THE GREAT DEBATE: Are Humans Evil or Simply Stupid?

The answer does matter

We may be just one of the 8 million lifeforms that have arisen on this planet, yet we are the sole one who bears 100% of the responsibility for destroying it. Faced with this grim realisation, as a biologist I have always struggled with the ethical implications: have we, humans, consciously chosen the road of evil and selfishness, or have we simply been following some kind of natural destiny to “eat” our way through Earth, much like bacteria eat through the contents of a petri dish, until they starve? 

In other words, do we deserve forgiveness for simply “being human” as we destroy the world, or have we failed ourselves, failed our potential to be something more, something self-conscious, a being that is able to gaze down at the petri dish from above, just like we gazed down upon Earth from the moon, realise what is going on, and raise the alarm? This question does matter, and it needs an answer.

It seems that we have long been aware of our cognitive limitations: our mainstream religion has plenty of references, often lumped together under the term “sin”: for example, on his cross, Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”. Yet we seem to be in the strange position today where we know very well what we are doing to this planet, but we keep on doing it. This raises the big question: is this because deep down we are no different from bacteria in the way that we respond to the world around us?

There are potent arguments in support of this. Biologically speaking, all species on the planet are “selfish” – that is, they care about their own survival first and foremost. Humans are surely no different.  We are simply following the natural instinct that species on Earth have inscribed in their DNA, and which is also the biggest driver in our evolution: to appropriate as much resource as possible from our environment, for ourselves, at the expense of other species. All life forms are made this way, not just humans. We were never supposed to be “guardians of the Earth”, benevolent parents to all of the other species on the planet.

So while we can advocate in ethical terms that climate change is a moral issue and a “heinous crime”, one of selfishness and greed, in our defence, we are naturally born to behave in the way that we are currently behaving. In strictly biological terms, “morality” and ethics do not exist on Earth anyway.  Any differences, injustices and “crimes” are not settled by a court, but by the High Court of Nature: its ecosystem rules and balances which have taken millennia to assemble.

And here is where the issue lies. Because the minute humans succesfully overcame most of their predators, and began to exploit the planet on an industrial scale, they were unknowingly thrust into a new role: that of God and Creator, something no lifeform was ever prepared for, made for. They now had the responsibility to care for all the species on Earth, exactly because they had the power to destroy them. And unsurprisingly, guess what they chose to do: to destroy, because this is our natural role. Without Nature’s High Court ruling over us, we lack the maturity to rule over this planet. We do what is inscribed in our DNA, in the DNA of every lifeform on the planet: to eat as much as we can, multiply as much as we can.

Until COVID-19 arrived, humans were pretty confident that they had beaten all of the other species, all of Nature in this game. By advancing our “intelligence” and civilisation, we managed to disable almost all of the human population controls that Nature’s High Court had in place.  We were now above the law, able to propagate uncontrollably.  The industrial revolution and mass production of food brought about a population explosion. The bacteria broke out of the petri dish, filled the whole building, and started spilling out on the street. What has happened to our species in the past few hundred years is literally a scene out of the cult musical Little Shop of Horrors, where a small benign carnivorous plant mutates, grows, and eventually eats the florist.

We became the first, and the only species on the planet, that managed to rise above Nature’s high court, above the law. The first one to defy gravity itself, propelling ourselves to the moon. While we see all of these as achievements, they were in fact milestones of the creation of an aberrant species and which marked the beginning of the end of the planet. By disturbing ecosystem laws and circular systems such as species competition, the food cycle, carbon cycle and water cycle to name a few, we had now put ourselves in a direct collision course with the entire philosophy that this planet operates on: being a closed system of finite, mutually-balanced resources. Our new way of life came in conflict with everything on the planet, including the very machinery which sustains it all: the climate system. We had become a dangerous mutant.

So the verdict is out: we are not necessarily evil, but simply cognitively limitted. We have not realised and will probably not realise the role we have been thrusted into, as guardians of the planet. Although one can argue this is an issue of intelligence, it may be much more fundamental: one of biology. Because so far we are demonstrating that we simply were never gifted with the cognitive capacity to understand our new roles and responsibilities, and the consequences of continuing down the current path of destruction.

