The doctrine of “free-will” and the similar doctrine positing an immaterial “mind” or “soul” seem to be an attempt to avoid the limitations and constraints of biology, of an organism in this world which is a highly particularized realm within Creation. We wish to rise above such mere physical processes as hormonal flows and—at a `higher’ level—our desires to eat and to engage in sex acts. We try to see our better inclinations and behaviors as representative of absolute truths which are implanted in and thus we are primed to accept stories of primordial falls from higher states, including an implausible understanding of the story of Adam and Eve. We don’t wish to be too much a part of those evolutionary processes which most of us accept in this modern age of man, though that acceptance is nominalistic, verbal acceptance that doesn’t reflect our acts or deeper thoughts. To be sure, we can be pleasantly mystified by thinking that we are somehow descended from rat-like creatures which had to move fast so big dinosaurs wouldn’t step on them or smaller dinosaurs eat them. Far away and cartoonish. The closer reality of morality and intelligence being embodied and developing along with brain and heart and liver is not part of the sermons or homilies of our clergymen, part of only some recent histories, part of few Biblical commentaries though parts of the Old Testament seem compatible with a full-blown sociobiology.
In a sentence: we pretend that particular manifestations of human being, individual or communal, are so plastic that we can make of that human being a better entity than God the Creator. This is a form of a Satanic rebellion and will not turn out well.
I’ll back up a little to consider the possibility that something exists in human beings which could be called free-will and leave it to the reader to investigate some of my earlier writings in which I discussed free-will as a disembodied mental activity (which it isn’t). The discussions about mind or soul would follow a similar pattern to what will develop in this essay.
The interested reader might wish to review an essay addressing the biological, experimental, evidence which I wrote way back in 2008: Is this evidence against free-will?. I dealt with the issue a number of times over the subsequent years.
If “free-will” exists and is truly free of the constraints of human biology, it isn’t us; that is, it is different from and somehow transcendent to the “us” which loves some other human beings and struggles to love God and perhaps all other human beings. In that case, that entity of “free-will” is free but we are enslaved to it and our good acts aren’t to our credit nor our bad acts to our debit.
If “free-will” is more truly us, then it is part of our human being, an organism similar to many ways to a chimpanzee and in fewer ways to a spider organism. A human being is subject to various pressures related to survival—hunger which can drive us to eat at the expense of our own children, sexual desire which drives men to rape or acts of infidelity and drives some men to kill other men to take their women, a general desire for rest and comfort which can drive us into states of greed and ambition that we can live better at the expense of other human beings, and so on.
So, this “free-will” is either part of a human animal subject to various constraints which don’t allow for anything which could be considered complete freedom or “free-will” is independent of this human animal, an alien entity (or agent) and our master.
We so-called modern men, heirs to a very promising Enlightenment gone bad—in part, bearers of badly-formed rumors of deep understandings of our physical world, are entrapped in ways of thought and feeling and behavior which are a result of that bad turn in the Enlightenment. Some might criticize me for being too abstract or too deep in my thoughts but this is necessary to clear out bad forms of abstract or deep thought that we might achieve better understandings of our own human selves, of life in general, of the physical universe, of all of Creation. The other way to clear out these bad thoughts is for the West to go through a more total collapse followed by a fresh start.
I’ve fallen into a pessimistic outlook that foresees a period for the West of barbarism and huge population decreases in most regions as a result of the loss of social structures and a coming-soon drop in technological capabilities which already shows in a decay in the quality of American infrastructure. I’d like to be proven wrong but don’t think that there is too much Western human being left; our human being is a far more primitive sort than that of even the Victorians let alone the Elizabethans. We no longer have the a sophisticated conception of God’s Creation, the resulting worldviews which turned the rocks and animals around us and the stars above us into manifestations God’s creative will. A worldview so rich and deep as to support anything so magnificent as Western Civilization will take generations to build and may never be built in such a way as be “Western”: European at heart. Though stated in my words, this is a situation which Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) discussed and feared. The Christian unwillingness to gradually reform the Western worldviews, to retain what was still right in the Medieval worldviews but integrate those still good parts of traditional Western Christianity with modern knowledge, has doomed the West. All the political and moral and social decay is but an outcome of the increasing separation over recent centuries of Western science from Western philosophy and theology, the increasing separation of Western political beliefs and behaviors from Western moral teachings, the truly fundamental problem of the loss of literacy and literate styles of thought. (See Jacques Barzun’s magnificent From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present.)
So, let’s deal with one of our major problems by facing up to the obvious truth that we are human animals formed by way of evolutionary and developmental processes. The species Homo sapiens sapiens evolved from a creature also an ancestor of the chimpanzee. Human beings are creatures with a certain sexual nature and certain ways of forming communities. We form certain sorts of relationships with each other and with animals of other species and with trees and bodies of water and so on. We are blessed and cursed with the sort of abstract reasoning abilities which allow us to rise to higher understandings of all of these. But the rise when a human civilization is forming or prospering is often slower than the fall from that state in which human communal being has become so rich and complex, with many—far from all—individuals taking on a significant amount of that richness and complexity. A civilization can collapse in a matter of years but can only be built by the efforts of a number of generations.
