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Article :: Human Nature

12. From Ignorance to Civilization

12. From Ignorance to Civilization

Individual man´s overriding goals are first to survive and second to procreate. To achieve these goals, man has some skills. Individual man has strength, intelligence, the ability to choose and tool-making ability. Given that we know individual man´s skills and goals, knowledge of the environment will provide an understanding of the opportunities available and the choices individual man must make to survive. It is assumed is that this man uses his abilities wisely. If not, he and his descendents will not survive to teach these skills and we are discussing an individual who did choose wisely.

Although we cannot reach back in time to early man we can be certain that at some point in time man was without knowledge, tool-making ability, language, co-operation or social organization. We can also be certain that survival and reproduction were very challenging, with many competitors and predators. In other words, it was every man for himself, in a very challenging environment. We can also be certain that the only moral value was to individually survive. It is certain that man´s survival skills are unrealized potential in the absence of socialization and learning from others.

It is therefore obvious what will happen if we fail to teach our children language, cooperation and respect for others, etc. This is the answer to the nature versus nurture question that some would have us believe must have a binary answer, one way or the other, for political purposes. In short, nature determines the possible range of capability for an individual, nurture and choice determines whether and how well that potential is realized. If you do not show someone that language is possible, they will not communicate using language. The same may be said of any human capability, such as cooperation or critical thinking.

Thus, it is accurate to say that a natural, uneducated person must be educated to develop man´s survival skills, which are mostly in the area of interacting with others. Although we can only speculate on untutored man´s early experiences, I assume that the need to survive and random chance decisions leading to successful survival of the individuals making and teaching these skills to others, especially their children is sufficient to explain mankind´s current skills.

12.1 The First Individuals

The following speculation is one possible chain of events in this evolution, to illustrate the principles involved. I claim and prove that survival goals and environmental factors, given man´s abilities must inevitably result in rational choices leading to the discovery and teaching of man´s basic skills of intelligence, communication and co-operation. In other words, mankind is by natural law civilized and not unthinking brutes. The assumption that humans are basically evil brutes, requiring compulsion and control is a key rationalization of the form of civilization that our masters claim is required, where they are master and we, serfs.

To understand the nature and interactions of a group of elements, we must first understand one element, in this case the lone individual. I assume that this individual is equipped with intelligence as previously defined (ability to discern relationship between action and consequence) and compelled by the basic needs to survive and procreate, a common element of all living things. I further assume that the environment contains the necessities of life and predators which consider the individual to be prey. I further assume that this individual has no language, education or cultural influences but does know what to consume and the predators to deal with to survive. In short, this is the first individual to achieve awareness or an individual who managed to survive alone from infancy, an unlikely prospect in a challenging environment.

After finding and consuming sustenance, given the fact that you are considered to be food, the next highest priority is to find defensible shelter. A cave barricaded with brush will do fine. The choice of choosing a fixed location means you must ultimately choose to increase fortifications to be resistant to the strongest combination of predators. In essence, you have chosen to use the environment to provide stability and strength over stealth and changing location. This is the correct survival choice. Choosing a fixed, defensible location gives a survival advantage over depending on the chance of stealth. It also has the advantage of a fixed position and stability from which to observe and think. A safe, stable, predictable environment is a crucial requirement for intelligence. Also, early tool-making choices are made by the survivors who choose to increase fortifications. Those who chose stealth and changing location do not survive in the long run, they are depending on chance.

The necessity of securing sustenance means you must venture forth and risk being preyed on. Should you choose to accumulate sustenance to reduce the number of forays, this makes you a more attractive target worthy of greater effort on the part of predators that have the same appetites, requiring increased fortifications. Given your vulnerability while foraging, it is also imperative that personal defense be taken care of, in addition to having a safe environment. In one lifetime, for an intelligent person, it is possible to progress from sticks and stones to spears and bow and arrow to increase your defensive and offensive range. It is thus possible for one individual to survive and achieve domination over all but the largest predators.

An unavoidable survival choice is to trade risk and effort for sustenance by hunting or foraging using your intelligence. If you are successful, you may have some time left over to observe and think.

In summary, the optimum survival choices for individuals are to use attributes of the environment such as a defensible location, materials for fortification and sticks and stones for offense and defense. The safety and stability these choices provide allows security and time to observe and think, to discover further knowledge. Further, choosing to use raw materials is the first step in tool-making. The second step is altering the materials to make them more suitable such as sharpening a stick.

This is thus the scope of possibility for one individual. You can physically survive so long as you have the capability to secure sustenance and personally defend yourself. It is a pretty limited existence. If you are fast and strong, you may be able to force reproduction on a wandering mate. There is no morality except survival and meeting your needs.

Optimum lone individual survival choices, no morality except personal survival and procreation:

  • Choose to use the environment to your advantage.
  • Choose a defensible location to live in safety, such as a cave.
  • Choose to observe, think and discover knowledge about your environment.
  • Choose to use materials to increase fortification.
  • Choose to use materials to increase offensive/defensive capabilities.
  • Choose to modify materials to make them more suitable for your purposes.
  • Choose to hunt or forage for sustenance.
  • Choose to hunt and force compliance to meet reproductive needs.

Individuals who do not make all of these choices are far less likely to personally survive and procreate. Individuals who do make these choices are able to survive for as long as their health lasts, if they pay attention and make no mistakes. These survival skills are inherited by fellow individuals observing and making the same choices. Note that these choices depend only on the facts that your goals are to survive and procreate, as prey in a hostile environment containing features that may be used to your advantage.

