Darwin, Nietzsche, and the Judeo-Christian ethic

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<ul><li><p>1 COMMENTARY </p><p>Darwin, Nietzsche, and the </p><p>Yuval Neeman </p><p>Darwjns ~~~ta~~ of ev~lu~~ as the ~~~~~ ~h~iSrn ~~n~bIe for the emer- gence of the species had a large impact on ~in~~n~~~~t~ ~iluso~~~. The phrase survival of the fittest was coined by the British philosopher Herbert Spencer (X820- 190% who had independently postulated an evolutionary view. 1 Friedrich Nietzsche (2 844- 19001, the German philosopher2 whose teachings were presented by the Nazis as having inspired their doctrines of eugenics and selective improvement of the human race-by ext~~inati~ of the weak in body and spirit (according to their own criteria)--used the idea of evolution in his poetic masterpiece T!w qmke ~~~~~~~~~~~ </p><p>7 teach you the Superman . . . says Zamthustra-Nietzsche; here is therefore his view of the ideal human being: I teach people to say Nay in the face of all that makes for weakness and exhaustion, I teach people to say Yea in the face of all that makes for strength . _ _ -strong echoes of the notion of nature favoring the fittest. Elsewhere he says, . _ . virtue, d~si~t~t~~ss~ pity and even the ~~~tio~ of fife. All these are values proceeding from exhausted people- notice the disp~a~~ment of self-sacrifice, of altruisms {Pfeople had actually given the name COD to all that renders weak, teaches weakness and infects with weakness . I , . One should do honour to the fatality which says to the feeble: PERISH! </p><p>There are many contradictions in Nietzsches writings, a fact which does not affect their high poetic value, Also, we should ~rnem~r that Nieesche finished ~~~~~~~~ only a short time before he had to be put away in an asylum in 1889 (excerpt from the q&amp;n-n diary in Vienna: April 8th: Pissed into a boot and drank it up , . . etc.). </p><p>The book appeared in 1891, when he was completely insane and hospitalized. This commentary is not intended to provide yet another judgment of Nietzsche--to some a progressive hero, to others a reactionary4. My aim is to analyze, in the light of generalized ~~nism as it is un~rst~ at the end of the ~e~~~~ centuryY whether indeed the notion of %u=vivaX of the fittest should be read as jumping a world of bullies. Note that should this turn out to be true, there would still be two possibfe conclusions: Sir Iulian Huxley, an eminent biulagist,s regards humanitys rejection of egotism and bullyishness a$ an anti- evolutionary*P but commendable feature, one in which we superimpose-and ought to </p><p>Copyright 0 19512 by JAI Press, Inc. All rights of reproduction in any f&amp;n reserved. </p><p>347 </p></li><li><p>348 - YLJVAL NEEMAN </p><p>superimpose-our unnatural ethical notions on the evolutionary process. The alternative view would consist in adopting Nietzsches teachings, as quoted above, and behaving bul- lyishly naturally. My thesis is that both Nietzsche and Huxley were wrong in assuming that the competitive element in natures evolutionary character should be construed as applying to human relations with humans-and even to our non-human companions on this earth, considering the lessons of ecology and the need for the preservation of the environment. Anyhow, whatever Nietzsches real intentions-and biographers like to stress his repudiation of ~ti-Semitism, as contrasted with Wagners identification with it - the Nazis interpreted it literally. In their ideology, the Jews had to be exterminated as the propagators of the Jude0-Christian morality, with its emphasis on care for the weak, for instance. The same approach led naturally to the gassing of the disabled or of the chronically ill, of the gypsies, etc. </p><p>I shall not dwell here on the precise meaning of that Jude0-Christian morality. In the eyes of many Jews-and perhaps even more of certain Christians-there appears to be almost no overlap between the two monotheistic teachings. Also, throughout history, reli- gious fanaticism implemented the opposite of pity and caring for the weak. In what follows, I shall disregard the discrepancies between idealization and brutal reality. I adopt the idealized doctrine of love of ones neighbor, of service to the poor, of care of the sick as a well-defined Judeo-Christian ethic, a combination of Flauberts Saint Julian the HospitaiLeP with Y. L. Peretzs tzaddik7. </p><p>Does the theory of evolution really lead to Nietzsches conclusions, and is our moral stature in fact an anti-evolutionaty feature as claimed by Huxley? Were this to be true, it would throw doubt on the entire theory, since humanity and our moral stature are as much a part of nature and life as our five fingers or lack of a tail. </p><p>The answer is no. Altruism, pity, and the readiness for self-sacrifice are perfect evolu- tionary features. There is no con~adi~tion between evolution as the survival of the fittest on the one hand and on the other hand care for the misfits or less fit beings. To conclude otherwise mistakes the scope of evolution. Neither Nietzsche (and some of the philosophers of evolution) nor