3.7 Moral Laws Within-Groups and the Fallacy of Universalization


Having looked at the logical inferences concerning within-group and between-group moral injunctions that follow from acceptance of the primary goal of assisting human evolution, it is appropriate next to glance at the problem of their reconciliation or integration. To the Beyondist there is no problem of reconciling them, for they have been reached with internal consistency from a single premise. They are, nevertheless, different, not simply analogous or isomorphous, just as would be expected when the scientist applies the same laws of molecular behavior to, say, matter in gaseous, liquid and solid states, issuing in different descriptive laws for the three states.

But in the history of religious thought a misconception grew up in this area. It cannot be justified by logic though it can be explained by human nature. From all that anthropology can tell us, moral values of cooperativeness, restraint on mutual aggression, and the idealization of altruism grew up within small competing groups of tribes and families. For a very long time those injunctions never went beyond the boundaries of the individual's own tribe. The was no "universalization" and, for that matter, little explicit verbalization of such loyalties that could have tempted anyone to generalize and codify. Obviously there is no ground at all for supposing that what we may call basic community morality sprang into being resplendent and complete, by the grand insight of a Moses, provided in every human tribe that lived in the last half-million years. These rules against murder, theft, incest, etc., must have grown gradually, by cultural natural selection, with some accompanying development of sensitivities of conscience in the better surviving tribes, and have become coded far, far later in history.

Altruism and a regard for group values must unquestionably be considered an outcome of group natural selection at least as regards anything beyond the care of an animal mother for her cubs. We shall not repeat in detail the evidences of such writers as Comte (1905), Haeckel (1929), Spencer (1892), and (more recently) Ardrey (1970) and Hardin (1964), presented in their different ways but pointing to one conclusion: that the goal of group survival would require and lead to the development of those same altruistic ethics as have been stated in the Decalogue and in such great universalistic revealed religions as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and so on. Groups survive to the extent that men love their neighbor as themselves, respect the rights of others, and are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the group.

It was a serious emotionally generated intellectual misunderstanding of Victorian times (which Nietzsche, despite his detestation of bourgeois values, ironically shared and propagated) that the Darwinian discovery of natural selection meant a return to the idols of the jungle and "nature red in tooth and claw" (as, for example, Tennyson expressed it). Some misunderstandings of this kind persist to the present day. Dobzhansky (1962), for example, and many others with a professional training in biology, that one would expect to aid their imaginations in overcoming popular prejudice, often come up with Judas denials of Spencer's "Social Darwinism" and when Dobzhansky says "A devastating critique of evolutionary ethics was given by T. H. Huxley in his famous Romanes lecture in 1893." I look in vain therein for any such devastating or even cogent argument as is stated, and find only the fervor of a man unable to separate his reason from his emotions, but this is at least better than some who seem unable to follow reason for fear of losing social approval.

Mostly the critics have in any case set up for burning in effigy a straw man which represents a complete travesty of the more subtle ideas of Beyondism, and even of the ideas of Herbert Spencer a hundred years ago. The basis for altruism is already genetically shaped in the social animals, as Lorenz (1966) abundantly demonstrates, but our argument here is for a more special development connected with the far greater advances in culture in the primates and especially man.

So long as priority in natural selection is given to selection by groups instead of individuals, as it has operated for at least half a million years with man, the characteristics which are heightened culturally and genetically are those of cooperation, unselfishness, and willingness to sacrifice for others. Parenthetically, the special further point must be considered later that progress in this direction has gone further culturally than it has genetically. The substantial lag that exists between the moral standards enshrined in culture and the genetic nature of man constitutes his special problem of "sin." But even the genetic part is far advanced in the primates and man compared to the repertoire of responses of the lonehunting predatory animals.

Without laboring this essential point let us in summary recognize that when differences among groups with respect to population intelligence level, size, resources, etc., are duly allowed for, the group with the greatest prospect of success is that whose members show the least selfishness. Without amplifying further, and admitting as above that other resources play a part, we must conclude that survival goes to these populations whose lives are given more freely to super-personal and community service. They are those whose emotional impulses do not run excessively to uncontrolled sexual-sensual and aggressive gratification, and who show neighborly altruism and cooperation in the best sense. It is no accident that morale and morality have the same root; for correlational research across national cultures shows that individual moral levels and group morale levels are closely bound (Cattell and Gorsuch, 1965). Of all factors contributing to group survival, preventing cultural breakdown, and avoiding dissolution into scattered primitive brutishness, that morale which goes with the virtues of unselfishness, considerateness, honesty, loyalty and love of one's neighbor is probably the most important.

The high coincidence of the ethical value systems of the various revealed religious sects and organizations with those which would be derived for within-group inter-individual morals purely for the purpose of ensuring group survival is striking. Many of the injunctions such as the Jewish ban on pig meat, the totemic ban on inbreeding, the "Puritanical" ban (actually far older than the Puritans) on free sexual expression would be unlikely to be reached by logical insight. Despite the complexity of many of these rules, half a million years of human group trial and error, of variation and selection by family, tribal and national groups, is surely a reasonable period in which to expect such complex creations to appear. Inspiration and "revelation" may have come either as a more conscious part of the trial and error or as a satisfying rationalization afterwards. But we do well to remember, as we dismiss the claim of revealed religion to a different kind of truth, that in fact, it has the pragmatic truth of a crude "social scientific research."

