Understanding the attractiveness of biologist Jeremy Griffiths theory about the "human condition"


#1

Through a Youtube advertisement I came to the site of biologist Jeremy Griffith, who claims to have found the understanding that ends all the conflict and suffering in human life at its source. He gives away his complete book for free (without asking for an e-mail address) so it doesn’t seem to be a rick to earn money.
I will try to sum up his understanding in a few sentences. Evil that people do is not the result of our animalistic instincts (since animals in general are not cruel and we are related to one of the most co-operative species, the bonobo). It is also not the direct result of our capacity for conscious thought. It is a reaction to the “internal criticism” of the instinct toward his conscious self. Here the author explains what is happening with a fictional Stork called Adam that has the capacity for conscious thought.

“…tragically, while searching for understanding, we can see that three things are unavoidably going to happen. Adam is going to defensively retaliate against the implied
criticism from his instincts; he is going to desperately seek out any reinforcement he can find to relieve himself of the negative feelings; and he is going to try to deny the criticism
and block it out of his mind. He has become angry, egocentric and alienated…” “And ‘upset’ is the right word for our condition because while we are not ‘evil’ or ‘bad’, we are definitely
psychologically upset from having to participate in humanity’s heroic search for knowledge.” “So Adam’s intellect or ‘ego’ (ego being just another word for the intellect since the
Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘ego’ as ‘the conscious thinking self’ (5th edn, 1964)) became ‘centred’ or focused on the need to justify itself—Adam became ego-centric, selfishly
preoccupied aggressively competing for opportunities to prove he is good and not bad, to validate his worth, to get a ‘win’; to essentially eke out any positive reinforcement that
would bring him some relief from his criticising instincts. He unavoidably became selfpreoccupied or selfish, and aggressive and competitive.”

The solution to this according to Griffith and his followers is to understand “that the gene-based, natural selection process only gives species instinctive orientations to the world, whereas his nerve-based, conscious mind, which is able to make sense of cause and effect, needs understanding of the world to operate.”

Maybe I am missing something here but I am not really impressed by this understanding. I would think the knowledge of our own mortality could have the same effect. I am posting this here in the hope to find out why this simple idea that is only 4 years old seems to get such a big reception (10,7K subscribers on youtube, 112K likes on Facebook). A hypothesis is that it helps in the transition from an amber worldview to an orange worldview.
Here is the link https://www.humancondition.com


#2

Not really interested in pursuing Griffith’s claim of an understanding " that ends all the conflict and suffering in human life at its source," but I will take this opportunity to say a few words about bonobos, also known as the “pygmy chimpanzees,” for anyone who might be unaware or interested.

Biological evolutionary theory has held that humans have an innate tendency towards violence as we have inherited this trait from our nearest living ‘relative,’ the chimpanzee (not the pygmy chimpanzee, but the big chimps). The big chimps, particularly the males, do engage in conflict and violence. But both the big apes and the bonobo share the same amount–98.7%-- of their DNA with humans, and as Drieske has pointed out, the bonobos are a cooperative species. They are referred to as the “make love, not war” chimps. Among the big chimps, males gain status in the troop by aligning with powerful brothers, whereas among the bonobos, status is gained by aligning with powerful mothers.

Native to the Congo, the bonobos are an endangered species.

Also, recent research suggests that even the big chimps are not naturally or innately violent, but that their “acting out” is due to human disturbance in their environment.


#3

Yes I also find that interesting. 2 similar species of ape, “big” chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) and bonobos, also known as pygmy chimpanzees, ( Pan paniscus ) with very different behavior. The ranges of these two apes are separated by the Congo and the Lualaba rivers. Untrained apes cannot swim and are afraid of water. Moreover, the two rivers in question are crocodile infested. This ensured that there was almost no contact between these patriarchal and matriarchal apes for more than a million years. This is what science tells us, it almost sounds like a faerie tale.

When held in captivity together they have occasionally been found to produce viable offspring.

As you point out both the big chimps and the bonobo share the same amount–98.7%-- of their DNA with humans. Furthermore, according to Nature, 1,6% of DNA in humans has been found to be shared with chimpanzees and not with bonobos, just like 1.7 % of our DNA has been found to be shared with bonobos and not with chimpanzees.

http://www.nature.com/articles/nature11128


#4

Coincidentally, something you posted today in another topic helped to answer my original question.

Griffith claims to offer an explanation for both the uneasiness and the solution that can be understood in about 5 minutes. If I see it as a new religion, this explains why people are so enthusiastic to share it with others. It also explains my own dissatisfaction with it. While I am interested to explore new ideas, I am not looking for a new religion.
Thank you very much!


#5

You are quite welcome, Drieske! I will admit that while I was writing that piece on religion, I was thinking of you, or rather, thinking that I wanted to get back to your topic (and bonobos) and respond, but alas, the night got away from me. Anyway, perhaps my unconscious assisted in writing something that might be of use to you :upside_down_face:, as there was another direction I was considering going in response to Charles’ piece on religion, but didn’t, chose this response instead. Glad it served a purpose for you.

Just wanted to say thanks too for adding to the knowledge around bonobos, and I agree, it does sound a little like a fairy tale. Sometimes fact is as strange or stranger than fiction, or maybe “life imitating art” is a good metaphor. Here’s to all the great apes; may they live long and prosper!