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Revised Feb 2006

"With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its adolescent morals. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it...Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living." Omar Bradley

Bradley was not insulting adolescents; he feared our all too-human personality and its obvious potential for violence. Now, 60 years on, how did we manage to stay in such a miserable condition?

That question may be better assessed with some background. Late in the second millennium (1700 - 2000CE) technological developments outstripped social and political developments -- dramatically. The concept of society prevails throughout nature and it relates to personalities in the large, how individual personalities determine a personality of the group.

We and many others propose that the human personality has deep evolutionary roots that are reflected in today's world. Among the roots are two that impact human history down to our times. They are the fierceness and herding instincts.

We argue that fierceness contributes to the Authoritarian Personality, AP. while the rest of us seek security in numbers, which of course plays into the AP. These are simplifications perhaps, but they happen to fit what we see and know of the Authoritarian Personality. As such it is a viable hypothesis to go by while searching for better ideas.

There is now extensive scientific support for the thought that personality is a product of evolution, it is not just another anthropomorphic idea. For example, selective animal breeding experiments have shown that aggressiveness and shyness are two traits that can be isolated in as little as four generations. In scientific terms, about half of the variation in avian personality is genetic in origin. That this separation can be achieved in just four generations means that there can be only a small number of genes involved, no more than eight or ten at the most in this experimental group. One has likely been identified, DRD4. Dogs, hyenas, chimpanzees and squid have all been studied with results reinforcing the idea that temperament (inborn personality) depends on genes. Elephants have been shown to exhibit personality disorders related to childhood trauma, much as people do. Behavior consistencies among the many species and DNA sutdies are now such that it is quite certain that temperament is genetic in origin, and that its expression, through behavior, can be altered to at least a degee.

Neuroticism and agreeableness are additional traits being recognized in animals. And they seem to remain stable for years, just as they do in people. Pet owners will doubtless recognize similar innate behaviors.

Just as fierceness has an obvious evolutionary edge, so also extroversion seems to have in society. Dr Daniel Nettle at the University of Newcastle found that extroverts (in a cohort of 545 people) tend to have more sex partners than their more reserved counterparts--giving extroverts an obvious evolutionary edge.

One question comes up in this regard, if personality traits really are heritable, then why are we not all fierce or otherwise uniform in personality? The answer of course is that other traits, such as the herding instinct also favor survival. Not enough research has been done on human personality evolution to be sure, but what has been done is consistent with that idea.

Personality is not just a human characteristic; being genetic it is natural to the animal world as well. Personality has been around for a long, long, time in the form of genes--many genes have not changed in a half billion years. Humans and birds share a common ancestor, but that split came about 310 millions of years ago. Our split from the squid came long before that, over a half billion years ago.

For more on how we know these things see: NY Times: 1 Mar 2005; Nature: pg 607, 24 Feb 2005, and especially The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins, Houghten Mifflan. Evolutionary anthropomorphism is not talking here. The evidence speaks for itself. DNA analyses and geologic dating of fossil strata combine to establish a rate for evolution that holds remarkably constant for the whole of living things with only one or two minor exceptions. Dawkins ably explains the details. We and the chimpanzees last shared a common ancestor (concestor in Dawkin's terminology) about six million years ago. Each species has been evolving steadily ever since. Humanity arrived at its present identity (Homo sapiens) only about 150,000 years ago at most. Since that time, humans spread to all continents, and continued to evolve in significant isolation; Africa first, then Europe and Asia provided "homelands" where evolution could operate. To the extent the various races of humanity are distinct genetically, those variations arose via evolution. Their distinctions, arising from mutations and gene transfers gave rise to the races. The races likely represent accumulated differences arising from mate selections over the miillennia as well as differences between migratory groups and the gene pools left behind as independent variables. Geography plays a role as well. For example, in areas where malaria is endemic, humans developed a gene to combat malaria, those inheriting the gene simply live longer than those who don't. As an example of how nature can work, that particular gene also creates a condition called sickle cell anemia which offsets some of the advantages inherited. These and other selecting variables could well have interacted significantly and especially in small mobile bands of humans moving into new habitats.

