An essay donated by Alton C. Thompson
It wasn’t supposed to be this way! Human
variety, love, social cohesiveness, and survival:
From the standpoint of evolutionary thinking, the function of sexual reproduction is to provide a given species with variety. That is, if a species reproduces via sexual -- as opposed to asexual -- means, the individuals comprising the species (within a given area -- termed a population) will vary in any number of inherited traits, with individual values on a given variable forming a normal distribution.
Variety in inherited characteristics provides to a population the potential ability to continue in existence, as a species, in the face of environmental changes. The latter includes not only changes in the physical and biotic environment, but other change such as the presence or absence of predators. Specifically, as the environment changes in one or more respects in a given area, those individuals who (or that, in the case of non-humans) “fit” the changing environment have a good chance of surviving, and producing progeny. Those individuals who/that do not fit the changing environment are likely to die (and, therefore, not produce progeny).
In short, what variety does for a population is to enable it to change in its characteristics as the environment changes, thereby maintaining its “fitness” relative to the (changing) environment. 1
In evolutionary thinking, sexual reproduction functions to produce variety. Variety, in turn, functions to enable the continued existence of a species. However, with humans, variety can be -- and should be -- perceived from a different -- a “higher,” if you will -- perspective: Variety, with humans, can and should be thought of as having a purpose, not a mere function. After all, humans are no longer evolving, 2 so that function is no longer relevant. This “opens the door” for something else, with purpose being an excellent candidate.
By no means is this a new insight. Indeed, an excellent -- if old -- exposition on this matter was penned by (or by his scribe) Paul of Tarsus centuries ago. The language that Paul used is, of course, archaic -- and for that reason needs to be interpreted -- i.e., “translated”! -- for the modern eye and ear. The “gist” of Paul’s writing is, easily understood by the modern person. Ironically, his discussion of human variety has been given virtually no heed over the centuries. It could just as well have been excluded from the Bible! Fortunately, it was included, for its value is incalculable.
Chapter 12 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians focuses on human variety. Here are some quotations from that chapter:
- Verse 4: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them."
- Verse 7: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."
- Verse 8: "To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,"
- Verse 9: "To another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,"
- Verse 10: "To another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues."
- Verse 11: All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."
- Verse 17: "If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?"
- Verse 18: "But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."
- Verse 19: "If they were all one part, where would the body be?"
- Verse 20: "As it is, there are many parts, but one body."
Reinterpreting/translating the above for the modern eye and ear -- in the process therefore secularizing it!, -- we have the following statements: 3
- Individuals vary in their inherited traits (“gifts”). Individuals will vary in the number of their gifts, and in the magnitude of their gifts. But given that all individuals are (or, rather, should be) other-oriented rather than self-oriented, such differences are (or should be) given little or no recognition -- because love should be the dominant motivating force.
As Paul stated it so beautifully in Chapter 13:3 - 7 of 1 Corinthians:
"Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always 'me first,'
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything."
This variation is attributable to a Higher Power (“God”), rather than to naturalistic factors (i.e., sexual reproduction). This may be a false statement from a scientific standpoint, but from a mythic standpoint has its own sort of truth.
This variation has a purpose -- the “common good.”
Individuals live (or should live) in communities, with the interrelationships occurring between individuals within the community being so intense that the community has cohesiveness -- a cohesiveness comparable to a human body. 4
In a given community the individuals in the community will make an effort to develop their innate abilities, doing so by being “driven,” by their nature as humans, to use their abilities to contribute to the well-being of other members of the community. In that such behavior -- because it is “natural” -- will give a sense of satisfaction to the one so using his or her abilities (initially innate, but increasingly also acquired, as one uses them) for the benefit of others, it is selfish behavior in the true sense. However, it is simultaneously altruistic! -- unlike selfishness, as it is commonly practiced in our (rotten!) society.
By individuals acting in this manner, the common good is served -- i.e., the purpose for which our inherited variation was “designed” is realized.
These statements by Paul (as I have interpreted/translated them above) lead us, first, to at least two conclusions:
Given that they have been a part of Christianity from the very beginning, and have not been acted upon to any significant degree by Christians (its leaders, in particular), it follows that Christianity is, and has been, a sham -- a fraudulent religion. The fact that it claims that the Bible is its fundamental text is a lie of the highest order!
