Origin of Human Nature
According to the contemporary social theorists, such as Michael Rosen and Leslie Stevenson, the question on the nature of human being remains of great interest. They suggest that human’s ideas regarding what he ought to do are fundamentally influenced by his understanding of the nature of man. According to Peter Singer in his work in Darwinian Left, the question would be significantly answered through a clear consideration of human evolution history.
Most political theorists, and in particular the leftists, are hesitant about accepting the Darwin’s theory that human evolved from animals. The present work is an attempt to address this concern to politicians, through evaluation of their opinions and assessing whether the suggestion of evolution theory of human nature is as politically offensive as presumed by left-wingers. The detail of man evolution and its probable bearing on the modern social behavior plays insignificant role in contemporary political discourse.
At a meta-theoretic level, considering the human evolution highly may significantly impact how the political philosophy is undertaken. For instance, Peter Singer in his essay titled Ethics and Sociobiology highlighted a significant possible consequence of assuming an evolutionary approach to political theory. He argued that if Darwinian biology could provide a dependable support of human nature, then leftists and rightists would have to accept that the efforts of such theorists as Plato, Marx, Aristotle, and other evolution icons were merely based on ignorance (Dawkins, 2006).
Thus, if leftists were correct in the Western philosophizing, then the evolution of human according to Darwin would cast doubt on all speculation and theories about society and human nature that has been established in disregard of the contemporary evolutionary theory.
The overall objective of the current paper is to evaluate the consequences of human nature on human behavior and to evaluate the impact of evolutionary approach on political philosophy (rightists and leftists). According to Stevenson, the assertions of natural science may dismiss much of the traditional theorizing about human nature and society.
Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, directly ridicules pre-Darwinian perceptions of human existence and human nature. At the beginning of his work Selfish Gene, Dawkins pronounces that, in the light of Darwinian Theory, human beings do not have to turn to fantasy whenever they encounter significant problems. In attempts to understand the nature of human being, Dawkins agreed with G. Simpson’s approach that any effort to understand the nature of people before 1859 could not be sustained (Dawkins, 2006).
According to Stevenson, behavior of evolved human being contributes to our social and political theories. This is apparent in his 1981 review of the sociobiology. He stated that the further references to Marx, Hobbes and Rousseau would be primitive with the emergence of sociobiology.
However, three decades down the line non-scientific views on evolution are still cited, which may be attributed to the influence of history. The political theorist continues referencing Marx, Rousseau and Hobbes because of their impact on history. Nevertheless, it would be better if we viewed the Darwinian account on human evolution more accurately.
Nonetheless, by adopting this view, question on philosophical beliefs and philosophy regarding organization of society would arise; for instance, by querying whether these approaches are attuned to the contemporary Darwinian science might lead to querying about human potential and human nature. This idea is briefly illustrated by the comment made by E.O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology, who referring to Marxism, commented: “Wonderful theory; wrong species”.
Obviously, outlining a precise account on the nature of human being should be done by evolutionary biologist as opposed to the philosophers and social scientists. Be that as it may, the objective of the current work is not to assess the consistency of other theories with Darwin’s, but to ascertain the predominant hypothesis on human nature and human behavior in the light of the contemporary political science and political philosophy. The paper attempts to assess whether this approach to human nature and human evolution is misguided considering the modern knowledge of human nature and evolution.
One way of identifying the underlying assumption about what constitutes a valid system of beliefs about evolution and human nature, and the best way to compare and analyze the competing theories, would be to evaluate introductory texts. For instance, by assessing how Rosen analyzed the question he raised on human nature. In introductory text for his article Political Thought, Rosen turns to the icons of the past: taking human being as they are, one must know what they are. According to Rousseau’s view, man in natural state is innocent, and all the evil in society is socially generated.
The presumption that political philosophy’s enquiry on the nature of human could be addressed through evaluation of the concepts of Rousseau, Locke and Hobbes, is apparently reviewed by Wolff. In his study Introduction to Political Philosophy, he reveals the principle’s paradigmatic approach of evaluation various theorists’ assertion about human nature and behavior is revealed. For instance, Wolff introduces his evaluation of Hobbes’s offensive and short idea of the original condition of human nature by proposing that it would not be prudent to abolish the state just to find out how life would turn to be without it, however, the best we could do is to conduct this process just as thought experiment (Stevenson & Haberman, 2004).
