About the Book
Table of Contents
Part I: The Fall Was Down
What is Wrong with Man?
IS MAN REALLY
of a piece with the rest of Nature, or is he an alien? And if
an alien, has his alienation arisen merely because he acquired
in the course of evolution a complexity of being which he has
not yet fully learned to manage successfully? Or is he a rebel?
What is the evidence? If merely unfulfilled, what is the precise
nature of this supposed unfulfillment?
History shows that since the Industrial
Revolution when man suddenly began to achieve mastery over his
environment in an entirely new way, he became increasingly encouraged
in the hope that the new approach to the forces of Nature could
and would be equally successfully applied to man himself. The
Christian view of the world getting worse and worse until Christ
returns in judgment in a dramatic way to set things right was
replaced by the concept of the progressive righting of wrongs
by man himself until the millennium was to be achieved by a kind
of cultural evolution inspired by Christian ethics and to be
capped only, as it were, by calling upon the Lord to come back
and take over the kingdom made ready for Him. He was not
coming to judge the world, but to dignify it by occupying the
throne as a kind of constitutional monarch.
Not a few Christian hymns came
to reflect this triumphant but mistaken sense of world conquest.
The Church was to grow until men everywhere praised their Creator
while they also enjoyed good health and prosperity. Missionary-minded
Christians sometimes saw this as a natural outcome of evangelism;
others who were only nominally Christian seemed to feel that
progress in every direction was part of God's promise to mankind
and was automatically guaranteed. Thus in the nineteenth century
Tennyson could write,
1 of 16
Move upward, working out the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die.
is well to remember that this view of Tennyson's was not inspired
by Darwin's Origin of Species," for his poem In
Memoriam, in which these two lines appear, was written ten
years before Darwin published his first volume on evolution.
Tennyson, like many others, was caught up in the spirit of the
times. Calverton pointed out this spirit: (3)
The very simultaneity
with which Darwin and Wallace struck upon the theory of natural
selection and the survival of the fittest was magnificent proof
of the intense activity of the idea at the time. Every force
in the environment, social and economic, conspired to the success
of the doctrine.
very greatly to this spirit of the times was the philosophy of
Herbert Spencer, as Vannevar Bush observed: (4)
Eighteenth century philosophers
commonly accepted progress as the normal course of history without,
however, making a particular point of the idea until the Marquis
de Condorcet, in the midst of the French Revolution, wrote his
"Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind,"
explicitly setting forth the idea that human progress is continuous
and will go on until human perfection is achieved.
This became the common attitude
of thoughtful people in the early years of the nineteenth century.
It runs through the thinking of most of the Romantic and early
Victorian poets, the scientists, and the philosophers.
It drew strength from the Rationalists,
Deists, Unitarians, and Universalists, who reacted with confidence
in the perfectibility of man against the dour fatalism of the
Calvinist teaching that man is essentially corrupt. . . .
As the nineteenth
century advanced, this pre-Darwinian, but none the less evolutionary
philosophy, gained impetus from the pen of Herbert Spencer: (5)
The inference that as advancement
has been hitherto the rule, it will be the rule henceforth, may
be called a plausible speculation. But when it is shown that
this advancement is due to the working of a universal law and
in virtue of that law it must continue until the state we call
perfection is reached, then the advent of such a state is removed
out of the region of probability into that of certainty. . .
As surely as a blacksmith's arm
grows large and the skin of a laborer's hand becomes thick; .
. . as surely as passion grows by indulgence and diminishes when
restrained; . . . so surely must the things we call evil and
immorality disappear; so surely must man become perfect.
with complete confidence: (6)
3. Calverton, V. F., The Making of Man,
Modern Library, New York, 1931, p.2.
4. Bush, Vannevar, "Science and Progress," The American
Scientist, April, 1955, p.242.
5. Spencer, quoted by C. H. Clark, A Christian Philosophy
of Education, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1946, p.54, from his
6. Darwin, Charles, quoted by Bush, ref.4, p.242.
the living forms of life are the lineal descents of those who
lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that
the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken.
. . .
Hence we may look with some confidence
to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural
selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all
corporeal and mental environments will tend to progress towards
Bennett, and Wells were all united in their belief in human perfectibility.
Any undesirable aspects of human behaviour were due entirely
to the incompleteness of the evolutionary process. In his Short
History of the World, Wells painted a bright picture: (7)
Can we doubt that presently
our race will more than realize our boldest imaginations . .
