"Every year civilization is invaded by millions of barbarians; they are called children." Paraphrase of Hannah Arendt comment
This chapter deals with the need to eschew foolish gene‑serving thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
"Living wisely" requires that a person understand and censor, when necessary, their emotions. It is useful to remember that emotions are the genes way of guiding the individual along paths that serve the genes. Especially strong emotions are required for those behaviors which are in conflict with the individual's best interests. I would like to quote part of a paragraph from Daniel Goleman's book Emotional Intelligence (1995, pg. 56), as it summarizes some empirical wisdom on the matter.“A sense of mastery, of being able to withstand the emotional storms that the buffeting of Fortune brings, rather than being ‘passion slaves,’ has been praised as a virtue since the time of Plato. The ancient Greek word for it was sophrosyne, "care and intelligence in conducting one's life; a tempered balance and wisdom," as Page DuBois, a Greek scholar, translates it. The Romans and the early Christian church called it temperantia, temperance, the restraining of emotional excess.”
It is intuitively clear to thoughtful people that there are crucial times when emotions are capable of ruining a life if they are not restrained by wisdom. It is also generally recognized that a complete denial of emotions poses the risk of eviscerating life of whatever reason one may accept as justification for living. A balance is called for.Clearly, if one does nothing about the matter, and emotions are allowed to hold sway as they come and go when they please, such a person is animal-like! To the extent that humans have "free will" (a dubious concept) they are capable of rising above the animal's unthinking emotional push and pull of behavior. People with this uncritical acceptance of emotions will not be reading this, so I am assuming that you, dear reader, might be open to a different "philosophy for living." The central theme of this philosophy will be to broaden and deepen one's insight into the origins and ultimate causations of human behavior for the purpose of recognizing thoughts and emotions that lead to self‑defeating behaviors. When such thoughts and behaviors are recognized for what they are, it is the task of the individual to discredit them with this insight and to eschew them.
Those of us who try to do so in this 21st Century (or even the 3rd Millennium) will be experimenting with something new and ahead of its time. However, in my opinion it is very unlikely that more than a handful of people will ever be attracted to what I am proposing during the next few centuries, and before the collapse of civilization. Paradigm shifts of a serious magnitude require desperate failures of existing paradigms, and the failures of current paradigms will not be apparent until after a collapse has begun its inevitable unfolding. Moreover, few people today are genetically disposed to even consider an embrace of the paradigm I am advocating.After the crash of global civilization it is conceivable that a pocket of people will be the "founders" of what could turn into a new human race. There is no reason for drawing assurance that the new humans will be better than us. Nevertheless, "improvement" is theoretically possible, and in this chapter I will explore a desirable "type" toward which these new humans might evolve. In doing this I am fully aware that the probability of this scenario actually unfolding is minuscule!
The pre‑crash humans are us, with all our flaws, squabbling among ourselves, and wasting of precious lives on trivial pursuits that are designed by our genes for advancing genetic longevity (in an environment that no longer exists). The sociobiological paradigm is the only way to understand that we are a product of the genes that enslaved our ancestors and that continue to enslave us. The post‑crash humans which I have chosen to portray distinguish themselves by achieving liberation from their genes.
Figure 22.01. The behavior of pre‑crash humans can be described as gonad‑ centered, whereas the post‑crash humans which I hope will evolve can be described as brain‑centered.
The simplest way to contrast the pre‑crash humans and the post‑crash species that I hope will arise is shown in Fig. 22.01. The pre‑crash humans exist for the purpose of serving their gonads. All other organs, including the brain, are supportive of the gonad goal, which is to produce as many offspring as possible so as to carry the genes within the gonads into a prosperous future in the species gene pool. The post‑crash humans will exist to serve individual brains, or, specifically, the consciousness that those brains produce. The gonads will be put into the service of goals created by thinking brains. This shift will liberate the individual from the genes!
ClarificationsIn some sense the previous chapters have been a preparation for this one. By now the reader will have a good notion of what I mean by an "outlaw gene." However, some subtle clarifications should be made. I will then present a series of specific examples of an unwanted human instincts.
There are at least these three categories of clarification to be kept in mind when identifying "outlaw genes": 1) some genes used to be helpful to our ancestors and they are “innocently” ill prepared for the modern environment, which means their dysfunctional harm to the individual is an "unforeseen" outcome, 2) genes can have many effects (pleiotropy), the sum of which may produce more good than bad, and 3) any given trait is usually the result of several genes (polygenes) acting together.Genes that reward eating sweets is mal‑adaptive in the modern setting where refined sugar is abundant and intentionally included in many foods. In the ancestral environment the taste for sweets was adaptive. For this reason it would be misleading to call the “sweet tooth” gene an outlaw, and it belongs to a category of genes whose unwanted effects I will overlook.
