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It's OK to Believe in Both Creation and Evolution
by Digbye Doran
This book is now in print. [more info]
Chapter 7 An Endangered Species, Us!
Having discussed our evolutionary past in Chapter Six, we now take a hard look at our present situation. In this chapter we consider: (1) the present fitness of the human species, (2) whether we are doing a good job of maintaining our fitness, and (3) what forces may be threatening us.
We hear a lot about endangered species. Any good evolution scientist tells us that all species are endangered. That includes the human species.
A mechanism sometimes described as, the survival of the fittest is inherent to the evolution process. A species, to survive, must not only be fit presently, but must also adapt as new threats come along.
In the sections that follow we will consider: (7.1) threats from ourselves, (7.2) threats from smaller life forms, (7.3) natural calamities, and (7.4) the loss of our survival instincts.
Sadly, we must admit that we threaten ourselves. (The section title comes from “Pogo” by Walt Kelly.)
An enormous danger lies in stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and in chemical and biological weapons as well. Many scientists believe that we would not have to detonate many nuclear devices before the resulting environmental disaster would kill everyone and everything on the planet.
Obviously we do not want to find out whether that is true. Biological and chemical weapons could also reduce the world's population but total extinction from them is far less likely.
The commonly suggested defenses against the nuclear threat include: (1) balance of power (or balance of terror), (2) arms limitation treaties with inspection, (3) preemptive strikes against the nuclear capability of nations with rogue leaders, and (4) effective world government.
Solutions (1) and (2), so far, have worked. Solution (3) may yet be necessary. Not many people put faith in solution (4).
Leaving the weapons threats mostly unanswered, we ponder next whether industrialization poses environmental threats to our existence as a species. This leads to controversial issues; let us look at some of them.
One is ozone layer depletion. The ozone layer removes most of the sun's ultraviolet rays before they reach the surface of the Earth. The layer protects many living things, and fair skinned humans in particular. Ultraviolet radiation is one factor in skin cancer.
According to theory, chlorine and fluorine compounds escape into the air from automobile air conditioners and other refrigeration devices. They drift high into the atmosphere and cause the ozone to break down, making the ozone layer less effective.
However, ozone depletion does not threaten our existence. It does threaten to shorten the life span of some individuals. Therefore, it is a problem of reasonable urgency.
Another concern is acid rain. Acid rain is caused by sulfur in coal and crude oil. When the fuels burn, the sulfur combines with oxygen to produce oxides of sulfur. Rain cleanses the oxides from the atmosphere and converts them to acid. The acid then contacts everything that the rain contacts.
Acid rain does not threaten our existence, but it threatens many things of natural beauty and great works of human art and architecture. Present and future technology provide solutions. They include the use of low sulfur fuels and removing the sulfur from the rest.
Our discussion inevitably takes us to global warming. Global warming is a perceived consequence of human industrialization. When we burn fossil fuels, we produce two principal products, water vapor and carbon dioxide. Water is obviously not a pollutant, so some people turn a suspicious eye on the carbon dioxide.
They point out that carbon dioxide converts some of the sun's radiation into heat. This is the greenhouse effect. Some fear that the Earth will overheat and that the polar ice caps will melt. They conclude that the burning of fossil fuels must stop or, at least, greatly diminish.
Frankly, the author is not losing much sleep over global warming and believes that many of the global warming people have hidden agenda. Shortly we will discuss those agenda.
First, let us sound a positive note. Many suggestions advanced by this group make sense for reasons other than global warming. (It is seldom that a cause is all good or all bad.)
For instance, fossil fuels are a limited natural resource. They are valuable as industrial feed stocks. Burning them, is wasting them. Feed stocks are necessary in the manufacture of plastics and synthetic fibers.
Efficiency is another reason to conserve fuels. Efficiency is its own reward in the economic world.