. in a world made more splendid and lovely than any palace or
garden that we have known, going on from strength to strength
in an ever widening circle of adventure and achievement? What
man has done, the little triumphs of his present state . . .
form but the prelude to the things that man has yet to do.
most of his literary contemporaries, was completely convinced
that the evolution of man was an unquestionable fact. However,
unlike some modern writers. he was completely logical in his
deductions -- granted the premises. For he expressed a true theological
insight when he wrote in his Outline of History: (8)
If all the animals and
man have been evolved in this ascendant manner, then there have
been no first parents, no Eden, and no Fall. And if there has
been no Fall, the entire historical fabric of Christianity, the
story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement, upon
which current teaching bases Christian emotion and morality,
collapses like a house of cards.
But two world
wars and the appalling evidence of Belsen and Buchenwald shook
the confidence of such men as Wells to the very core. It seemed
that the great promise of the future had been predicated on a
very shallow veneer of civilization. Man was not merely an aggressive
animal, which might have been accounted for as incomplete evolution,
he was capable of a beastliness quite unknown in the animal world.
Wells himself was completely disillusioned. He confessed:
Quite apart from any bodily
depression, the spectacle of evil in the world -- the wanton
destruction of homes, the ruthless hounding of decent folk into
exile, the bombings of open cities, the cold-blooded massacres
and mutilations of children and defenseless gentlefolk, the rapes
and filthy humiliations and, above all, the return of deliberate
7. Wells, H G, Short History of the World,
Pelican Books, London, 1937, p.289.
8. Wells H G, Outline of History, new enlarged edition,
edited by Raymond Postgate, Doubleday, New York, 1949, p.987.
9. Wells, H. G., The Fate of Homo sapiens, Secker and
Warburg, London, 1939, pp.106-7.
organized torture, mental torment, and
fear to a world from which such things had seemed well nigh banished
-- has come near to breaking my heart.
In some ways
Wells was more honest or more perceptive than humanists are at
the present time, for he recognized and admitted a truth which
is no longer admitted by many today who have apparently forgotten
the lessons of those years. Not a few Christian speakers with
liberal ideas are still fully persuaded that man needs only to
be shown the way, and not a few scientists are persuaded that
the real problem is a negative one -- lack of development. We
are persuaded that we are after all, reasonable creatures.
We are given adequate proofs that alcohol is a deadly poison
or that tobacco smoke is carcinogenic, and what happens? The
consumption of both steadily increases. The tragedy is not that
men do not learn or that men are totally unreasonable; the real
tragedy is that we still believe that man can be taught that
reason is an effective guide to behaviour. All our therapy takes
the form of educational programming on the ground that sin is
What is demonstrated is that man is totally
irrational in his attitude and assessment of his own nature. He is a fallen
creature with a heart that is desperately wicked above all else (Jeremiah
17:9) and a mind that has to be renewed (Romans 12:2). He
is in need of personal salvation in all his being,
not merely some kind of assurance that he will not be punished if he feels
sorry, as is so often presented as the Christian "gospel" today.
Writing in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Clifford Geertz summed
up what he was pleased to call "new understanding -- new evidence"
under three evolutionary-based propositions regarding man's present position
in Nature. The third was "the realization that man is an incomplete,
unfinished animal." (10)
In his A New Model of the Universe, Ouspensky held that while this
is basically true yet man only advances his own evolution by deliberate
action. (11) That is to
say, that he tends by nature to regress, not to evolve. This is a little
nearer to the biblical view of man, but Ouspensky was still persuaded
that evolution will do the trick in time if man will only set his mind
to it. And, of course, he has many supporters in this view, notably among
the geneticists of whom Theodosius Dobzansky and Julian Huxley are perhaps
pre-eminent at the present time.
Reflecting very much the current
evolutionary optimism, G. G.
10. Geertz, Clifford, "The Impact of
the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man," Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists, April, 1966, p.6.
11. Ouspensky, P. D., A New Model of the Universe, quoted
by K. Walker in his Meaning and Purpose, Pelican, London,
Simpson has been confident
enough that man can improve himself, although he recognizes that
it will require some effort. "Man has risen," he has
said, "not fallen. He can choose to develop his capacities
as the highest animal and try to rise still farther, or he can
choose otherwise" (12) And Will Durant's conclusion, (13) as he summed up his massive History of Civilization
(in ten volumes), was that "man's sins may be the relics
of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall." But on
this point, Professor David Lack commented wisely, "The
doctrine of the Fall is basic to Christian belief. The statement
of Darwinists such as G. Simpson misses the point." (14) The fact is that man is
a morally and physically sick creature whose sickness civilization
has not relieved but armed more fearfully with every passing
year. And Professor Paul Peachey, in an article significantly
titled, "Toward an Understanding of the Decline of the West,"
observed, "The men of Dachau demonstrated in unmistakable
terms how the fully autonomous human animal beneath a godless
sky conducts himself." (15) There is little doubt that Dachau was in some sense
a child of civilization. That it is possible to view the evidence
of history in any other way only demonstrates that man is sick
in mind as well as in heart.
