Instinct, Society, and Civilization: The Microbiology of (un)SustainabilityPosted: September 21, 2012
Believing it to be the most profound
game, a man greedily thinks he pits
against Mother Nature
only to find, too late, that
She has been playing him at Chess.
The man who believes Checkers to be the most profound game, when he pits himself against Mother Nature at The Board Game Of Life, not only assumes the rules of Checkers, but thinks Her moves are shallow.
Within every realm of human life, whether the medical, nutritional, educational, social, sexual, etc., there are wrong things and right things. And, some of the wrong things are abominably wrong, worthy of death for the severity of natural adverse consequences to others by such wrongs.
But, hhumans are not omnipotent in their physical makeup. Which is why they die and get disease. Further, in line with ‘Murphy’s Law’, there is not even one human sense about the right things which is exempt from being distorted. Ask Hitler.
I feel deeply comforted that homosexuals can value marriage and family as much as anyone.
But, for me to appreciate that homosexuals revere marriage and family is merely for me to appreciate that there is a certain equality between humans: regardless of sexual orientation or sexual practice, a more-or-less socially sensitive person easily appreciates the value of family and marriage.
So, here’s a question: Is society a bunch of disembodied psyches? Not on your life. And, it should go without saying that the physical world of which we all are a part is not strictly random. Rather, despite is variables, that world is highly ordered. Finally, basically, that order is made of, by, and for, life. Your life. My life. Everyone’s life. There are no shortcuts.
In fact, any ‘corner’ of the natural order that we ignore, we tend to ‘cut’. To our detriment. To all of our detriments. And to some of us more detrimental than to others.
It’s fairly easy to see that any weakening, distorting, or misdirecting of the social fitness of progenitive pairs, and of the individuals that potentially comprise such pairs, is just another way of saying ‘the weakening of society’. But, it may not be quite so easy to see that any weakening, distorting, or misdirecting of the microbiological fitness of these pairs likewise means the weakening of society. The central social instinct is about mating and reproduction. So, homosexual acts, regardless of the sexual orientation of its participants, at best borrow upon the microbiological capital of a reproductive community.
This begs another question: What are the physical connections that comprise a sustainable society? For one thing, we are connected by a common air. If each of us lived always-and-entirely in our own separate little bubbles, we might all claim near-innocence in terms of everyone else’s diseases, disabilities, and dysfunctions. But, we don’t live as a bunch of Bubble Boy’s, so we can’t rationally make such a claim.
Another way society is physically connected is that everyone has physical parents. This connection has to do with epigenetics: the ability of a fetus’s relative genetic integrity to be effected by its environment, and by the prior health-style of its physical parents.
But, all of the basic kinds of human social instincts are driven by―and, in turn, inform―human microbiology. Sex most of all. After all, that’s how we all got here. So, society is actual, physical people, sharing every kind of physical connection. And, while we can’t practically hope to avoid a general physical connection, we generally shouldn’t want to avoid it. Society is, after all, the function of mutual benefits. All the way down to the microbiological level.
However, as with those benefits, any potential problems likewise go all the way down to the microscopic. And that microscopic is a very ordered world. So, society is not just physical people, society is contagion―for better and worse. The fact that we are chemically mutually beneficial makes possible the introduction of mutual chemical detriment.
It may be obvious to scientifically ‘enlightened’ persons that to share a common physical environment tends to inoculate them against many diseases. But, it should be well-understood—by a deeply open sensitivity―just how sharing that environment also can put them at risk of other diseases.
You see, the potentially adverse half of our common physical connection is, in effect, the far more complex half. This is because we take the mutually beneficial half so over-simplistically for granted. For a really atrocious example, in the Middle Ages it was commonly thought that ‘licking a plate clean’ was just as good as rinsing it with fresh spring water; or, that drinking from a cup did not add anything to its contents. In other words, that, regardless that anyone had a ‘subjective’ sense to the contrary, the Middle-Age’s level of official scientific knowledge of contaminants was obscenely primitive. And, to top it off, they had virtually no clue that air is a prime means of contamination.
But, as atrocious as was the level of official biological science in the Middle Ages, only in the last century has anyone’s subjective sense about the ill-effects of second-hand smoke been ‘scientifically proved’ justified. And, absurdly, it was long prior to that official justification that it was well-known that one could contract a lung disease even without the aid of smoke, by a senseless, or even accidental, proximity to persons who, for unascertained reasons, clearly were ill in their breathing.
So, even if we never come in direct contact with anyone, or with any solid surface that others have touched, society is connected, for better and worse, by the air that surrounds us all. And, short of some relatively advanced technology, society cannot even hope to live as a bunch of Bubble Boys.
Even with the new appreciation of epigenetics—that realm of genetics in which the potential rubber for health and disease meets the actual road―people today love to think that the plain old genetics still easily determines 90% of the health/disease balance. As if it actually ever did. Just like licking your plate clean.
But, there once were no genes on Earth, while there always has been an environment that could act on genes, to shape them—even distort them. So, just the principle of ‘biologically detrimental substance’ is complex: there is no simple difference between a detrimental one and a helpful one. As a simple example, water is good for humans to intake, but not too much, and not down the wrong tube. The microbiological level of human health is vastly more complex, and in terms of many more substances, than just water. And, now, with their ‘basic’ knowledge of epigenetics, too many people today think as if they deeply understand, in terms of ‘scientific fact’, the physical connections we share.
Again, the plain old genetics is where the potential for health and disease reside, and epigenetics where that potential gets its cue to act. Yet, no one really knows more than a very few of that actor’s words, much less an entire sentence.
