Biological explanations for human behaviour can be mistaken for reactionism. Oftentimes this is based on misconceptions of what modern brain science tells. Maybe the worst misconception is accusation of determinism. This is about an early attempt to model biology after physics. At the time classical physics was the most successful science. Since then-current physical theories were all deterministic this was believed to be a recipe for success. In fact, one science’ thinking does not have to work for another. Determinists oftentimes failed to predict humans’ and animals’ behaviour. Life is not deterministic but instead probabilistic. This mean there are just a certain probability of someone doing something. Such probabilities never reach 100%.
An idea running against evolution theory is men being superior to women. If they were that biologically there would be 3 – 4 times as many men as there are women in the world. There would not have been more women than men needed to reproduce. So there must be a biological reason for their numbers being about the same. There being somewhat more men than women today is due to sex-selective abortions. Such occur in parts of Asia as a consequence of regional sexism.
Other ideas of group superiority don’t make sense to me. What does it mean a certain group would be intrinsically superior? Would it be better on everything, or what? How did in such case the others survive? Or is it rather the belief that they would be born to rule? This would in such a case be the opposite of evolutionary superiority. Not only are the ruled always many times more numerous than the ruling. The proportions between the ruled and the ruling have increased throughout history. Evolution theory teach that better characteristics tend to become more common over time. If so the ruled would be superior to the ruled. In reality social stratification has existed for far too short. We have simply not had time to adopt to it. In contrast members of a population could be better in a certain physical environment. However, they are then not so in an entirely different environment.
By accusing brain scientists for reactionism one repeats the reactionaries’ mistake. It is the belief that human nature is adapted for an agrarian state society. To me it is very clear we are not at all adapted to living conditions and power structures. To the opposite it was the deficiency in such adaptation which made people suffers so much. Reactionaries ignore this suffering or deny it entirely.
Very many myths of how the mind works ultimately comes from absolute power. This lead to circumstances preventing people from learning that much about their fellow beings. Then people did not either get any grasp on the limits of the humanly possible. The result was the most absurd ideas about what humans can and want. Reactionaries build their entire ideology on this kind of myths. But modern brain science has disproven several of them. Some I know about are listed below here.
Emotions as automatic reactions: People’s emotional reactions arise without them having any control over it. To some extent they can be trained if they cause trouble for the specific person’s everyday life. However, they can never be entirely avoided but only handled more constructively. Reactionaries label certain emotions evil. Then they believe the condemnation in itself would make those emotions disappear.
Conflicting goals: Different individuals naturally and inevitably want different things. This is about a combination of us being genetically unique and our different social positions. The best for one person is not necessarily the best for another. Reactionaries entirely ignore such conflicts existing. Subordinate are talked about as if they only existed to be exploited by superiors. People refusing to accept this exploitation are called evil.
Immaturity: Children having physical ability for something does not mean having mental maturity to take responsibility for it. Usually, mental maturity develops several years after physical. Moreover, different organs may develop out of pace with each other. Reactionaries take the maturity of the first organ and equal it with mental. They demand being allowed to punish children for things they can’t take responsibility for.
Individually varying capacity: People’s skill in an area can be tested by asking systematic questions to each of them by him- or herself. There are then differences in which answers different individuals give. Some are simply more competent in the particular area than others. Reactionaries take it for granted everyone can live up to all demands. They never ask themselves if their demands are sensible at all.
Inevitable individuality: In practice it is impossible to give people the same mental characteristics. There are no mechanisms for making people as similar as prejudices presuppose. Reactionaries don’t see this fatal flaw in that prejudices would always hold true. They believe every member of certain groups in society would deliberately destroy for them.
Inner motivation: Many aberrant human behaviours remain more or less uncommon. Maybe people discover more cases of them because society changes. However, most lack the inner motivation which would be needed to take over the aberrant behaviour. Reactionaries treat such inner motivation as if everyone had the same. They believe aberrant behaviours to spread just because they are unwanted.
Outside motivation: People’s tendency to violent and property crimes are mostly due to external circumstances. Then there is personal capacity to handle the situation. Some individuals are then more prone than others to behave destructively. Reactionaries believe acts they themselves see as unwanted are committed because people are evil. They believe outside motivation to be only about temptation.
Above all, reactionaries demand the unconditional obedience of everybody else. This they will never attain since it runs against human nature. People don’t do as they are told just because they are told to. Everyone who has tried to improve the habits of others knows this from experience. Few people break bad habits just because one tells them to. Usually more or less training is required. To be sure, there are situations when most obey orders. These are situations when the obeying considers the one giving the order more knowledgeable about the subject. Then the obedience only applies to the specific situation. Moreover, there are individual differences in what one is willing to obey. Everyone simply does not accept everything.
Human nature being constant does not make social progress impossible. To me social progress is about better adapting society to it. I mean we have to compensate for our inborn deficiencies. We can also use the capacities which most humans have. I think people naturally want to cooperate if they understand the benefit of it. The challenge today is to make people understand why they should do it. If they have a too faulty image of why they should cooperate they will refuse to. Their behaviour then becomes destructive to the entire society they live in. A society they might imagine they would do without.
Uploaded on the 30th of January 2024.
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