Christians are often accused of
being quite unrealistic, of holding views about the true nature
of man which are hopelessly outdated, of being kill-joys and
pessimists, of holding a degraded view of "the natural goodness"
of man, of denying that man has any innate nobility, in short
that man is a totally depraved creature. This may be pessimism,
but recent history has shown that it is the plain truth. In the
article already mentioned, Geertz is quite prepared to admit
that "culture is not just an ornament of human nature but
an essential condition for it." He goes even further: (16)
Undirected by cultural patterns,
man's behaviour would be virtually ungovernable, a chaos of pointless
actions and exploding emotions, his experience virtually shapeless.
In other words,
man does not by himself and of himself behave well. He has to
be hedged in and to some extent restrained by some artificial
12. Simpson, C. G., Biology and Man, Harcourt,
Brace & World, New York, 1969, p.148.
13. Durant, Will and Ariel, The Lessons of History, Simon
& Schuster, New York, 1968, p.3.
14. Lack, David, Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief,
Methuen, London, 1957, p.10.
15. Peachey, Paul, in Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation,
vol.7, no.1, 1955, p.19. Under the odd title "In Bluebeard's
Castle" The Listener, BBC, (March 18, 25 and April
1, 8, 1971), George Steiner deals at some length with the modern
phenomenon of concentration camps in the light of the course
of the history of civilization, pointing out that a people could
be highly cultured without having a genuine sense of morality,
and indeed while being totally indifferent or unaware of moral
16. Geertz, Clifford, ref.10, p.6.
means, otherwise he behaves
very badly indeed. This surely does not speak very well for any
basic goodness in human nature!
William Temple, in one of his sermons
in St. Paul's Cathedral (London), pointed out that war is not
something that arises as an exceptional aspect of human behaviour
but is, in fact, a genuine expression of human nature, of what
is going on all the time within the individual. Man is only unnaturally
at peace. Leon Eisenberg has rightly observed that although culture
has brought some essential restraints to human behaviour, civilization
has often had the opposite effect. Man's propensity for violence
and aggression, which is chaotically expressed when governments
break down, finds a kind of socially acceptable outlet when governments
go to war. Hence war seems necessary every so often as a kind
of safety valve. But it grows steadily worse as man's wickedness
comes to maturity. "Progress" is still downward. He
said: "Indeed, if we were to permit ourselves the argument
that the more 'primitive' the society, the more true to man's
original nature the behavior displayed therein, we should have
to conclude . . . that war increases in intensity, bloodiness
and duration . . . through the evolution of culture, reaching
its culmination in modern civilization." (17)
How utterly unlike animal behaviour
is human behaviour. It is not merely that man, like a domesticated
animal whose instincts have been adulterated, behaves foolishly
in the presence of threats to which he would have responded wisely
in a natural state. Foolish behaviour can generally be corrected,
and fools may become wise. But man apparently is not merely foolish.
Even when he has behaved foolishly and suffered for it, he absolutely
refuses to learn any lesson from it. He goes on making the same
mistakes century after century, so that history repeats itself
again and again. Toynbee has estimated that the world has seen
twenty-one identifiable civilizations, each of which had a birth,
youth, maturity, and final collapse. Essentially each of these
twenty-one civilizations represents an unsuccessful attempt to
make human selfishness profitable. Each society sought to manipulate
circumstances so that the self-interest of each individual would
be allowed maximum free play with minimum harm being done to
the whole. Cooperation was not held up as an ideal which demanded
sacrifice of self in the interests of others, but rather as an
"intelligent" way of enabling each man to express his
own nature to his own satisfaction to the fullest possible extent.
This was "enlightened selfishness." It was contrasted
not with unselfishness, but rather with selfishness which was
so unenlightened as to interfere ultimately with any successful
expression of self-will. Some restraints are necessary in order
to allow everybody
17. Eisenberg, Leon, "The Human Nature
of Human Nature," Science, vol.176, 1972, p.126.
greater freedom. These
restraints impel common men to behave, and to the extent to which
they can be enforced men do behave. Thus, deceptively,
civilization appears to set men in a good light, and people do
not appear to be as wicked as they really are. When authority
relaxes and the maintenance of these restraints is weakened,
the fundamental wickedness of man begins to show up at once.