Pleiotropy refers to the influence by a single gene on several distinct and sometimes unrelated phenotypic traits. Assuming it was possible to identify which gene contributed the most to an unwanted trait, we would nevertheless still want to know if it also contributes to other, desired traits. If it does, then we would face the task of weighing all the desired and undesired effects to arrive at an overall verdict. Therefore, we must amend the description conveyed by the figure in Chapter 1. Each gene can be represented in that figure by more than one "dot." If all the dots are in one quadrant, then no subjective weighing of good and bad effects would be needed. Our assessment task is complicated only when the gene is represented by one (or more) dots in the lower right "outlaw gene" quadrant, plus one (or more) dots in either of the upper quadrants.
"Polygenes" refers to the situation when several genes contribute to the phenotypic expression of a single trait. (Note that a trait, such as eye color, may be affected by just one gene, yet the gene that controls that trait may affect other traits; hence, a trait may be monogenic, yet the gene associated with that monogenic trait can be a pleiotropic gene.) Polygenicity also represents a complication to my simple‑minded figure with quadrants. I am prepared to acknowledge that most traits that I will criticize in this chapter will be polygenic. In that case, it may not be possible to blame just one gene for the trait, and the concept of one outlaw gene for that trait will simply be a short‑hand way to convey the more accurate view that several genes are contributing to the "outlaw" behavior.The phenotypic expression of genes is a fast‑growing field. Today's short list of genes whose pleiotropic effects have been identified will undoubtedly grow longer, and the same can be said for polygenes. It is too early to know how important the effects of pleiotropy and polygenes will be in confusing the task of blaming just one gene, and labeling it an "outlaw." I could appeal to the reader by stating that any trait under discussion can be mapped to the one most‑important gene, and that this is the gene I am declaring to be an "outlaw" enemy of the individual. In other words, whether a trait is genetically rooted in pleiotropy, or polygenes, I will speak of it as if one outlaw gene underlies its expression.
At the present time it will be possible to associate an unwanted behavior with a specific gene in rare cases. And since it will also not be possible, at the present time, to exonerate genes on the basis of their outweighing pleiotropic beneficial effects, or the polygenic contributions from other genes, the exercise of identifying outlaw behaviors that have a genetic basis shall serve merely as an illustration of what is possible in theory, and which may someday be possible in practice. I will be satisfied to merely identify outlaw genetic predispositions without, of course, being able to link them to a specific gene, or polygene group.In some distant future, humans may initiate a reasoned program to rid themselves of outlaw genes. It should not be necessary to link a behavior to a specific gene for this improvement program to proceed. After all, humans domesticated animals to their liking without even knowing that genes existed. That is why it is more important to recognize an unwanted behavior that has a genetic basis than to know which gene predisposes for that behavior. Indeed, the issue of polygenicity and pleiotropy is irrelevant to the task of improving the human genome by ridding it of outlaw genes. In short, it is now theoretically possible for the human species to domesticate itself!
Before the human genome is improved it will be necessary to manipulate the environment to avoid the behavioral expression of unwanted genes (see Chapter 19’s discussion of utopias). Before utopias and human genome improvements can take place the unwanted behaviors that I blame on outlaw genes must be identified. This chapter is devoted to illustrating, by example, behaviors which should be unwanted by the individual wishing for emancipation from his genotype.
By the way, in case you haven’t already noticed it, the topic of this chapter is eugenics! Why do you think eugenics is a taboo topic? After all, its goal is to improve the quality of life of future generations. If only previous generations had practiced eugenics more successfully this book might not be necessary. Alas, it would be naïve to believe that natural selection would produce a creature that is predisposed to “diddle” with those almighty givers of life, the genes!Subjective Nature of Evaluating Outlaw Traits
For all the examples of "outlaw traits" that I will present, it can be said that my placement of them in the lower‑right quadrant is based on a subjective assessment of how they affect individual welfare. I am undeterred by the inescapable subjectivity of such assessments. I suppose the claim that "torture for the enjoyment of the torturer is bad" is a subjective judgment. It is also subjective to assert that "suffering from a disease is bad compared to enjoying good health." Yet, reasonable people, for the sake of getting on with an argument, are willing to accept these seemingly self‑evident statements, and are open to the possibility that many other examples exist having equal merit. If you as a reader wish to disagree with a specific example among those that follow, fine; in the interest of grasping the concept just skip the example that seems hopelessly subjective and go on to the next one.EXAMPLES
SexI claim the genes that produce behaviors referred to as sex, short for copulation, are outlaw genes. What is the use of sex to the individual?
Most people would naively reply "it produces pleasure," and they would believe that this response shows that the genes prompting sexual behavior serves the individual. But this argument implies that anything that pleases a person has merit, and since a masochist derives pleasure from being physically abused does this validate the masochistic desire? A sadist also derives pleasure from hurting someone else, and surely we are not prepared to value the sadistic gene(s) because they give the bearer of it an extra outlet for pleasure. I maintain that pleasure cannot be used to justify an act, as it may threaten the well-being of the person performing the genetically-driven act and it might harm others.