For the sake of discussion let us list nine proposals to conserve fossil assets and reduce carbon dioxide emissions:
(2) mass transit,
(4) passive heating and cooling of buildings,
(5) solar energy,
(6) wind energy,
(7) geothermal energy,
(8) recycling of plastics and paper (instead of burning them), and
(9) nuclear energy.
Presently we employ all these measures, but only to a fraction of their potential. They reduce the quantities of fuels burned and therefore the quantity of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
The global warming community, however, does not promote all approaches. Many of them do not endorse nuclear energy. It releases absolutely no carbon dioxide, but it violates their hidden agenda.
Again we postpone the agenda until we ponder why one should lose no sleep over the prospect of global warming. One reason is that there are so many ways that we can reduce it, as the table above illustrates.
Section 2.4 promised another reason. A scientific principle comes into play when a stress is applied to the near equilibrium of the Earth's biosphere. The Principle of La Chatelier states that the equilibrium will shift in the direction that offsets the stress.
The Principle of La Chatelier provides answers to many questions that relate to the increased presence of carbon dioxide:
(1) Will there be
increased evaporation from the seas?
(2) Will there be more rain?
(3) Will the average cloud cover increase?
(4) Will there be less ice near the poles?
(5) Will more carbonates form in the seas?
(6) At night, will the Earth's radiation heat loss mechanism (that depends on the fourth power of temperature) compensate, in part, for the increased heating in the daytime?
(7) Will additional plant growth be stimulated?
The principle predicts that the answer to these questions is, yes. The above processes (and others) will proceed in the direction that offsets the stress of increased carbon dioxide.
(It must be admitted that none will totally compensate for it. To fully compensate, or to overcompensate, violates the laws of equilibrium, just as would its going in the wrong direction and exacerbating the stress. What we do have are all kinds of processes working in our favor.)
Thus, the Earth defends itself against adverse change. This is also the conclusion of the Gaia Hypothesis, which is briefly described in the Glossary. (The author neither defends nor denounces Gaia.)
Let us ponder the impetus to plant growth (item (7) above). No one has conclusively established that carbon dioxide threatens our survival or well-being; but all must agree that carbon dioxide is plant food.
Water, carbon dioxide and sunlight are the principal components that drive the growth of plants in the process called photosynthesis. Members of the global warming community should refer to carbon dioxide as plant food (instead of greenhouse gas :-).
Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide will enhance plant growth where it now occurs and may even initiate growth where it presently does not occur. (The Greening Earth Society explores this theme more fully.)
Another process working in our favor is the carbon we are returning to the ground at public landfills. It is only a small amount compared to what we take out of the ground now, but it is increasing at an accelerating rate.
The reader at this point may have two questions. (1) Why does the author believe that the nine proposals listed in Section 7.1.2 support industry and technology? (2) Conversely, why do the global warming people regard the same measures to be restrictions on industry and technology?
(Let us remember that there is no agreement on nuclear energy. And some might prefer that the automobile go away, instead of merely becoming more efficient. That still leaves seven listed proposals on which to agree and perhaps some that are not listed.)
The answer to the question is that we differ in perspective and timing. The global warming people think that to put limits on industry and technology is to deter it. They forget the old saying that necessity is the mother of invention.
As far as timing goes, the global warming people want everything to be in place yesterday. Granting them instant gratification is neither practical nor necessary. However, progress on corrective measures can, and should, continue.
The long term credibility of the global warming community depends on which they find more important, their science or their agenda. Let us look now at those agenda.
The author's opinion is that many wish to stifle human industry and growth. Why, we may ask, would they want to do that? It is because they want to stifle the human race itself. Again, why?
It is because they regard humans as the "bad guys" of evolution. They want the human presence on this planet to diminish because of our impact on other life and on the environment.
However, to consider us, the bad guys of evolution, is evolution religion, not evolution science. Evolution science says nothing about good guys or bad guys; it only observes that there are survivors and non survivors.
The religion of evolution reasons that because we have the same origin as every other species, then we are, at best, no better than any other species. Furthermore, they build a case that we are worse, and some would say the worst thing that ever happened to the planet. This obviously conflicts with scripture based religion where God gives us a special place in the world, and dominion over the other species.