So the goodness of man is apparent only.
Herbert Butterfield, the English
historian, was surely right when he said, "In some cases
human nature looks better than in others because it can go through
life without being subjected to the same test." (18) People can be good by
accident, and it often happens that accident favours those who
have had better opportunity to be educated. In many parts of
the world, and particularly in days gone by, the better educated
were only so because they lived in more fortunate circumstances.
So it came about that on a percentage basis more overt wickedness
was likely to be found among those with less education. This
led to the powerful but quite erroneous conclusion that education
per se made better people. It may have made people better
behaved but it did not necessarily make better people.
The almost unending chorus of educators
and sociologists extolling the essential decency of man if only
given the proper environment and opportunity is so completely
contrary to the real testimony of history that one can only account
for it by assuming some form of mental block that has resulted,
as Arthur Koestler suggests, from a defect in the circuitry of
man's brain. Albertus Pieters was much closer to the truth when
he spoke out of his own Christian experience: (19)
How this moral depravity seethes
and boils beneath the surface of our outwardly orderly social
life becomes instantly apparent when something happens to relax
the restraining hand of civil authority. The Boston police strike,
the San Francisco fire, the Galveston flood, the Tokyo earthquake
-- on every such occasion, looting, stealing and murder sprung
to the front at once.
Had he been
writing fifteen years later, he might have included the Watts
Riot where people were shown on television driving up, nicely
dressed, in their new Cadillacs, in order to load up their car
trunks with loot from stores with broken windows. . . . None
of us knows precisely what we are capable of doing if there is
no danger of being found out and if everybody else is doing it.
Misbehaviour seems to be the only kind of behaviour common
to all men!
This was interestingly borne out
by the discovery by
18. Butterfield, Herbert, Christianity
and History, Bell, London, 1950, p.44.
19. Pieters, Albertus, Divine Lord and Saviour, Revell,
New York, 1949, pp.40, 41.
the only universally observable patterns of personal behavioir
which are essentially the same among all people are to be found
among those who have rejected their own particular culture, due
presumably to some mental defect. There was a search for basic
human nature. The object was to find what man would be like if
he did not have any particular cultural influences imposed upon
him to mold his personality into conformity with some particular
pattern shared by some particular group of people. What emerged
from this search was the rather surprising fact that those who
by their very abnormality have rejected their own culture (and
would have rejected any other culture) tend nevertheless to be
extraordinarily alike in their behaviour patterns, fantasies,
and antisocial attitudes, no matter what part of the world they
come from. In short, the only universal forms of behaviour appear
to be those discoverable among people who are termed abnormal!
These people behave in those odd ways in such a remarkably similar
way that their behaviour patterns (whether harmful or harmless)
can be treated descriptively in the same terms regardless of
cultural background. Such people are acting, apparently, according
to the true nature of man by having rejected all artificial restraints.
Cultured man is not natural man. Natural man does not naturally
behave in a cultured way. This is why Kroeber observed that the
only discoverable forms of behaviour universally shared by men
are not cultural at all. (20)
It was once believed that much
of man's misbehaviour was the direct result of the artificiality
of civilized life, and certainly there is some truth in this.
But men like Rousseau and not a few idealists since have held
that if man would throw off all the restraints of civilization
and return to a kind of idyllic nakedness within Nature, his
life would be calm, peaceful, and full of beauty. Rousseau's
idea of the "noble savage" was shared by many who had
no first hand experience of primitive life. Unfortunately, because
man is a fallen creature and not merely a backward one, his return
to Nature is not a return to the beautifully informed and equipped
natural life of the animals, but rather to the unrestrained condition
of a creature essentially criminal
20. Kroeber, A. L., An Appraisal of Anthropology
Today, University of Chicago, 1953, p.119. It seems to me
that the universal categories of culture are unquestionably there
but they are not cultural. . . It is important to recognize that
things which underlie culture are not the same as culture. My
own feeling is that these constants exist, but they exist on
the subcultural level and that is why they are constant."
The existence of universals in the symbolism of abnormal psychology
is referred to by Dr. Ernest White, (Christian Life and the
Unconscious, Hodder and Stroughton, London, 1955, p.18).
The point is alluded to, interestingly, by Clyde Kluckhorn ("Universal
Categories of Culture," in Anthropology Today, University
of Chicago, 1953, especially, p.507).
at heart. He becomes
not free from sin, but rather free to sin. Clyde
Kluckhohn put it this way: (21)
When a person has surrendered
much of his physiological autonomy to cultural control, when
he behaves most of the time as others do in following cultural
routines, he is then socialized. Those who retain too great a
measure of independence are necessarily confined to the asylum
or the jail.
