Few illusions are more powerful than moral illusions. We have a powerful innate tendency to believe that some behaviors are good, and some evil. We imagine that these categories exist independently of anyone’s opinion about them, as objects, or things in themselves. This tendency, and hence the very existence of morality, is the result of evolution by natural selection. For the most part, its genetic basis evolved long before the emergence of anything resembling a civilized state. Indeed, similar tendencies exist in other animals. In those times it must have made a significant contribution to the reproduction and survival of those who carried the relevant genes. The predispositions spawned by these genes were quite open-ended and flexible, because there was little chance that they would spawn “dysfunctional” perceptions of good and evil in those simpler times. Times have changed. Instead of contributing to our survival, today these innate tendencies can easily have the opposite effect. They can inspire us with a firm conviction that behaviors that are more likely to result in our extinction rather than our survival are “good.” This is what I mean when I refer to “morality inversions.”
So powerful are our moral illusions that we refuse to believe that they aren’t true. As a result, we erect almost insuperable barriers to self-understanding. Good and evil seem so real to us that we flatly reject the truth that these moral categories exist by virtue of behavioral traits that evolved in the stone age, and in some cases perhaps long before that. It is now abundantly clear that rejecting the truth about something as fundamental as the reasons we behave the way we do is extremely dangerous, assuming we value our own survival.
Once we have accepted the truth about the reasons that account for the existence of what we refer to as morality in human beings, morality inversions aren’t difficult to spot. Simply look for cases in which significant numbers of us start exhibiting behavior that is the opposite of what we observe in every other species on the planet. Individuals of other species behave in ways that tend to increase the odds that the genes they carry will survive and reproduce. Often, we find them actually seeking to suppress the chances that other individuals of their own species will survive if it enhances the “fitness” of their own genes. When the behavior of significant numbers of individuals in our species is exactly the opposite, there must be a reason for it. We must consider the possibility that behavioral traits that once enhanced our chances of survival have become “dysfunctional” in the environment we find ourselves in today.
One such trait is what we refer to as morality, and a fundamental aspect of human morality is its dual nature. Different standards of morality apply depending on whether another individual is identified as ingroup or outgroup. The outgroup is commonly loathed and hated, deemed impure, unclean, corrupt, etc. Look for it, and you will always find it. There was little chance that this trait would “malfunction” during the stone age. The outgroup was always just the next tribe over. To the extent that other groups were known, they were largely irrelevant as far as morality was concerned. Today we are aware of a myriad racial, ideological, religious, and many other types of groups. The trait in question is sufficiently flexible that we are quite capable of identifying any one of them as outgroup. Whatever group it happens to be, we tend to hate and despise its members and deem them immoral. It is quite possible for us to hate and despise groups that are closely related to us and would otherwise pose no threat to us as outgroup, preferring others who are much more distantly related as ingroup, even though they do pose a threat.
The phenomenon of equalism is another aspect of modern human moral behavior. According to E. O. Wilson, we are a “eusocial” species. As noted in the article linked above, to qualify as eusocial, in Wilson’s definition, animals must live in multigenerational communities, practice division of labor and behave altruistically, ready to sacrifice “at least some of their personal interests to that of the group.” The resulting tendency to promote sharing and equal distribution within the ingroup must have enhanced the odds of our survival eons ago. It can hardly be assumed that it will have the same result in a world in which the genetic closeness of those we identify as ingroup has become a matter of coincidence. It, too, has become an abundant source or morality inversions.
It is interesting that in today’s world the white race appears to be uniquely susceptible to such inversions. This seems odd in view of the fact that the same race achieved a dominant presence on several continents where it had never previously set foot in a very short time. Obviously, what we see today was not always the case. Whites are in retreat all over the world, and particularly in the countries where they represent the “indigenous people.” The behavioral traits responsible for morality can lead to radically different outcomes within a few generations in the context of environments that bear no resemblance to the one in which they evolved. The chaotic moral behavior of whites is an excellent demonstration of this fact.
Why is this happening? “Dysfunctional” outgroup identification certainly plays a major role. Ingroup/outgroup identification among the ruling classes of countries that are still predominantly white is commonly based on ideology. Increasingly, we see them behaving in ways that are sometimes referred to as “woke.” Their ingroup consists of those who “think right” when it comes to the ideological shibboleths that serve to identify the “good.” It also includes persons in other racial and ethnic groups, who are deemed “good in themselves.” The outgroup consists almost exclusively of other whites who oppose the ideology of the ingroup. As is typically the case for human outgroups, they are hated and despised as immoral, “deplorable,” etc. Only these outgroup whites are deemed capable of sins such as “white privilege” and “white supremacy,” evils to which the favored ethnic and racial groups are deemed immune.
White supremacy, indeed! Are the people who mouth such nonsense not aware that, as far as nature is concerned, our “function” is to carry genes from one generation to the next? There is no God or other entity out there to assign us a “higher” purpose. There is not a life form on this planet that is not a “supremacist” for the genes it carries. All others have gone extinct. That will be the fate of humans who are not “supremacists” as well, whether their skin color be white, black, brown, red, or yellow. Anyone who chooses that outcome in order to preserve the illusion that they are “morally pure,” is welcome to pass into oblivion in the odor of sanctity. I merely ask that, in the process, they don’t try to take the rest of us with them.
