The Tragedy of Evolution - The Human Animal Confronts Modern Society
Westport, CT: Praeger, 208 pages. October, 1991
In this examination of problems in the modern world, the author argues that a logical inconsistency in the philosophy of the Enlightenment has caused humans to approach their environment in a way that is inconsistent with their biological background. Human biological and cultural evolution has created a form of suffering that derives in part from Western civilization's simultaneous acceptance and rejection of human variation. Both specialists and the general public assume that evolution is good and desirable, but the author's analysis suggests the opposite: that evolution itself is tragic.
The author discusses deviant and criminal behavior, social conflict, liberalism, and the nature of Western civilization. He holds two axiomatic assumptions: that humans are characterized by "stimulus seeking behavior" accompanied by the manipulatory drive, and that humans are characterized by physical, psychological, and cultural variation. He argues that the tyranny of the majority and the technology we have developed deny human variation, and that the drive to manipulate the environment is the wellspring of modern, sociocultural phenomena.
- stimulus Seeking Behavior and the Manipulatory Drive
- To be a Human Child
- Deviant Behavior
- Conflict in Society
- Human variation
- The Fallacy of Categorical Thinking
- The History of Cultural Evolution
- The Birth and Death of Liberalism
- Evolution as Tragedy
- Selected Bibliography
"[According to the author], evolution is tragic because our technology emerging from the manipulatory drive is now too powerful; human variation and this drive are not compatible; and this incompatibility causes human suffering, which is becoming more intense. And, because human variation is a present source of suffering, efforts to eliminate biological, psychological, and cultural variations accelerate and liberalism is being destroyed by the tyranny of the majority under the ideological tenets of democracy.... The author draws upon current developments in physical anthropology, political and philosophical history, and evolutionary biology to document his thesis.... [His ideas] create a stimulating source for classroom discussion between professional anthropologists and their students.... This volume succeeds in destroying certain myths about human evolution and behavior and offers a clear accounting of the price paid for being a polytypic species." -- Kenneth A. R. Kennedy, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University (American Anthropologist)