We have just uncovered the Second Precept of Evolution Religion. (The First Precept appeared in Section 1.1).
The Second Precept of Evolution Religion: Our common evolutionary roots tell us that humans are no better than any other species (and they are arguably worse).
The Second Precept is embraced by some (but not all) preservationists, some (but not all) animal rights activists, some (but not all) who believe evolution theory, and by many who decry global warming.
The author suggests that the Second Precept is false, not just because it conflicts with the scriptures, but also because it conflicts with evolution science.
We have a right to be here. If that right did not come from a creator, then that right comes from evolution! One way or another, we belong.
Do we have dominion over the animals? Again the answer is yes. If a creator did not give us dominion, then we have it because we are superior products of evolution.
(Some would continue to insist that there is such thing as a superior species because no species has a guarantee of survival. That part is true, but in many other respects we are superior. For instance, we can profoundly analyze our life circumstances, and, for better or worse, we can influence our long-range destiny.)
We can summarize this section as follows: We are here, and we will be here, until either the Creator draws the final curtain, or until we are no longer fit to survive.
Evolution science and scriptural religion are more compatible with each other, than either topic is with evolution religion. If a creator gave us the gift of dominion over the animals, then it would be disrespectful to wantonly destroy such a gift.
So there is more room for agreement than first appears. However, both the preservation of, and the disregard for, other species can be carried to extremes.
Thousands of people are working to eradicate HIV, the AIDS virus. Nobody is protesting the wanton attack some pharmaceutical companies are making on the athlete's foot fungus. Then there are the cockroach, the fire ant, and the tsetse fly. These species are incredibly fit for survival, but would anyone protest if they went away?
Therefore, we may seriously ask whether all species are worth saving. Even the preservationists, in rare instances (perhaps including the above examples) might say no.
Conversely everyone would agree that we should not only protect species that are beneficial to ourselves, but also those that have a majesty of their own, (such as elephants, whales, and multitudes of other species). Beyond that we have to decide where to draw the line.
For instance, the author believes it makes no sense to sacrifice California agriculture to the delta smelt. (See "delta smelt" in the Glossary) This is promoted by some, including some residents of San Francisco, who have the strangest religion of all. They believe that food is created at the grocery store.
The notion of preservation has a subtle flaw. With or without the human presence, things are always changing. We see continual change in cosmological, geological, and biological processes. No matter what we do, or what we do not do, we cannot decide how things should be, and realistically expect them to stay that way. Therefore, preservation is an anti evolutionary concept!
Obviously, large animals do not threatened the human species. How about smaller species? Let us consider rodents, insects, and microscopic organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
Rodents and other small animals are a concern because of their voracious appetites and reproductive prowess. The threat is manageable in principle but sometimes they win.
There was the famous rabbit fiasco in Australia. Someone let rabbits (which are not native to Australia) loose in the wild. To this day they reduce the forage for cattle, sheep and wild life. However, rodents and rabbits do not really threaten the existence of the human species.
Things get more serious when we turn to insects. There is scarcely a crop that insects do not threaten. The twentieth century approach to insect management was to apply insecticides.
There is a school of thought which concludes that, while insects themselves do not threaten us with extinction, our use of insecticides may bring it about. They say that insecticides threaten our health and the health of other species upon which we depend.
An opposing school of thought claims that insecticides are perfectly safe. The truth is probably somewhere between the two extreme viewpoints.
Nonetheless, it is obvious that alternatives to insecticides are desirable. A list of solutions includes introducing the natural enemies of culprit insects and the genetic engineering of more resistant plants.
We will leave insects as a matter of considerable concern. Add to this concern, the fact that insects are adapting to insecticides and are evolving into more resistant strains.
This brings us to microscopic threats. Do bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms threaten our species? We had better believe it!