Of course, the belief that only those with a certain skin color can be guilty of such sins is racist by the very definition of the term. Similarly racist is the notion that whites are born guilty of the original sin of slavery even though slavery ended more than a century before any of them were born. Lost in the “conversation” is the fact that it never occurred to significant numbers of “people of color” that slavery was bad to begin with until whites began insisting on it. The fight against slavery and its eventual abolition was initiated and led almost exclusively by whites until the fight was virtually over. It was ended in the US at the cost of over 600,000 white lives. No matter. Whites are supposed to pay reparations for sins they never committed, simply by virtue of being white. The same does not apply to other races. Vast numbers of whites were enslaved by Arabs and Turks at the same time that blacks were enslaved in the US, but no one is suggesting that they pay reparations.
This anti-white racist ideology is fobbed off as “social justice,” an absurd term in itself, implying as it does that modern societies with populations in the millions should be regulated by moral emotions that evolved in the stone age. The remarkable fact about this currently dominant ideology is that it was created and is now maintained primarily by whites themselves. They have been bamboozled by their moral emotions into inventing an ingroup/outgroup complex that has resulted in the transfer of vast resources to other ethnic and racial groups with no prospect whatever that they will receive a comparable benefit in return. Nothing of the sort is observed in any other species on the planet, for the good reason that such behavior would lead to rapid extinction.
A similar morality inversion has resulted from the dominant ideology’s insistence that we are doing an injustice to animals by eating them. No matter that the transition from ape to man would have been impossible without hunting. We are informed by a legion of sanctimonious ideologues that eating animals is “evil,” and we must all become vegans. Since they have never experienced it themselves, they forget that famine has been prevalent throughout human history, and has hardly disappeared in our own time. Establishing these irrational taboos about what we can and cannot eat is harmful in the best of times. In times of famine, it becomes a direct threat to survival.
“Dysfunctional” ingroup/outgroup identification has resulted in another morality inversion of a sort that has been common as the source of the innumerable senseless wars that have been the bane of our species throughout human history. In this case, the Ukrainians are the “good” ingroup and the Russians are the “evil” outgroup. In order to ensure that the “good guys” win, thereby demonstrating how “virtuous” they are themselves, our rulers continue to escalate a conflict that doesn’t concern us, risking nuclear annihilation in the process.
I need not elaborate on the poisoning and mutilation of children in order to “transgender” them, nor the anti-natalism morality inversion. What can one say of these people who are convinced that racing down the path to a biological dead end is “virtuous?” As anyone who glances at social media occasionally is aware, the virtually universal response to these “woke” dogmas by those who oppose them is to perceive their proponents as outgroup. They are denounced as evil, not just as a matter of anyone’s opinion, but as an actual fact. The problem with this is that there are no moral facts. This typically human behavior is also irrational.
Does it seem reasonable, regardless of one’s ideology, to conclude that those of a different opinion wake up every morning wracking their brains to come up with a list of bad deeds to do that day? Does it seem reasonable to conclude that the descendants of those who were “good,” because, within a few centuries, they occupied and became the dominant race on several continents they had never seen before have now suddenly become “evil” because they are behaving in ways that seem tailor made to nullify those results? Neither they nor their ancestors had a clue about the fundamental reasons they acted the way they did in either case. Neither they nor their ancestors understood that it is not possible for anyone to be “really good” or “really evil” because those categories simply don’t exist. They are only imagined. The firm belief that they do exist is based on a powerful illusion that itself exists because it helped us survive in a world that disappeared long ago. The fact that this illusion of moral good and evil can have such diametrically opposite results within a short span of time in the context of environments utterly different from the one in which it evolved seems to suggest that it’s high time for our species to gain some rudiments of self-understanding.
I am not suggesting that one should abandon moral arguments. In an age in which manipulation of moral emotions is the universal weapon for fighting ideological battles, unilateral disarmament is not a viable alternative. Assuming one has any goals in life at all, one must fight for them with the weapons at hand, even if one understands that the very effectiveness of those weapons is based on an illusion. It is not unreasonable to kill a poisonous snake, even if one realizes that the snake doesn’t behave the way it does because it is immoral.
I am suggesting that, whatever your goals in life happen to be, they be chosen based on an accurate understanding of how our species came to be, and why it is that we behave the way we do. If we are to learn anything from the example of the “woke,” it is that blindly responding to emotions that make us feel good, whether morally or otherwise, is a good way to follow them down the same rathole to oblivion.
All human behavior is driven by emotional predispositions that exist because, at some time in the past, they enhanced our biological fitness. It should come as no surprise that these predispositions can and do inspire radically different behaviors among individuals living at the same time and same place in the complex societies of the present. We are not rigidly programmed like so many insects. The fundamental drivers of our behavior are open ended and flexible, well-suited to the simple societies in which they evolved. When creatures with large brains but imperfect reasoning abilities try to interpret what those drivers are trying to tell them in the complex societies we live in today, it is predictable that they will not all come to the same conclusions. As the example of the “woke” among us demonstrates, it is quite possible for us to conclude that, in order to be “good,” we must behave in ways that reduce our biological fitness. We stumble into morality inversions.
It is not my intent to prescribe to anyone how they ought or ought not to behave. We are all links in a chain of life that has existed unbroken for upwards of two billion years. We exist because, unlike myriads of others, all of our ancestors over that vast gulf of time managed to survive and reproduce. The mental traits that are the root cause of our behavior, moral and otherwise, aren’t there by coincidence. They exist because they enhanced the odds of that outcome. If, in full knowledge of that fact, anyone consciously chooses to be the final link in that chain, and to follow so many other life forms into the oblivion of extinction, so be it. If they make that choice because it is comforting to them to imagine that they are being morally good, I have no objection as long as they understand what morality is. I merely observe as I wave goodbye that their behavior seems somewhat out of harmony with the reasons they exist to begin with.