Diversity and the Human Spirit

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On the plains of East Africa there are deadly hazards. Lions, leopards, and man are the most dangerous. Grazing animals have evolved strategies for dealing with such: there is safety in numbers. A stray buffalo is fair game, but a herd of them can easily protect its young. There is safety in diversity, as well. It is the norm for herds to be a mix of impalas, zebras, giraffes and wildebeests. Biologists theorize that the different animals in the mix sense different things. So, collectively, the mixed herd is more sensitive to their surroundings and is able to give earlier warning of stalking predators. The individual animals in a mixed herd will be more likely to survive.

So what has this to do with human diversity? Humans coalesced into tribes in prehistoric times. Much like interspecies herds of animals, it is plausible that at some point tribes evolved human specialists. Like mixed herds, this would promote the survival of the tribe as well as the individuals within the tribe. If this is the case then individual genetic specialization is built into our DNA. This specialization is the true human diversity. We call such diversity “talent.” Talents may, or may not, be independent of race. But it is certainly not independent of environment, culture or history.

I believe the nature of human specialization of talents depends, to a very great extent, on the nature of the local environment. In the Kalahari region of southern Africa, the Bushmen find themselves in a very sparse and uniform environment. The resources are too dilute to support a large population at any one location. We find that the Bushmen exist in small family groups. The resources to support talent specialization are simply not there. Except for some sexual specialization, everyone has to have all the skills necessary to survive. All, therefore, are generalists in the sense that all must master the same unchanging technology. Bushman culture is ancient and stagnant.

In a more complex natural environment, with plentiful resources, tribes are much larger and we do find technical specialists. To our eyes the technology they work with may appear primitive. But that simply means that it is very old and time proven. It is still sophisticated technology. And cultural evolution appears to be much faster in the larger tribes.

But human evolution did not just take place in primordial times. Evolutionary pressures exist in civilization, as well. Early civilized societies quickly grew to be enormously complex with an explosion of creativity. Thus, there would likely have been strong evolutionary pressure for biological specialization. The wide variation of talents in both ancient and modern society is the likely result.

But wait a minute — evolution was something that created humans a very long time ago. How can one say that recent societies are still evolving humans? Actually, there is direct evidence that human evolution is still underway and that significant changes in the human genome are still occurring. One piece of evidence is the relatively recent mutation in favor of adult lactose tolerance. It would have originated with a single person, perhaps in ancient Anatolia. Later migrations and interbreeding with distant populations caused the mutation’s distribution so that within a very short time, perhaps only a couple of thousand years, over 80% of the population of Europe became lactose tolerant. How do we know this? Just look at what people ate.

Mutations typically get established first in families, then in tribes. A successful mutation can remain localized within an isolated population for a very long time. But when populations start to mix a successful mutation spreads. Until the last few hundred years populations across the world tended to be relatively isolated. But now populations are mixing rapidly and mutations should be spreading equally rapidly. Some of these mutations will be successful, others will be deadly. In any case, these spreading mutations will enrich our catalog of biologically based talents.

So, diversity of talents is an evolutionary advantage which improves the survival of the community. Put simply, we may say that there is a biological reason everyone is different. Everyone is good at some things but not others. What a concept!

Some people — indeed many people — are blind to what is so obvious. These are people on the political Left. They say that they do believe in human evolution, but they really don’t. These people don’t believe in biologically determined unique individual talents — despite the overwhelming evidence. These days they don’t even recognize the existence of sex! Progressive leftists really believe that humans are born identical blank slates. Human beings are considered interchangeable parts in a mighty mechanism. This is the leftist’s dream of a perfect society. Lewis Mumford called this the “megamachine” — a very socialist idea. (Of course, in socialism some people are “more equal than others.” Guess who gets to run the machine.)

The idea of interchangeable machine parts is two centuries old. It may have originated in Eli Whitney’s invention of the American Factory System with its precision tools and tooling. Marx picked up the idea and it became one of the foundation stones of his pernicious theory.

