What is the evolutionary imperative of humanity

Biology and politics

Biological inequalities between people, such as those between men and women, are highly politically incorrect these days. But a society that ignores them will have to pay a heavy price.


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Much has been written and talked about the misuse of biology for political ends. Much of it relates to times gone by. But what we still see almost every day today is disregard for biology for ideological reasons. Modern ideologues are always very suspicious of biology. From their point of view, this is also justified, because if we were to listen more to modern biological knowledge today, some lofty social plans and aspirations would have been exposed in good time as unrealistic or utopian.

There are many areas of our time struggling to find a reasonable balance between the extremes. In relation to biology, this means neither seeing humans as slaves of their genes nor dismissing the role of heredity and evolutionary imprints as irrelevant.

What is evolution

“Nothing in biology makes sense unless you look at it in the light of evolution” - says Theodosious Dobzhansky. After life on earth arose about 3.5 billion years ago as a result of very special constellations, for me the elementary basic principle of evolution was to preserve life and species diversity at all costs. However, it is not my intention to use this to hide anything in evolution. Evolution works. No more and no less. The means and mechanisms used for this were and are sophisticated and, one is almost inclined to say, refined and obviously extremely efficient. In detail, evolution is known to make use of a complicated process of adaptation and selection, i.e. adaptation and selection as well as the genetic transfer of inherited properties over long periods of time.

The evolutionary imperative is therefore: self-preservation and reproduction. Fight for your life so you can reproduce! Biologically speaking, individual life is insignificant. The survival of the species is crucial. In the long term, evolution therefore rewards everything that serves to survive and thus reproduce in a certain environment. At the same time, however, it also eliminates everything that goes against these goals. Without this “survival of the fittest” under adverse living conditions, we would not exist today either.

Political and social status of biology

“Organic” is in high regard when it comes to organic products or organic farming. However, for honorable cultural and humanitarian reasons, modern man tries to evade the "dictates" of natural evolution. He considers it unreasonable to submit to their strict and relentless guidelines. With that he rises above all of the rest of nature. Man possesses spirit, culture and freedom - a unique experiment of nature. These abilities establish its current special position on earth.

Modern medicine and the welfare state, the care of the elderly, the sick and the handicapped are in any case not subject to the rules of the survival of the most capable in modern societies. Modern people believe that they can look down on the influences of the Stone Age, which lasted millions of years, with the proud awareness of the civilizational emancipation that has been achieved since then. However, our cultural varnish is actually quite thin if we squeeze human development into a calendar year. According to this, human history begins on January 1st at midnight, while written history and culture did not come into being until December 31st at 2 a.m. Due to this fact, I am still of the opinion: We are basically still Stone Age hunters, albeit recently with an internet connection and space experience.

Do humans come into the world as a "blank slate"?

For revolutionaries, do-gooders and so-called progressive educators, on the other hand, the idea of ​​the tabula rasa, the blank slate with which we supposedly come into the world, was and is all too tempting. In their euphoric optimism, some enlighteners saw themselves as legitimized and empowered to fill the blank slate themselves rather than leave it to natural developments. Today we know that we are born with a "sheet of paper" written in full and in small print, on which much is engraved. Only for a few decades have we been able to decipher this genetic “writing” step by step.

The British philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) introduced the idea of ​​the tabula rasa into modern times with lasting effects. In his philosophy he vehemently opposed the existence of “innate ideas”. John Locke is known to have had a decisive influence on the spirit and content of the American Declaration of Independence. Only the conviction of the tabula rasa justifies the statement contained therein: "All men are created equal." To this day, it is still unclear what degree of equality is meant by this. Politicians do not attach importance to precisely defining meaningful terms, in order to be able to interpret them all the more. They love the dream of actual equality and fundamental goodness of man. Evolution, on the other hand, needs and promotes inequality for good reason. This is because it needs the diversity of the gene pool. So every single person is genetically unique, apart from identical twins. A rigid genetic uniformity of the species would mean the end of evolution for higher living beings.

Here, too, our time is marked by a strange conflict. We continue to hold high the flag of scientific progress, but when it comes to the "niche", namely the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, an appropriate correction of the traditional judgments and evaluations is not permitted.

But what about human behavior?

Perhaps, some will reply, that we are subject to inherited physical characteristics. But we live in a time in which our behavior is determined and channeled by moral and civilizational rules and not by biological behavioral structures.

This is exactly where the hot conflict between culture and nature, between cultivated and innate, begins. A conflict that approaches the foundations of modernity. If modernity's conviction of the dominance of its liberal, reason-based ideas and ideals were to falter and the old Adam did not follow them so obediently, this would be a disaster.

It is striking that serious biologists in no way question cultural components of human behavior. They even explain. “Man is by nature a cultural being”. There is no one today who demands strict biologism. Conversely, milieu theorists and representatives of different ideologies negate the biological roots of human behavior. Or they are convinced that they can easily overcome them culturally, i.e. with the help of the environment and society.

But those who have recognized and understood the mechanisms of evolution immediately understand that physical equipment and behavior belong together for the overriding goal of survival and reproduction of living beings. Otherwise what use was the eagle's claws or the lion's paws if they hadn't also inherited the predatory instinct at the same time?

But, of all people, should evolution rely solely on their cultural rules of behavior? And left his survival stock of all things, namely intelligence, largely to the influences of the environment? The Sarrazin case at the latest has recently shown that the (partial) inheritance of properties is still a taboo topic, because otherwise some ideological houses of cards would collapse.

The modern image of man

At the beginning of every modern political ideology there is a very specific image of man, which, as we know, can turn out very differently and be based on the most varied of sources and preferences. In the last 200 years or so we have been able to observe several “experiments” of this kind.

Even if humans cannot be dealt with with empirical evidence alone, I still consider the contributions of evolutionary behavioral research (which increasingly come from Anglo-Saxon countries) to be extremely important because they give us solid ground. Nevertheless, humans remain entangled between nature and culture and thus difficult to unravel.

A particularly momentous case of the refusal to recognize biological imprints in humans as well is shown by today's view of the so-called role understanding of men and women, which is supposedly culturally determined. Feminists do not want to see that evolution has not left the role of man and woman in gender relations to be arbitrary. But it would be completely absurd and directed against the evolutionary imperative if evolution had not endowed females and males in the animal kingdom and men and women in humans with specific, biologically based properties and behaviors.

In biological behavior research it has also been known for a long time that 50 to 80% of human intelligence is inherited. The good news is therefore: In extreme cases, the inherited talent potential can be maximally exploited or completely neglected due to influences from the environment. The bad: Inherited limits of talent cannot be eliminated even by measures that are well-intentioned and expensive.

As it is, the mechanisms of evolution are an eternal annoyance for advocates of social experimentation. Evolutionary interpretations are often downright scandalously politically incorrect because, for example, they are directed against equality and for those able to survive. Because they ruthlessly punish the renunciation of their own children with their means, because they place feelings of tribal ties above cosmopolitan ideas and awaken age-old feelings of xenophobia. Evolution, on the other hand, is a good teacher when it comes to all topics that concern survival and reproduction: love, partnership, sex, child rearing, but also with those systems that promote (reciprocal) altruism, cooperation and the selection of relatives.

So how do you go about it?

Ideally, nature should be given as much space as it is indispensable and culture as much as sensible and reasonable in the long term. Whether such a symbiosis can ever be achieved is in any case doubtful after all experience. Ideologically guided planners cannot be taught by biology.

In concrete terms, however, this means that a large number of today's individual and social problems can ultimately be traced back to this ignorance. We will therefore continue to have to pay a high price for a detached cultural hubris.


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