Subsequently, Wolff argues that to shun Hobbes’s negative conclusions about nature it is necessary to start from different principles. Particularly, life without a state might be seen as a prettier if a different theory of human nature was adopted. Further, Wolff suggests that it would be possible to shun the undesirable politics arising trough individual’s understanding of human nature by changing initial principles. However, as there are no underlying theories that reflect human behavior, Wolff’s suggestion would remain a mere theoretical practice.
While some studies on political philosophy might continue to cite outdated theories on human nature, other social philosophers and theorists have appreciated Darwinian Theory in development of the contemporary human behavior. According to Ten Theories of Human Nature, Leslie Stevenson outlined three possible situations on whether there is some ‘true’ or innate human nature. Stevenson put three fundamental questions:
a). Are human beings simply a product of evolution who are programmed to follow their self-interest, to reproduce their genes and to fulfill their biological drives?
b). Is there no such critical human nature, but just a capacity to be molded by environing forces?
c). Is there some objective, transcendent purpose of human history?
Stevenson’s questions are open and suggestive in contrast to the opinion held by evolutionary minded theorists such as Dawkins, Singer and Pinker, to this questions. Stevenson seeks for the answers through non-scientific theories of human nature as presented by Confucianism, Christianity and Hinduism. He also seeks to answers for these questions citing Kant, Plato, Aristotle, and Freud. However, when he eventually considered Darwinian theories regarding human nature, Stevenson recognized that some individuals might be concerned over the high values associated with religious and philosophical theories (Stevenson & Haberman, 2004).
Swapping Marx for Darwin
According to Jean Gayon, contemporary biologists have convincing reasons to disengage their work from Darwin’s theory of human nature. Among other things, social Darwinism, neo-liberal economics, ethnic anthropology, and Nazi philosophy were based on Darwinism. Equally, in more recent times, American laissez-faire, sociobiology, and the Western rightists have been more dedicated to Darwinism than leftists. Gayon suggests that Darwinism is not only a scientific theory but also a cultural and political theory.
Historical political movements such as Nazi racial biology, social Darwinism, and other revolting manifestations of evolutionary theory are all associated with rightists. Certainly, ever since the beginning of sociobiology, left-wingers have emphasized the connections between right-wing political beliefs and modern Darwinist philosophy. Likewise, in their persuasive Not in Our Genes, leftists Richard Lewontin and Steven Rose highlighted how conservatives have applied biological theories in opposition to equality rights (Lewontin, 1992).
Karl Marx, while accepting Darwinism as a reliable scientific alternate to teleological beliefs of society, was nonetheless critical of the manner in which the principle of natural selection seemingly reflected its author’s lenient cultural background. Eventually, following Marxist approach, in conclusion the belief in facts could be discarded as a mere distortion emanating from social context. This is a demonstration of the critical confusion of relativism, which suggests that reality is merely a socially-mediated falsification. Accordingly, Richard Dawkins shows some irrationality to which relativism has generated. He criticizes the assertion of relativists that science has challenge with the fluid hydraulics due to male preoccupation with rigidity. Considering Marx’s relativist evaluation of society’s structures of belief, it is plausible that the leftists have been influenced by the relativists.
The misconception about Darwinism on whether the human evolution is good or bad has led the rightists to the wrong assumption, that if Darwinism applied to human behavior, then a competitive market environment would be justified as either inevitable or natural. Unfortunately, the leftists have made a previous mistake by accepting this assumption, thus rejecting Darwinism. Most of the modern leftists’ opposition to the contemporary evolution theory of human nature appears to be based on the misinterpretation of Darwinism’s inferences (Diamond, 1992).
From the leftists’ point of view, Darwinism could not be reliable because, if this conception is right, a more socialist or egalitarian society might be unattainable. As a result, the leftists are just a reflection of the rightists’ fallacious belief, which implies that the situation with nature is accidental.
According to Singer, there is a connection between the politics and Darwinism regarding understanding that human nature in the light of human evolution could be significant in identifying the possible obstacles to attaining political and social objectives. Leslie Stevenson shares a similar opinion that, if human biological nature predisposes a person to feel, think, and act in a certain manner, then human being would better assume a realistic account of his social policies and choices. Here, Stevenson expresses this idea as hypothetical predispositions indicating the implications of the alternative perspective of human nature. If, on the contrary, human being is a product of society, and if it is found that most individuals’ lives are currently inacceptable, then there could be no answer until society is transformed (Stevenson, 2000).