It’s all so contingent, so much a matter of chance—of pure unrepeatable factuality. From the sort of stuff which makes up the Earth, human being as we know it is but one possibility, though some inclined to political or economic dogmatism have claimed to develop a scheme with the one and only true way to form political or economic communities. Not so. And we can see this with a little imaginative effort in dealing with individual human being and communal human being. There is no chance a purely individualistic scheme for interpersonal relationships would work nor would a purely communalistic work. How much individualism and how much communalism would we need for a rich and complex civilization true to its human being? The possibilities would be determined by the environment of a particular people and how its ancestors responded to opportunities and problems in that or similar environments—where I write of responses in terms of the entire human animal and the entirety of human communities rather than writing only of the responses which are external acts in which we consciously participate though those acts may not be consciously determined; this is to say that a human being living near the Arctic responds by becoming shorter and stockier as well as by learning how to fish from ice-floes or to hunt sea-mammals.
One thing is clear: we need some substantial set of virtues, inborn but properly developed by way of nurture. Our ancestors were selected not to be like the self-serving individualists of libertarian myth and not to be like the self-sacrificing communalists of…communism. What’s needed is some combination of individualism and communalism allowing for some flexibility in the face of an uncertain and sometimes nasty, sometimes wonderful world.
So it is that nearly all human animals are born with some imperfect versions of those moral sentiments so beloved by many philosophers and poets and also by those who wish to live in peace in a human community (or communities) where some sort of decency reigns, some sort of recognition that we would have others respect our lives and property and beliefs and we should do the same for others. Obviously, such sentiments do exist in nearly all human animals, but not in one form—it’s likely the virtues of an Iron Age barbarian were a bit harsh by our standards. Our inborn virtues are also often weak and subject to great corruption. There is even reason to believe a (very?) weak form of the Fifth Commandment is written on the hearts of nearly all men—see On Killing by Dave Grossman for a discussion and references to some underlying research which is admittedly dated and is the sort of research which often fails replication or even later plausibility analyses.
Many modern men—including many ideologically corrupted men of science—carried over parts of the mistaken understanding of human being developed by the early Christian Fathers: the belief that the human species came into existence as a result of a special act-of-being, set in nature but not part of it in the way of the creation of other animals. Increasingly, scientists have wandered away from scientific thought to gobble on about a future in which there will be a lot of Africans of various nationalities who are in the top ranks of scientists or other thinkers. The same sort of cruel irrationality is being spewed out on pages of (previously?) respected science societies about the need to get large numbers of women in male-dominated fields such as mathematical physics. Essentially, these mean-spirited bastards are trying to teach Africans and women that their moral worth and self-esteem, their true humanity, should be dependent upon Africans and of women of all colors making up an increasing percentage of Nobel Laureates in physics in coming years. It isn’t going to happen, it can’t happen, and this is why I claim this stupid campaign is also cruel. I hope Africans and women prove to be smarter in important ways than the scientists who run the societies and try to push schemes which are based upon clearly wrongful understandings of human being. Or maybe those scientists do know better, as surely some Senators and Catholic bishops do, and they are merely going along with this exploitation because they have not the courage to speak truth to power?
The main branch of Western Christian thought is Augustinian and Augustine of Hippo accepted the idea that non-human species could transmute into other species but rejected the idea for human beings, thinking that human being was a special creation. This is to say that many Christians of this time who—mostly—accept some version of biological evolution retain the assumption that men around the world form a species outside of the transmutation of species; men worldwide have the same attributes, the same personality traits making each and every one of them at least potential members of a complex civilization. Many of the West have passed outside of Christianity but took that convenient view that all men are alike with them though claiming to be oh-so scientific when looking for arguments against Christian belief and practices.
By way of some sort of magical thought intermingled with reasoning about the empirical world, men were seen by the dominant thinkers of recent centuries to all be London gentlemen or Florence polymaths—at least potentially so if only those Central Africans and highlanders of New Guinea could be educated by the proper schoolmarms or semi-paganized Jesuit missionaries. The mind of powerfully abstract reasoning, the mind of an Archimedes or a Bismarck, was seen as having been gifted by God or the Deity or simply Nature upon all men though there be no sign of such a mind in the villages of Central Africans or highlanders of New Guinea and no reason to posit in the past of those peoples the sorts of environmental or opportunistic pressures leading to the selection of (expensive) brain developments supporting such a mind. In other words, these oh-so modern thinkers had rejected most of what is good in traditional Christian thought but had retained the false teaching that human being isn’t fully subject to the same forces as other forms of living being are. A man is the same whether a Swede or Maasai or a Cree.