Early in the twentieth century the factory system evolved further with Henry Ford’s invention of the assembly line. As far as Ford was concerned people were components of the factory — his factory being a giant machine for assembling automobiles. Society followed and the educational system was soon reconfigured to churn out legions of do-as-you’re-told industrial workers. (By way of contrast, in the nineteenth century a high school education produced someone with greater skills and a greater breadth of knowledge than many of today’s college graduates.)

We have come a long way from the eighteenth century, with its liberal ideas of the supremacy of the individual. With our new conformist society has come a change in the language we use. For the Progressive Left “diversity” means group identity, behavioral uniformity and individual conformity. And that means that the least functional and the least sane dictate all thought and behavior. For classical liberal Conservatives “diversity” means individual differences, talents, opportunities and liberty. And, it means diversity of thought. Guess where real progress originates.

Dictionaries often give the same word different meanings, but they seldom give the same word contradictory meanings. We have now reached the point where the Left and the Right define the word diversity to have precisely opposite meanings. No wonder we talk past each other. (Google, are you listening?)

Of course, the twentieth century saw a lot of this corruption of language. Deliberate distortion of language is a key tool of the totalitarian left. Orwell recognized this early on and illustrated it in his novel 1984.

So, who is right? It is not hard to find the answer. The twentieth century was one of bloodshed and misery. Tracing the causes of that long catastrophe it is not hard to discover its roots in the idea that everyone is identical and interchangeable — and socialist perfectible!

With the fall of the Soviet Union many thought we had put all of those twentieth century horrors behind us. But the fall did not defeat the toxic Left. They are fanatic cultists – true believers. They were silent for a while, burrowing ever deeper into our institutions until they felt strong enough to surface and attack. As others have noted, there is a civil war in our society. But it is one where, I am convinced, free humanity, not crushing Politically Correct conformity, will win. Humanity will not be long suppressed. The fall of the Soviet Union tells us that no matter how repressive a political system becomes, no matter how many suffer and die at its hands, the human spirit will ultimately prevail. 

On the plains of East Africa there are deadly hazards. Lions, leopards, and man are the most dangerous. Grazing animals have evolved strategies for dealing with such: there is safety in numbers. A stray buffalo is fair game, but a herd of them can easily protect its young. There is safety in diversity, as well. It is the norm for herds to be a mix of impalas, zebras, giraffes and wildebeests. Biologists theorize that the different animals in the mix sense different things. So, collectively, the mixed herd is more sensitive to their surroundings and is able to give earlier warning of stalking predators. The individual animals in a mixed herd will be more likely to survive.

So what has this to do with human diversity? Humans coalesced into tribes in prehistoric times. Much like interspecies herds of animals, it is plausible that at some point tribes evolved human specialists. Like mixed herds, this would promote the survival of the tribe as well as the individuals within the tribe. If this is the case then individual genetic specialization is built into our DNA. This specialization is the true human diversity. We call such diversity “talent.” Talents may, or may not, be independent of race. But it is certainly not independent of environment, culture or history.

I believe the nature of human specialization of talents depends, to a very great extent, on the nature of the local environment. In the Kalahari region of southern Africa, the Bushmen find themselves in a very sparse and uniform environment. The resources are too dilute to support a large population at any one location. We find that the Bushmen exist in small family groups. The resources to support talent specialization are simply not there. Except for some sexual specialization, everyone has to have all the skills necessary to survive. All, therefore, are generalists in the sense that all must master the same unchanging technology. Bushman culture is ancient and stagnant.

In a more complex natural environment, with plentiful resources, tribes are much larger and we do find technical specialists. To our eyes the technology they work with may appear primitive. But that simply means that it is very old and time proven. It is still sophisticated technology. And cultural evolution appears to be much faster in the larger tribes.

But human evolution did not just take place in primordial times. Evolutionary pressures exist in civilization, as well. Early civilized societies quickly grew to be enormously complex with an explosion of creativity. Thus, there would likely have been strong evolutionary pressure for biological specialization. The wide variation of talents in both ancient and modern society is the likely result.

