by Mark Abraham
To use yet another example in a much larger scale, the young Alexander the Great, driven by his instincts of territoriality, adventure, and chauvinism to dominate others, took years to conquer so many countries that extended from Greece to India. On his way back, it is said that he gave back the countries he had conquered. What practical reasoning would dictate one to go through years of warring and enduring huge casualties and expenses for no practical reason? Yet his professed intelligence was beyond dispute, as no ordinary person, especially at that young age, could achieve so much. Indeed, all such conducts defy reasoning and intellect, not only in average people, but also among the most profound geniuses. The reason this human phenomenon continues to escape us is because we vaguely understand humans’ reasoning faculty and fail to see how and why it so regularly fails even the brightest among us. The role and the function of often irrational instincts and how they employ our reasoning faculties to brilliantly execute utterly unintelligent tasks are hardly noticed, much less explained. Thus, claiming that we do not clearly understand what human intelligence is and how it really works, odd though as it might sound, is not totally groundless.
On a smaller scale, I recently watched a documentary in which a young man, armed with only a stick, intruded a lions’ den consisting of a few healthy adult lions and good many lionesses in the open planes of Africa. He just wanted to see how far he could go before getting killed by them. He did this in a few phases, each time encroaching deeper into the lions’ den until the beasts were only thirty feet from him as the animals were resting. They were keenly aware of the presence of this intruder. Then he, too, laid down on the ground for a while in the proximity of these ferocious wild beasts. Usually, when the lions attack, as social animals, they bring down their prey with a cooperative concerted effort and ferociously. Thus, if they were to attack, most probably a few of them would have attacked him at the same time. This would make it very difficult, if not totally impossible, to rescue him before he was seriously hurt or even killed. Fortunately, they did not attack him. Where instincts become the sole actor and govern absolutely intellect becomes absolutely absent. You can hardly justify this or any other such instinct-driven, aimless acts through logic and reason, as these and endless other such stories prove to be the case.
With the mission accomplished each time, he gracefully retreated, only to repeat it again and again without any incident. On his return, one could sense the thrill of this highly risky act in his tortured calm. Indeed, it was a hair-raising scene. It is this sort of instinct that is not only blind but also blinding to human reasoning. What he did was totally devoid of intelligence, but how he did it was brilliantly executed, and each step was woven with reasoning and logic as he explained what he was doing and why he was doing it. If reason had a say in the matter of choosing to do or not to do it, most likely he would not have done it, as most reasonable people do not take risks of such caliber. However, driven by a very strong instinct of adventure, he did it; and at the end he was very pleased. One can be sure that he has relived this incident many times in his mind and has enjoyed it each time. In all these examples and many like them, one can vividly see that instincts fell in conflict with intellect, and the succeeding events show that instincts won.
While that is a reality, it is also worth noting that not only do instincts frequently fall into conflict with intellect and reasoning but often instincts also fall into conflict with one another. This also plays a role in what people do and what they avoid doing. In the above-mentioned example the instinct of adventure falls into conflict with the instinct of the will to live. One drives certain people to take amazing risks of violent death and the other urges him not to do it to survive death. In those who the instinct of the will to live is stronger than the instinct of adventure, obviously they avoid such high risks. However, those who are driven with instinct stronger than the will to survive take such risks for the sheer thrill the pertinent acts induce and are willing to risk their lives to experience it. This conceptualized working of the mind supported by endless empirical examples reveals that the instinct induced impulses of different sorts drive our lives with varying intensities. Although many may not be aware of the sources of such impulses, all are aware of their existence. Hence, a total and flawless resistance against all such urges by all humans all the time is impossible as the evidences prove to be the case.
Thus, all humans at all levels try to resist these compelling forces, but most of us fail to do so most of the time and do things that we know are not right. However, most of such failures that lead to wrong deeds are not exceedingly significant acts, such as murder, rape, robbery, or arson. They are of smaller acts of betrayal, cheating, lying, adultery, and so on. Because all humans are subjected to the same forces, they forgive and forget when they are wronged because they understand these human flaws.
However, when such instincts are so very potent that they cannot be tamed that the selfishness induced by any such instinct surges to true acts of evil that victimizes others in the most repulsive ways, people are no longer that forgiving. Such acts far exceed most people’s tolerance level. From this results conflicts, revenge, and even severe punishment by the law which includes capital punishment. Such people are the victims of their excessively strong instincts, which overwhelm their sense of reasoning, morality, and decency. They warp under the weight of their strongest instincts and are plagued with deranged personalities. This is not to depict all instincts as being animal-like and undesirable; one must understand them as their significant importance demands it. Then we need to find ways to reap their benefits on the one hand and prevent their harm on the other. This also holds true for human’s runaway intelligence as it was covered before. To understand humans is to acquire a balanced understanding of both instincts and intellect, and there is no substitute for it.
INTELLIGENCE AND WEAPONRY
As it was alluded to before, for a while, the nuclear weapons technology was being marketed as a consumer product in the world market not too long ago. Seemingly, it was brought to an end, and the perpetrator was punished. However, how can one be sure that other such activities are not already in progress, yet to be discovered, or that it will not start as an underground activity somewhere else? How can humanity be sure that these or even more potent weapons will not be so simplified that individuals or small groups can produce them in the privacy of their homes? If this is not impossible, how can one be sure that people will not regularly use them here and there and everywhere against each other in dealing with their grievances? If this is a potential development, what would be so wrong in totally eliminating any and all such weapons in a global scale and totally halt this technology once and for all, in the name of true collective human maturity, wisdom, and human decency?
To get a sense of the accelerated pace of progress in producing these weapons and how easy it has become, one needs only visit the Los Alamos facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There you might get a sense of how difficult it was for a great superpower such as the United States, with huge wealth and great scientists, to produce a comparatively primitive weapon of its sort. The facilities where this was done is located atop high cliffs with almost no chance of anyone being able to scale it, and it is heavily guarded to keep the technology from the reach of spies. As it was alluded to before, a single scientist produced a by far more superior version in the least-permitting conditions much faster in Pakistan what was so difficult to create from scratch and monopolize a few decades ago.
All of this has become possible with the progress of this runaway human intelligence reflected in science and technology and its availability to a large numbers of humans in every corner of the world. Signaling a trend that seemingly will continue, these are the kinds of developments that exceedingly empower the primitive instincts in their quest for death and destruction. The danger posed by this runaway progressing human intelligence devoid of the wisdom to put it exclusively into good use is indeed real. This, coupled with humans’ instinctual, primitive, and destructive conduct, demands that the modern man pause for an accurate assessment of what we are made of and what steps are required to prevent potentially total self-destruction.
The same primitive instincts that have littered human history with relentless
violence for the last 5,000 years of recorded history are still vigorously at
work, and the trend continues. There is no material reason to think that this
trend is going to reverse itself without any conscious, deliberate, and
collective efforts in the future. In fact, all indications show that the same
trajectory will continue if left unchecked only with more intensity. The
unchanging nature of instinct has produced this persisting human condition and
will continue to do so if no deliberate steps are taken to change it. Just the
same way, throughout the history of humanity, any weapon that has been made has
been used in anger. Not any one nation having any monopoly on such technologies
will trigger a similar reaction at some point, and that will inflict
irreversible damage to humanity. Just think of the relationship between India
and Pakistan. In the very short history of this weapon, how many times did the
two superpowers, the United States and Russia, come close to nuclear exchange in
the past few decades? So long as they are in existence, they will become
increasingly more refined, and the dangers will intensify.
© Copyrights 2012-13 Mark Abraham