During the 1300s, one quarter, or more, of the population of Europe died from the so-called, Black Death. Rats passed plague germs to humans by way of fleas. Note that three different small life forms participated.
The plague spread so fast that victims were often left unburied, and the plague passed back to the rats that fed on the bodies. The cycle was not broken until people realized they had to build huge fires and burn the bodies to ashes.
" . . . ashes, ashes, we all fall dead!" (Lyrics from a children's song purported to date back to the Bubonic Plague.)
Microorganisms and humans are engaged in a warlike struggle. (Other species also participate in such struggles, but perhaps no species is more vulnerable than ours.)
First the microorganisms adapt to human defenses and an epidemic begins. Then the humans adapt by developing new antibodies, discovering new antibiotics, or by losing those individuals that are least resistant to the disease.
In the last case, a population of greater resistance remains. And the battle goes back and forth.
This introduces a thought that the author finds very scary. Perhaps there is a debt that we must pay just to break even with harmful microorganisms. What is this debt? It is not money; it is some of our children!
We can view the debt in the light of antibiotics and vaccines. Many people believe that because of antibiotics, we are winning the war against disease.
However, there are two fallacies here. First, antibiotics are not effective against viruses; secondly, antibiotics are becoming less effective against their principal target, bacteria.
There is a reason that they are they becoming less effective. Bacteria are adapting to them. No one should doubt that there is ongoing evolution in the world of microorganisms.
Microorganisms may eventually overcome our defenses. If so, much accumulated debt may become due! Obviously, we need more medical research, and meanwhile, we need to develop new antibiotics.
Modern medicine has also given us vaccines. The principle of a vaccine is simple. A person is exposed to a weakened agent of a disease. The body then builds its own resistance against the disease. However, there is one drawback that requires our attention.
Vaccinated parents do not pass the resistance on to their children. Therefore, every generation needs its own vaccinations against an ever growing list of diseases for which we have developed vaccines.
So we find ourselves locked in; vaccinations must continue from now to oblivion. This illustrates how hard we have to fight to overcome our vulnerability to microorganisms.
No consideration of threats from microorganisms is complete without discussing the AIDS epidemic. Here, the author talks about AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, this may lead to objections.
On one side, some say that AIDS is a disease of homosexuality; but that is not correct. That community was at risk more because of promiscuity, than because of their homosexuality. Anyone who believes that AIDS is strictly a homosexual disease may be in for a nasty surprise.
On the other hand, many point out that there are ways other than promiscuity to contact AIDS, and that is absolutely true. Let us look at the ways.
Non sexual transmissions occur when intravenous drug users share their needles. However, many support their habit through prostitution. Therefore, AIDS enters and leaves the community as a sexually transmitted disease although it moves around inside the community by shared needles.
The transmission of AIDS has also occurred through the blood supply. Hemophiliacs are especially vulnerable. However, hemophiliacs do not donate blood to each other. The contaminated blood is more likely donated by persons who contacted AIDS as a sexually transmitted disease.
(The blood supply was a greater risk before people realized there was an epidemic. Since then, laboratory testing and the screening of donors have greatly reduced the risk.)
So it is may be as much as 90 percent accurate to call AIDS an STD. The point is, if we could halt its spread as a sexually transmitted disease, the other mechanisms of transmission become more manageable.
Humans in modern times are incredibly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases. First, the virus, or other microorganism, gets a free ride from one host to another, without its having to leave the host environment for even a single instant.
Secondly, in the twentieth century, promiscuity levels greatly surpassed those of the previous centuries. Thirdly, we now have enormous mobility. It is possible, in theory, for a person to have sexual contacts on six different continents with six different partners within a period of six days.
Today, a promiscuous person is in sexual communion with every other promiscuous person on the Earth. Furthermore, because bisexuals exist, we cannot justify dividing that communion into homosexual and heterosexual parts. Are diseases merely thriving in this communion or are they fostering newer and better strains?
