“‘It’s not fair to talk about this in public. This is just too complicating, too — it’s too everything!'”
Stephen S. Hall’s article on technologyreview.com is the latest spur for me to write about our “need” to defend reductivist oversimplification no matter what.
The short story is that this is yet another case in which a vested interest would rather not have its ox gored. We all smile or grimace knowingly and go on with our day.
Why is such behavior tolerated? Why is it that when the most “advanced” people begin to whine like spoiled children we go limp and let them get on with it?
I think it may be because we see ourselves there, “By the Grace of God…” we mumble and just hope someone gives us a pass when it’s our turn.
In this case these are geneticists and they are reacting to findings that inheritance isn’t as simple as they’d wished it to be. The genome isn’t a set of instructions, a simple algorithm that leads to a predestined result, that can be predicted and manipulated at will if you own the shiny equipment paid for by people made ill with the diseases brought on by a culture that puts everything in the world into making shiny equipment.
If we indulged in irony, this would bring on another wry smile or grimace, leading to another short-circuit of whatever mechanism we may have that leads us to refuse to put up with dysfunctional, lazy, and ultimately self-destructive behaviors. Underlying the study of genetics is the premise that over billions of years a complex and nuanced interaction between organisms and their environment has developed to allow for an engagement with actual conditions that are responded to via a complex and nuanced system of redundant, parallel, and mirrored mechanisms. The purpose of this entire apparatus being to keep the project of life from being caught up in derailments like the ones these “advanced” minds are willingly letting themselves fall into.
Everything these “experts” have studied, “discovered” and attempted to patent and own points to the deep imperative of a way of being, life, that has found the only way to continue beyond any short-sighted span of time is to be flexible and allow multiple and even at times contradictory processes to hedge bets and carry out whatever self-correcting changes are possible within the limits of what can be. As experts, they have conditioned themselves to be blind to what the world has to offer and instead behave like burrowing invertebrates on an academic/industrial mudflat.
There are two problems at work – they may be among our predicaments, beyond resolution. Either way they impinge on our efficacy. There is the seduction of “self-interest.” I use quotes because I don’t believe there is any longer a viable rationale for considering extremely short-sighted and highly destructive behaviors as in anyone’s interest. There are no havens left, and there will not be any life-boats or escape pods or “shelters” that will do anyone any good. If there is any doubt on this matter, please set yourself on a crash-course to educate yourself. That would be in your self-interest!
The other problem, syndrome, this example illustrates is the social mechanism that lets so many of the “best and the brightest” continue to foist their own misjudged self-interests on the rest of us while we quietly sit back and accept it.
This is not the most acceptant culture. We wish to legislate the outlawing of weather! Nothing is supposed to get between us and our least considered impulse. Astro-turf enterprises find it easy to recruit willing followers to do their dirty work for them no matter how diametrically opposite that agenda might be to their actual conditions so long as they make noises to defend their “right” to have whatever fantastical opinions and carry out whatever insane behaviors that can be manufactured for them to undertake at a profit to the backers of those astro-turf enterprises in a snake-biting-its-tail ritual of self-destructive nihilism.
If there is anything worth studying I would think this would be it! There are examples, whether apocryphal or documented, of creatures who seem to stand by with whatever motivating impulses they might have at their disposal seemingly turned off while a parasite or predator takes “advantage” of them or slays them outright. Often when we hear these tales we are more angry than sorry for these “victims.” Why can’t they see through their tormentors? They could easily defeat their attackers if only…!
This anger, like all anger, is most useful as a signal that we have stumbled into something we hate about ourselves. This is much easier to see when it’s someone else doing it, take for example,… anything! Look at any expression of hate and anger and it’s easy to see how it is a reflection of self-loathing. It’s harder to do when we are the example, but one of the greatest tools unleashed by humility is the room to allow these conclusions to well up and for us to find ways to deal with their causes instead of running-off half-cocked after the “object” of our contempt.
We are angry at the cuckolded, whether a cuckoo’s victim or our friend, because we hate that same gullibility in ourselves. We hate it and fear it, but again, we rarely put much effort into changing our ways.
This conjunction between similar and mutually reinforcing mechanisms, one of self-deception and the other of a paralysis of will precisely when our will is challenged by something truly destructive on the grandest of scales, may be the epitaph for our kind. It seems to strike the most “advanced” most strongly. The poor, the primitive don’t seem to have much use for these mechanisms. If symptoms of this syndrome appear in their midst they are quickly eradicated. They understand they have no room for such folly. If not, they are close enough to the day-to-day mechanisms of survival that they find such behaviors are naturally culled rather quickly.
Prometheus worshipers, we have so long celebrated the way reducing existence to a set of problems and then turning our mental capacities loose on them with ever increasing force supplied by our harnessing of “fire” and its stored up “fuels,” has taken us out of the realm of externally driven evolution. At least that is what we’d like to believe. This mechanism, whatever it should be called, this combination of blind self-interest and its paralytic acceptance by those in whose midst it is rampant, proves that we are not beyond the powers of that evolution. The folly of thinking such a thing possible might be “unfair” and “complicating, too — …too everything!” for us to accept; but it will reestablish itself no matter what we may wish to the contrary.