Huxley (and other biologists) really understood the fuller impact of Dar- wins theory. The point, we shall see, is in answering the question: Survival of what? Of the fittest being or of the fittest society? </p><p>In modem science, biological evolution, i.e. the evolution of living creatures as de- scribed by Darwin, is no longer an isolated phenomenon. On this view, evolution works in parallel on all possible scales: the evolution of the chemical elements (nuc1eosynthesis)s.a in nuclear reactions in the stars and in the emergence of life out of the chemical constituents of primitive earth. Here are two matter-structuring evolutionary sequences that have preceded biological evolution-the first is still going on in the sun and in sextillion stars and the second on some of their planets. There is also the evolution of the macroscopic formations of matter: galaxies, active galactic nuclei and quasars*, stars in all their different types, the crystalline deposits on our earth, etc. In recent years there is even speculation about the evolution of universes 11,12 All evolutionary processes do share several key features, as . characterized by Monod for the mechanics of biological evolution in Le flasard et la Ntcbsi- tS3. They all require a blind mechanism of change, in the machinery dete~ining the characteristics of the species (in biology, these are the errors in the duplication of DNA)- together with a selection sieve determining which of the undesigned mutations lead to new stable entities, the surviving species. The sequence of stable levels-the species-form a </p></li><li><p>Darwin, Nieftscke, and the fudecKkrisfian Efhic - 349 </p><p>mounting ladder. This also explains an apparent teleonomy: an impression of the ladder fending somewhere, an aim. Religious ~il~so~he~ who have dealt with this effect-such as Teilhard de Chardin or Kook,ts and even Bergson with his elan vital, identify the apparent aim with a Divine Will or a monistic ideal. There is also a less inspiring teleonomp on a lower level: each rung in the ladder, taken by itself, looks like a machine with a purpose. A star transforms hydrogen into helium, i.e., it is B chemonuclear transmutation apparatus. Bees make honey from the nectar of flowers, dogs serve people, etc. A related and most ~rnpo~~t feature is ~d~~ip~~~~ty, i.e., dynamically %gxd systems that can feed on their environment and reject the waste. This is essential because the evolutionary process generates order and complexity, i.e,, a decrease, in entropy: working against the second law of thermodynamics (negentropy in Schroedingers wordst7) requires energy. </p><p>For humanity8 the relevant evolutionary process relates to culture and society. IIomo sapiens as a creature has changed very little in fifty thousand years. Wuman society is what has evolved. The time scale for natural genetic biological evolution at this level (like the move from Neanderthal to sapiens) is much longer than the rate at which societies evolve. True, things might change in the near future, as a result of genetic eng~n~~ng~ the e~olutjon of society and one of its ~orn~~~~~s, science, has now reached the point at which humans may accelerate and influence their own genetic evolution. But as of today, this stage has not yet been reached, though we may be very close to the making of a superman, one who would be genetically endowed with resistance to some disease, for instance. </p><p>The evolution of human sacietles is mainly dete~~~e~ by the emergence of new t~hnoIogies: the age of stone, the age of bronze, the ch~colithic, the iron age, the age of machinery% the age of computers and of information technologies. These are the stable species selected by evolution. We have explained elsewhere t8*t9 that the blind mechanism opening the way for the mutations is represented here by serendipity, a fundamenta1 element in truly revolutionary z discoveries, since in such cases, guessing beforehand what one will discover is jm~ssible* In genetic evolution, the pro~~rnrn~ in~~~ati~~ determin- ing a species endowed heritage resides in its genes, encoded in the DlNA sequences. In a societys or a cultures endowed heritage, this resides in its oral and written tradition, and is preserved and transmitted through education </p><p>Thus the individuaI creatures chances of survival on its own no longer count. We can immediately understand why morality and care for the weaker members of society are identifiable as an evolutionary characteristic. Indeed, a chain is as strong as its weakest link! </p><p>A good example showing how a highly developed systems survival depends on that weakest link is the 1986 accident of the space-shuttle Challenger. One ieak in a seal destroyed the ship and its seven passengers. What had gone wrong was that this essential systematic care for each component had been lax, Granted, there appear to be two solutions to this extreme dependence of the ensembIe an each of its constituents, aside from redundan- cy, a favorite answer in biological systems. Either one rejects the suspiciously weak compo- </p></li><li><p>350 - YUVAL NEEMAN </p><p>nent or, alternatively, one repairs it. In either case, a system of control and check-ups is essential. Ike rejeciion method in a society is said to have been used in Sparta, and among the Au~iau Aborigines in their highly nomadic phase, before the advent of the whites. It consisted of getting rid of the apparently weaker babies. And yet, in a system in which the components themselves are living beings, with their own will to survive, the caring approach is what appears to have been better suited to the needs of the survival of the society. Perhaps this was because the gain in strength through the removal of babies with obvious birth defects was much smaller than the gain &amp;rough case for the wounded, for example. A pitiless society would not benefit from its members readiness for self-sacrifice; in a battle, soldiers will expose themselves more willingly if they know that the wounded are not abandoned, I therefore claim that the success of that maligned Judeo-Christian morality is due to its having ensured the survival of the fittest society, the one that cares for its members and especially for the weaker ones too. </p><p>My thesis is not just a sop intended to restore our dignity as humans. The &amp;ect is true in all insect societies, for instance, and has also been dkctfy observed in mammal societies other than ours. The difference is that lacking speech and a cultural transmission mechanism, socially motivated altruism in animals has to be coded and transmitted genetically, whereas in humans it can also be preserved and transmitted through the cultural and educational apparatus. </p><p>For drastic behavior to be evol~tio~~ly useful in animals nx@z=es two c~ditions: that the social stature play an important role in the survival of the species-hunting in a pack, for instance, might be essential for success--- and that it should exist in a relatively small number of animals, individuals whose identity is known and recognized by the group. </p><p>Mammals sometimes do fulfill these conditions. W. D. Hamilton, an eminent biologist, published in 1963 while still a graduate student an important workar entitled The Evolution of Altruistic Behavior and e~~un~d this thesis for animals* True, this altruism in mam- mals cannot be too extensive. As long as it does not require too much self-sacrifice on the part of members of the pack, it can appear in special situations. It is very marked in parental relationships, an obviously evolutionarily valuable feature, without which certain mammal species (but also birds, etc.) could not have survived. </p><p>Dr, Anne Rasa of the ~nive~i~ of payout (the name brings back memories of Nietzsche cogging his attitude towards Richard Wagner in 1878, upn Wagners settling in Bayreuth, and of the subsequent war of words between them) observed a wild gmup of dwarf mongooses in the Tara desert in Kenya band together and help one of their number that had been injured by a predator.22 They cared for it ,for six days, until, although still limping, it could keep up with the groups normal foraging forays. Dr. Rasa conjectures that this is the e~lutjo~~ effect we describe for a society caring for the sick, etc.-at the level of a mongoose pack. </p><p>Altruism is even more marked in insect societies. There it is speciated: the soldier ants or bees will die to save the queen. Self-sacrifice in these examples manifestly testifies for the primacy of the dictates of social evolution over those of the evolution of the individual creature, when nature makes the two clash. The overall evolutions process favors the needs of the collective. Had this not been so, animal societies could not have survived. Those that have must be composed of individuals that can be endowed with altruistic characteristics. </p></li><li><p>Darwin, Niefzscke, and the judea-Ckrisfian Ethic - 3.51 </p><p>Two comments may serve as f&amp;Xnotes. First-let us not conclude, in over-enthusiastic conviction, that nature and evolution </p><p>teach gentleness and only gentleness. Human aggressiveness, bellicosity, and pugnatiousness are also evaIzstianary characteristics. Even our readiness to fight for territory has been traced to our genetic inheritance.2 </p><p>Seccmd, just as &amp;+z teachings of Damin oa ev&amp;tior~ were (and still are) attack&amp; by ~ndame~taI~sts as a ~~ornrnu~~st~ doctrine, meant to demean hrrmanity by linking us to the apes, so are twentieth century sociobioIogists attacked now for their tracing back even this altruistic-social feature in humans to the animal kingdom. Eminent evolutionists such as E.O. Wilson and R. Dawkins have indeed been described as fascists by leftist radical student movements in Europe. Their interest in linking social responsibility with animal characteris- tics is considered an attempt to demean so~i~isrn~ As a result, British s~~ob~~logists still have to lean over backwards and emphasize that they are not hiding eviI racial intentions when they compare social evolutionary features in animals and in humans. </p><p>Returning to our analysis, I note that in Spencers or in Bergsons vers...</p></li></ul>