Moreover, consider that sex exposes an individual to disease. There are over 50 sexually transmitted diseases that afflict humans (Immerman, 1999), and some of them take a heavy toll on their victims (see Cartwright and Biddiss, 1972, p. 65 ‑ 81, for dramatic examples in history). Men who consort with another man’s “property” are at grave risk of retribution. Men compete with each other for sexual access to women, and some of these competitive forms can be dangerous. When sex produces offspring there can be a life-long burden of spousal and parental care, and for some people this burden is more than they can bear.
For women, sex has a host of dangers and negative impacts on individual well‑being. The biggest one is that sex can lead to pregnancy! In the months immediately before childbirth she is exposed to multiple dangers. Before about 1900 it was common for women to die during childbirth. Even if the pregnancy and childbirth are without incident, a woman with a baby is burdened with extra work (forever). A woman who has several children (plus a baby) can be exhausted by these burdens. The term “to be screwed” shows a recognition this.As I have argued elsewhere, the "pleasure" that sex produces assures that it will occur, in spite of the many dangers and burdens it entails. The genes have reserved the greatest momentary pleasures for behaviors with the greatest long-term penalties. Indeed, the genes made the individual for this purpose: to survive and thrive long enough to have sex, and create new vehicles for carrying the genes into a glorious, immortal future ‑ for which no individual sacrifice is too great!
To say that sex is "primitive" is a trivial truth. The pleasurable rewards of sex come from the limbic system, which is connected to the primary cortex of the parietal lobe as well as the (right) prefrontal cortex. The limbic system and the primary cortices are primitive structures found in all mammals, and most other animals.
The individual who worships at the altar of sex is worshiping a primitive god, a god that has mastered the enslavement of its creations across innumerable species, for innumerable generations. Thinking creatures are theoretically capable of figuring this out, yet few people attempt to eschew sex. Any person with a mutation that inclined its carrier to eschew sex would lead a simpler life, and possibly a longer one, but the mutation would die with the individual. Therefore, all of our ancestors are assuredly untouched by the gene that liberated its lucky carrying individual from sex and parenthood burdens. And because none of our direct ancestors carried such a gene, the idea of eschewing sex is almost unthinkable for most people.
Sexual organs, and all the behaviors that exist to support sexual behavior, is a "waste" of effort and a liability from the individual's perspective (Zwaan, et al, 1995; Kirkwood and Austad, 2000). It isn't considered with this harshness, but it should be.
Consider the case of a sea snail infected by a trematode parasite. As described by Dawkins (1982, p. 210), "Selection presumably penalizes snail genes that make shells too thick, as well as those that make shells too thin. ... Shells that are too thick presumably protect their snails ... superlatively, but the extra cost of of making a thick shell detracts from the snail's success in some other way. ...genes for extra thick shells will tend to induce in their bodies some compensating disadvantage such as relatively small gonads, and they will therefore not be passed on to the next generation so effectively." Dawkins explains that if the parasite's genes are able to exert control over their snail host's shell thickness, they will be rewarded for increasing thickness at the expense of snail reproductive organs because individual snail survival will reward parasite genes but snail reproduction will not (assuming not all snails are infected). This, indeed, is what happens in nature. Whereas parasitized snails live longer lives, unparasitized snails reproduce more effectively and are therefore more useful to snail genes. If snails could think, they would wish to be parasitized.
The fact that humans are sexual creatures means that they are sub-optimal individuals, and for this we can thank outlaw genes.
Individual Penalties for Sexual Attractiveness
"Linkage disequilibrium" is a technical term in evolutionary biology for a genetic curiosity that has negative consequences for individual males. The best explanation of this daunting term may be the one presented by Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker (1986, p. 210). Briefly, when females having a preference for males with a specific attribute (such as long tail length) succeed in mating with a male having that attribute, the male offspring are likely to inherit that attribute as well as a gene for the expression in female offspring for a preference for the attribute. The inevitable consequence is that males, on average, will exhibit the attribute in excess of its functional optimum. In the case of male birds of a species where females prefer long tales, the males will have tails longer than is aerodynamically optimum. The males pay a penalty for this burden, and they live individual lives that are unnecessarily exhausting and risky.A study of guppies (popular aquarium fish about 1 inch long) by Robert Brooks (2000) showed that "there was a strong, negative correlation between male attractiveness and the survival of adult males." And "male survival, both before and after maturity, is also negatively correlated with the ornamentation that females find attractive." His interpretation of these results is based the idea that "A female guppy mating with an attractive and highly ornamented male will benefit indirectly by bearing attractive sons, but they will die earlier..." Actually, it would have been more accurate to write "The genes that constructed the female guppy that prefers to mate with highly ornamented males will benefit by bearing attractive sons..." and this is surely what the author meant to convey. Neither the female nor the male benefit by the male ornamentation and its preference by females; it only benefits the genes that code for it. They are "outlaw genes," and they penalize all individuals affected by the genes.