When the restraints
imposed by a community are removed as in times of crisis (war
or famine or disease on a large scale), then human nature is
revealed for what it really is -- ugly. In his Christianity
and History, Butterfield rightly observed: (22)
The plain truth is that if you
were to remove certain subtle safeguards in society, many men
who had been respectable all their lives would be transformed
by the discovery of the things which it would now be possible
to do with impunity; weak men would apparently take to crime
who had previously been kept on the rails by a certain balance
existing in society, and you can produce a certain condition
of affairs in which people go plundering and stealing though
hitherto throughout their lives it had never occurred to them
even to want to steal.
A prolonged police-strike, the
existence of a revolutionary situation in a capital city, and
the exhilaration of conquest in an enemy country, are likely
to show up a seamy side of human nature among people who, cushioned
and guided by the influences of normal social life, have hitherto
presented a respectable figure to the world.
concluded that "down below there slumbers all the time the
volcano that lies in human nature." (23) In fact he suggested that the fundamental difference
between civilization and barbarism is not that one represents
inherently cultured man and the other uncultured man, but rather
that in the former case there is a carry-over of social restraint
which, tenuous though it is, prevents the natural barbarism that
is in every one of us from rising to the surface. Undoubtedly
civilization is a more pleasant condition and allows for the
development in each individual of some expressions of goodness
which might otherwise never occur. Yet in a sense it is a restraint
imposed from outside of the individual even though he may by
habit internalize it. Butterfield rightly warns against making
the mistake of supposing that human beings are creatures "naturally
One overt evidence that man is
a fallen creature and not merely a highly organized animal whose
evolution is at present incomplete, is the fact that without
these cultural restraints, restraints which are not
21. Kluckhohn, Clyde, Mirror For Man, McGraw-Hill,
New York, 1949, p.197.
22. Butterfield, Herbert, ref.18, p.30.
23. Ibid., p.31.
known in the animal
world (except in domestication), man behaves very much unlike
the animals. It was thought once that "Nature was red in
tooth and claw," a phrase coined by Tennyson ten years before
Darwin published his Origin of Species. Darwin himself
accepted this view of Nature and inoculated his readers with
the same philosophy underscoring it by the terms "struggle
to survive" and "survival of the fittest." It
was, therefore, only to be expected that man should share this
aggressive spirit to some extent and that when he acted violently
he was merely "reverting to nature."
In due course, lovers of Nature
such as Prince Petr Kropotkin and others decided to see whether
this picture of Nature was a valid one. They found precisely
the opposite. Kropotkin wrote of this in his Mutual Aid in
1902, (24) and
since his time many others have underscored the truth of what
he observed. One need only mention the works of L. Dice and R.
Good, (25) Ashley
Montagu, (26) W.
C. Allee, (27)
and many others. Again and again, with increasing frequency,
students of Nature are insisting that animals in the wild are
not aggressive in the human sense. A symposium "The Natural
History of Aggression" at the British Museum in 1963
was reported on by D. Carthy and F. B. Ebling. The authors conclude:
Certain tentative generalizations
can be made. The irrefutable and terrifying history of overt
aggression appears to be essentially human. . . . Man's beastliness
is not of the beast; to the anthropologist and the historian
human, overt aggression may seem normal, but seen against the
background of the animal kingdom from a point of view which cannot
be avoided by the biologist, it appears pathological.
M. D. C. Jeffreys
observed also that "if man yields to the temptation to subside
on to the 'natural' level, he 'makes a beast of himself,' but
the beastliness of man is something quite different from the
naturalness of the beast." (29) Man's aggressiveness, therefore, does not originate
from an animal ancestry to which he is reverting. Sir Peter Medawar
for example, observed: (30)
Students of animal behaviour
have described, analyzed, and then pieced together again a great
variety of different kinds of instinctive
24. Kropotkin, Petr, Mutual Aid, reprint,
Extending Horizon Books, Boston,1955.
25. Good, Ronald, reviewing "Natural Communities" by
Lee R. Dice, in Nature, July 11, 1953, p.46.
26. Montagu, Ashley, On Being Human, Schuman, New York,
27. Allee, C., The Social Life of Animals, Beacon Press,
28. Carthy, J. D., and F. B. Ebling, "The Natural History
of Aggression," Nature, Jan.11, 1964, pp.129-131.
29. Jeffreys, M. D. C., Glaucon, Pitman, London, 1955,
30. Medawar, P. B., The Uniqueness of the Individual, Basic
Books, New York, 1957, p.137.
action. Two conclusions which can be
drawn from their work, though both are negative, have a profound
bearing on human affairs.