In statistical terms, populations that survive a pandemic, invasions by another species, travel across the sea, treks across a land bridge or high mountain passes to escape marauding bands, are equivalent to genetic "samples" of the larger original populations. These samples become "survivors;" they cannot be genetically identical to the original population. The various survivors of any of the "bottlenecks", to use the biological term, are, in fact statistical terms, "samples." Once a sample has survived, or in some way has been selected, become separated from its originating gene pool, the directions open for further genetic drift differ in the face of new panoplies of dangers from environmental pressures. This is the way Evolution operates, and how we came to be.

The biological terms, "surviving" or "founder" populations, are equivalent to "samples" of a population. No new founding populace is identical to the original. As a new species radiates across the globe, geographic separation and genetic drift combine with varous above "bottle necks" selecting "samples" to create, first new races, and from them, given enough time, new species. Time requiremenst may vary, on the order of a million years or so. For a more definitive rendition, the curious reader is referred to "Biology" International Edition, by Campbell and Reese as well as to the Dawkins reference above.

By the time transportation enabled long-range mixing, evolution had sorted humanity into three primary races, Black, Caucasian and Oriental, and a few sub-sets. But the races in their most extreme expressions show genetic variations between them dwarfed by the genetic variability within each. That is, the genetic variations between races is not larger than the variations within them. Otherwise they would have to be essentially different species. Human racial differences in this light are not different in kind from the differences among the various breeds of dogs. Dogs can be bred for, or taught, agressive behavior, just as people can be.

Humanoid society developed slowly at first. Once tool making ability rose above the crude stone chisels of the Australopithicenes, new technological developments began doubling periodically, that is within half the time from one technical breakthrough to the next. Invention begat invention. Early on, human inventions enabled humans to begin mastering nature and use that mastery for their own needs, protection, or war as the case happened to be. This mastery was at least in part accidental, but was surely given impetus by environmental factors interacting with "samples" of humanity. Inventiveness was driven by competition for resources and to improve upon their use or preservation. And so it remains today.

Weapons with which humankind could bring down game became ever more refined. These same weapons could be used to conquer or defend new territories from their own kind. Many such trends with time can be observed in the fossil records as well as in the written history of humanity.

Securing Food

Homo sapiens were hunter gatherers at first.
  • Nomadic tribes -30,000 to -10,000 CE
  • Dominant for 20 millennia< /li>
  • Survives in Middle East

Advantages were obtained by those who "follow the herds" systematically for both food and shelter.

Enslaving other species multiplied human capital.
  • Animal domestication ~ -10,000 CE to present
  • Dogs, goats, sheep, horses, animal power harnessed
  • Survives world over

Food acquisition and preserving began in earnest.
  • Transhumance -10,000 CE to present
    • Seasonal migration with livestock to uplands and lowlands for example
    • Survives in Lapp Land today
  • Agriculture ~ -10,000 CE to present
  • New specialized tools appear, irrigation develops, procedures become multiples more efficient /li>
  • Prepared genetically-modified foods will become ever more ubiquitous.

Horticulture advanced with dramatic increases in food yield per unit area of land. (And, unfortunately, with dramatic increases in farm-land erosion.)
  • Wild flora and fauna
  • Emmer
  • Bread wheat
  • Maize
  • Corn
  • Hardy hybrids
  • Genetic modifications
  • New species of both flora and fauna will soon become possible.

Developing food technologies enabled political development.
  • Oldest city on earth, Jerico has witnessed the development of agriculture, war, and terror. It is a microcosm of natural and man-made disasters of history, and of experiments in government apace.
  • As city-states grew their governance evolved from tribal leaders into privileged classes through various forms of autocracy to democracy.
  • Radiations of empire were followed by radiatons of independent nations which have yet to run their courses.
  • If left to Evolution, future governance will be driven by survival instincts alone. That does not necessarily bode well for democracy as it is now under serious attack, especially in the US. If humanity can rise above special interest to a pan democracy between and within nations, humanity just might survive.

Now, to look at things in other ways:

Survival Transition

From hunting and gathering, the advent of agriculture and city states advanced the development of weaponry and strategies for improving the safety and welfare of the local citizenry. The following sequence of technical innovation is illustrative.