Thus, men and women who are attracted to superficial features of the opposite sex can blame this silliness on outlaw genes.Women's Taste in Men
Women's brains are wired to play the strategies that worked in the ancestral environment. Thus, they are attracted to two types of men: 1) prospective life‑long mates, and 2) “scoundrels” for secret matings. The woman who is attracted to a scoundrel is not helping herself live a better life, she is doing the bidding that her genes have programmed her to do. Pirate men often physically abuse women, and always abandon them ‑ leaving all child rearing responsibilities to the woman. A woman with another man's offspring is handicapped in acquiring a long‑term mate, so mating with a pirate carries the cost of a long, single-parenting burden. When a "married" woman engages in a pirate liaison, she risks discovery by her "husband" and possible abandonment. Most husbands become violent when they discover they've been cuckolded, and a husband's rageful murdering of his unfaithful wife is unpunished throughout much of the world. Pirate liaisons are risky, yet women continue to secretly seek them, if the 9 to 20% non paternity statistics for contemporary society can be believed. Women pursue the risky strategy because their genes "make them do it." (As mentioned in Chapter 14, women attempt to minimize their risk of being discovered when the cuckold their husbands by feeling attracted to other men when they are most fertile; men guard their mates most closely at these times, so the little game of cuckoldry is played out at mostly subconscious levels.)Modern women talk as if they want to be emancipated. But when they have the chance they often succumb to enslavement. For example, a woman who is past her child‑bearing years should not have to require that a man she is dating be ready to make a life‑long commitment to her (originally meant to assure his help with child rearing). Yet this is what most women still seek, and will even terminate a relationship which fulfills her personal needs when a primitive part of her detects that the relationship will not last "forever." In this way, in the modern setting, a woman's outdated "genetic needs" become a burden to her personal fulfillment.
Thus, women who are fascinated with macho men for brief liaisons, yet reject men who are good companions when it is determined that they might not be good candidates for a lifetime marriage, are acting on behalf of outlaw genes.Men's Taste in Women
Men are attracted to women who exhibit signs of fertility: youth, health (clear complexion, vivacious, etc.) and the state of not being pregnant (i.e., the preferred waist‑to‑hip ratio). Personality and intelligence are secondary. These preferences are present in essentially all cultures studied (Buss, 1999), and they are a "human universal" (see Brown, 1991, for an extensive treatment of “human universals”). It would be logical from an individual man's perspective to value intelligence, personality and companionship over fertility cues. Yet, preferences for the superficial qualities persist throughout a man's life, even into old age, when the genetic imperatives for them should be weaker. The genes prepare us for their battle with each other, and we readily make life-long fools of ourselves - with our "eyes wide shut."Thus, men’s obsession with fecundity cues in women is caused by outlaw genes.
RapeA study of
sheep concluded that rams had three main strategies for reproduction: 1) mate guarding, 2) mate sequestering, and 3) rape. The rams that "guarded" were relatively dominant. Those that sequestered were less so; which explains why they forcibly moved their mate to the periphery of the herd and prevented her from returning to the center of the herd (where her selection of males would be improved). The rams that raped were the most subordinate. They waited on the sidelines for opportunities to rape unguarded ewes. Big Horn Rocky Mountain
Thornhill and Palmer (2000b) suggest that human males rape for the same reasons: namely, that men who cannot gain sexual access to women based on the man's personal merits resort to rape as the next‑best option. In other words, rape is adaptive. This is not to excuse rape, which the authors make clear when they write "...everyone has the same goal regarding rape: to end it." (Thornhill and Palmer, 2000a).Rape by victorious warriors seems to be a human universal. What began as a routine ritual after one tribe succeeded in subjugating another after victorious battle (pillage, or general mayhem) continues to the present time when countries battle each other.
The normal penalties for raping within one's own society are not present when an invading army (or marauding party) is victorious. This may be due to the fact that there is minimal danger that the family of the wronged woman is going to be able to achieve revenge after their tribe (country) is subjugated by war. During World War II the European women (especially the French) were surprised to discover that the victorious American soldiers did NOT rape them, which is an exception that supports the generality of the rule.Does rape serve the individual? It is easy to imagine that rape served the genes in many ancestral situations, but it surely didn't provide the individual with improved health, greater longevity or an improved general well‑being.
Genes that incline some men to rape are outlaw genes.Parenthood
Parenthood is the purpose for individual existence ‑ or so the genes decree. The phrase "as American as motherhood and apple pie" reveals something about the profoundly uncontroversial acceptance of the parental enterprise. To make fun of parenthood is almost unthinkable.Being a parent myself, I feel a need to balance my criticism with an excusing justification. When I married, it was with the intention of raising children; my eyes were wide open. I knew that all the impulses leading to parenthood were tricks by the genes to keep those genes in the gene pool. I nevertheless reasoned that my desire to be a father was a worthy endeavor for any individual who savored existence and the "human experience." I knew that successful parenting entailed a lot of effort, expense and a strong character, and I felt "up to the task" and ready for the challenge. In retrospect, I do not regret my decision.
