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Equality, One World and Science (Garrett Hardin)

Equality, One World and Science

By Garrett Hardin, Ph.D.


 The first half of the twentieth century, like the first half of the nineteenth, was a time during which a scientific subject was crying to be heard, but was laboring under a taboo. In the nineteenth, the subject was evolution. In the twentieth, it was human inequality.

 All men are, by nature, unequal – this is the censored truth of our century. We are as afraid of admitting the consequences of this truth as the Victorians were of the consequences of admitting that men are animals. Yet history will ultimately show that, in both instances, the consequences are good and compatible with human decency.

 A harmful truth is better than a useful lie, as Thomas Mann has said. Time after time a new truth, which has first appeared dangerous and ugly, has in the end proved to be both useful and beautiful.

 Some argue that we would be better off had we never left the Garden of Eden. Perhaps, but once we have discovered a new truth, our two options are to acknowledge or repress it. We must acknowledge it and go ahead to explore its implications. To do so is an act of faith in science, faith in the future, faith in the essential goodness of truth.


Man, an animal plus

 One of the central truths of biology is that man is an animal. Not only an animal, of course, but in most of his functions, he is an animal and as such is subject to the basic laws of life. In the nineteenth century, men of religion repeatedly denied man’s animal nature, for fear of the consequences. It is of more than passing interest to see Communists taking the same position in the twentieth century.

 After news of the Lysenko trials reached this country, H.J. Muller resigned his membership in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The Academy responded with a diatribe in which this significant passage occurred: “The development of society is not subject to biological laws but to high social laws. Attempts to spread to humanity the laws of the animal kingdom is an attempt to lower the human being to the level of beasts.”

 Thus did Communism – the historical opponent of religion – once again show that it, too, as Bertrand Russell realized as early as 1920, is really a religion. The scientist’s faith in truth is not shared by the true Communist of our time.


One World Undesirable

 Few dreams are as pervasive in our time as the dream of “One World,” a brotherhood of man, a world in which we are al members of the same team, a world in which competition is at an end. It is an ancient dream, rooted in the fantasy of “The Kingdom of Heaven” of pre-Christian days. It is a noble dream, one that has agglomerated to itself much that is gentlest and finest of man’s aspirations. It is a growing dream: in the last century it has increasingly shaped men’s political actions in the world at large. The “best” elements of our society believe in it – those who are most liberal, most tolerant, most loving in their attitudes toward other men. Those who strongly repudiate the dream include many with whom one hesitates to associate – men who may be ignorant, narrow-minded, sadistic or intolerant. Yet a biologist, however much he may dislike the complexion of this group, can hardly throw in his lot with the opposing camp – those who think that One World is both possible and the best of all possible worlds.

 In the first place, One World is a mirage. Can one get rid of classes? Karl Marx thought so. This man, militant atheist though he was, gave a new lease to the religious idea of the Kingdom of Heaven in his dream of the Classless Society. But competition there must be, even in One World.

 One World in the sense of a competition-free world is impossible. Is it possible in any other sense? Certainly it is possible in a political sense; in fact the superlative military weapons we have devised seem to indicate that One World is inevitable, in some sense. But is it desirable? Here the biologist, flying in the face of recent tradition and apparent logic, must answer No.


The New World

 To the biologist it is clear that the best chances for man’s long-term survival depend on the fragmentation of the species into well-separated populations. But it would be foolhardy to say what form the separation should take. It might be a matter of nations, as we know them, or some sort of caste system, that would permit genetic isolation with geographic unity, or – far more likely – some new kind of communities that are neither nation nor caste nor anything that has yet been conceived of.


[Western Destiny Magazine, April, 1966] 


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