There is no such thing as an "aggressive
instinct," and it is therefore altogether wrong to suppose
that human beings can be its victims or its beneficiaries. There
is no drive, no motive force in animal behaviour, that is discharged
or gratified by the mere act of fighting.
of course, that animals fight. They fight to establish territorial
rights, to defend their young, to obtain a mate, and for a
share when food is scarce. But it is evident that this kind
of fighting involves no animosity whatever, for it ceases immediately
when the point has been won, and the very concept of revenge
appears to be entirely lacking. Animals play for fun, but they
do not fight for fun.
In his study of the prayer which
Anglicans refer to as "The General Confession," D.
R. Davies said: (31)
The most dramatic and easily
understood demonstration of this quality of sin is war. Its falsification
of intention is so obvious that it becomes visible to the most
short-sighted. In this, as in everything else, war simply brings
to the surface what is existing all the time during so-called
In war, a society's way of life
comes to maturity. The mask is thrown off, so to speak, and processes
hitherto camouflaged are exposed for what they are. . . War merely
demonstrates, in a more concentrated form, what is happening
all the time.
In 1946 the
Institute of Biology published a book entitled The Natural
History of Aggression, edited by J. D. Carthy and F. B. Ebling.
This series of Papers is an attempt to trace the evolutionary
history of fighting behaviour in the animal kingdom. In his review
of it, J. P. Scott, a psychologist, remarked: (32)
As scientists began to make
detailed and repeated studies of animal societies under natural
conditions, certain general results begin to appear. One is that
a well organized animal society in a natural habitat shows very
little harmful and destructive fighting, even under conditions
of great stress, as when attacked by a predator or subject to
starvation. On the contrary, such societies exhibit behavior
that would in human terms be called cooperative and even altruistic.
Destructive fighting does appear
when social disorganization is brought about by forcing strange
individuals together and confining them in unfamiliar habitats.
It may be that
this latter circumstance is largely responsible for the mistaken
picture of behaviour within the animal kingdom which is so widely
31. Davies, D. R., Down Peacock Feathers,
Bles, London. 1942, p.52.
32. Scott, J. P., reviewing The Natural History of Aggression,
in Science, vol.148, 1965, p.821.
In addition, of course, if an evolutionary philosophy
is held as an alternative explanation to the Christian concept
of sin, this particular view of Nature is likely to be seized
upon as a basis for it. An interesting illustration of the effect
of prejudice may be observed in the enthusiastic foreword which
Sir Julian Huxley wrote to a book by Konrad Lorenz entitled On
This volume was candidly reviewed by Sir Solly Zuckerman who
found much to criticize in Lorenz' assumptions and conclusions:
Judged as a piece of writing,
as a work of rich and compelling description, the book deserves
all praise. But it is hardly a serious work of science, which
one assumes is what Lorenz intended.
basic criticism hinges upon the fact that Lorenz has gone out
of his way to try and explain what he considers are anomalies
in animal behaviour as being demonstrations of natural selection
at work. It is this same aspect of Lorenz' study that made Huxley
so enthusiastic. A review of this same work by S. A. Barnett,
which appeared in The Scientific American, is significantly
subtitled, "On the Hazards of Analogies between Human Aggression
and Aggression in Other Animals." (35) One wonders whether Huxley was at all aware of these
criticisms, criticisms coming from men in essential agreement
with the evolution of man but whose doubts on the sources of
this particular aspect of man's unpleasant character bear all
the more weight.
J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson contributed
an article in The New Scientist entitled, "How Aggressive
are Wild Animals?" (36) He was surprised after observing game animals at
first hand, even carnivorous ones, "how little aggressive
ferocity is to be found amongst them." He concluded by noting
that "the concept of nature red in tooth and claw seems
to be largely a figment of the imagination."
Again, on the same subject, Leon Eisenberg
in an article entitled "Can Human Emotions Be Changed?" wrote
recently in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists under the heading
"Is Aggression Innate?" (37)
The Freudian view generally
has incorporated the doctrine of aggressive instincts in a timeless,
unchanging, Unconscious. It can serve as the prototype of a prevailing
doctrine of human nature. . . It is germane to our argument to
examine the basis of Freud's views in some detail.
33. Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression, translated
by Marjorie Latzke, Methuen, London, 1966.
34. Zuckerman, Sir So!ly, reviewing "On Aggression,"
in Nature, Nov. 5, 1966, p.563.
