Is it possible to expedite progress? Is there anything any of us can do to improve the health, wealth and happiness of society as a whole? On a person-to-person level, it’s obvious that a doctor can improve a patient, and a parent can improve a child. But, even at the level of the seemingly obvious, can we be sure we’re helping a man by giving him a fish if we fail to also teach him how to fish?
We know that humans can play a role in the evolution of animals. It’s called breeding. More recently we also have genetic engineering as a tool. The question remains whether we can play a positive role in the evolution of society.
When Charles Darwin spoke of “survival of the fittest,” he was not thinking of the smartest nor the handsomest, much less the most Aryan-like. No, Chuck had in mind animals such as cockroaches and reptiles. His emphasis was on the “survival.” Cockroaches and reptiles have a history. Boy do they have a history! It is because of their history that the prospects of their future survival seem rosy indeed. By comparison, humanity is a shooting star: A bright streak, granted, but one that could go dark as quickly.
The pattern of evolution of animals is similar to the evolution of human society, even if the time cycles differ so greatly. The overwhelming majority of the “biomass” of human society is the equivalent of cockroaches and reptiles that are our institutions and establishments, and belief systems. These have a history of survival, but are anything but elegant and intelligent. Just a couple of (minor?) examples are the military-industrial complex (which was around long before Eisenhower coined the phrase), and what we euphemistically call our criminal justice system.
So, if we choose to try to “breed” society into something super and Aryan-like, go for it! It’s just that we need to recognize what we’re up against. We must do it while strolling through Jurassic Park. This is not to say it can’t be done. Hell, it already is being done. By many measures, life for humans is getting better each day. I’m an optimist. But you’ve heard about the wall of separation between church and state? Forget about it. It’s a waste of time. Try this instead: throw some planking, as it were, over the swamp to protect the best and brightest of us from the cockroachian, reptilian institutions of society. This is to allow creative thinking to get done in relative tranquility. And admitting that we will never be able to determine who the best and brightest of us are, let’s paraphrase Tiny Tim: Save us, every one.
David E. Gallaher