The Cognitive Unity of Human Being
There are evident and understandable grounds to dismiss the relevance of natural science to the contemporary social behavior. All observation show distinction between the cultural and biological behavioral motives of human actions, where latter are markedly more human.
The leftists may readily acknowledge that Darwinian biological evolution resulted into human’s pre-human ancestors, but still contend with the fact that the cultural environment of the contemporary human being, from culturally-constructed supports to socially-sanctioned graves influences human with the selective pressures.
In short, left-wingers’ emphasis on human nature, and its sanction of human biology, is not rightly wrong-headed. Such a posture appears to agree with perspectives of human behavior, and with outline of prehistory it was human cultur and not human biology that caused human species to spread. The key argument is that mainstream leftists have seemingly become less leftist by getting more realistic. This process entails the refusal from much of the earlier utopianism. However, Darwinian doctrine eventually leads to the argument that the leftists should abandon their magnificent scheme for political transformation and work on what can be persuasively attained.
According to Jared Diamond, it is obvious that different individuals have advanced differently in life. The best explanation for the difference between economically rich and poor, according to Diamond, is a matter of implicit or explicit assumption of biological differences. Though, Diamond explanation is renounced in developed economies, the biological explanations for inequalities are still regarded in private. Despite it is improper to say so publicly, Diamond appreciates that it is logical to assume that history reflects the innate differences among individuals (Diamond, 1992).
However, for most liberal thinkers, the idea of evolved differences between individuals is hypothetically racist. As Diamond would argue, it simply provides credence to the assumption that inequalities between individuals are justifiable through biological explanations. He further suggersts that inequalities in well-being or wealth are manifestation of biological disparities between individuals. Such liberal attitude is not surprising. This inexcusable application of biological expression of human nature was this ideology that has led to Nazi regime.
This leads to even more contradictions and confusions. Philip Kitcher observed, that there is an extensive agreement among anthropologists that ideological disparities cannot be biologically supported; yet this seems so credible from Darwinian view. Indeed, the likelihood of evolved ideological differences is so plausible that a reputed scientist like Diamond can unintentionally become irreconcilable by criticizing the biological explanation for any social diversity as racist, while at the same time advocating for such explanation.
However, there appears a clear political intention for Diamond’s discrepancy. On the one side, he seems to counter prevalent, but detestable racist explanations for obvious diversities. On the other side, he wants to advance a positive evolutionary viewpoint on historically disadvantaged individuals, for instance, by suggesting that Aborigines are more likely to be intelligent than the alien Europeans, whose consequent success was a result of their technological but not cognitive advancement.
The facts regarding difference between social groups do not involve many valuable judgments. The possibility of evolved diversities does not directly inspire affective social responses, such as discrimination, superiority-inferiority or antagonism. Subject of social beliefs should not arise from the objective facts about rightist or leftists. Indeed, basis for such beliefs are erroneously founded on unchangeable and essential differences between social groups (rightists and leftists). Such beliefs are not supported by modern biology.
The outward ideological motivation for dismissing biological aspects of social differences, though well-meant, is potentially counterproductive. For instance, if superiority of leftist of inferiority of rightist is linked to the empirical claims about the nature of evolution biology, and these empirical beliefs are open to interrogation, this could be detrimental to advancement of human nature. Human behavior should not be determined by the factors of human biology.
Considering the highly politicized nature of natural science debate, the empirical facts about rightists and leftists as biological phenomenon are indiscernible, more so given by non-scientists. The evaluation of the abovementioned arguments implies that a blanket denial of biological impact on human behaviors is likely to be misguided. More so, if it is to be accepted that human beings evolved from apes and in the course of evolution have been subjected to Darwinian process just like other organisms, then levels of social diversity could be expected.
Notwithstanding his suggestion that environment alone contributes to the different social trajectories of human nature and behaviors, Diamond’s eventual justification for the advent of a divided world of rightist and leftists plainly evolved biological diversities between individuals. Human beings have not deviated in any significant way since their ancestors’ exodus from Africa.