Wednesday 3 January 2024

Is the chosen self-annihilation of The West a matter of "Apoptosis"?

Apoptosis (usually pronounced ap-op-tosis) is a biological concept used to describe the self-triggered death of cells in various situations. 

One such situation is cancer - e.g. a cell that undergoes the kind of genetic mutation that would lead to cancer might instead kill itself - thereby safeguarding the organism as a whole. 

In other words; in this situation apoptosis is the result of a fail-safe mechanism, built-into each cell, and "designed" (e.g. by adaptive natural selection, but not wholly so) to eliminate a potential cause of life-threatening harm. 

In general terms; apoptosis forms part of a suite of adaptations that maintain the functionality of multi-cellular organisms

Most cell are a potential biological unit in their own right, each having its own genome, each reproducing; and therefore each potentially capable of evolving by natural selection to promote its selfish cellular reproductive interests, above the well-being of the multi-cellular organism as a while.

If this was unchecked, every multicellular organism would fall-apart into selfishly competing lineages of replicating cells that have evolved to promote their short-term reproduction, above the long-term functional-coherence of the organism. 

Multi-celled organisms are therefore only possible to sustain, when there are surveillance and control mechanisms that enforce the mutual cooperation of cells - these mechanisms include the immune system (to identify and eliminate "rogue" cells) and apoptosis. 

It strikes me that apoptosis provides an analogy, which may even be true at the causal level, for the self-destruction of Western Civilization. 

Each human being is an organism that is capable of selfishly pursuing its own self-interest at the expense of society; and this innate self-interest therefore requires to be suppressed, re-shaped, and harmonized across human society for the benefit of that society - if that society is to be sustained. 

Throughout known human history; the System for the harmonization of human society has always included what might be termed Religion; and it was characteristic of such Religion that it referenced human society to some-thing above-and-beyond human society - a world of spirits, gods or God - for example.

Religion can be regarded as an externally valid source of social regulation, and a justification for social regulation; and I am assuming that (over multiple generations) this biological fact was also internalized by each individual human being - including as a fail-safe mechanism, analogous to apoptosis. 

Put bluntly: until the past half-dozen or so generations in The West; all human beings that ever lived were born-into, raised, and functioned adaptively (overall) in Religious societies. This is all that humankind had ever known - so naturally it is the society to which human beings are adapted

In other words; in traditional society any individual human being who lost his belief-in or capacity for religion, would have experienced a kind of "suicide trigger" - some kind of self-deletion mechanism; by which the integrity of society was preserved against the short-term selfishness of its component individuals. 

But now, and for the first-time ever; we have a whole civilization that has deleted religion as the primary principle of social coherence and purpose. Modern Western people are born into an utterly alien social environment. We are biologically adapted to a society that has gone.  

If true; this means that religion has been absolutely essential to the formation and maintenance of all human societies - and the larger and more complex the society, the more important has been religion. 

Therefore, when Western Civilization deleted externally-valid religion as the primary reality; it deleted its external control mechanism of Religion - which included the external control mechanism which we might call The Church in all its many manifestations. 

However, the inner fail-safe mechanism of something like apoptosis was not deleted; and it still remains; because it was built-into all (normal, potentially social) human beings.   

What I am saying is that when Western Society deleted religion, it began to fall apart because of the lack of an "immune system". However, a non-religious society also triggered, and left unopposed, a self-destructive instinct in human beings.  

Therefore, individuals ceased to desire to reproduce - in order (implicitly, biologically) to eliminate their damaged and non-sustainable lineage from society. And also, in general terms - such people began to behave in ways that tended to eliminate their non-religious society, which was innerly-recognized as not-viable and dangerous. 

I am suggesting that - at an innate, inbuilt, instinctive level - Not-Religious human beings may be "biologically programmed" to eliminate themselves, and also any society that has become non-religious. 

Over-simplified: the idea is that unconscious human psychology detects "I am Not Religious"; concludes that "I am a threat and need to be eliminated" -- and this triggers innate self-destructive impulses that manifest in multiple ways - such as self-destructive attitudes, desires, ideology, evaluations, preferences, and behaviours. 

