It 's surprising to compare what he wrote about then with what his successor theorists write about today.In contrast to today ’ s mphasis on universals ( e.g., humans are this or not this or that), Darwin notes throughout this book that individuals have a wide variability in physical, emotional, and mental characteristics.
While some today look for the evolutionary function of various traits and tendencies, Darwin wrote that many of our human characteristics have no survival value.
While many today discount the operation of selection at this “ communal level, ” Darwin sees our “ social nature, ” based on parental and filial instincts, as necessar to individual survival.
“ As a ocial animal, ” Darwin writes, “ it is almost certain that he would inherit a tendency to be faithful to his comrades, and obedient to the eader of his tribe .... ” We have a feelin for right and wrong, but the moral content varies by group.
Perhap o, Darwin observes " that a belief constantly inculcated during the early days of life, whilst the brain is impressible, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct. " Our commitment to the group is such that it impels us to altruistic acts that benefit the group as a whole, so that our social nature prevails over strict and pure self-preservation.
Darwin writes that while we take pleasure in social company, this does not extend to the “ same species ” but is, obviousl, focused on those “ of the same association. ” Yet, ven with this emphasis on our biological nature, Darwin sees the capacity of the thinking and reason to transcend our negative impulses so that we, for xample, can see the consequence of tribalism, transcend them, and commit to “ the dignity of humanity. ” A few questions and concerns about Descent: First, Darwin states that the instinct for self-preservation is not felt except in the presence of danger.
He makes continued reference to habitual actions that lead toward inherited traits, and it 's so clear how that matches up with contemporary natural selection theory unless the genetic tendencies that lead to good habits result in greater survival and reproductive success.Finally, there 's a strong cultural and class boundedness to Darwin 's theory.
Highly civilized nations, he states, can transcend natural selection and “ not supplant and exterminate one another as do savage tribes, ” but that does not match up with history or Darwin 's own view that whites are superior and savages are inferior.