Has natural selection been aborted?
I would say that natural selection, i.e. evolution, has taken a dramatic turn since the birth of human consciousness. Natural selection produced the human species and the human species has derailed natural selection. World wide the species that survive, including the human species, depends upon human created meaning and no longer upon natural selection.
We have become meaning creating creatures and have developed a high tech society that overwhelms the process of natural selection. The selection of what species will survive in the future no longer depends upon the process of natural selection but depends upon the process of human meaning creation.
Who am I? Of what value is my life? The child, when asking these questions, is saying that s/he wants to be recognized as an object of value. S/he wants to know how well s/he measures up as a hero.
Freud saw that the underlying foundation for these feelings and ambitions was the “utter self-centeredness and self-preoccupation, each person’s feeling that he is the one in creation, that his life represents all life” he tallied all this up and labeled it narcissism. Nietzsche saw this healthy expression as one of the “Will to Power” and glory.
This represents the “inevitable drive to cosmic heroism by the animal who had become man.”
Culture provides the vehicle for heroic action directed toward strengthening self-esteem. The task of the ego is to navigate through the culture in such a way as to diminish anxiety, and the ego does this by learning “to chose actions that are satisfying and bring praise rather than blame…Therefore, if the function of self-esteem is to give the ego a steady buffer against anxiety, wherever and whenever it might be imagined, one crucial function of culture is to make continued self-esteem possible.
Culture’s task is “to provide the individual with the conviction that he is an object of primary value in a world of meaningful action.”
The cultural hero system whether religious, primitive, or scientific is “still a mythical hero-system in which people serve in order to earn a feeling of primary value, of cosmic specialness, of ultimate usefulness to creation, of unshakable meaning. They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations.”
How does the American culture perform its task?
I claim that the maximization of production and consumption is the principal means for the satisfaction of self-esteem for its citizens. It is through the active participation as a member of a community that strives constantly to maximize the production and consumption of goods that the American citizen best satisfies his or her drive for “cosmic action”.
We are all captives of our cultural systems. Whether the cultural system dictates the stoning of one’s sister for destroying family honor or a system that finds cosmic heroism through a process that maximizes the rate at which we consume our planet.
Our culture is constructed from the meaning that we create. The future of our species and of all life is dependent upon our comprehension of our self and how we use that comprehension in developing a better meaning structure than we have done so far.
Quotes from The Birth and Death of Meaning Ernest Becker