35. Barnett, S. A., reviewing "On Aggression," in Scientific
American, Feb., 1967, p.135f.
36. CIoudsley-Thompson, J. L., "How Aggressive are Wild
Animals?," New Scientist, Marvh 26, 1964, p.822.
37. Eisenberg, Leon, "Can Human Emotions Be Changed?"
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Jan., 1966, p.29.
To begin with, his doctrine assumes
that the aggressive instincts are man's heritage from his biological
origins; that is, such instincts are to be found in all animals
and hence in man. . . The thesis is unsupportable. There is little
in the way of documented evidence. . .
He then pointed
out that while the capacity for aggression is found in animals
as it is in men, when animals are called upon to defend certain
rights (mating, territorial, food), "there is no evidence
that it is achieved by inner needs which require gratification
per se." In short, man is an aggressive creature for reasons
which do not appear to be related to what looks like a similar
behaviour pattern among animals. History is filled with human
atrocities which, as someone has pointed out, would make most
animals ashamed to believe they had sired such a descendant.
The record of man's behaviour throughout the centuries does not
support the idea that he has merely relapsed. As Butterfield
put it with cogency, "Those who do not believe in the doctrine
of the Fall can hardly deny that human history has always been
history under the terms and conditions of the Fall." (38)
We have spoken much about war because
it is in this situation that the artificial restraints of culture
are lowest. If man really is getting better, more enlightened
as the years go by, it should surely be reflected in his general
behaviour as a warrior. But here we consistently meet with another
setback to optimism, for although in centuries past wars were
bloody enough and the heads of the enemy were piled up into pyramids,
and children and babies were smashed ruthlessly, yet I think
it is safe to say that in one respect modern wars have proved
themselves even more barbaric. The enemy, in olden times, was
summarily dispatched. It was not customary to torture people
without provocation. What delight conquerors took in showing
their superiority tended to be by displaying the overwhelming
nature of their power. There was another way in which they showed
their superiority, and that was by treating with great courtesy
those who were their own peers among the enemy. Thus by an odd
circumstance there were often two classes of people who tended
to be spared, the princes and the paupers.
With respect to the latter, the
common people who were not directly combatants, there were as
Davies has put it, what seem to us strange instances of long
delays in arranging for the use of supplies accumulated on the
spot until leave had been secured from the civil authorities
to make use of them. (39) Courtesy of this kind is noticeably absent in modern
38. Butterfield, Herbert, ref.18, p.106.
39. Davies, D. R., ref.31, p.92.
The same writer speaks of the chivalry and professional
decency which characterized European wars in older times. He
points out, for example, that at the battle of Fontenoy in the
War of the Austrian Succession, when the English Guards came
into contact with the French Guards, an English officer stepped
out of the ranks and, bowing towards the French, said: "French
Guards, will you please fire first."
(40) As Davies says, "Can one imagine
that happening today?" When the battle was over and the
question who was the victor and who the vanquished had been satisfactorily
settled, they all seem to have shaken hands and parted more like
friends than enemies. In a work published from Athens in 1950
by the Christian Union of Professional Men of Greece, Towards
a Christian Civilization, it is observed: (41)
Considering how hostages were
treated in ancient times, how Philip was treated when a hostage
in the hands of the Thebans, we cannot help but compare such
treatment, to our dismay, with that of hostages of the present
times of which we have had so sad an experience.
Toynbee in his
Civilization on Trial pointed out how modern weapons have
virtually eliminated nobility from war, recognizing the worth
of persons which was one of the sole redeeming features of war
in the past. The fact is that nowadays destruction can take place
from such a distance and on such a scale that no one is any longer
personally involved in the death of the enemy. This, of
course, is unimaginably true of atomic warfare conducted with
long range missiles. But Toynbee was, I think, mistaken when
he then said: (42)
If mankind is going to run amok
with atom bombs, I should look to the Negrito Pygmies of Central
Africa to salvage some fraction of the present heritage of mankind.
The African Negritos are said by
our anthropologists to have an unexpectedly pure and lofty conception
of the nature of God and of his relation to man. They might be
able to give mankind a fresh start and, though we should then
have lost the achievements of the last 6,000 to 10,000 years,
what are 10,000 years compared to the 600,000 or a million years
for which the human race has already been in existence?
Once again one
detects a note of hope for the future based on some measure of
confidence in human nature. The argument has taken an oblique
direction. Man's aggressiveness, it turns out, has arisen from
some unknown source: it is not evidently to be derived from the
animals. However the feeling seems to persist that if animals
are not aggressive as civilized man has proved himself to be,
40. Ibid., p.90.
41. Treatment of hostages: Towards a Christian Civilization,
Damascus Publication, Athens, 1950, p.22.
