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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
The concept of evolution has traditionally been thought of in terms of physical development only – birds evolved wings to fly, fish developed gills to breath under water. What has perhaps been less apparent is that the thoughts and beliefs of human beings can also be attributed to evolutionary processes.
It is obviously understood that the capacity for thought and consciousness is facilitated by the physical brain. It is not a great leap to conclude that the types of thought patterns and behavior exhibited by any given individual is largely determined by the extent to which that brain has evolved. For example, human beings of today are vastly different than the human beings of 10,000 years ago. And although certain barbaric tendencies remain, it seems evident that the evolutionary trend is one of increasing compassion, empathy and altruism.
In light of these two realizations – that human thought is a result of the evolutionary progress of the human brain, and that compassion seems to represent a more evolved state – we arrive at two important conclusions. The first is that the destructive impulses of greed, violence and individual gain at whatever cost are representative of a less evolved state, similar, in many respects, to the differences between the mental capacities of humans and apes.
The second conclusion is that there appears to be a spectrum of evolutionary progress within the human species itself. That is, some humans are more evolved than others, as exhibited by the more refined thought processes associated with egalitarian thought patterns. Humans who cling to the old paradigm of ruthless independence and selfish gain do so because they’re brains, quite simply, are less evolved. Just as in every species we see examples of more and less evolved organisms, within the human species we find that some specimens are apparently slightly more advanced in terms of the evolutionary development of the brain – a point to which I have alluded before.
But recent studies suggest that our brains and genes may be a major determining factor in the views we hold.
A study at University College London in the UK has found that conservatives’ brains have larger amygdalas than the brains of liberals. Amygdalas are responsible for fear and other “primitive” emotions. At the same time, conservatives’ brains were also found to have a smaller anterior cingulate — the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.
Rees, who heads up UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, was originally asked half-jokingly to study the differences between liberal and conservative brains for an episode of BBC 4’s Today show that was hosted by actor Colin Firth. But, after studying 90 UCL students and two British parliamentarians, the neurologist was shocked to discover a clear correlation between the size of certain brain parts and political views.
There you have it, folks. The conservative world view is apparently associated with a brain structure “for fear and other ‘primitive’ emotions.” Given the less evolved state of the conservative brain, it is no longer puzzling that the universal application of the profit motive is such a dogmatic element of the conservative world view. As I’ve discussed at some length, the profit motive is nothing less than the application of the law of the jungle to human society. It represents barbaric, animalistic survival of the fittest, with every individual and his
klan clan against the world.
And to date, with very few exceptions, this primitive, unevolved world view has largely been accepted in American society – and, sadly, much of the world. “Freedom” is portrayed as the greatest of all ideals, but it is defined in such a way as to imply that broad social cooperation is something to be loathed. “You take care of yours and I’ll take care of mine” is the underlying theme, with a slight addendum for those who listen closely: “but fuck you if you get in my way.”
Yet such a mentality has its roots in an evolutionary era long before the emergence of self-awareness and profound intellectual capacities. It is derived from an epoch which predates the very notion of thought itself, and yet it is the most basic foundation upon which our society is built.
But perhaps the most beautiful thing about being human is that we now possess the capacity to alter the course of our own evolution. So while the brute force of the primitive conservative mind might have ruled in every past era, its reign of ignorant savagery may at last be coming to an end, with the emergence of the more evolved progressive mind.