Why do we imagine that evolution always leads to better forms of primates? Better in whose terms? Can’t beings evolve in ways that can be called “stupid” and “evil”?
Perhaps that’s what we’re seeing now.
Take the population commonly known as the New Class, the class of technicians, managers, teachers, scientists, pseudoscientists, denizens of universities, recipients of grants, executive vice presidents, career employees of the Department of Justice, officers of NGOs, and so forth. People like that. It’s my own class, so I feel free to discuss it.
Evolution, as you know, is supposed to happen by means of mutations that are identified by natural selection as favorable to the survival of a species. The products of these mutations are able to reproduce and exploit their environment more successfully than their competitors, whom they may displace or destroy.
Most prospective mates found specimens of the New Class boring, but the specimens themselves were impervious to boredom.
Now, notice what has happened with the New Class. Once it was a minor variant of Homo sapiens, often deprived of resources and sometimes locally eliminated by other variants. Young of the species who were born with an itch for math or an erotic attraction to tedious speech reproduced only with difficulty. Few beings wanted to mate with them. Some, however, managed to survive and produce viable offspring.
Then, out of the blue, came a change in climate. Rivers of government money flowed over the landscape; social and constitutional dikes were ruptured; and members of the New Class were discovered to possess the most advanced organs for extracting food from this tide of wealth. As individuals, they loved small, apparently meaningless things — strange words, understood only by themselves; rules and regulations, printed in stacks of fine print; statistics that could be tweaked, ever so slightly, into saying the opposite of what they appeared to say; scientific or cultural fields so tiny that each could be dominated by any highly verbal being who stumbled upon them. Most prospective mates found specimens of the New Class boring, but the specimens themselves were impervious to boredom. Their endurance and even enjoyment of tedium enabled them to stalk other primates until they could find a weakness in their defenses, and exploit it. They persuaded related species to surrender what they had labored to produce, in exchange for meaningless words.
Eventually the New Class was living more comfortably and securely than the producers, their hosts, and with very little labor. Fortified by calcifications exuded by themselves — academic tenure systems, safe electoral districts, government employee unions, government grants, preferential contracts, and so on — they became practically invulnerable.
But their greatest strength was their instinct for the tribe. Physicians do not give evidence against other physicians. College professors do not remove other college professors, even those found clinically insane. Scientists will sign virtually any statement of opinions (“values”) that other scientists place before them. Occasionally a member of the tribe is identified as insufficiently tribal and is isolated and stung to death by the legitimate members, to the great advantage of the tribe as a whole, which can then continue more efficiently in its instinctive quest for domination of other tribes.
Eventually the New Class was living more comfortably and securely than the producers, their hosts, and with very little labor.
This population’s means of identifying defective members illustrates the shape that evolution has stamped on it. All members of the New Class use words to get their way, but it is essential to their exploitation of the environment that words should never evoke any general concepts. Members who manifest symptoms of conceptual (i.e., actual) thinking are immediately exposed and expelled as unfit to assist in the survival of the tribe. The population is notable for its constant emission of such sounds as “democracy,” “fairness,” “science,” “education,” and even “individuality,” “diversity,” and “self-expression.” “Freedom” is a characteristic sound emission of this tribe. But any attempt to define the concepts signified by the sounds is an incontrovertible sign that the primate in question is not tribal. The tribe succeeds only insofar as it is free to act without regard to concepts, definitions, implications, and distinctions of true from false.
Experiments with the progeny of the New Class reveal that they are obtrusively verbal (e.g., using words as stings) but possess little or no ability to create or identify ideas. Protocols designed to elicit ideas merely have the effect of inducing stress, followed by paralysis. They are incapable, for instance, of providing a general definition of “freedom,” attempting instead to exemplify it as “my freedom to do X” or “my freedom to be a Y” or “my freedom to be given Z.” When contradictions emerge, as they do immediately, the primates “do not understand why that’s an issue.”
A population that is thus devoid of any internal check on its behavior, and possessed only of the external checks imposed by loyalty to the tribe, is almost ideally equipped for conquest of its environment. The other desideratum, of course, is biological reproduction of the specific population, so that its traits are not lost in the random flow of genes. In past history, the so-called intellectual class, or class of clerks or clergy, was often hampered by social customs and religious strictures from reproducing itself or aggrandizing itself financially. Priests and monks were educated in exchange for taking vows of poverty and chastity. Charity workers were expected to be poor. Teachers were expected to be recompensed more by intellectual or spiritual than by material rewards.
All members of the New Class use words to get their way, but it is essential to their exploitation of the environment that words should never evoke any general concepts.
Today, however, even an assistant to the associate director of a Center for Student Life makes more than enough to attract a mate. An analyst of minute data on the historical incidence of sleet in the outflow region of the Great Slave Lake may be hailed as a leading figure in the environmental movement and make hundreds of thousands a year simply by talking to (“conferring with”) his fellow tribesmen (“colleagues”). A being with no capacity for consecutive thought may find himself commanding a business with a worldwide monopoly of information, or an investment company that shakes the markets of the world, or one of the world’s (formerly) great universities.
As for physical reproduction, one need only visit the suburbs of major American cities to find towns built for and entirely occupied by members of the New Class. In these environments, carefully arranged to favor reproduction, progeny are trained to mix and mate only with other progeny of the tribe. They are educated wholly within the tribe, and having undergone its otherwise meaningless rituals of initiation they are immediately allocated employment by the tribe. The result is predictable: they live their lives in unity with the tribe, unencumbered with the hardships of critical thought.
These results are purely the fruit of natural selection, with no intervention of conscious creative intellect. It is true, of course, that what is considered “evolution” from one point of view may be considered “devolution” from another. That is doubtless a footnote of some significance to Darwinian theory. But as recent offspring of the tribe have said to me, with a bafflement that never amounts to curiosity, “That’s what you think, right?”