So far, the suggested solutions to climate change are missing the point, vastly underestimating our impact on the planet and promising change through more destruction, more economic growth. Unless we become conscious of our new role as guardians, we will continue to be imature “brats” instead. No technological know-how, no renewable energy technology or Green New Deal can fix the black heart of a brat: a heart that wants to exploit, to consume, to turn people and beings into products and profit. Our “computational intelligence” may have reached new heights, but we have not changed fundamentally: our instinct to appropriate everything around us is more potent and dangerous than ever, as we continue on a terrifying and rampant exponential trajectory of “growth and destruction”.

Back to the petri dish analogy, the carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors and the bullying, fat brat that needs a life lesson. What do they need to experience in order to learn this lesson? Or do they have inner dormant capacities for empathy, compassion and insight? If humans do, it would be something extraordinary. Because it would be the first and only species on the planet that has achieved this level of introspection, awareness and connection with the planet. So far this is lacking from our mainstream social, economic and political structures. It is only alive in isolated, radical pockets of wisdom who have all but surrendered to the onslaught of the murderous capitalism that runs our planet.

(from the book Age of Separateness)

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19 thoughts on “THE GREAT DEBATE: Are Humans Evil or Simply Stupid?

    1. We are just collectively very clever. Not really able to collectively act in a manner that would be sustainable for the long term. We are collectively ravenous. We see materialism as our reason to be. We have been seduced by our collective cleverness at exploiting the physical planet. It became irresistible. Competition is a self reinforcing feedback loop. The perfect trap. The pleasure of winning is a powerfully pleasurable experience for those without enough consciousness to recognize all the nasty side effects. Evil is a man made concept. Nature has no morality. It is just the snake eating its tail. We have been duped by our ability to attempt to find a point to existence. The mystery of universe and life cannot be solved. It just is. We have elevated ourselves to an exalted place in the universe to escape the pointlessness of the entire life drama. We are collectively simply stupidly clever at exploitation. Part biological, part psychological, part cultural story. A desperate attempt to overcome existential angst. We build civilization as a monument to counter that truth. Love Rick

    2. Sheeple deny what any child knows ‘Breathe or Die’ Millions have been trained the signs of breathing emergencies Trained deny rescue breaths give chest compressions a beating heart causing death.

      Medical misinformation USA; Canada and Europe

      Matthew 25:41-2 “Depart from ME, YOU who are cursed” 42 “For I was oxygen starved and YOU gave ME no breath of life” (rescue breathing)

      State sponsored psychological terrorism workplace harassment/bullying needless deaths; stress increasing mental/physical illness drug use/misuse. Done on purpose
      Be safe Be kind First do no harm @GaryCPR

    3. Combination of stupid fear and denial as Nazi Germany deny what a child knows ‘Breathe or Die’ Millions layperson USA; Canada and Europe taught all the signs of breathing emergency trained deny respiratory assist give cardiac compressions a beating heart, casing death.

      Medical misinformation USA Canada and Europe

      Matthew 25:41-2 “Depart from ME, YOU who are cursed” 42 “For I was oxygen starved and YOU gave ME no breath of life” (rescue breathing)

      State sponsored psychological terrorism workplace harassment/bullying needless deaths stress increasing mental/physical illness drug use/misuse.
      Be safe Creator is the ‘Breath of Life’ @GaryCPR

  1. More accurately one might might say some elements of Nature definitely developed something closer to ethics (even if not in most abstract sense – but collective animals are collective and support each other and sometimes outsiders). But all this was yes ..unprepared to Human Event. Fractually, humans time and time again tried to develop something universal, yet …. some other development stopped/outgunned those attempts? So we have what we have …

    I posted some of my thoughts on forum, but by now I’m obviously not about to keep up with some grand internet debate or anything of this calibre. Posted for some diversity in thoughts ….

