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Heart of Darkness

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Nov 24, 2002.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    The underlying emotional systems that guide humans are almost certainly very similar to those that guide chimpanzees.

    In Joseph Conrad's classic Heart of Darkness, Kurtz dies after learning the truth of - and succumbing to - the dark side of human nature.

    Now, it seems, science <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/chat_wrangham990603.html">has validated Conrad's theories of human nature.</a>

    The findings are based on observations of the warfare behavior of chimpanzees in the Kibale forest of Uganda. They claim chimpanzees are 'time machines' - so genetically similar to us that they are most likely what our own ancestors looked and acted like 6 million years ago.

    Surely this team of researchers is hardly the first to draw such conclusions. But where does anthropomorphism end and a study of evolutionary history begin? Even if chimp behavior does reveal the roots of human behavior, does that exclude the possibility of progress?

    One of the questions answered <a href="http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/top/features/documents/02537776.htm">here</a>.
  2. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Unfortunately, anthropomorphism seems like an innate nature of man... just my own feeling of awe and wonder when watching the Jane Goodall documentaries expresses that fact.

    The teaching of sign language to the one ape, I forget her name, actually brought tears to my eyes.

    If the scientists are anything like me, their objective analysis soons become subjective as an attachment to the subjects seems always to ensue.

    Reading the article brought forth memories of a SCI-FI book I read many years ago, where gene implants created a semi-intelligent chimpanzee class who performed the simple labor in that society. (almost a new slave caste)

    The recent advances in gene therapy brings us closer to that possibility.

    Yes, the parallel of aggressive behavior and the survival of the fittest is evident in all species of animals. Why should we be different?

    Maybe the lesson mankind needs to learn is how to balance the need for this survival characteristic with the compassion to end overt warfare on its own species.
  3. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    Fascinating read, Ethics. Not too far from what I've always thought, that violent behavour is programmed into our genes, but this certainly goes a little further than I'm comfortable with... as I've always held the belief that violence <i>can</i> always be averted and people <i>can</i> learn or be taught to take a different path in life. I still hold to this principal, as I see it everyday... but this article makes me wonder how anomolous non-violent behavior might actually be. Pretty scary.

    I wonder what Wrangham thinks about the death penalty? It would appear his thesis supports the idea that individuals who commit violent acts do so because they -- we -- are inherantly violent, without the chance for rehabilitation. Once a violent offender, always a violent offender?
  4. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Well, on the opposite of many, I thought this research and the article certainly nailed what I have always believed. All the way to the sinking feeling of who we are and what we are.

    I don't believe in rehab for violence, Cor, not really and not most of the time. There are exceptions, of course, innocent people who were picked out falsely, or people who did it by accident, or self defense.

    Other than that? We truly are looking in to the Abyss.
  5. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    Sadly, the older I get, the more I believe you are correct. :(

    I think there is a not-too-small segment of our society, brought up in a free nation largely untouched by war on its own soil, that never see the <i>really</i> dark side of human behavior, except what is portrayed in movies (which is just pretend) and the odd serial killer on the news (which is just the media feeding on something tasty). Even when the acts we read about are horrific, like ethnic cleaning in Rwanda or Kosovo, we are too detached from this reality to see what it truly is.

    Sometimes I think back to my childhood, or especially now when I look at my kids, and I think how goddamn lucky we were to be born and raised here in North America. Lucky that we grew up without the fear of death looming over us. How we take for granted the freedom and safety we live with. And consequently, how easily we can assume that violence is the anomoly and that people are inherently good. The older I get, the more I'm convincved this is, plain and simple, blind to the truth.

    On the lighter side, I guess I shouldn't feel too guilty about putting out the mouse traps again tonight!
  6. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Poetic, Coriolis, that was beautiful, if very dark.

    I feel, after what I have experienced, seen, read, and heard, we are more violent than most of the species on this planet. We tend to forgive ourselves with the intelligent justifications.
  7. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    If I'm not mistaken, you're referring to Robert Heinlein's excellent story, "Jerry was a Man." (anthologized first in <i>Assignment in Eternity</i>, and many other places thereafter).
  8. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer



    Thank You!

    Please stick around, you have ben SORELY missed.
    Can't believe no one sent you a link.

    My fault too. So many I want to tell about this site, but discretion was a better part of valor. I did hang around the EL long enough to invite about 5 or 6 members before I took it off my favorites and stopped looking there.
    My loss.

    Now your here...
    My gain!
  9. joseftu

    joseftu ORIGINAL Pomp-Dumpster

    Thanks...it's good to be here.
    And you know, the point of that story (not to be spoiling anything) was that "Jerry" (the genetically engineered chimp) was a man...that progress <b>is</b> possible, that regardless of origins, the innate dignity and humanity of sentient beings shines through all kinds of exterior shapes.
    Jerry proves his humanity because he knows right and wrong, because he wants to be free, and because he can express himself creatively and artistically (he sings).
    Heinlein, for all his faults, could always see the dark as well as the light sides of humanity. He could see that the inherent violence and evil was part of us, but that the ways we overcome, and create beauty, were also part of us.
  10. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I missed this insight! I am very happy you are here, my friend. :)

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