Why would anyone, Christian who believes in the Bible or modern liberal, think that all peoples are the same when it comes to either reasoning or forming families and polities and other communities? Over the past 50,000 years, sub-Saharan African peoples have evolved separately from the peoples descended from the (probably multiple but not too multiple) out-of-Africa peoples. At various times, other peoples found in various regions of Asia and the Pacific also separated out and faced entirely different selective pressures from those faced by the peoples of Eurasia who are accurately labeled as “high-achievers” in matters of abstract thought as well as advanced technology. Over the past 10,000 years or so, some of the peoples of northern Eurasia have gone through a series of responses to opportunities and hardships which have led to significant increases in IQ and in personal traits—see The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending. Those peoples of Northern Eurasia evolved to survive in promising but tough environments and to carry out complex migrations and conquests. They moved on to form increasingly complex communities, culminating in a few major civilizations, including those of Western Europe and Eastern Europe and Iran and some parts of Southern Asia. Those Northern and Eastern Eurasians developed the personality traits to deal with, for example, abstract justice systems rather than person-based justice systems. Human beings evolved to live in civilizations have the IQs (boosted by greater abstract reasoning powers) to deal with technology and economic relationships more complex than those found in tribal societies.
Most from the peoples, such as most sub-Saharan Africans and the Hmong of Southeastern Asia, who live in tribal societies and haven’t formed more complex communities or engaged in more complex forms of thought than myth-based tales most likely are not capable of prospering or feeling comfortable in civilization without ongoing assistance from Western governments and charitable agencies or else falling into a barbarian life in the shadows of skyscrapers. People of the West shouldn’t feel triumphalistic as the prior sentence is probably far too complex for most modern-day college professors to parse, let alone to truly understand—again, see Jacques Barzun’s magnificent From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present. For the foreseeable future, we will have no triumphs but those in our history books. And we can’t understand those in our current state.
As for the descendants of those poor Africans or other tribal peoples brought to the West as slaves in the bad, old days so they might be used to profit the cotton and tobacco industries, as for those more recently brought to the West as clueless barbarians in the good days of now so they might be used to profit the likes of Democratic party vote-seekers and professional do-gooders, they might wonder, “Why is no one teaching us the magic that they use to design rocket-ships and to become politically powerful? Why do my children suffer so much when they try to learn algebra while those Jewish and Chinese and Polish children handle those symbols the way the witch-doctors back in Ghana could handle the ghosts of dead tribesmen?” There is, in fact, substantial overlap among the various populations. There are many in various Eurasian groups who have trouble passing beyond superstitious thought or elementary school literacy skills, but the Northern Eurasian and Eastern Asian peoples—and some others—produce enough human beings who are capable of higher forms of abstract reasoning, more often the forms of reasoning appropriate for entrepreneurship or organizing military units than those appropriate for solving difficult mathematical problems.
The continued importation of human beings not made for life in Western Civilization will not turn out well. I’ll leave it to others to predict the details but I will repeat that we have to learn how to think about human being in its great variety. We need to think in terms of evolution and inherited characteristics, to learn how to think about such facts as those provided by IQ tests rather than simply rejecting them or interpreting them to suit our personal isms.
Human beings are, first of all, human animals and we have characteristics such as intelligence and tendencies to impulsiveness or tendencies to work toward future results which are largely determined by our genes, though any population of human beings has a spectrum of such characteristics and we can always work to make the best of our particular characteristics. We don’t have something corresponding to a mind or soul or free-will which is pasted onto our animal bodies and is free of our biological-genetic constraints. Any improvements in the characteristics of a tribal and barbarian people which are conducive to civilized life have to come by way of reproductive advantages to the smarter and more diligent among that people. That isn’t happening in our oh-so non-racist West which seems to place more value on West Africans who can jump very high than it does on Africans who can learn topology. A little research will show, for example, that the smarter and better-educated African-Americans tend to have few children and this has been true for more than a century. There are new reports, rumors, that some athletically talented African-Americans of little intellectual talent have dozens of children. Even if the rumors in the prior sentence are exaggerated, there seems to be reason to fear that African-American IQs won’t be rising anytime soon.
Let’s admit to our bad situation and to the damage done by misunderstandings of human nature currently being used by those in government or in charitable agencies or in schools to bring in more human beings who will eventually find themselves to be strangers in a strange civilization, unless they help to destroy that civilization and leave us all in a barbarian wasteland. I think that wasteland might come about though I would expect more of a fragmented West in which, for example, some politically independent parts of what is now the United States will be reasonably prosperous and even civilized and some won’t. In any case, it’s unlikely these immigrant populations will prosper over the long-run and some of them might be exterminated by bloody conflicts, largely with each other.
It was bad actions which brought about this mess, but those bad actions were motivated and justified by bad ideas, ideas based on desires to understand human being and other forms of created being by positing the existence of immaterial entities rather than settling down to the hard work of understanding God’s Creation as it truly is.