research to be our nearest cousins in the animal
kingdom knew nothing of organized, wholesale violence.
Then, three years after Goodall’s book emerged, a series of incidents occurred that horrified her. The tribe of chimps Goodall had been watching became quite large. Food was harder to find. Quarrels broke out. To relieve the pressure, the unit finally split into two separate tribes. One band stayed in the old home territory. The other left to carve out a new life in the forest to the south.
Years later, biological ecologist Michael Ghiglieri traveled to Uganda to see just how widespread chimpanzee warfare really was. He concludedthat”thehappy-go-luckychimpanzeehasturnedouttobethemostlethalape–anorganized,cooperativewarrior….”
So the tendency toward slaughter that manifested itself in the Chinese Cultural Revolution is not the product of agriculture, technology, television or materialism. It is not an invention of either western or eastern civilization. In fact, it is not a uniquely human proclivity at all. It comes from something both sub and superhuman, something we share with gorillas, apes, fish and ants–a brutality that speaks to us through the animals in our brain. If man has contributed anything of his own to the equation, it is this: he has learned to dream of peace. But to achieve that dr eam, he will have to over come what natur e has built into him.