It is therefore a fact that any individual who wants to survive and procreate under natural conditions must make all of the above choices.

12.2 Another Individual Arrives

Again, the exact events must be speculation. What is certain is that early man encountered other individuals and some accommodation had to be reached. What is also clear is that cooperation and communication are two of man´s greatest survival skills.

This first encounter was an inevitable disaster. Another individual with the exact same capabilities and needs as yourself is consuming the sustenance you require, reducing food in the area and making survival more expensive in time and effort. Worse, he appears to be smarter, raiding your cave and food cache before you thought to raid his. This has made life much more complicated by the introduction of a predator who can overcome any possible defense, who learns from your actions, against whom much time and effort must be spent guarding against at the expense of food gathering. A stalemate of sorts is achieved after both realize that attempting to prey on each other leads to conflict and inability to gather sustenance resulting in mutual non-survival. Neither is willing to concede defeat and leave. They tacitly agree to live and let live and stay out of each other´s affairs, allowing them subsistence survival as lone individuals, wary of each other. This is the first natural law between men; to live and let live. Since no external force imposed it, it is a voluntary contract, for mutual self-interest.

Eventually, a predator arrives (a lion, for instance) which is too dangerous for either to handle, posing a mutual threat. Both are aware that, should the other be killed, they are next. Given the mutual trust earned by honoring their live and let live agreement, they agree to co-operate in hunting and killing the predator. They succeed and discover that their combined strength and advantage of cooperation is far greater than their individual strength.

Over the course of time, these two individuals grunt their way into discovering language which allows comparison of observations and opinions and arriving at objective truth. They discover further co-operation by sharing one cave and protection from common predators by each guarding the other during sleep. They have discovered division of labor. The need for foraging decreases since they are able to store and protect their food. They discover they have different plumbing. Life is good.

In conclusion, when two individuals of equal capabilities must share an environment of limited resources, the only valid survival choices are to agree to live and let live and agree to cooperate. Cooperation is a better survival choice since it allows division of labor and greater ability to achieve shared goals. In addition, cooperation creates the opportunity for communication and an increase of objective knowledge. Attempting to prey on each other inevitably leads to mutual non-survival.

If the individuals differ in capabilities, the stronger could choose to prey on or kill the weaker or the weaker could choose to leave. Alternatively, the weaker could choose to submit to the stronger for protection.

Additional best survival choices for two equally capable individuals in an environment of limited resources:

  • Choose to live and let live (respect each others right to exist)
  • Choose to cooperate towards shared goals

Additional best survival choices for the stronger of two individuals in an environment of limited resources:

  • Choose to enslave, drive away or kill the weaker
  • Accept the weaker´s cooperation in exchange for protection

Additional best survival choices for the weaker of two individuals in an environment of limited resources:

  • Choose to cooperate, in exchange for protection
  • Choose to leave

The greatest chance of survival is for those individuals who choose to live and let live and cooperation which reduces conflict, allowing more effort to be used for survival. This leads to division of labor and communication leading to the discovery of objective knowledge, increasing the ability to choose correctly and thus survival. Since, over long periods of time, natural forces cull those who make incorrect survival choices, if man remained organized as pairs of individuals, these individuals would have learned from others that live and let live and cooperation for mutual survival is the best survival choice. Further correct choices (efficiency of meeting goals) would have resulted in this pairing off being between men and women, to meet the shared imperative of procreation. This would naturally lead to the family, the first and most basic social unit of man.

The above leads to a definition of marriage, as old as mankind: "An agreement between a man and a woman to respect each other and cooperate in partnership for mutual survival and possibility of procreation".

Marriage (not subverted by religion or law) is the optimal survival choice for two individuals who happen to be a man and woman, who may optionally wish to procreate. Note that there is no coercion or anyone else´s blessing involved. This relationship is defined by the parties who enter into it and is not subject to external re-definition and predates all law. As a voluntary association, it can be dissolved by either party for any reason. The partnership will remain intact only so long as both parties believe it meets their needs. Gays, clergy, lawyers and governments have much disagreement with this fact. I am not claiming gays should not be allowed to marry, it is a different relationship. Truth and precise knowledge demands a different name.

In conclusion, the optimal survival choices for pairs of individuals are:

  • Choose all individual survival choices except forced procreation
  • Choose to live and let live
  • Choose to cooperate
  • Choose to partner with a member of the opposite sex

12.3 A Tribe is Born

As the area is depleted of easy forage, individuals must range further and discover other individuals and groups. The same dynamics of competition for resources results in the same choices and relationship evolution among the intelligent in favor of live and let live, co-operation and division of labor. Individuals form larger groups to trade conflict for cooperation. Given the efficiency of this organization, tribal wealth increases to the point that basic survival is not threatened.

Some tribe members start claiming that their role in the cooperative division of labor is deserving of special consideration and argue that without them, tribal survival is not possible. Others argue that there is enough food and they should not have to work. The intelligent, as usual are ignored. This dispute splits the tribe into warring factions. The conflict ends with universal impoverishment and the rediscovery of common interest since conflict leads to universal non-survival.

At the same time, for the same reasons, other tribes were formed. The stored wealth and food of other tribes appears to be easy pickings and inter-tribal warfare occurs, once again resulting in universal impoverishment. The lessons of live and let live and cooperation are ultimately learned to also apply between tribes. Tribes learn to cooperate in the area of common interest to become civilizations. Civilizations have yet to learn to act in common interest.

<< 11. Factors Affecting Mankind's Survival Choices 13. The Purpose and Nature of Civilization >>
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