  2. Great read thank you.
    Like a phyco-Philosophy of sorts.
    Without fear we could all sustain a better life and future, however the drive for self, for now, for a created anti reality is king obviously.
    Natural Law and any attention for it is grinded down at a racing pace in the training for self, wheels not even connected.
    Freedom of thought, a higher power and universe things are “in everyone DNA at all times, breathing, sight, experience is reality, not this false fantasy dope everyone is drinking and thinking, anything to run from the fear that is human to human training.
    So I think we are shifted more and more to evil, and are evil actually.
    Nothing will happen until calamity strikes, and even then nothing will happen.
    Recovery from drug addiction is rare that if done properly gains a gift of willingness, honestly open mind.
    Gratitude and trust also are built here, but it is a rare occasion to gain the full benefits of a renewed life. Life is more for self importance because of being misguided by other forces and those forces know it and perpetrate capitalist greed training through and through attempting to have me believe I am this way because of DNA survival mentality. Utter nonsense. This is true reality in all life forms not this anti reality built and perpetrated by fear, creation of mental illness.
    Ideas bought and sold on what ifs? and fear? and the like? what a joke.
    Still I believe, my mind is free, it is also free to choose the path of reality or the path of forces swaying me to evil.
    That’s the issue, self preservation isn’t some kinda engrained DNA thing in Human that have the ability other animals don’t.
    We’re just evil, having been swept there by greed, sin. We are the greed and sin and live life dishonesty to ourselves and others.

  3. I think humans have become evilly stupid. Analogous relationship is just like the evangelical right- evilly stupid. That is a horrific combination. Evilly stupid is synonymous with malignant narcissist- what they believe only matters. There is no concept of multiple intelligences with them. To them, the earth is going through its natural change every so many decades. I have been in discussions with them. It’s like talking to a flat earther. Your comparisons of the Petri dish, bacteria, etc., is perfect. It really comes down to being educated or self-educating versus those who are duped or choose to be. Nature is my medicine. Dealing with Trump and his douche bags have killed my spirit. I go out daily to get my dose of nature to revive me. I love reading your passages. The intellect, the palaver, the biological aspect, the truth are all inspiring. Thank you. Stay strong. Peter

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Hi, as i wrote a few years ago to you, we need to outgrow our biological limitations in order to have a chance to become the guardians of this Earth. Our still primitive ape brain can learn (mostly by imminent dangers) but this learning process is slow and we do not have the luxury of time anymore. So, we need to merge with technology (AI) and become humans 2.0, not just hardware expansion but mostly by AI software that can help us to predict the future in a better way and shape our current actions towards a better future. Not saying this is guaranteed, but it might give us a chance. Continue as-is leads to a Bladerunner like future.

  5. Wow, George, brilliant article. While I have given up on having hope of humanity coming to its senses so that we may all live, at least this takes some of the sting out of my angst and anger for, well, ourselves. We are simply operating on our biological programming. I’ve always been so struck by the dichotomy between the “evil” and greed of humans and our seemingly infinite capacity for brilliance, problem-solving abilities and compassion. Those are definitely not infinite, and cannot compete effectively against our biological directives. Thank you for this. It at least gives me more understanding, and, with that, allows me some room for forgiveness and acceptance, and that’s all I can hope for at this time.

  6. We use our cognitive abilities to rationalize our behavior. We tell ourselves stories. If we were rational beings, we wouldn’t do that. We would make an effort to break free from the process > product paradigm.

  7. I think mans biggest mistake overall is looking outside of oneself for answers and satisfactions. It seems we all come into this awareness knowing very little and become even less aware by thinking the answers lie beyond the self, so in that respect we seem stupid by comparison. Man comes into this life needing to be forged by the fire of hard life lessons and experiences and the tenacity to withstand those experiences until a greater awareness is attained and that greater awareness isn’t found in an X Box or any similar man made device. Just one mans view on a very minute portion of what’s needed to grow spiritually.  Good writing, as usual. Very thought provoking. Best, KG

  8. We don’t know exactly what we are doing here, but we do know, or at least feel, that life is important. So we have to strive to continue it. Things are a bit challenging at the moment, that’s all.

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