The Next Million Years - Part 3 - The Importance of Creeds in Shaping the Future

Knowledge Driven Revolution
17.03.2008
Brent Jessop

“In part the result arises from two very general characteristics of mankind, the tendency of the child to imitate what it sees going on round it, and the tendency of parents to want to teach their children.” - Charles Galton Darwin, 1952 (p102)

The way we interpret the world, our creed, is partly derived from our personal experiences but is usually dominated by the creed of our parents and the impact of education. Popular creeds have been a major driving force for the entire history of the world. Naturally then, if creeds could be developed or manipulated the future course of history would also be altered.

Charles Galton Darwin’s 1952 book The Next Million Years [1] attempts to give a general outline of the “future history” of mankind by using the “law of human nature”. C.G. Darwin (1887-1962) was an English physicist and grandson of Charles Darwin of evolutionary fame. Despite being concerned about the over-population of the world he had four sons and one daughter with his wife Katharine Pember. The hypocrisy of this may seem odd, but the concern about over-population only refers to inferior breeds of humans and not superior breeds like himself and his lineage. C.G. Darwin was a long time member and eventual president of the Eugenic Society (1953-59) which represented the belief system held among many of the political, scientific and aristocratic elites of his day and the present.

The first part in this series examined a variety of issues that C. G. Darwin envisions for the next million years of the future history of humanity including: the altering of human nature, the structure of government and the effects of globalization and computers. C. G. Darwin’s views on the possibility of domesticating mankind as a whole was examined in part two.

What is a Creed?

From The Next Million Years:

“Turning now away from these narrower questions of biological heredity, consider the larger question of how education, in the widest sense, has affected and will affect history. Every man builds up a world of thought, directing his conduct, which is partly formed from his own experience, but even more of it is acquired from his teachers, and in later life from friends and acquaintances, or from books. I shall use the word creed [emphasis in original] to denote a set of tenets acquired in this general manner. I mean the word in an entirely colourless sense, with no question arising of whether the creed is true or untrue, moral or immoral. It is merely a body of philosophical thought - whether it is reasonable or unreasonable philosophy - which is strongly held and used as a main guide to conduct.” [emphasis mine] - 104

“Those [creeds] we hold firmly appear to us to have the inevitability of the propositions of formal logic. Anyone who does not happen to share our creeds is at the least regarded as an illogical fool, but more frequently as a perversely wicked person. It is this that has led to most of the terrible series of persecutions that have blackened the records of history.

Creeds often arouse the most fanatical devotion. It is enthusiasm for his creed that has created the martyr, and, if we happen to share his creed, the martyr is regarded as one of the noblest of humanity. But the matter is not as simple as that, for this judgment has usually been prejudiced by the fact that we do sympathize with the martyr’s creed, and it is necessary to look at the subject without this prejudice. The martyr is driven to make the ultimate sacrifice by his enthusiasm for his creed, but this enthusiasm has usually been evoked by the counter-enthusiasm of his persecutors, the majority in power, who hold an opposite creed with equal fervour. For every man who is willing to die for his faith there will be ten men who are willing to kill for their faith. The ten feel that they are actuated by the same motive, the pure hatred of evil, as that of the martyr, and the main difference is only that for weak human nature the role of the persecutor is easier than the role of the persecuted. But that there is no very great difference between the two is shown by many examples in history, for when the persecuted party has gained the upper hand, it has usually indulged in counter-persecution on a scale equal to that which it had itself suffered.” [emphasis mine] - 107

“Another feature of creeds seems to be rather general. Though the majority of a population, say something like nine-tenths, accept their creed implicitly and regard it as part of the law of nature, there is always a small minority who do not. Most people - call them the sheep - follow the ideas of their leaders unquestioningly, but this minority - the goats - goes by contraries, and disbelieves anything just because those around them believe it. The goats are often not very pleasant people, but they are usually above the average of intelligence. It is probably the corroding influence of the goats that gradually saps the vitality of a creed by its cumulative infection, and indeed there may well be a proportionality between the number of goats in a community and the life span of the creed of the sheep in that community.” [emphasis mine] - 112

The above paragraph highlights perfectly why the dialectic technique works so well in society. The bulk of the population, C. G. Darwin’s sheep, blindly follow without questioning anything. The bulk of the remainder, C. G. Darwin’s goats, just as blindly follow anything that is contrary to the sheep. Neither group examines or attempts to understand any situation and both are equally apart of the problem. Sheep and goats alike have to learn to lead themselves and not blindly follow before any positive changes will occur.

