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Friday, February 8, 2013

Tribalism and Agreed-Upon Lies

Tribalism and Agreed-Upon Lies

”History is a set of lies agreed upon”, - Napoleon Bonaparte, quoting
Fontanelle

By John Scales Avery
Information Clearing House
Friday, February 08, 2013

It seems to be a part of human nature to behave with great kindness
towards members of our own group.

By contrast we often exhibit terrible aggression towards other groups
that are perceived to be competing with or threatening our own.

This profile of intra-tribal altruism and inter-tribal aggression is easy
to understand if we remember that our remote ancestors belonged to
small, genetically homogeneous tribes, competing for territory on the
grasslands of Africa.

Because all the members of a particular primitive tribe had closely
similar genes through intermarriage, the tribe as a whole was the
unit upon which evolutionary forces acted.

The tribe as a whole either survived or perished, and those groups
with the strongest, “team spirit” survived best.

Later in history, the invention of agriculture made it possible for
humans to live in larger groups, and ethical rules were invented
to overwrite raw human nature so that genetically inhomogeneous
cities, nations and even empires could exist with social cohesion
and without internal strife.

Because of ethics, cooperation became possible over larger and
larger areas.

Human culture was able to blossom, and the vast accumulation
of knowledge upon which modern civilization depends began to
accumulate.

Nevertheless, narrow tribalism remains today in the form of religious
bigotry and fanatical nationalism.

We urgently need a global ethic, which will unite all humans.

Members of tribelike groups throughout history have marked their
identity by adhering to irrational systems of belief.

Like the ritual scarification which is sometimes used by primitive
tribes as a mark of identity, irrational systems of belief are also a
mark of tribal identity.

We parade these beliefs to demonstrate that we belong a special
group and that we are proud of it. The more irrational the belief is,
the better it serves this purpose.

When you and I tell each other that we believe the same nonsense, a
bond is forged between us. The worse the nonsense is, the stronger
the bond.

Sometimes motives of advantage are mixed in.

As the Nobel Laureate biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi observed,
evolution designed the human mind, not for finding truth, but for
finding advantage.

Within the Orwellian framework of many modern nations, it
is extremely disadvantageous to hold the wrong opinions.
The wiretappers know what you are thinking.

Also, people often believe what will make them happy.

How else can we explain the denial of climate change in the
face of massive evidence to the contrary?

But truth has the great virtue that it allows us to accurately
predict the future.

If we ignore truth because it is unfashionable, or painful, or
heretical, the future will catch us unprepared.



John Avery received a B.Sc. in theoretical physics from MIT and an
M.Sc. from the University of Chicago. He later studied theoretical
chemistry at the University of London, and was awarded a Ph.D.
there in 1965. He is now Lektor Emeritus, Associate Professor, at
the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33879.htm

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