The problem that the social scientist faces today in attempting to develop Beyondist inter-group behavior moral values with maximum precision and objectivity is that history in the last two-thousand years took the gift of pre-history from a million years and turned it, in the immaturity of conscious thought, into a perversion. The revealed religions were not content to stop at the point where they had appropriately developed within-group values. Instead they experienced a natural imperialistic urge to become universalistic. Ethics having evolved naturalistically and realistically, was next exploited rationally. Rationalism short-sighted as usual took the view that what worked within a group should work with all men. All men are brothers, said the great religions, and should drop their special vaue systems and group loyalties in favor of a universal citizenship. (Of course it was implied that citizenship was in the values of the particular religious cult concerned!) Thus ultimately it became rational for Christianity, and, especially, Mohammedanism and Judaism, to put outsiders obstinate infidels to the sword in the name of universal brotherhood. Psychologically, we need nothing to explain this but the emotional imperialism which naturally grows in any intellectual system and in physical groups that plus the gain in status satisfactions of priests and others which universalism gives. The familiar battles between church and state (from medieval Rome to Henry VIII and beyond) and church and class loyalties (in Marxism and Fascism) followed. Actually, the common sense and intuition of the intelligent man break through what he is taught in doctrinaire universalistic religions, and he patriotically reacts to the invading fellow Christian soldier of another country by denying the universalistic injunction "Thou shalt not kill."

Anthropologists, historians and psychologists (McDougall, 1934, among the latter, has given us the most penetrating dynamic discussion) have tended to conceptualize the difference of value systems we are here discussing in religious group terms by distinguishing "nationalist" religions, such as Shintoism, Judaism of old, and countless patriotic organizational developments since the Renaissance, from "universalistic" religions such as Christianity, Jainism, Mohammedanism (and perhaps, one might add, modern Humanism). But there seems to be no thorough empirical historico-psychological study (Freud's Totem and Taboo being slender and incomplete) of what actually happened in the historical development of the latter from the former. For example, we know little about the conflicts and compromises that must have arisen at the dawn of history in terms of the natural attempt to extend within-group to between-group behavior. Nor has any detailed study been made of the various factors psychological (as above), economic and historical that would favor or inhibit the spread.

Regardless of mode of development, the universalistic religious expansion must unquestionably be regarded as a "heresy" from a Beyondist standpoint. It is a gross oversimplification. There is a brotherhood of man and a great common endeavor; but it is not one that can have any useful function if it denies the importance of cultural and racial differences. In fact, when given its proper expression, it requires that all men cooperate to sustain and produce such differences, and give their lives to testing their validities.

There is in Beyondism a common glory of evolutionary endeavor, toward the wonder of a spiritual understanding beyond anything we now possess. Beyondism contrasts with the universalist religions, however, in agreeing to diverge in all values but this fundamental agreement to join in evolutionary movement. It expects men to adventure and explore in distinct genetic and cultural communities. Indeed, it asks them to stake their lives and their happiness on the divergencies, i.e., to stand or fall with the success or failure of their own guess at the future. And in periods of history where men are overstressed and lose control in fact in war it still calls upon the moral man, in the words of Newbolt (1908):

"To set the cause above renown
To love the game beyond the prize.
To honour, while you strike him down
The foe that comes with fearless eyes."
For in this great game all are in the end struck down men, cultures and races but out of their endeavor comes the ever more comprehending future. The fact that all are superseded that individual failure and supra-individual success are built into the system calls for the emotional consolation which only a development beyond present religious values can give. As often as not it will be the fate of any man, culture or race to be anvil and not hammer in this creation of the future. These lost cultures and races are the wrecked vessels which succeeded in warning the exploring fleet of human cultures where the shoals were thickest. Perhaps, even the "barbarians" outside the wall, who, in ignorance or arrogance, do not share the universalist vision of Beyondism, also contribute.

Like any world view, a Beyondist moral system requires a world organization, and this development, appropriate to the more intricate relations among groups which replaces the false universalism of revealed religions, is discussed in Chapter 9. For clearly a Beyondist ethic has a positive constructive task to perform in the creation of culturo-genetic experiments and does not aim, as do universalistic religions, at one flat, grey, featureless homogeneity of domesticated humanity. For, to use the useful term of the physicist, such an end point in human homogeneity could be nothing but the running down of a spiritual energy in a final sump of entropy. Rejecting this Ghandian paradise of ultimate erosion to uniformity, Beyondism at the same time rejects at the opposite extreme of method one world obtained by conquest the single political power aimed at by an Alexander, a Ghengis Khan, a Napoleon or a militant Communist group. The variety of independent, federated groups is the goal of Beyondism.

Central in world experiment must be a non-coercive scientific research organization. It will need the finest brains that science can produce, to plan penetrating comparative studies among the cooperating, competitive, divergent groups. It will be a deep well of exact information for all those groups who come to avail themselves of it in their own social planning. Nevertheless, let us not imagine that the reality of power will vanish. Planning is needed to avoid single, world dominating conquest, but force is a fact of nature, and it must be incorporated in what is perhaps inadequately described as a federated police force. In some moment of imbalance forceful domination will be attempted, by criminal or madman, and then, as Kipling described the inevitable (1940):
"Once more the nations go
To meet, and break, and bind
A crazed and driven foe."
And so a center of research and knowledge can no more be left unprotected in a world of possible anarchy and violence than the human brain can be left without a skull. This acceptance of checks and balances on sovereignty does not mean acceptance of world monopoly, and subtle analyses remain to be made (along the lines which Chamberlin (1948) has explored for other types of monopoly) as to what the balances should ideally be. Although some foreshadowings of a successful organization of diverse sub-groups exist in the internal organization of, for example, the U.S.A., Britain and the U.S.S.R., and, on more questionable principles in the United Nations, the necessary model and machinery is a new emergent, yet to be invented by social science. Such purely static, preventive political control as the United Nations as achieved now needs to be informed by the positive evolutionary aims of a Beyondist inter-group morality.















Back to Table of Contents