A cure for AIDS, or at least a vaccine for the HIV, is a high priority for the human race. This is true even for those who do not belong to the sexual communion just described.
Because of the evolution of microorganisms, we are all threatened. Maybe not on this very day because the HIV is quite fragile outside its host environment. Research people say that we need not fear casual contact with HIV positive people.
What they cannot promise is that the HIV will always be as fragile in the future. Nor can they promise that some presently benign disease, transmitted by a less fragile microorganism, will not someday become a threat to our lives and health. To deny these possibilities is to deny the evolution of microorganisms.
Even if we get a cure or a vaccine, AIDS may not go away. If the history of syphilis is any indication, it will not.
In former times, syphilis was nearly as fearsome as AIDS. It took years to reach its final stage and it was often accompanied by insanity. Dozens of historical figures purportedly died of syphilis, as did multitudes of not so famous people.
In the twentieth century, two great weapons against syphilis came along, antibiotics and condoms. Antibiotics could cure the disease and condoms could prevent its spread. So syphilis should have disappeared. Unfortunately this did not happen.
The problem was that people no longer feared syphilis and other STDs. This is undoubtedly one reason that promiscuity levels increased in the twentieth century. Prevention and the urgency of treatment were no longer matters of great concern.
Some people say that AIDS is a punishment sent by God. The author does not know anyone who speaks directly to God and suspects that such statements are based on self righteousness. However. perhaps one can make the case that we, the human race, brought it on ourselves. The last three sections hint at such a case.
How do we manage the AIDS threat while we await a cure or a vaccine? This is an important question because a cure or a vaccine may take a long while, if it happens at all.
A deterrent already mentioned is the condom. However, we must realize that condoms are not 100 percent reliable.
Even if the condom is structurally sound, and is opaque to the virus, there is still the possibility of inept use. Then too, the sex act tends to be quite intimate. There is the remote chance that the virus will find an alternative route.
The reported effectiveness of condoms for birth control is 99 percent. However, a one percent chance of getting pregnant is not as ominous as a one percent chance of getting AIDS. The reliable use of condoms is a serious concern.
Committed couples rarely use condoms. On the other hand, some sexual activities that do not require birth control may require condoms to avoid disease. Homosexual relations come to mind immediately. These relationships have never required birth control.
Homosexuals are not the only people who engage in non reproductive sex. There are also fellatiori, cunnilinguists, analists, bestialphiles, and even the guy that has a favorite knothole in the back fence.
All except the last may need the protection of condoms. (As far as these activities are concerned, this book continues its policy of leaving moral judgments to the reader :-).
The use of condoms, in theory, can eliminate every sexually transmitted disease in existence, and prevent new ones from appearing. In practice this will not happen because of flaws in reasoning.
What are the flaws? Condoms are not fully available and fully reliable, but people are working on that. The flaws that the author is referring to, are three insidious assumptions. They are: (1) everybody is concerned, (2) everybody is competent, and (3) accidents never happen.
The assumptions are insidious because they are almost true. Most people are concerned; most people are competent; and accidents rarely happen.
Even so, it is easy to show examples where each is not totally true. How concerned is a rapist who does not use a condom? How competent is a drug addict who needs a fix? Was not the contamination of the blood supply an accident?
Let us look at other possible defenses against the AIDS epidemic. There is the age-old approach of isolation (quarantine). Most people have heard of the leper colonies of the past. When persons contracted leprosy, society used to drive them into isolation so they would not spread the disease to healthy people.
Today, most people consider such treatment, cruel and inhumane, which is true. (However, a wise evolution scientist would call isolating a disease something else, namely, the survival instinct.)
There are, at least, three reasons why isolation will not work against AIDS: (1) As stated above, society considers it cruel and inhumane; (2) we are losing our survival instincts (argued later in the chapter); and importantly, (3) we do not know who is HIV infected. They often do not know it themselves.
Again we may ask, is there any weapon that will be effective against the AIDS epidemic? It is the author's opinion that the average person's best weapon is rational fear. After all, it was largely the lack of fear that caused the problem. On the other hand, irrational fear, solves nothing.
