The Darkest Hour is Just After the Dawn of Consciousness
I hope my wisecracks about the author's metaphysical shortcomings are not taken to mean that this is in any way a bad book. As a matter of fact, it is an excellent book, and I wish I'd had it on hand when I was working on mine. It does an outstanding job of summarizing what we know about human origins, which is an udderly fascinating subject in its own right. My only beef is with the author's bovine reductionism and scientism, but this simply goes with the academic territoriality.
Scientists are not philosophers, much less metaphysicians, so we should not expect them to be grounded in realities that are above their play grade. Wade is actually a science reporter, and we all know what happens to anything that is filtered through the parochial cultural lens of contemporary liberal journalism. Plus, Dupree -- who exerts a "light" editorial touch on everything I write -- just enjoys sticking it to materialists as much as they enjoy sticking it to us. They're so cluelessly passive aggressive, so they're always surprised when someone hits back. Needless to say, Dupree is never unconscious of his aggression, the unfortunate incident with the non-existent murphy bed notwithstanding.
This is why I so value people such as Whitehead and Polanyi -- the former a gifted mathematician, the latter an accomplished scientist -- who only became philosophers midway through their lives, after having thoroughly seen into -- and beyond -- the inherent limitations of reductionism and materialism. Both Whitehead and Polanyi were well into their 50's when they became philosophers.
Another excellent philosopher of science is the Benedictine priest Stanley Jaki, but of course he comes at it from a specifically Catholic point of view. Speaking of which, Raccoon emeritus Teilhard de Chardin was one of the first visionaries to sketch out the Coon agenda, and in many ways he represents a Western replica of Sri Aurobindo's evolutionary vision. There are a number of books that draw out the parallels, including this one (now apparently out of print) by Beatrice Bruteau, who seems like a lovely person.
As I said, Before the Dawn goes into all of the fascinating research which uses the human genome to make all sorts of clever inferences about our origins. In this regard, it is quite separate from physical archaeology, and there has yet to be a synthesis between the two fields. As you might expect, archaeologists are loath to accept purely abstract genetic inferences if they contradict all of the physical evidence. And with the genetic approach, we are dealing mostly with inferences. It is not analogous to the way DNA is used in the legal system, for example, in the Simpson case, where it was statistically impossible that Simpson was not the murderer. It is more as if the genetic evidence could only place Simpson in the general vicinity of Los Angeles and the decade of the 1990s.
Having said that, some of the implications are rather mind-blowing to contemplate. For example, there is a good possibility that all living humans and infrahumans are descended from a tiny band of us -- as few as 150 -- who somehow, and for unknowable reasons, escaped Africa 45,000 years ago. This is -- probably not coincidentally -- when behaviorally modern humans suddenly appear, after having been anatomically modern for as long as 150,000 years prior to that. Again there is that mysterious gap between human beings and actual humanness.
But is the gap really so mysterious? Yes, I suppose it is. It is something of a black hole in which one is free to speculate as to what happened to facilitate that sudden transition. In my opinion, to simply say "the genes did it" is a major exercise in question-begging and ultimately tautology. It's like asking how Homo Gretzky suddenly evolved so far beyond any previous Homo hockius: his genes did it! Yes, but.... how? How did a hockey player with eyes in the back of his head suddenly arrive out of nowhere?
As a matter of fact, there is a major bit of speculation at the very heart of any program of strictly reductionistic evolutionary psychology, since no one has even a hypothetical clue as to any actual mechanism that might explain how a gene translates into behavior. It is just assumed that there is some link between the two, but no one has any idea how it might work. Nor can it account for the obvious exceptions. Let us say, for example, that man was "selected" for male-female pair bonding. If this were true, then there is no plausible explanation for homosexuality, for any genetic predisposition to this maladaptive behavior would have been weeded out of the genome tens of thousands of years ago. Likewise, it is easy to say that humans have a genetic predisposition to love their children, but how then to explain the universality of child abuse, which is more horrific the further back one travels in history?
You will also no doubt notice that, whatever the scenario, there is a genetic just-so story that can account for it. Homosexuals? Er, people kept them around because they were good at decorating the interior of caves. Music? Er, to get chicks. Same as now. Religion? Er, since it's all bullshit, it must have been for... for social solidarity! I see. Are you saying that man evolved delusions in order to cope with reality? If so, how did you escape this genetically fixed propensity to be out of touch with reality? I see. You didn't. You're a liberal.
Another thing the book confirms is that the idea of the "noble savage" is pure mythology. Rather, the human being is a bad citizen, an extraordinarily violent and bloodthirsty animal. Again, the further back in history you travel, the more violence and mayhem you see. Go all the way back to primitive man, and the rates of homicide vastly exceed anything seen today.