It should be obvious to anyone with normal intelligence that if -- and only if -- Paul’s “philosophy” were realized, the communities involved would be wonderful places to live; in short, they would be “realized utopias”!
The statements by Paul also lead us to ask at least two questions:
Given the “obvious” conclusion that humans have acted against their interests in not creating, on a massive scale, communities as described above, why is it that some claim that humans are the most intelligent of the species?!
Christianity became a political religion when emperor Constantine I (“the Great”?!) installed Nicene Christianity as the favored variety of Christianity. Later, it was made the official religion of the Roman Empire by Theodosius I). But there has been a great deal of “water over the dam” since then, so why is it that some evidence of human intelligence has not emerged since those dark times of the past?!
Will those who have been recruited for the new Fox television “Utopia” reality show arrive at the same “philosophy” as Paul of Tarsus did centuries ago? And if they do, will those ideas convince so many of this society’s inmates that our society becomes utterly transformed -- in a positive direction, that is -- within a matter of years?
I know that the answer to this second question is a resounding NO! And for two reasons:
I doubt if any member of that group is familiar with the relevant passage in Paul’s writings -- or if familiar, takes it seriously. The “values” (?) of individualism, greed, materialism, and (what is alleged to be) selfishness, etc., are so engrained in so many in our society, that it is virtually impossible that the members of the Utopia group will arrive at Pauline principles to guide them.
- Professor Emeritus Guy R. McPherson, in a 2012 posting, said:
“A decade ago, as I was editing a book on climate change, I realized we had triggered events likely to cause human extinction by 2030.”
This latter possibility -- that our species is on the road toward extinction -- is a very strong one, given that physical -- rather than human -- laws are involved. It is, of course, a terrible tragedy that Paul’s “dream” likely will never be realized, but it seems clear to scientists such as Guy McPherson that the “cards are stacked” against our continued survival for more than a few decades, if not years.
At times I think that after the Agricultural Revolution of 10,000 years ago Nature had the foresight to recognize that humans were becoming increasingly less Its friend, so that It must rid Itself of this cancer. What It then did was to encourage technological development with humans -- a sort of development that humans would (stupidly!) regard as a “godsend,” and would, therefore, work for its further development -- to the point that technological development would create conditions -- “soiling our nest,” might be one way of describing this -- that would result in our eventual demise, so that Nature would once again have no enemies.
Granted that this is a “far fetched” explanation, but if anyone else has a better explanation, I would like to learn what it is!
Endnotes and references:
An internet article states this: "The term 'Darwinian fitness' is often used to make clear the distinction with physical fitness." Implied in this statement, it seems to me, is reference to Charles Darwin’s concept of 'natural selection.' If, in fact, that is the intent of this statement, the statement is in serious error -- for the Darwinian concept of 'natural selection' only indirectly involves fitting the environment, concentrating instead on winning in competition with conspecifics. For a detailed discussion of Darwin’s ideas, see my Ringing the Bell for Darwin, Part Two in particular.
One could argue that because (a) wars are a prominent feature of “civilized” countries (because they enrich the few!) and (b) wars, for the invading country (typically a “civilized” one!), usually involve a significant loss of young lives, if the selectivity in deaths involves traits other than age, some biological change in the invading country’s population would occur. Given that the young, from the invading country, are typically from poor families, if certain traits having a biological basis are correlated with poverty, it follows that those traits are being 'weeded out' of the invading country’s population -- to some degree, at least. Although the 'survival of the fittest' nonsense propagated by a country’s elite suggests as much, that nonsense has received precious little support from scientists (see this, for example).
One might, argue that what Paul wrote in Chapters 12 and 13 of I Corinthians represents a 'fleshing out' of Leviticus 19:18 or (its New Testament equivalent in Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39, and Luke 10:27).
Any given community should be large enough that the various gifts represented in its population are sufficient to serve all of the needs present in the community. Given, however, the necessity that a community have cohesiveness, it must be small enough to permit that to occur. See, e.g., Kirkpatrick Sale’s Human Scale (2007) and E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful (2010).
Al Thompson retired, in 2014-JUL, from an avionics firm in Milwaukee, WI. He may be contacted using this email address: [email protected].
Originally published: 2014-SEP-24
Last updated 2014-SEP-24
Author: Alton C. Thompson