For Example: If one is leading a risky lifestyle, then rational fear might lead him to use condoms and/or sterile needles. A larger dose of rational fear might induce him to change his lifestyle.
Rational fear motivates people to donate their own blood ahead of a major surgery. But it would be irrational to forgo a needed surgery because one did not have the opportunity to donate. A rational fear motivates parents and teachers to implore children not to bite, scratch, spit, and share food and drink.
Responding to fear, health care professionals wear protective gear such as masks and gloves. The fear is for the health of the next patient, and also their own.
Fear might inspire more funding for medical research on harmful microorganisms. However, it is not rational to take it away from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases not caused by microorganisms. These are also important battles.
Rational fear might induce individuals to donate to medical research themselves. Medical research organizations are well known and the donations are tax deductible. .
The next threats we (briefly) discuss are natural calamities. The prevailing theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs is that a large meteor or small asteroid struck the earth shortly before the extinction.
The resulting disruption and dust caused a worldwide, environmental disaster. Dinosaurs and other large animals did not survive.
Let us ask whether this can happen again. The bad news is apparent if we study the near face of the moon. Objects that narrowly missed the earth caused many of those craters and pock marks. The good news is that collisions with objects of threatening size have become extremely rare events.
Can the human race survive such a calamity? The author believes that we could; we are much smarter and more adaptable than dinosaurs. The casualties, of course, would be high.
On the other hand, what if an object, several times the size of the one that exterminated the dinosaurs, struck us? That probably would be goodbye.
This brings us to the final question in this chapter. Are we losing our survival instincts?
First, we must realize that it is not in the best interest of evolution for an individual to survive more than two or three generations (perhaps four at the most). How can a species adapt to new threats if new individuals do not continually replace older individuals? (Obviously most human individuals wish that were not true.)
An individual's instinct for her own survival and for that of her offspring is absolutely necessary for the survival of a species. The long term survival of a species depends on the short term survival of individuals and therefore on their survival instincts.
Let us consider how we may lose the survival instinct. We can list some possibilities, (1) a lack of fear of known threats, (2) the celebration of death, and (3) the subversion of the individual.
The first, we have already discussed to some extent in the present chapter. This chapter now turns to items (2) and (3).
Examples serve better to describe the celebration of death, than an exact definition (although one can be found in the Glossary). The first example is people's love affair with guns. To celebrate an instrument of death is akin to celebrating death.
The second example is our vicarious enjoyment of violence and death. We package violence into movies and other media for people's enjoyment.
A third example is suicide. Historically suicide always has been with us. In the past it was generally considered a tragedy, Now, there is a movement to encourage and even to assist it.
A fourth example is women training for war. The implications of this are obvious. Throughout most of history, we protected women from war. The destruction of a large number of males does not threaten the species. It is a biological fact that the destruction of a like number of females is a far more significant threat.
The argument in favor of women warriors follows: When only 50% of the population (the male half) go to war, we deny women their equality. But gender equality also reigns when none of the population participates in war. So why do not women continue instead their historical struggle to end war?
The last, but far from least, instance of the celebration of death is abortion. Abortion flies in the face of millions of years of evolution.
From the time of the earliest mammals, 180 million years ago, the female of each species protected, nourished, and nurtured her young with an instinctive and fanatical zeal. Had they so easily discarded their maternal instincts, the evolutionary trajectory would have ended long before the human species emerged.
We now turn to the subversion of the individual. Again, a description will be presented instead of an exact definition.
Humans are social beings. This means that we form bonds with other humans. The amount of bonding that individuals develop varies greatly. At one extreme we call a person who rejects all social bonds, a hermit. At the other extreme we can call a person who cannot even go to the bathroom without peer approval, a wimp.
Obviously there is a large amount of room between the extremes. A balanced individual thinks independently and makes independent decisions; but interacts with, listens to, and respects the decisions of, others.