But wait a minute — evolution was something that created humans a very long time ago. How can one say that recent societies are still evolving humans? Actually, there is direct evidence that human evolution is still underway and that significant changes in the human genome are still occurring. One piece of evidence is the relatively recent mutation in favor of adult lactose tolerance. It would have originated with a single person, perhaps in ancient Anatolia. Later migrations and interbreeding with distant populations caused the mutation’s distribution so that within a very short time, perhaps only a couple of thousand years, over 80% of the population of Europe became lactose tolerant. How do we know this? Just look at what people ate.

Mutations typically get established first in families, then in tribes. A successful mutation can remain localized within an isolated population for a very long time. But when populations start to mix a successful mutation spreads. Until the last few hundred years populations across the world tended to be relatively isolated. But now populations are mixing rapidly and mutations should be spreading equally rapidly. Some of these mutations will be successful, others will be deadly. In any case, these spreading mutations will enrich our catalog of biologically based talents.

So, diversity of talents is an evolutionary advantage which improves the survival of the community. Put simply, we may say that there is a biological reason everyone is different. Everyone is good at some things but not others. What a concept!

Some people — indeed many people — are blind to what is so obvious. These are people on the political Left. They say that they do believe in human evolution, but they really don’t. These people don’t believe in biologically determined unique individual talents — despite the overwhelming evidence. These days they don’t even recognize the existence of sex! Progressive leftists really believe that humans are born identical blank slates. Human beings are considered interchangeable parts in a mighty mechanism. This is the leftist’s dream of a perfect society. Lewis Mumford called this the “megamachine” — a very socialist idea. (Of course, in socialism some people are “more equal than others.” Guess who gets to run the machine.)

The idea of interchangeable machine parts is two centuries old. It may have originated in Eli Whitney’s invention of the American Factory System with its precision tools and tooling. Marx picked up the idea and it became one of the foundation stones of his pernicious theory.

Early in the twentieth century the factory system evolved further with Henry Ford’s invention of the assembly line. As far as Ford was concerned people were components of the factory — his factory being a giant machine for assembling automobiles. Society followed and the educational system was soon reconfigured to churn out legions of do-as-you’re-told industrial workers. (By way of contrast, in the nineteenth century a high school education produced someone with greater skills and a greater breadth of knowledge than many of today’s college graduates.)

We have come a long way from the eighteenth century, with its liberal ideas of the supremacy of the individual. With our new conformist society has come a change in the language we use. For the Progressive Left “diversity” means group identity, behavioral uniformity and individual conformity. And that means that the least functional and the least sane dictate all thought and behavior. For classical liberal Conservatives “diversity” means individual differences, talents, opportunities and liberty. And, it means diversity of thought. Guess where real progress originates.

Dictionaries often give the same word different meanings, but they seldom give the same word contradictory meanings. We have now reached the point where the Left and the Right define the word diversity to have precisely opposite meanings. No wonder we talk past each other. (Google, are you listening?)

Of course, the twentieth century saw a lot of this corruption of language. Deliberate distortion of language is a key tool of the totalitarian left. Orwell recognized this early on and illustrated it in his novel 1984.

So, who is right? It is not hard to find the answer. The twentieth century was one of bloodshed and misery. Tracing the causes of that long catastrophe it is not hard to discover its roots in the idea that everyone is identical and interchangeable — and socialist perfectible!

With the fall of the Soviet Union many thought we had put all of those twentieth century horrors behind us. But the fall did not defeat the toxic Left. They are fanatic cultists – true believers. They were silent for a while, burrowing ever deeper into our institutions until they felt strong enough to surface and attack. As others have noted, there is a civil war in our society. But it is one where, I am convinced, free humanity, not crushing Politically Correct conformity, will win. Humanity will not be long suppressed. The fall of the Soviet Union tells us that no matter how repressive a political system becomes, no matter how many suffer and die at its hands, the human spirit will ultimately prevail. 


via American Thinker