This would work both passively, e.g. by not-resisting destruction (which is something widely seen in The West); and also more actively, by Not Religious people and groups seeking their own destruction - not just biological destruction, but social destruction: in other words they seek to eliminate their own non-religious and unviable selves, culture and genetics. 

Because a non-religious, religion-rejecting culture like The West is a threat to all possible cultures; and needs to be eliminated if human society as such can survive.  

Apoptosis is an analogy, no matter how relevant it seems; and I do not believe that it (or any other biological cause) is the whole or even the primary reason for the self-willed self-destruction of The West. 

I personally believe the deepest and most profound reason for our situation is spiritual, not biological - as I have stated many hundreds of times on this blog. Nonetheless; taken in this larger spiritual context, biology may still have a role in aiding understanding, and providing a causal-mechanism. 

I am not talking morally here - I am not, for instance, saying that social survival is more important than the individual in God's eyes; but I am trying to describe the workings of a putative natural or biological mechanism for social survival. 

But I do find apoptosis quite helpful as a way of explaining why so many (apparently a large majority) people in The West exhibit attitudes and behaviours that will (pretty obviously) lead to the annihilation of themselves, and of their culture. 

In sum: while there have always been evil leaders (who are sometimes demonically aligned) - and we certainly have these in The West; the currently manifest widespread suicidal desire and willed socially destructive behaviour was not seen among the masses in earlier and religious cultures. 

The fact that self-elimination is so evident, endemic, powerful, and increasing in The West; invites explanation. 


Note: By the assumptions and terms used here, by historical standards: The Modern West is Not Religious

Even the minority of self-identified Religious people in The West (such as devout, active church members and leaders) are overwhelmingly Not Religious - not in the way nor to the degree that Men of traditional societies were Religious. 

This is clear from their attitudes as well as from behaviour (as was very evident in 2020 when supposed "health" considerations instantly and comprehensively overcame and displaced all inconvenient religious priorities). 

The West is this-worldly, and is ultimately dedicated to therapy (e.g. alleviation of here-and-now suffering, promotion of gratification). 

Whatever we may believe or assert about ourselves: our inbuilt biological mechanisms recognize the reality of our religion-rejection, and are acting accordingly

Therefore; if you genuinely desire to escape the instinct-level societal and personal self-destructivity; the real problem is not convincing yourself and/or "other people" that you are genuinely Religious (i.e. that your ultimate and bottom-line perspective is "not of this world" but directed at highest and eternal reality) -- the real problem is convincing that-within-you which recognizes and acts-upon religion-rejection


Lucas said...

This mechanism sounds like one of Barfield's 'entities'. I suppose the spiritual point of having such a mechanism would be to clarify for the soul what it's desires really are.

Anthony Yetzer said...

Upon reading the last paragraph, I found myself combining 1 John 3:20-21 to get: If our hearts condemn us, we cannot have confidence towards God.

I have always found that entire passage in the epistle impactful. Reading it to mean that our biology condemns us for turning away from our spiritual destiny hit me in a new way.

Stephen Macdonald said...

Another extraordinary essay by Dr Charlton. Original creative thought of this caliber is rarely found across the entire internet today.

Alexey said...

Also idea that life is meaningless makes people subconsciously wanting to die

Geir said...

I think this essay really nails it. The term religion implies being grateful for existence, having some place to give thanks. People today are obsessed with humans being destructive, saying that there are too many people on Earth etc. They simply do not give thanks for CO2, for instance, but instead wish to reduce it worldwide. Their ideas lead to their own destruction. So of course there is a close link between the spiritual and the biological. Say that there are too many people on Earth and you will not wish to bring children into the world. But when you do not bring children into the world, your genes will die with you. Man has succeeded in birth control now, which Chesterton describes as no birth and no control. The end result is unhappy and lonely people. They simply deny themselves the joy of children - simply because they also deny themselves the joy of work and the joy of the results of your work. You can use your term metaphorically on what's going on, but I think it is literally true, because, again, the spiritual and the biological are closely linked together.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Geir - I suppose it should not be surprising given the nihilism of mainstream official beliefs such as you describe (and the list is long), that people (individually and en masse) are negating themselves.