Just as important as the degree, is the type of social interaction. Interactions can be either vertical and horizontal. Above us in vertical relationships are our parents, our teachers, and others, related or not, of previous generations that influenced our early development.
Below us are our children, grandchildren and other members of succeeding generations that we nurture and influence. Information and ideas flow mostly downward, but there is occasional upward flow.
Horizontal interaction occurs between ourselves and our peers. These are the people on our right and left that we interchange ideas with (not necessarily the political right and left, although that is a good example).
It is important that we balance vertical and horizontal interactions. A lack of vertical interaction dooms every generation to repeat all the mistakes of the previous generation (instead of just some of them :-).
If there were no horizontal interaction, then we would quickly reach the point where a common language did not exist (except among small numbers of closely related people).
An individual should think independently, no matter what direction ideas, notions, and interactions come from. In this vein, the author does not expect the reader to accept every idea in this book. Nor does he expect the reader to reject every idea in this book (in other words, he hopes that the reader is balanced :-).
Consider the problems that we would face if everyone thought alike. It is possible to subvert the individuals of a population and rule by group pressure.
This happened in Germany in the late thirties and early forties. Hitler, a natural born spellbinder, could blot out most independent thought, action and conscience. In that sad period of history, the subversion of the individual cost millions of lives.
We can list other examples. The People's Republic of China enforces its one child per family policy with group pressure. Senator Joseph McCarthy attempted it in the fifties.
Political correctness is a more recent example of insidious group influence. Fortunately, independent minds, weighing such influences, ask hard questions and point out problems that others do not see.
An independent person should not feel that she must go along with a poll. A poll is just some yahoo with agenda and a clipboard. The pollster asks the question in a way that favors his agenda. Even where there are no agenda, a poll only approximates consensus, and consensus does not always point to truth.
Here we introduce a new section to discuss the people whose profession tends to subvert the individual. They are the psychologists.
Wait a minute, the reader may respond, psychology is a science! Yes, both a need and a niche for such a science exist; but has such a science arrived?
Let us look at the physical science hierarchy. At the most elementary level there are atoms and subatomic particles. The science of physics studies the atom and its structure.
At the next level atoms combine into larger entities called molecules. The science of chemistry studies the molecule and its formation.
At the third level molecules combine into another unitary structure, the living cell. The science of biology studies the living cell and its functions.
At a still higher level exists a highly specialized cell called the neuron. This cell underlies all intelligence and behavior. The science that studies this is psychology. Thus, we see that the science exists.
However, the development of a science in the last arena is a formidable task. Complexity increases as one proceeds from physics to chemistry to biology to psychology.
Illustration: If we say that we know just enough about physics to call it a science, then we would have to say that the other subjects are arts. However, even as arts, they are not equal. Chemistry is a fine art; biology is a folk art; and psychology is a black art.
It may seem that the author has just insulted many people (including himself). But he intends no insult.
The illustration shows how much there is to know about psychology so that we may realize how little we do know. Despite the illustration, the author admits that it is fair to call what we do know, a science.
Freud put forth the idea that a person's thoughts, fears, habits and all aspects of his consciousness and subconsciousness can be subjected to analysis. Subsequently, he developed a methodology to do this.
People should not condemn Freud (or Darwin, or anyone else) for having ideas and publishing them. Problems arise when people accept or reject ideas out of hand, without studying them and asking hard questions. Freud encountered both adversities; many people laughed at him, and many others followed him blindly.
Freud's theories have received critical review over the years. Some ideas were retained, others were discarded, and others are still being debated. Furthermore, entire new schools of thought have emerged. Such a process is how science works.
The author has no quarrel with the science of psychology. But everyone should be nervous about putting the fledgling science into practice. Consequently, the author distinguishes between psychology and psychopractitioning.
However, practitioning was inevitable. If one can analyze people, then one can advise people what to do about real and perceived problems. If enough people desire this, then the practitioner can charge fees and make a living.
