No. Morals really are not written in our genes

July 8, 2013

How did prehistoric humans become moral and altruistic? And how have those attributes been damaged in the history of hierarchical societies?

Cave paintings in Patagonia, Argentina

Cave paintings in Patagonia, Argentina

In a review article for People & Nature, STEVE DRURY disputes the claim by social anthropologist Christopher Boehm that morals were at root genetically determined and argues that culture and social relations are the crucial factors. He surveys discussions among anthropologists, archaelogists and biologists on how humans became “human”, and offers a Marxist interpretation. Read on here

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Human “madness” in an inhuman society

March 14, 2012

This essay by STEVE DRURY reviews recent research in genetics and psychology, and argues that it can deepen our understanding of the forms of alienation experienced by humans through the succession of social systems in which they have lived since Palaeolithic times

What people are now is very different from what they were before about 10,000 years ago, when agriculture emerged. Before then, humanity lived more as part of the natural world, taking only what was necessary by

Horses drawn at Chauvet 30,000+ years ago

gathering easily-had foodstuffs and increasing their protein intake by hunting. There is little, if any, evidence suggesting that they stored produce, but plenty to show that people were continually on the move – on a continent-wide, even global scale.

This simple truism – that people are very different – masks huge social changes: the tendency to remain in fixed locations and growing communities following the so-called “agricultural revolution” of the late Stone Age; storing grain surpluses; and having living protein supplies tamed and on the hoof. Central to how people have changed is the expropriation of surplus produce that inexorably led to class society and to what Marx saw as the downward spiral of “the isolated individual in civil society”, through the alienation inherent in such expropriation and growing control of the majority by minority groups, both economically and culturally.

Here I hope to explore evidence for the relationship between these changes and the inner world of individuals. That inner world has interacted with the world at large through these changes in society. The study of psychological characteristics that set an increasing number of humans apart from the rest can throw light on the way that all humans live. The discussion centres on recent discoveries in the fields of genetics and psychology, and the links between them. They appear to have uncovered wholly unexpected natural factors at work that may revolutionise our general view of people who experience deep inner turmoil. Continued HERE