  • Stone club
  • Spear
  • Bow and arrow
  • Wheel, sickle, plow
  • Metallurgy
  • Paper
  • Printing press
  • Gun powder
  • Optics
  • Steam power
  • Telegraph
  • Harvesting machines
  • Petroleum and organic chemistry
  • Automobile
  • Wireless and television
  • Antibiotics
  • Atomic power
  • Computer
  • Space exploration
  • Internet and digital revolution
  • Gene Splicing

Are gene "creation" and reorganization to modify and create new species in the offing?

From the fight for daily survival 20 millennia ago, humanity is now on the threshold of mastering nature in profound ways. Those advances have not been even. Much of humanity has been left behind, just as Evolution would have it. Political developments in particular have not only lagged but failed to even recognize these eventualities. This goes with the self-importance of humanity as reflected in the extremist's views and multi-faceted conflicts of our times. Self-serving economic policies, sectarian modifications of religion, and conflicts between mythos and logos, are typical expressions of conflict.

Intellectual Transition

  • Hunch, superstition, occult, magic, astrology,
  • Philosophy,
  • Engineering,
  • Science,
  • Technology.

Are New intellectual systems an eventuality?

Religious Transition

  • Superstition, Astrology,
  • Mythology, Paganism,
  • Hinduism,
  • Buddhism,
  • Monotheism,

Can a clean separation of mythos and logos occur?

Political Governance Transition

  • Law of Jungle / Savanna,
  • Tribal Chiefs,
  • Local War Lords,
  • Emperors, Empires, Dictatorships, Kingdoms, Papacies, Caliphates,
  • Democracies within nations.

Can democracies among nations -- save humanity?

Of governance systems today, only the Caliphate is effectively missing, although the cohesiveness it engendered survives throughout most of Islam. Terrorism is in part an attempt to bring the Caliphate back.

Social Governance

  • Family Heads,
  • Tribal Chieftins
  • Prophets,
  • Monarchs,
  • Oligarchs,
  • Plutocrats
  • Bureaucrats,
  • Democrats,

Can pan Democracy for all nations save humaity? Is Democracy even the ultimate form of government? Would not the desire for power and control tear it apart? Critical questions all.

Prophets come and go; the other governance systems are still with us. Two millennia of social development has failed to select the most efficient and beneficial system, though democracy has been gaining ground ever since the Enlightenment.


Social development advanced in step with technological complexity and apparent usefulness. It was not always a smooth road. A famous example was the Inquisition when the Catholic Church tried to stifle all science seemingly at odds with faith. The Reformation and Enlightenment revived and redirected the development of culture in Europe and the Americas. But ultra-conservatism is on the move again today, squelching freedom in motherhood as well as dampening medical research that tinkers with life itself.

Until the 16th century, the Catholic Church viewed itself as the maker of laws and the final arbiter with the state merely the implementor. Not until the American Constitution of 1789 CE did a state form that explicitly regarded faith to be a matter of personal choice while providing legal protections for that choice. The governance of the new nation was strictly divorced from religion. From there, society began liberalizing; the driving force stemmed from freedom of the individual. Slowly, the United States rejected slavery, came to embrace all races and ethnic groups with measures of equality.

If present trends continue, the substantial liberation of humankind should occur in the 21st Century. There are, however, forces afoot in the flagship-of-freedom country to reverse that trend. The ultimate irony is that there are those who would inject religion back into the governance of America, taking away a most-important element of what made the United States great as a nation.

These events are in stark contrast with Islam and the Middle East where reformation has hardly begun.

All versions of governance are still alive and well, though democracy expanded dramatically during the 20th century. Freedom did not come easily to those who have it; slavery, of women and children at least, is still the way of life in too many places.

And it is just these personality and character features Omar Bradley was talking about when he said: "Humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its adolescent morals." He was NOT taking aim at our adolescents, rather; he was recognizing our lack of responsibility in handling the truly dangerous issues, nuclear, religious and otherwise.

We and many others propose that the human personality has deep evolutionary roots that are reflected in today's world. Two roots that impact human history down to our times are the fierceness and herding instincts. Together, these appear to give rise to the Authoritarian Personality.

Moreover, we share our adolescent behaviors with our genetic kin, the Chimpanzee. Chimps not only make and use tools to gather food, they also make and use tools for war! Can they also be deceitful? You bet! What separates us most from the chimps is that we are better at all these things and are able to talk about it.


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