Are people Nature’s big mistake?

After 200,000 years, why are human beings still killing each other?

a Sacramento-based freelance writer

Sometime in the late 1890s, William S. Gilbert, the Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan of light opera fame, looked at the world around him and didn’t like what he saw.

“Man is nature’s sole mistake,” he concluded.

Ten or so years later Wilfred Trotter, a British surgeon and pioneer in neurosurgery, wrote a book on group psychology, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, and included in it the same opinion, that “after all, man will prove but one more of Nature’s failures.”

If Gilbert and Trotter could see the world of 2012, they might come to the same conclusion. Humans have existed for about 200,000 years, and in those 200,000 years the 7 billion of us now on the planet still haven’t figured out how to act in our own best long-range interests, nor learned how harmful violence is to those long-range interests.

All over the planet, people are killing each other, sometimes one at a time and sometimes in bunches with bombs. All over the planet, people are allowing other people, including babies, to starve to death.

All over the planet, governments seem incapable of creating or maintaining healthy societies, and, worse, are doing harm because of incompetence and criminality. All over the planet, businesses are contributing to the distress because of incompetence and criminality.

In Somalia, where people, again including babies, are starving to death, half of the food being sent there by concerned nations is being stolen, and sold, according to the United Nations. What kind of human being would do such a thing? And, of course, it’s not just one human being, it’s a collection of them taking food from the mouths of starving children.

Why isn’t morality—doing the right thing—a dominant trait in every human being? Since forever, humanity has been involved in a war, the moral vs. the immoral. Right now, it seems as if the immoral, the bad guys, are winning.

Think what the world would be like if there were a morality vaccine, and every newborn child had been vaccinated with it for the last 100 years or so. Killing is immoral, so no killing. Stealing is immoral, so no stealing. Doing harm of any kind is immoral, so no harm is being done.

Of course, there’s a little problem with the morality vaccine. What is moral for some is not moral for all. For some radical Muslims, for example, the idea of a woman being educated and driving a car is immoral. For some radical Christians the idea of sex for any purpose other than making babies is immoral.

Why are there bad guys at all? If this whole business is the creation of a designer, the designer must not have been very intelligent. Or loving.

It’s impossible to ignore the bad things being done, which makes it all the more important to pay attention to the individuals and organizations trying to do good things. Fortunately, there is an abundance of such people. But not, unfortunately, an abundance of stories about them.

I guess focusing on the individuals and organizations trying to do good things is what devout religious people do, those who believe we were all created by a loving and beneficent God. But looking at the 2012 world has got to be a test of their faith.