Nevertheless, I have counseled my daughters to eschew parenthood ‑ successfully, so far. I qualify this advice by allowing for the possibility that if an individual is financially secure, successfully married, filled with energy, "in control of their lives" and has their eyes wide open to how the genes work, then parenthood can be a great journey to embark upon! But if any of these minimal conditions are not met, parenthood can be a disaster for both the parents and their unlucky offspring. So, unless you're really sure of what you'd be getting into by becoming a parent ‑ don't!Who could argue with the conclusion that motherhood and fatherhood are sacred because of genes. Since most people never become prepared for parenthood, I shall declare that for them the many genes promoting parenthood are “outlaw genes.”
PatriotismAs I write, there’s a wave of patriotism enveloping
. This is a response to the America September 11, 2001terrorist attacks on the twin towers in World Trade Center . This date marks a watershed moment for New York . (I adopt the common usage of the term " America " to refer to the America , in apparent neglect of the fact that " United States " actually includes America , Canada , and all of Central and Mexico South America.) This new outburst of flag waving demands explanation.
As usual, when trying to understand a universal trait that defies rationality, think about the ancestral environment. Specifically, think about the fact that all of our prehistoric ancestors lived in tribes, which either survived and thrived, or weakened and died, as a tribal whole. Since tribes rose or fell as a whole, it was necessary to enforce loyalty on matters affecting tribal survival, especially at times of threat by a neighboring tribe. The "artisan" was a difficult case, as he would be valued by the neighboring tribe and was therefore less threatened by the prospect of tribal conflict (as described in Chapter 10). To prevent their artisan members and others with valuable skills from defecting each tribe had to become increasingly harsh in enforcing tribal loyalty when they sensed a threat to the home tribe. Tribesmen with special skills had the greatest incentive to defect to a stronger neighbor tribe. This is a logical option for the individual, and everyone else in the tribe must sense it. So, the prudent behavior for anyone with special skills is to profess an excess of loyalty to the tribe with the hope that no one can challenge their sincerity. Even those without special skills (who are most vulnerable if the skilled people leave) should profess tribal loyalty profusely in order to create a climate for testing the level of expressed loyalty by others.Patriotism is an outgrowth of tribal loyalty rituals. Today’s version is a country-sized, scaled‑up version of what our ancestors did when living in tribes. Waving the flag is done by those who wish to intimidate prospective defectors, as well as to deflect suspicion that they are considering defection.
It is an unfortunate part of human nature that tribes instigate inter-tribal conflict when victory is likely. Since the weaker tribe stands to lose everything when it is attacked there may have never existed a tribe that was so peace loving that it was unwilling to defend itself. Just as the genes would never construct an individual who would not defend himself when attacked, they would never create individuals who conduct tribal affairs without an understanding of the need to defend the tribe with unquestioning loyalty.I have no doubt that had I been a young adult during World War II I would have fought honorably. My quibble with patriotism is that symbolic expressions of it have the appearance of being hypocritical displays. I also scorn public flag waving for what it too often represents, an unthinking acceptance of tribal servitude, an unthinking subjugation of individual interests to group goals. Patriotic behavior can be elicited through other means by thinking people, and it is an insult to the individual to invoke patriotism as a sacred duty that is above question. Patriotism symbolizes the best and the worst of human behavior, for it is both the cause of war and the defender of freedom by those few societies that have experimented with embracing individualism.
Patriotism, like warriors, wouldn't be needed if it didn't already exist. The misuse of patriotism is caused by outlaw genes.School Yard Teasing and Bullying
Every society has dirty little secrets. Among ours is that bullying among children exists and is condoned. Adults talk a good talk when they say that the world rewards honest achievement, yet the adult world also rewards dishonest short‑cuts. Why work for something that can be taken from another? If the level of intimidation is sufficient to overcome a defense of ownership, then the victim will be wise to surrender to the bully. It is difficult to imagine that the genes would construct automatons that didn't work this way.Bullying is also perpetrated by tribes upon each other, but by invoking patriotism to instigate tribal conflict it is not perceived by its perpetrators as bullying on a greater scale. The school yard bully is a leader in‑training. Even if he does not become chief, his bullying skills will be useful in everyday life.
Teasing can be a sissy's first foray into bullying. Although it can be used to "test the waters" by someone not quite advanced to bully status, it is also a low risk tool of the real bully. Girls prefer teasing to physical combat.Girls are attracted to boys who successfully bully other boys, and boys are more attracted to girls who successfully tease other girls. Social status is helped by successful bullying and teasing. This is good practice for adulthood, since no woman can afford to marry a man who cannot defend her from "takeover males." Throughout the animal world takeover males kill the offspring of their stolen female, make her pregnant, then move on. The genes that influence female behavior act as if they have "figured this out." This is one reason women prefer pirates, criminals, policemen and anyone with sufficient power or stature to protect their offspring. Whatever women want, men become. And whatever men want to become, boys practice becoming.
