Karl Marx’s big mistake about human nature

The_Soviet_Union_1968_CPA_3627_stamp_(Karl_Marx)(Read it here in Spanish)

Australian philosopher Peter Singer, main exponent of a transhumanist ethics with books such as Animal Liberation and Practical Ethics, gets it right in his recent article Is Marx still relevant? (coinciding with 200th birthday anniversary of German thinker): The biggest mistake of marxism was a false view of human nature, blaming capitalist system for our vices and believing that some day, with socialism and the advent of a communist society with no classes, a new man free from greed, selfishness, lust for power, and desire of ostentation would be born. Because the fabric men and women are made of is the same, whether under slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or socialism. And communist utopia is as much absurd as unreachable.

In denying human nature we will bump again and again into reality and end up frustrated, seeing that scourges such as sexist violence, organized crime, bullying, or child abuse will never be eradicated. Of course, we have come a long way in this regard, specially in most developed countries, but only with the most childish naivety or out of ignorance about how we really are (partly by estimating that science is not applicable to the study of human behavior) we can come to believe that one day there will be no abuse, rape, murder (sexist or not) or any other barbaric act. And no need of police or prisons, as in leftists’ dreams.

Let us agree once and for all that there will always be psychopaths, sadistic, and evil people among us. And also, fortunately, good and compassionate ones. We are cooperative, but also predators. It’s human variability, for the best and the worst! No matter how good education and laws we lay on the grill, the worst of our nature will never be deleted; if anything, it can be minimized, as in most civilized societies (that’s why I’m afraid that in Spain the number of women murdered by their partners will never be lower than 40 or 50; in places such as Africa, Latin America, India, and the Islamic world, where the situation is much worse, there is a considerably wider margin of improvement).

Not even social engineering can alter the stuff we have been made of by evolution. As long as we remain Sapiens, our motives, impulses, fears, and desires will be the same (taking into account, of course, variability in behaviour). During Cold War, East Germans were not essentially different to West Germans. And nowadays Russians are not substantially different from those of 1960 or 1915. The human movie is always the same, with only minor adaptations in the script, despite cultural changes. Although, as Steven Pinker insists on remarking, humanity has never been better off: there is an undeniable progress, attributable to the strengthening of democracy (lately threatened by a national-populist wave), the growing interdependence between countries and the spread of education and cosmopolitanism.

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“A dangerous idea”, a crude negationist pamphlet

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(Read it here in Spanish)

A few days ago, La 2 of Televisión Española (TVE) aired the documentary “A dangerous idea”, dubbed in Spanish under the title “Cuestión de genes” (you can see it here in Spanish until 24th May). This is a pamphlet intended to convince us that genes neither determine our traits nor have too much importance. And also to discredit scientists of the standing of James Watson (Nobel Prize in 1953, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA), Edward O. Wilson (father of Sociobiology), Richard Dawkins (author of The Selfish Gene) and even indirectly the very same Charles Darwin, establishing links between their findings and repugnant things such as racial supremacism, forced sterilizations or eugenic delusions. As if the Nazis had invented natural selection and genes! The documentary aims to sell the idea that heritability of intelligence or differences between men and women are “ridiculous”, that gender is a social construct without a biological basis (penises, testicles, and vaginas would have little to say about it), that molecular biology has become a dangerous religion with prophets who are blindly followed… Continue reading ““A dangerous idea”, a crude negationist pamphlet”

Humans are to blame, not Europeans

Franklin_and_Armfield_slave_prison_Alexandria_Virginia_1836
Slave prison in Alexandria, Virginia, ca. 1836 (from Wikipedia)

(in response to Robbie Shilliam. You can read complete interaction with him)

I agree with you, Robbie, that there is a kind of European citizen “ensconced in his/her own culture, taking his/her particulars for mystical universals, and unable to look at him/herself in the mirror”. Indeed, I do know quiet a few! But change “a kind of European” for “a kind of African”, “a kind of Asian” or “a kind of American” and you would also be right. What I mean is that this is a human (not a European) feature. All humans are basically the same: exactly the same hardware, with only cultural software making the difference (and not that big!).

You seem to put the blame only on Europe. Take into account that European or Western cultural stance must somehow be different because since 1492 Europe (namely, the West) has been calling the shots in the world and, obviously, views and collective imageries cannot be the same: it’s absurd to expect slave owners/colonialists (and their descendants) and slaves/colonized (and their descendants) to share the same ideological and cultural imagery. Those narratives from both sides have been passing on through generations (memory of slavery and colonization is not that old: southern USA was an apartheid regime until mid sixties!). Indeed, there is a dominant, conceited and dismissive Western cultural “sensibility” (nurtured by its very own “success” and hegemony, not very different –I suppose- to that of old Incas, Romans, Persians or Arabs), but at the same time there is a strong self-critical one (born in the political left, out of a feeling of guilt for the crimes comitted by forefathers). Continue reading “Humans are to blame, not Europeans”