42. Toynbee, Arnold, Civilization on Trial, Oxford University
Press, 1948, p.162.
which are supposedly nearer to their animal ancestors than we
are -- or so we have wanted to believe -- will not be as aggressive
by nature as we are. Thus if all civilized people are eliminated
and only primitive people are left to carry on, there is reason
to believe, because they are different from us in this respect,
that they will make a better job of preserving something for
the future. This is the old appeal that misled Rousseau. What
we know of primitive people leads us to suspect that they are
just as wickedly bent as we are, but not provided with as many
opportunities to express it nor armed with as effective weapons.
When some of those social forms of behaviour which they still
display towards one another and which we cannot help but regret
having lost among ourselves, are really analyzed, it turns out
that the motivation is, more often than not, very disappointing.
I'm thinking particularly, for example, of their willingness
to share with one another and their apparent unselfishness when
supplies are low. It is somewhat disappointing to find how easily
such admirable traits can be undermined, how very superficial
they really are, how narrowly they are oriented, and how completely
selfishly they are rooted.
In their book Introducing Social
Change Conrad Arensberg and A. H. Niehoff have made a study
of some of the factors responsible for the breakdown of native
culture in a society which is brought suddenly into contact with
a much higher civilization: (43)
In all levels of society there
are mechanisms for the individual to obtain the approval of his
fellows. . . Most individuals seek approval which gives them
prestige by methods which their society has defined. In cultures
that are technologically simple, such as those of hunting and
food-gathering peoples who do not produce a sizable surplus and
a wide variety of goods, men are rewarded for generosity. This
is probably the best way the individual can have his self-interest
served. Where storage facilities are limited and inadequate,
and where little beyond subsistence need is produced anyway,
primitive people achieve a form of social insurance by giving
to one another in time of need.
Means of accumulation
are no longer a temptation to make accumulation the symbol of
prestige, so that giving rather than keeping becomes the rule,
generosity serves more effectively than selfishness. In other
words, generosity is not merely generosity for the sake of satisfying
a neighbour's need, but for the sake of satisfying one's own.
A cynic would probably say that most generosity is like this,
and Ruskin went even further when he argued that "the rarest
gifts of purest love are no self-sacrifice at all but merely
self-indulgence." We thus have the anomalous situation in
which a culture characterized by generosity
43. Arensberg, Conrad M. and A. H. Niehoff,
Introducing Social Change, Aldine Publications, Chicago,
1966, pp.104, 105.
may in fact be
a culture dedicated to self interest -- an interesting switch!
This possibility is surely reflected
clearly in Paul's observation (I Corinthians 13: 2), "though
I give all my goods to the poor, if I have not love, it profiteth
me nothing." It may seem to profit a man in the judgment
of the world, and in most cases the recipients profit or hopefully
so, but without love it is doubtful whether the giver profits
at all in the sense of being made a better person -- a fact which
underscores the precision of statements like this in Scripture
since the little word "me" is crucial to the truth
Wherever we turn, we seem to find
the evidence always pointing in the same direction, always leading
us to two conclusions, neither of which are popular, and both
of which are either ignored or denied. The first conclusion is
that whatever is wrong with human nature is not to be accounted
simply as a throwback to his animal ancestry, for animals simply
do not behave in the way that man does. Apparent parallels when
examined carefully are not found to be true parallels at all.
This first conclusion informs us that we must find the root of
man's problem elsewhere. The second conclusion is that the sickness
within human nature has a very positive character to it: it is
not by default that he perpetrates his greatest barbarities,
but rather as a rebel, as an act of defiance, often with a sense
of delight at the time. We have the anomaly in Scripture of such
a phrase as "the pleasures of sin." We sometimes put
it, Vengeance is sweet. Surely this is something new in nature,
The Greeks thought that sin was
to be defined as ignorance and that education was the cure. We
all recognize perfectly well that we ourselves personally do
the worst things that we do with the full knowledge that they
are not the right things to do: knowing what is right, we still
do what is wrong. Yet we pretend that other people do wrong things
because they don't know any better. If human folly was the result
of ignorance, history should show a gradual improvement of human
nature. But, as we have already observed, even evolutionists
themselves are a little less hopeful that the mere passage of
time will any longer correct the situation. For example:
That man is likely to develop
his intellectual capacities in the direction of higher ethical
standards and increased moral responsibility is more of the nature
of a pious hope than a justified expectation.
44. Jones, F. Wood, Trends of Life, Arnold,
London. 1953, p.181.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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