I once lived next door to a school yard, and I heard bullying on the playground. Although I was never targeted by bullies in my childhood, I still had the urge to make things right by forcefully walking into the playground. Amazingly, the teachers ignored the bullying. One explanation I've read (in a newspaper letter to the editor) is that children need to learn to defend themselves, so adults should not intervene. In other words, the world is a terrible place to live, so let’s prepare our children to live in a terrible place.The genes for bullying are outlaw genes.
Cheating can take many forms. People who cheat on some things are more likely to cheat on others. For example, the pencil‑and‑paper Porteus Maze Test can be scored by counting the number of times the person cheats by crossing a line, and high line crossing (cheating) scores have been found to correlate with criminal and other antisocial behavior (Porteus, 1942). The brain circuitry that makes cheating possible must exist in everyone. As a thought experiment, I assume that if a group of people could experience the same environmental history, and were confronted with an identical situation with a temptation to cheat, each person would exhibit a slightly different probability of resort to cheating. By definition, essentially, the different cheating probabilities would be due to different genetic inheritances. I propose the idea that a small number of genes predispose to cheating.
Once, when working at a high school concession stand for some school function I did an experiment by keeping track of "who was next." Occasionally I would ask "who's next?" When there were 3 or more, invariably someone would cheat by claiming to be next. Even when there were just two, the last one in would sometimes cheat.This form of “queue cheating” can't be excused as innocent inattention, since whenever a group of people who knew each other came in together there was a less hurried response to my inquiry. Among strangers, cheating is a stronger temptation, and when the prospect of getting away with it is greater, its occurrence will be greater.
Wouldn't it be nice if humans were less like other animals in this respect. But we aren't. The fact that we haven't "advanced" in this respect can be attributed to the genes. In some societies strangers are less likely to cheat in public situations compared to other societies (inCheating is instigated by outlaw genes.
the “dropped money trick” has fewer takers than in Japan .) When this apparent higher level of civilization exists, it may be due to a stronger sense of social pressure. In other words, people are mentally capable of acting in civilized ways, but they do so only when it is imposed upon them by the prevailing culture. New York
HypocrisyThe fact that we are prone to cheating and can read the setting to decide how to act, and that few people "do the right thing" naturally while bemoaning those "others" who do as we do, shows that people are naturally hypocritical. This is the natural order of things, and should not be a surprise. Natural selection inevitably leads to hypocrisy. As a child, I noticed this; and it bothered me. It took decades for me to figure out why it is so, and to understand that it was a natural, inevitable outcome of "natural selection." I now pass judgment upon the genes that make it so, and categorize them to be "outlaw genes."
"Which genes?" you should ask. "The ones that make us cheat, or the ones that make us lie when we pretend to explain ourselves?" "Both kinds!" I reply. For they are different traits, caused by different genes. Cheating takes many forms, and we are adept at recognizing when it is optimal for cheating, and this "skill" is part of our inheritance. The genes that make us adept at that are outlaws. But the more insidious outlaws are the genes that shape our hypocritical presentation of self. They stand ready to excuse our questionable behaviors, or to distort the nature of situations in self‑serving ways. They are general‑purpose genes, and stand ready to facilitate the other cheating genes.It is fitting that the words “human” and “hypocrisy” are found on the same page of my dictionary. Hypocrisy, in every form, is the result of outlaw genes.
JealousyEveryone with even an introductory exposure to sociobiology knows the reason for jealousy. This non‑mystery still paints such a ridiculous portrait of human nature that it is impolite to discuss it publicly.
It has to do with cuckoldry ‑ an even greater taboo subject. Women's dirty little secret is that they want to sneak off and mate with scoundrels. They want to do this in order to have boys that can be freeloader scoundrels (who might also have a better immune system), while preserving the reliable paternal support of their loyal yet wary husband. A husband's greatest fear is to be cuckolded. He defends himself from cuckold victim-hood by overreacting to the smallest hint of wifely unfaithfulness.A somewhat different motive causes women to be jealous of their husbands. They don't want to lose a free meal ticket and reliable paternal investment in children already born, so women view any evidence of hubby's interest in another woman as a threat to her maternal goals. It's not that she loves her husband, and because of this love for his welfare she unselfishly wishes for his happiness, it's that she loves her genetic enslavement so much, and wishes for her children's successful rearing, that individual fulfillments are irrelevant. Jealousy is thus an accusation and a warning to one’s mate.
