A blupete Essay

The Evolution of Man, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"On The Nature Of Man"

"Fully to understand human conduct as a whole, we must study it as part of that larger whole ..."1 What is the accepted theory as to how the larger whole, the universe, has come about. First, there was the big bang: and from that, things evolved. The scientific question is settled: over millions of years, exposed to the great forces of nature (Nature vis maximna), man, as a natural phenomenon, just as animals and plants, has evolved (through time and random chance) into what he is today. Man, in the larger picture, has but just come down from the trees.

"The hunting and the fighting instinct continue in many manifestations. They both support the emotion of anger; they combine in the fascination which stories of atrocities have for most minds ... the pleasure of disinterested cruelty has been thought a paradox and writers have sought to show that is no primitive attribute of our nature, but rather a resultant of the subtile or other less malignant elements of mind. This is a hopeless task. If evolution and the survival of the fittest be true at all, the destruction of prey and of human rivals must have been among the most important. ... It is just because human bloodthirstiness is such a primitive part of us that it is so hard to eradicate, especially when a fight or a hunt is promised as part of the fun."2
While the nature of man undoubtedly has evolved, it has done so over a vast expanse of time. History, the record of past events, is, in evolutionary terms, a relatively recent phenomena; and so, while history has much to tell about the nature of man - from history one will observe that man has little changed in the last twenty-five hundred years.

"But how far has human nature changed in the course of history? Theoretically there must have been some change; natural selection has presumably operated upon psychological as well as upon physiological variations. Nevertheless, known history shows little alteration in the conduct of mankind. The Greeks of Plato's time behaved very much like the English. Means and instrumentalities change; motives and ends remain the same: to act or rest, to acquire or give, to fight or retreat, to seek association or privacy, to mate or reject, to offer or resent parental care. Nor does human nature alter as between classes: by and large the poor have the same impulses as the rich, with only less opportunity or skill to implement them. Nothing is clearer in history than the adoption by successful rebels of the methods they were accustomed to condemn in the forces they deposed." (Will and Ariel Durant.)
So, in the course of millions of years man has unfolded from nature; he is a part of nature. In his natural progressive course man has picked up evolutionary staging which might well yet take millions of years to be thrown off. (For example, Xenophobia, the fear of things strange, undoubtedly played a significant role in man's evolutionary development; but, like so many pieces of our metamorphic baggage, it, just as undoubtedly, causes much difficulty in an "advanced civilization," where modern transportation can so easily put strangers in our midst.)


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[Essays, First Series]
[Essays, Second Series]
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Peter Landry

2011 (2019)