In our country today, health insurance companies and employers often cover the fees for these services. All the patient needs to do is sign a claim form.
We must note that there are two kinds of practitioning. These may be classified according to the types of behavior that each deals with: (1) Behavior caused by well-defined neurological problems that may require medical intervention. (2) Behavior caused by less-well-defined problems that the patient perhaps can be talked out of.
The first area requires that the practitioner have a medical license and degree. The author (not being a physician) has no comments on the medical practice. It is the second case that he wishes to discuss.
Talk therapy, does not require the practitioner to hold a medical degree. The therapy may take place one-on-one or occur in groups. It is the group setting, which is more likely to subvert individualism.
Talk therapy is based on one principle and several techniques. The principle is group reinforcement. When people are in group situations, where they tackle common tasks or problems, they tend to form a common conscience. Sometimes they seem to achieve a common consciousness.
Group reinforcement has many names: Group therapy, group encounter, support group, sensitivity training; who knows how many other names they have invented? They all claim to be different from each other, and indeed, to some extent they are.
However, all are based on the same principle. Let us note that some in the field of practice warn of the dangers in the indiscriminate use of group reinforcement.
Let us consider some techniques of talk therapy. Vertical relationships are considered bad. The most famous question in the history of the practice is, "When did you first start hating your mother?"
This is obviously a trick question, but the thrust goes far beyond the question. The therapist likes to trace some, if not all, of the patient's problems to the family of origin.
If one can trace a person's problem to one of his forebears, then he can say it is the forebear's fault and not the patient's. Many patients like the absolution that this logic suggests. Therefore, many claim forms get signed.
The patient must not perceive his relationship with the therapist to be vertical. So, he insists that the group call him by his first name, or his nickname. He makes sure that he is not dressed better than anyone in the group. And he sits where he is not looking down on anyone.
This is quite different from other professional relationships. One's relationships with a doctor, lawyer, employer, priest, minister, or rabbi are vertical. Like a parent, they speak with authority within their respective fields. Most people are aware of possible consequences if they do not heed their advice.
Reject a doctor's advice and one might die; reject a lawyer's advice and one might go to jail; reject an employer's advice and one might get fired; reject the advice of a priest, minister or rabbi and unpleasant things may happen to one in the next world.
But the therapist does not seek such a relationship with his clients. He wishes to be regarded as a peer.
Another technique deals with guilt. If a patient feels guilty about something, the therapist calls him a victim, not a perpetrator. The best way to make a person a victim is to seek out a disease, disorder, or syndrome.
Male menopause, co-dependency, ADD/ADHD, post partum depression, repressed memory, post traumatic stress disorder, and dysfunctional family, come to mind. For instance, if a man cheats his wife and neglects his children, tell him he is a victim of male menopause.
(The mentioned disorders were mostly unknown a century ago. Being new does not mean that some, or all, are not real. However, real or not, they surely get those claim forms signed.)
It is, of course, up to a person to decide whether to seek and use the services of a practitioner. However, one should try to preserve his individuality during the session.
Preserving Individuality: Always defend your parents and other forebears. Wear a religious icon, your save-the-whales T-shirt, or something else that contributes to your individuality. If you are there for a problem, take personal responsibility for it and do not seek to be a victim.
People sometimes speak of good councilors and bad councilors. Certainly, good people and bad people enter the profession. But the question remains, is there such a thing as a good councilor once they get there?
Of course, there are. Some people within the profession criticize what is happening and call for change. When they succeed, the field will not be as vulnerable to criticism by outsiders (like the author).
The purpose of this section was to point out the possibility that psychopractitioning threatens our individuality. The author certainly is not saying that this threat is as serious as nuclear catastrophe or fatal disease.
However, if everybody thinks alike, we are vulnerable to manipulation. If we are all of the same mind set, then we will all react the same way to a threat, and maybe that mind set is wrong.
This concludes our discussion on present threats to our survival. The next chapter speculates about our evolutionary future.
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