by Prof. John McMurtry
Prof. John McMurtry is a Fellow of the Royal Society of
Canada, and author of the three-volume study, Philosophy
and World Problems of UNESCO's Encyclopedia of Life
Support Systems (EOLSS). His works are translated across
continents, and his last book is
The Cancer Stage of Capitalism -
From Crisis to Cure.
The text of this
article has been drawn from
an online debate
at 'Science for Peace,'
Physics, University of Toronto,
There is a popular explanation for the world chaos now upon us, and
many scientists and philosophers advocate it. The form of this
argument is that the rising global crisis we face traces back to
human nature and genes to explain it.
The now widespread scientific category of
anthropocene to locate the
global crisis expresses the same idea and manages the same diversion
from the common cause.
In fact, none can remotely explain the ongoing global system
collapse nor the extreme climate destabilization which is the
major known symptom of it.
The all-fronts planetary life crisis is confined to a much more
specific causal mechanism: the cumulative, mounting and unregulated
assaults of private industrial destruction, pollution, exhaustion
and consumer waste in one relatively short span of the anthro-era.
But the 'human-nature' aka 'genetic' argument obscures this
It does not come from
stupid people, but it is a stupid explanation.
Fallacy of 'Human Nature' to Explain Life-Blind Institutions
More exactly, it is an enduring preconception which has been
dominant from ancient times. It has been often disproved, but its
return expresses in another way the instituted life-blindness of the
At this dangerous juncture of human evolution and history, it is one
more ideological mind-lock to derail examination of the
We need to bear in mind that the same 'human nature' argument was
long in place to explain slavery as a natural phenomenon.
and, most trenchantly, Aristotle, all conceived slavery as
natural to human beings, and so unchangeable. They were very
intelligent men, but assumed this as a given fact of the human
Since first studying these philosophers, I have observed the
argument reappearing in evil times to block people's understanding
of the actual social-structural cause of soluble problems.
For example, the acceptance of both war and slavery over millennia
has been based on a 'human nature argument'.
It is 'natural' for some
to rule and others to serve them - and wars decide which group is
the more fit to rule.
In fact, both institutions are not at all expressions of human
nature, but pervasively enforced totalitarian institutions of mass
murder and enslavement in particular social formations which serve
the rich, non-working minority ruling them.
not Natural or Gene-Determined
capitalism is an historical extension of these
institutions which still rules.
Its difference is that a
de-regulated and hyper-aggressive financialized form has brought
mass-killing trends which have been one-way pathogenic since the
Reagan-Thatcher turn against life-protective public law and
It still rampages on today. But the long-ignored cumulative damages
have caught up. Planetary life organization is paying the price in
degeneration and collapse at every level while still further
enriching those leading the global catastrophe.
They have dark reason to select for and quietly fund the argument of
'genes', 'human nature' and 'anthropocene' as the reason for the
Yet this clinically insane rule is absurdly attributed to 'human
nature' and 'genes' by even those not benefitting from it.
After all, far more
numerous victims are 'human nature' too with 'human genes' in 'the
anthropocene', and only a minority agree with the policies, and ever
more abhor the leaders and system they steer which together produce
such inhuman character and eco-genocidal misrule.
Yet still you will have the most eminent thinkers - even the
inventor of the ecological footprint - argue that our current
ecocidal system is based on a
genetic character formed in our distant past.
He thinks it is indicated
by the massive disappearance of large animals by human hand, but
this has since been expertly attributed to selection by altered
The 'gene' argument is very appealing, however, for its
simplification into fixed one-cause 'outcomes'.
This is the
theoretical essence of 'sociobiology' in general. It has been
dominant in the academy and the legacy media as a seemingly
scientific rationalization of a clear social disorder.
Yet as long as its cover story lasts, the rising crisis of
life-blind private money-rule destroying the shared planetary
life-ground need not be faced or solved.
of Nicer People
One of the enfeebling consequences of human-nature-gene diversions
from the reigning system disorder is that it puts the onus on
individual human beings to solve the problem by being "nicer" to and
"kinder" to each other.
This certainly sounds good.
Yet it track-switches
critical attention from the life-blind corporate-market disorder to
the personalities of individuals who normally have as such little or
nothing to do with it, and are usually victims of its systematic
stripping of public institutions, life-protective regulations and
Indeed this system disorder has invaded so many levels of society's
evolution that citizen life insecurity has been normalized in all
phases of work, environment, and future however nice we are to each
other as individuals (which I for one love).
Yet it is not individual choices that are responsible for the system
oppressing the majority's livelihoods, their life conditions and
their futures, including that of their children. To focus on them is
an implicit form of blaming the victim.
Their being nicer people
is essentially beside the point of the problem.
In logical terms, this is a fallacy of division. It falsely infers
from the properties of a collective entity the properties of the
individuals members of it, thereby making them responsible for its
getting worse or better.
"We are all
responsible, each and every one of us for this human crisis" is
a boring choral expression of this fallacy.
Because it makes those
saying this seem so, well, nice and kind, they can bask in
Those in fact leading the
crisis as its planners and executives, with obscenely high financial
pay-offs and privileges for doing so, are meanwhile left blameless
and off the hook.
The cui bono question - who benefits and profits from this
life-insane system? - is nullified a-priori.
Those who argue this way are not so nice as they seem. They present
as good people to others, ingratiate themselves to those in control,
and avoid having to face the real problem. This is all certainly
easier and safer.
In fact, it may bring
top-down favor to the pacifiers and their 'peace activism' for
side-tracking from the real evil and its lead agents.
Culture of the Omnicidal System
Self-centering avoidance of the
omnicidal system also lies in
perfect line with the atomic-agency metaphysics of 'free-market
choice'. It is the individual consumer who chooses the system.
Again we revert to the individual human character as responsible for
the system disorder - although, in fact,
desires are operantly conditioned into preferences (why far
more money is spent on pervasive advertisements than on
research or health)
the conditions of
production are ruled out of trade regulations and rights
(why 'race to the bottom' worker and environmental standards
almost all consumer
or citizen remotely chooses that societies must compete to
lower taxes to the rich, abolish public scrutiny and
enforcement of environment and consumer hazards, and have
their elected representatives decided by invisible corporate
lobbies and money manipulators...
Human nature? Genes?
Consumer choice? The cover-up culture has many levels...
All the argument forms analyzed above share one feature. They locate
responsibility in individual agency. This is the dominant
metaphysics of Western civilization, and why we have such a problem
today recognizing the collective system derangement.
In fact, we are continuously misled from understanding and knowing
the collective causal mechanism of the Great Disorder as a central
function of it - to divert blame, responsibility and social action
from the inherited but cumulatively pathological misrule from the
top which threatens life on Earth itself.
Only one diagnostic model fits all of the depredatory phenomena
across organic, social and ecological life hosts.
It is not 'human nature'
or 'genes' or 'the anthropocene', or too few 'nice/kind'
individuals, or 'consumer choice'...
The true causal mechanism of all the one-way degenerate trends of
this cumulatively omnicidal disorder is a highly invasive
private financial cancer metastasizing across societies and global