Ironically, when a man fails to become jealous of his wife's flirtations which she knows the husband notices, this is taken by the wife as a sign that hubby is losing interest in her and is at risk of being stolen by another woman. It is so very important for a wife to measure a man's degree of commitment to her that a wife may actually flirt in order to see if hubby becomes jealous. An alternative is for wifey to accuse hubby of flirting when it is not so in order to see how he reacts. If he ignores her (because maybe she's simply being ridiculous), there are grounds for her to become suspicious that in fact he really is flirting with other women. I know this silliness first-hand.Jealousy is such a humorous aspect of human nature, and at the same time such a needless waste of time for the game-playing it causes, that it has to be included in my list of genetic pitfalls which an enlightened individual must understand if he is to navigate married life harmoniously.
Jealousy, in all its humorous forms, is a gift of those outlaw genes.Sexual Roles
It is telling that most people are not seeking strong partners. The “urge to merge” with someone useful to one's genetic agenda is different from the more enlightened goal of wanting to share time with someone for the reward of pure companionship. Anyone pursuing a companionship relationship would value strong character, intelligence and interesting conversation. The gulf between "the way we are" and "the way an enlightened individual should be" is immense.I recall a TV interview with a man who realized in mid‑life that he had a woman's brain, and switched sex. I like these interviews, because it makes people squirm and confront their too confined categories for people. It's so difficult for people to see others as human beings, fellow sentients, because we're programmed to view them (subconsciously) as being of possible use to us ‑ thanks to our outlaw genes.
Never RestHigh achievers rarely rest, and the rich seem never to have enough wealth. These tendencies spring from the same gene(s) that coax women to have more children, always more, regardless of how many there already are. Or for the man who wishes to impregnate more women, always more, as if he wishes to have the entire world of women for his harem. The genes created us to work for them, so why should they be "satisfied" with anything we do for them? Our individual well‑being is irrelevant, except as it affects our ability to serve them better. The genes don't acknowledge the concept "enough."
These too are outlaw genes.Inability to Admit Wrongdoing
No matter how blatantly obvious a person's wrongdoing is to others, they will resist acknowledging that they were wrong. This trait applies to anything that is generally sanctioned, from cutting in line to a heinous crime.This is also true for parents of a criminal son. They will rationalize his actions, and try to blame others. If only some people can be convinced of this re‑interpretation of the situation the genes that are responsible for this trait are rewarded. Thus, it is inevitable that they should evolve naturally, and that they cannot be purged from our gene pool without human intervention. But no, these genes won’t be rooted out, they’re outlaws.
ConformismMost people feel compelled to conform. This discourages the individual from asserting his right to discover a lifestyle that is good for him, as opposed to good for the group and its genes.
Conformism also predisposes an individual to adopt culturgens that may not be congenial to his nature but have been shown by their very existence to reward those practitioners in the tribe who prosper with that culturgen. A theoretical argument exists for explaining the existence of conformism genes, and it relies upon the idea that cultures must sometimes evolve in directions that the genes don't "understand" or don’t have the time to adapt to. If a tribe is to succeed in a novel environment by adopting novel culturgens in order to outperform its neighbors, then it cannot tolerate individuals who question every culturgen that doesn't feel natural. Of course, no one in the tribe need understand this for it to happen. It merely is necessary that sometimes tribes that have the conformism gene prevail over their neighbors.To the extent that conformism can lead in directions that are bad for individuals, the genes for conformism can be "outlaw genes." An individual who abdicates his responsibility for judging culturgens is likely to become a fool ‑ an enslaved fool of the "culturgens" ‑ which are just as nefarious as genes (that's another subject, perhaps worthy of book length treatment).
The instinct for conformism is one of the most insidious of the outlaw genes.Belonging
The need to belong to a group is pathetic, yet it appears to be a human universal. It is easy to imagine that it originated when tribal membership in good standing was a precondition for survival, since banishment usually led to eventual death. Going it alone was not an option for all of our ancestors, since having grandchildren is a person’s genetic measure of success. But today, more than ever before, going it alone is a viable option. Yet, our need for belonging predisposes us to never consider this option.My main complaint with the genes that compel us to belong has more to do with stupid acts than missed opportunities. For example, consider the 90‑year tradition at
of building an immense log structure, 40 feet high, for burning as a bonfire prior to a Thanksgiving football game. The structure is built by students, with minimal university oversight, and the methods used are secretly passed down from one generation of students to the next. Several of these descriptive elements resemble tribal traditions, and the strength of adhering to them no‑matter‑what was illustrated after an accident in 1999 during its construction. Before the highest level was completed the logs came tumbling down killing 12 students and injuring others. My first thought upon hearing of this accident was "what a dumb thing to be doing!" But everyone interviewed from the university, students and alumni, defended the tradition, and urged that it not be discontinued. One student stated that "I learned more out there than in the classroom." Many cited it as a rite of passage, a hallowed tradition, a ritual "linking students of 1999 with those of 1909 and before." Texas A&M University
An author who studies college traditions (Hank Nuwer) calls them "belonging rituals," and stated "They are about people knowing they can be accepted forever as part of this noble tradition." College rituals frequently involve physical danger and psychological torment of the initiates, which resembles primitive "rites of passage" rituals. Each year college students are killed or hospitalized participating in hazing‑like fraternity initiation rituals. Good luck to "The Committee to Halt Useless College Killings," founded by Eilene Stevens after her son died of an alcohol related college hazing; but I'll place my bets on the continuation of dangerous rituals that confer membership to those desperately seeking to belong.The pathetic need for belonging to a group is out of date, yet it persists due to outlaw genes.
