Just in case anyone is not sure what I mean by the human condition I will give a brief explanation. All humanity feels that the right way to act is co-operatively, lovingly and integratively (if anyone would like to scoff at this punch yourself in the nose and then do so) however looking around us we see a world of war, destruction, hatred, depression, drug abuse, rape, destruction of the environment etc. etc. This is the fundamental problem of the human condition. All the great philosophies, religions and a few of the more thoughtful scientists have dealt with this problem directly. It has led to all manner of concepts, including God (or Allah or Brahma etc.) the soul, the ultimate form of the good, and (dare I say it?) the Ubermensch, but is there a scientific explanation for this hellish state of affairs?
I would like to offer a theory which has been put forward by a biologist working in Australia (the land of my birth).
He proposes that 'morality' and concepts like 'good and evil', 'God', the 'Soul' and even (metaphorically, of course) the story in Genesis of 'Eden' and 'The Fall' are actually the result of our species' evolution. He first emphasises the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which states that in an open system with an outside source of energy (such as earth with its sun) matter will develop into more and more complex and integrated forms, this development occurs by all the parts that make up a whole working for the greater good (in human terms, lovingly and co-operatively or integratively). He cites ant colonies and the very atoms, cells, bacteria etc. in our own bodies as examples of this. He proposes that in the early stages of our species' development (12 million to 5 million years ago) we slowly developed instincts oriented to behaving co-operatively and lovingly or integratively, following this pattern of development. He suggests this process happened slowly through a variety of means:
Nurturing: As our species became more upright (arms free) mothers were able to carry their babies for longer. This development, combined with a food-rich, threat free environment, such as that of the Bonobo, our closest living relative, enabled nurturing of children to last much longer than usual. Although in a sense the selfless love shown in a mother's nurturing of her child is selfish, being the result of her genes ensuring their own continuance, when the period of nurturing is very long the child's emerging mind is taught at every moment that behaviour towards others should be selfless and co-operative.
Mate selection: Our ancestors began to recognise the benefits of this co-operative behaviour (mainly that they all had a very nice time) and so began to select their mates for co-operativeness. This led to idolising of co-operative, loving behaviour and also of younger looking mates, as youth was associated with the nurturing stage. This led to modern Homo sapiens sapiens' relative lack of body hair apart from the eyebrows, scalp, lower face and genitals, the same places in which hair first grows on developing Bonobos.
Griffith holds that as selflessness and co-operative, integrative behaviour became more and more entrenched in our early ancestor's lives these traits eventually became instinctive. This happened as a result of only the more co-operative members of the species having their genes passed down through the process of mate selection by females. These ancient human (or pre - human) societies would have been matriarchal.
Griffith maintains that establishing these ideas does not, however solve the human condition (similair ideas have been put forward by many others) but states that solving the human condition means understanding how humanity changed from a co-operative, loving integrative species into today's predominantly selfish, aggresive and divisive species.
His solution to this age old question of The Fall is deceptively simple and rather profound. Basically when the nerve-networks in the brain become complex enough they can associate past and present events and begin to 'understand' the world in a way that most animals do not (to the same extent). Griffith says that this ability developed fully in our species about 2 million years ago and that when this happened, the human condition emerged. The problem was that, unlike the genetic learning system, the nerve-based learning system in a fully conscious animal does not have an established way of behaving, it needs to learn for itself. Ineveitably, this led to humans, far back in our remote past, experimenting in self management. This seems innocent enough but the problem was that our instincts, not being insighful, could not possibly understand that the conscious mind or intellect had to search for knowledge. This meant that whenever our ancient ancestors would attempt to self manage, and inadvertantly go against their instincts (even something as simple as leaving their home to explore or hording fruit for themselves instead of sharing) they would face opposition from their instinctive self or 'conscience'. This conscience would have felt like a parent saying 'You're bad' and, having no way to explain what he was doing, our ancestor would have had to prove his worth by experimenting further and lashing out against those who were not yet 'sinning' or going against their instincts. This situation led to a rejection and eventual hatred of the instinctive or 'innocent' self and attacks on everything that represented it - nature, women, children and, ultimately, their 'true' instinctive selves.
Griffith maintains that it is this incredibly old conflict which is at the heart of every conceivable problem in human society.
He also claims that humanity (apart from a few) is living in an almost total denial of their instinctive self or 'soul' because the instinctive memory of their integrated, loving past is too depressing in light of their divisive, hateful present.
Griffith says that this denial and hatred of innocence, as opposed to the predominant alienation, is what has led to the persecution, lack of acknowledgement and misunderstanding of such figures as Jesus, Socrates and Nietzsche (and, indeed, Griffith himself) who were only glorified (sometimes deified) once their confronting presence was put at a distance.
The most important element of Griffith's work is his claim that now that this riddle of the human condition has been resolved their is no need for the divisive state to persist, as now we can reconcile our intellect to our instincts (Understanding as therapy). Griffith believes that as the upset and alienation of this state subsides (over a few generations or more) a new breed of humanity will emerge, the true embodiment of Nietzsche's Ubermensch - strong, fearless, wise, and ,most importantly, integrative - he believes that this will bring about the in-breaking of the true "Kingdom of Heaven" on earth.
I would love to hear what people on this site have to say about these ideas (I'll leave my opinion out) and any questions or ideas anyone may have. If you find these ideas interesting, want some evidence or more to read about them there are some free books and essays about it on Griffith's website - http://www.humancondition.info
If anyone would like to communicate with me directly on this (or any other topic) my email is firstname.lastname@example.org