Again, society works precisely because people are mutually beneficial. That’s what society is. But, the more people’s habits counteract that mutual benefit, the more society dissolves, and even families fall apart. And, that ‘dissolution’ and ‘falling apart’ is not a simple fading away and crumbling. It’s more like chaos: a chaos of disease and dysfunction. We all learned that much in grade school, if not in kindergarten. The question is how well we really care to understand it.
For example, it’s one thing to accept a person who is addicted to smoking. It’s another thing to make them feel there is nothing wrong with smoking. And, if you’re so uniformed, or so willfully senseless, as to believe that second-hand smoke is harmless, then at least don’t try to make your version of ‘harmless common air’ legally compulsory on the rest of us. In short, given a world full of every kind and degree of bad habit, there is no such thing as a free ride to the mutual benefits of society.
The reproductively normative bi-gender-ness of humans means there are basically two directions possible for a person’s ‘subjective’ sexual orientation. We’re fairly exempt from be sexually oriented toward an entirely new, imaginary third gender―or, for that matter, toward crude oil and rocks. But, if ‘evolutionary’ fitness involves the potential to reproduce, then, notwithstanding the normal mechanical option, a ‘reversal’ of one’s sexual orientation may very well be a class-A social disability. Possibly the class-A social disability.
You see, sex is a social instinct, and the most deeply social one. And, that instinct is so deep not simply because of the intensity of our ‘subjective’ drive toward it, but because of the very-real-and-concrete microbiological exchange which takes place within it. Even with a condom. Your brain exercises it, and so it becomes strengthened, ingrained, in you. We’re sexual beings because we are conceived by sexual beings.
The question is whether a disability ought to be exercised as such, or, instead, worked through. No one wants to practice a limp that much. No one wants be that realistic in pretending to have no arms.
There are all sorts of disabilities possible, and many co-occurrences of different disabilities in an individual human. But a disability in terms of a basic instinct seems pretty serious to me. One wouldn’t want to wake up to find oneself hungry for asphalt instead of oatmeal. Some science fictional creature may ingest your neighborhood roads for sustenance. But, we humans don’t have science-fictional digestive/nutrient-uptake systems. And, the microbiological exchange which is the process of digestion-and-assimilation is an example of what really, most deeply, goes on in sexual attraction and sexual activity:
We live in a common, organized soup of the microscopic world. So, the more chaos we input into that world, the more chaos it gives back. Sex is such a deeply microbiological power, so the question is whether deliberately practicing a disabled version of it causes that disabled version to be reproduced (and, or, a host of other microbiological problems which present as disease and dysfunction). No one in their right mind wants to eat soup that has had petroleum products mixed into it, and there’s a reason the dinosaurs became extinct.
Don’t get me wrong. I know too well what it’s like being disapproved of for being a sexual creature-for having a sexual orientation of any kind. And, for those who think that’s bad, it was a disapproval not by intent, but merely by effect. I’m that sensitive. So, believe me when I say that I empathize with the wish, on the part of homosexuals, to be simply accorded what a heterosexual society already simply accords its heterosexual members: the natural and, therefore, civil right to be married to whomever with whom they share a most deep-and-broad kind of attraction.
To my mind, for a person to be homosexual in a heterosexual world is for that person to be oppressed, even if the whole world were ‘Ok’ with homosexuality. It’s an aberration of the microbiology governing the most basic social-and-reproductive instinct. Most of the more empathic or otherwise open heterosexuals know this (which is why Social Liberals are morally liberal towards homosexual acts).
But, knowing that to be homosexual is to be oppressed in a normatively heterosexual world does not say in which direction to prosecute the case for the sake of those who find themselves either sexually attracted to members of their own gender or born with a blended gender. Compulsive gamblers can be very friendly people, but you wouldn’t trust your money to them. As anyone with a libido knows, sex is most deeply powerful force in the human psyche. So powerful that, if allowed, it may easily overrun its rightful bounds: not in all individuals at the same time, but in a population over time and generations. It’s all about how much society is willing to reduce itself to its lowest common denominator.
So, it is not irrational to suppose that homosexual sex, and same-sex marriage, is bad for the ‘social’ and legal fabric of our civilization. Is it irrational to suppose that sexual relations between heterosexuals of the same gender might necessarily have some long-term adverse microbiological consequences, both to themselves and to others???
It is not irrational to suppose that some of those adverse consequences can be so ruinous to some others’ microbiology’s as to make some of those others wish to end their own lives. In fact, to reject out-of-hand the possibility of such consequences to such relations is, in effect, to reject that such consequences necessarily ever obtain in regard to any human action no matter how instinctively repulsive some possible human actions may be.
The microscopic environment is a complex continuum with which a properly functioning human individual’s microbiology has a mutually beneficial relationship. But, the possibility of mutual benefit between organisms makes possible a deep imbalance between them. And, once such an imbalance exists, their mutual benefit makes possible a short-sighted act which compounds any deep imbalance already present. So, the reason why ‘Anything that can go wrong, will’, is because ‘Bleep adds up so long as people keep doing bleep.’
Social Liberals rightly abhor economic greed for the disease and dysfunction that such greed causes both to the human and non-human parts of the Earth. But, in how many of the basic features of human life is it possible to cause disease or dysfunction to others? Surely, the sexual feature of human life cannot be one of the least.
It’s fairly easy to see that any weakening, distorting, or misdirecting of the social fitness of justifiable actual and potential progenitive pairs means the weakening of society-at-large. What may not be so obvious-at least until you think about it―is that any weakening, distorting, or misdirecting of the microbiological fitness of progenitive pairs means the weakening of society-at-large. The problem, of course, is tracking any such social or microbiological weaknesses to their sources.
But, all ‘merely‘ social actions are very much microbiological actions. And, some kinds of social actions are the most deeply microbiological. For better or worse.