In my book, I referenced the work of archaeologist Steven LeBlanc, who wrote in his Constant Battles that the “cruel and ugly” truth is that in traditional societies an average of twenty-five percent of the men died from warfare. He estimates that the homicide rate of some prehistoric villages would have been 1400 times that of modern Britain and about 70 times that of the United States in 1980. Although roughly 100 million people died from all war-related causes in the twentieth century, Keeley estimated that this figure is twenty times smaller than the losses that might have resulted if the world’s population were still organized into bands, tribes and chiefdoms.
In my opinion, the human genome contains virtually limitless possibilities. It is not that our genes determine this or that possibility in a mechanistic way. Rather, depending largely on cultural factors, one will have the opportunity to actualize one's latent genetic possibilities or essentially waste one's life without ever having been psychologically -- let alone spiritually -- born.
Take the case of my son. Yes, he was born with a certain raw temperament that is undoubtedly rooted in genetics, but it couldn't be more clear to someone who has a thorough grounding in modern attachment theory that the temperament could develop in widely divergent ways depending upon how Mrs. G. and I interact with him. Our brains are not genetically determined. Rather, nature endows us with a vast overabundance of neurons that are either reinforced or ruthlessly weeded out during the first two years of life. All of the broad assumptions of developmental psychoanalysis are now being confirmed by neurobiological research, much to the surprise of scientists who had rejected psychoanalysis as an unprovable mythology.
It is this understanding that I attempted to bring to the analysis of our human origins presented in Chapter 3 of One Cosmos. Since it is possible that I am the first person to attempt this, and since I am hardly an expert in paleoanthropology, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that I am correct in all of the details. However, at the same time, I do not see how I could be completely incorrect in terms of the broad outlines of the argument, which is that the human interior co-evolved with the evolution of parenting. Indeed, it is only through intimate and devoted parenting that a human subject comes into being at all. It is not merely a function of big brains. Humanness must be "teased out" of the brain, so to speak. It doesn't just happen by itself, but emerges within the intersubjective space between mother and infant.
Nowadays, when I take Future Leader to the park, I never cease to be appalled by the unconscious manner in which so many mothers treat their children as objects. I can already see the roots of pathology in some of these children wth my Coon vision. And these are the "good" mothers. It probably sounds judgmental to the defensive, but I literally cannot conceive of subjecting my son to the cruelty of daycare. I'd sooner sell my house than abandon him in this way.
If a mother treats her baby like an object -- undoubtedly because she herself was treated this way, which in turn eclipsed her own subjectivity -- that baby will grow up with major "lacunae" within their field of consciousness. I am quite certain that you have encountered people -- it's a common experience, actually -- who are more "object" than subject. You can see it in their blank, almost dead, eyes, and hear it in their affectless voices that are devoid of "song." They will be limited in their ability to experience you as a subject. It is very much as if their mind can only extend into your consciousness to the exact degree that it extends into their own.
As a matter of fact, this is why most people are so boring. Did you know that boredom in the presence of another is pathognostic? This was an observation of D.W. Winnicott, who said that the analyst's counter-transferential reaction of boredom actually conveyed objective information about the patient's interior. A boring person is in some form or fashion a psychically dead person, which is to say he has become "objectivized." I believe this accounts for why we idealize artists who, despite their human flaws, appear very much alive. Marlon Brando, for example, was completely crazy, but could channel the otherwise unbound craziness into a dramatic role. John Lennon also comes to mind. Both struggled with deadness and depression in their personal lives, but there was a vitally alive and unbound part of themselves that survived and expressed itself through art.
From time to time people ask me for a referral, and I think this is a good rule of thumb for knowing whether or not you are in the hands of a good therapist. A gifted therapist will instantly be able to see within you more deeply than you yourself can see. Furthermore, if he is good, he won't tell you flattering things about yourself, but rather unflattering things in a "containing" way.
I learned very early in my career that it is very easy to comfort the afflicted, which is what lame, "hand-holding," overly maternal therapists do. Rather, the hard part is afflicting the comfortable. This in my view is actually a higher form of empathy -- or at least it must go hand-in-hand with the other kind -- almost exactly parallel to the differences between mother love, which tends to be unconditional, and father love, which tends to have conditions attached. Both are needed. Much narcissism and sociopathy is bred where there is an abundance of the former and an absence of the latter, as in "urban culture," where fathers have been deemed unnecessary by our liberal elites. (Not to mention their belief that there is no difference between men and women anyway).
Contemporary liberalism itself is a gender identity disturbance that revolves around a rejection of masculine virtues and the adoption of a unisex feminized personality as normative. But of course you knew this already.
Speaking of the world's casual cruelty to children and the left's almost definitional moral confusion about it: The Real Children of War. And the Identification With Murderous Aggressors goes gland in hand with the deficient masculinity of the Bill Clinton-Barack Obama type of girlish seducer. You will notice that only liberals are seduced by their likes. Of course Osama would celebrate the election of Obama. He's a little more clued into gender differences than the average liberal.