A Job for ReligionThe foregoing examples seem to form a pattern; they are all "sacred" in some sense. They all have the aura of things that should not be questioned. In short, they are the subjects of religious taboo! This amazing coincidence could constitute a theory for the origin and function of religion. Religion, as the theory would go, has the job of enforcing conformance to the outlaw gene agenda. Religion, then, would be an invention by the outlaw genes ‑ whose goal is to benefit them, at the expense of individuals.
There are many theories for religion, and not all of them are competing. There must be an additive effect of adaptive value provided by "religion." I don't think any of them enhance individual well‑being. A book could be written about the adaptive role of religion for the genes. Maybe at a later date I’ll rise to this challenge. For now, I will merely state that genes that predispose for religious belief are outlaw genes.Concealed Ovulation
It has been suggested (Barkow, 1989) that women once were able to detect when they were ovulating (i.e., fertile), but since some women used this knowledge to avoid exhausting tasks of child bearing and rearing, and since these women had fewer children than those less able to detect their ovulations, the ability to detect the state of ovulation was gradually lost by a simply genetic gene frequency change over time. If this occurred, the gene that conceals ovulation could be considered an outlaw gene because it deprives the individual woman the option of avoiding the burden of child-rearing.Living With Humans
It is our lot that we almost have to live with other humans! Becoming a hermit may seem logical for someone who has been victimized excessively, but usually it is possible for people in the advanced countries to avoid serious victimization. Nevertheless, it is important in all societies to not invite attack by the hoi poloi. Few thinking people wish to suffer the fate of Socrates. A courageous thinker will inevitably stumble upon falsehoods that are part of the sacred belief system that is accepted by everyone, publicly at least. To speak out on such issues candidly invites sanction by those fundamentalist "protectors" of the societal status quo, who shape public opinion at large.
Galileo and Giordano Bruno were unlucky to live in"I desire to live in peace and to continue the life I have begun under the motto: to live well you must live unseen."
during the 17th Century. As Carl Sagan points out in the book Cosmos (1980, pgs. 139‑144), during the 17th Century, Holland, in contrast to Italy and most of the rest of Europe, openly tolerated new ideas and unorthodox opinions. Consequently, Italy attracted intellectuals from the rest of Holland Europe, and they nurtured each others creative thinking. Christian Huygens, who championed the same ideas as Galileo, was showered with honors in , while in Italy Galileo was compelled to stand trial for "vehement suspicion of heresy." I agree with Rene Descarte, who, in spite of being a resident of Holland , nevertheless expressed a generally wise caution to intellectuals of all ages and all places when he wrote Holland
This motto now hangs over my office doorway. It also explains why I will not promote this book for sale to the general public.When I was young I believed that I could never write anything important for the public domain without compromising my intellectual honesty. Today, most people living in Western World countries are tolerant of new ideas, especially if they are confined to the internet. I am grateful that it is possible to write this chapter and the others in this "book" without fear of reprisal. If the times change, and my ideas become unwelcome, I will follow Descarte's advice by changing my name and deleting references to this book from my web pages. Hopefully, none of the new conservative protectors of the public belief system will have copied those files, and I'll be safe. (In any case, I'll be dead in a few short years, so "who cares!")
Living with humans, and caring about Truth, are almost incompatible goals. Anyone wishing to live wisely must deal with this dilemma, and recognize that there are times when Descarte's motto must be followed.Anyone reading this chapter might conclude that I’m a misanthrope. I want to answer this charge: Yes, I’m a misanthrope! I realized it while writing the book after this one, and have given it the title The Making of a Misanthrope, Book 1: An Autobiography. Two more books are in the works, The Making of a Misanthrope, Book 2: Thoughts and Quotes for Misanthropes. It took me a long time to realize that I was a misanthrope, probably because there’s a popular misunderstanding about who a misanthrope is. As I explain Book 1 “Am I disappointed by my journey to becoming a misanthrope? Heavens no! I am probably one of the happiest people on the planet! How fortunate I am to have avoided the usual fate of becoming just one more “normaloid.” Given the fundamental flaws in human nature, as it now exists, the misanthropic perspective is the only sane one, I maintain. Being a misanthrope really belies an optimistic hope that a better human nature is possible, which may some day evolve.”
And with this sentiment I invite you to read the next chapter.
Return to Table of Contents