Continuing from the quote above:

“In future history the constancy of human nature makes it certain that man will continue to be dominated by enthusiasm for creeds of one kind or another; he will persecute and be persecuted again and again for the sake of ideas, some of which to later ages will seem of no importance, and even unintelligible. But there is one much more valuable aspect of creeds that must be noticed. They serve to give a continuity to policy far greater than can usually be attained by intellectual conviction. There are many cases in history of enlightened statesmen who have devoted their lives to carrying through some measure for the general good. They may have succeeded, only to find that the next generation neglects all they have done, so that it becomes undone again in favour of some other quite different way of benefiting humanity. The intellectual adoption of a policy thus often hardly survives for more than a single generation, and this is too short a period for such a policy to overcome the tremendous effects of pure chance. But if the policy can arouse enough enthusiasm to be incorporated in a creed, then there is at least a prospect that it will continue for something like ten generations, and that is long enough to give a fair probability that it will prevail over the operations of pure chance. Thus a creed may have the rudiment of the quality, possessed by the genes of mankind, of being able to produce a permanent effect on humanity.

If the history of the future is not regarded as the automatic unfolding of a sequence of uncontrollable events - and few, of us would accept this inevitability - then anyone who has decided what measures are desirable for the permanent [emphasis in original] betterment of his fellows will naturally have to consider what is the best method of carrying his policy through. There are three levels at which he might work. The first and weakest is by direct conscious political action; his policy is likely to die with him and so to be ineffective. The second is by the creation of a creed, since this has the prospect of lasting for quite a number of generations, so that there is some prospect of really changing the world a little with it. The third would be by directly changing man’s nature, working through the laws of biological heredity, and if this could be done for long enough it would be really effective. But even if we knew all about man’s genes, which we certainly do not, a policy of this kind would be almost impossible to enforce even for a short time, and, since it would take many generations to carry it through, it would almost certainly be dropped long before any perceptive effects were achieved. That is why creeds are so tremendously important for the future; a creed gives the best practical hope that a policy will endure well beyond the life of its author, and so it gives the best practical hope that man can have for really controlling his future fate.” [emphasis mine] - 113

The Truth of a Creed

“It will be noticed that I have not said anything at all about what is the fundamental question in regard to any creed, and that is whether it is true or false. For one who wants to believe in a creed its truth is all that matters…” [emphasis mine] - 108

“In the past there have been creeds, such, for example, as the belief in magic or divination, which have been very widely accepted, but we now know them to have been quite absurdly false. Yet they have exerted the very greatest influence on human history. The species homo has not changed, and there are still very many who are only too eager to believe in such things - not by any means all of them confined to the less advanced civilizations - and it must be expected that this tendency will continue to recur again and again.” [emphasis mine] - 108

The degree that any creeds, regardless of its absurdity, can be developed using modern forms of education was elaborated on by Bertrand Russell. Among other things, Russell operated an experimental school in the late 1920’s with his second wife Dora Black.

From Bertrand Russell’s 1952 book The Impact of Science on Society [2] :

This subject [mass psychology/education] will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship. Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakeable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate. It is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark grey.” - 40

For more about Bertrand Russell’s view on Mass Psychology and Education please read this article.

Eugenics Creed

It should come as little surprise that C. G. Darwin, president of the Eugenics Society, would see the superiority of a creed for intelligent people based on the premise of eugenics. Which of course, is his creed.

“The detailed march of history will depend a great deal on the creeds held by the various branches of the human race. It cannot be presumed with any confidence that purely superstitious creeds will always be rejected by civilized communities, in view of the extraordinary credulity shown even now by many reputedly educated people. It is true that there may not be many at the present time, whose actions are guided by an inspection of the entrails of a sacrificial bull, but the progress has not been very great, for there are still many believers in palmistry and astrology. It is to be expected then that in the future, as in the past, there will be superstitions which will notably affect the course of history, and some of them, such as ancestor-worship, will have direct effects on the development of the human species. But superstitious creeds will hardly be held by the highly intelligent, and it is precisely the creed of these that matters. Is it possible that there should arise a eugenic creed, which - perhaps working through what I have called the method of unconscious selection - should concern itself with the improvement of the inherent nature of man, instead of resting content with merely giving him good but impermanent acquired characters? Without such a creed man’s nature will only be changed through the blind operation of natural selection; with it he might aspire to do something towards really changing his destiny.” [emphasis mine] - 202

Conclusion

The next part in this series will examine C. G. Darwin’s emphasis on the desirability of eugenics and ways of perpetuating “superior” genes in future generations. Finally, I will examine the difficulties in controlling the size of the world population as described in The Next Million Years.

[1] Quotes from Charles Galton Darwin, The Next Million Years (1952).

[2] Quotes from Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (1952). ISBN 0-415-10906-X

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