This is in response to a node that I could not be certain was satirical or serious. I didn't want to read past the part where the author tried to defend being attracted to teenage girls by arguing that humans are hardwired for such attraction. It is long since defunct anyhow, but I thought this essay was important anyway, in light of all the people who try to excuse human moral failures by citing biology.

 

A while ago, someone told me that I should not be ashamed to fulfill my biological purpose. I think they were talking about procreation. I was bothered by the notion, even then, because it seemed so limiting. Presumably the person so concerned about "biological purpose" wasn't going to be limited by it...and yet, it still seems like a concept more fitting for the beasts of the field. You make kids, you raise them, make a few more, then you die. Bah! If humans acted like that we'd be in the same situation as the Octopus, the smartest creature of the sea which still hasn't got a civilization going. They die after mating. No continuity of memory there. They are, sadly, stuck fulfilling their "biological purpose" instead of reaching for something greater.

Humans are notable among the creatures of earth for being able to act beyond mere procreation. I once read a book by Scott McCloud that touched on the subject. He was talking about art, but I think it applies to humanity on the whole: in the long march of evolution, we're the ones who can step out of line.

Usually a species is limited in what it can do by its biology. But we humans, perhaps as an accident of evolution, have gained the language and brainpower to create lives for ourselves that would be impossible if we were strictly following our genetics.

For example, many of us are born with defective limbs. Faced with this prospect, instead of letting such people die or carrying them everywhere, we invented assistive mobility devices, As simple as a walking stick or as complicated as a wheelchair that climbs stairs.

Most of us will lose the sharpness in our eyesight by the time we are old. To counter this problem and retain our ability to read, we invented glass lenses.

We tough humans can only carry so much. Face with the prospect of having to carry more, in order to build to greater heights, we invented wheelbarrows. Twice, at opposite ends of Eurasia.

And so on, and so forth. Whatever physical problems and genetic limits we face, we've come up with workarounds, because we are human beings and we will NOT be stopped by anything less than the vacuum of space. We're trying to figure out how to get past that, too, because when we took those lenses we'd made for reading and put them one in front of the other in a tube and pointed them at the sky, we saw worlds far beyond what we thought we knew.

And when we pointed those same telescopes down and magnified the dirt, we saw creatures our natural eyes would never have shown us -- and that was the first step towards solving a problem that had plagued every other species in the history of the world. It took a bit more ingenuity and the careful application of fire under a hollow metal container for us to actually be able to kill the tiny creatures reliably, and more time for us to realize such was what we were doing by boiling water, but now we have Pasteurized milk.

And while Louis Pasteur was giving his name to the act of boiling milk, we were slowly accumulating the knowledge base to be able to synthesize chemicals that our bodies couldn't produce. Like antidpressants, for when your brain's serotonin machine is broke. If humans followed their biology strictly a lot more of us would be so emotionally greyed-out that we literally couldn't move, because we wouldn't see the point.

And yet, there are many in this world who cite strict limitations of human biology when they want to justify their behavior. For example, people try to excuse sexual assault by saying that lust is a biological urge that is not to be denied. Sometimes people who commit adultery make the same excuse. There are people who like to believe that inborn abilities are the sole measure of human beings, and make overmuch of natural strength, natural speed, natural this, inborn that, and argue for the inherent superiority of one people over another based on genetics. (White Supremacists for the most part, although I hear a bit of it from Hoteps too.) And they forget that natural strength was rendered obsolete by the invention of the lever, natural speed was rendered obsolete by horse-drawn carts, and all the supposed defects that people make so much of have been long since mitigated by the universal human trait to look at an obstacle and say "I bet we could get around that."

Compared to the rest of the animal kingdom we're a bunch of Nerds. So when people say "I guess humans weren't meant to do this," well, humans weren't meant to handle fire, we weren't meant to sow seeds, we weren't meant to cut stone, we weren't meant to mine metal,

but we stepped out of line a long time ago. Everyone who cites biology as a prime mover of human beings, everyone who says that everything natural is better, forgets all the work their ancestors did to escape the line.

These days, the human effort to escape the long march of evolution has scarred the land, and there is something to be said for the natural world after all. As a result, many have turned back to the idea that natural is better, and that things that are more natural as much better. And yet, the sort of people who form "back to nature" communities are notorious for excluding disabled people. What good is nature alone, then? There is so much more to humanity than that.

Mark Twain ended his story "The Mysterious stranger" by saying that the beasts of the field were innocent because they had no awareness of morality. There are far too many people who make beasts of themselves in order to escape the pain of this awareness, and then tell other people that they, too, should follow the way of beasts, that the things they do are natural, that nature must be obeyed.

They attempt to be enslaved by nature in order to escape responsibility for their actions. The truth is, as human beings they always have a choice. They can do right, or do evil. The choice always exists, thought it may be a hard choice, even a disastrous choice. I would that they make such a choice forthrightly. Their attempts to retreat into a supposed animal nature are  a craven waste of time.

I would that we stand as equals to nature. Not as masters, for to be a master is to slowly become corrupt. Not as slaves, for slavery corrupts much more quickly. I just want to walk free, for once, free of mastery and free of masters.

I am a human being and I will not be told that I am a slave to anyone or anything, especially not evolution.

What are we humans if we are not free?

 

 


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