THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN ANIMAL
In lessons 1 through 14 it was our endeavor to present the fundamentals of the scientific basis of the phenomena that make up our complex social activities. In Lessons 15 through 19 we analyzed the existing social habits comprising our Price System mode of control. We have shown on the one hand that there are no physical barriers, aside from human beings themselves, to the attainment on this Continent of an average physical standard of living which would be the highest we have ever known, and very much higher than that of 1929. We have shown likewise that our social activities as controlled by existing social habits, which we have termed ‘the rules of the game of the Price System,’ are rapidly forcing us to an impasse, due to the fact that these habits were largely acquired during a stage of relatively primitive technological development which was characterized by low energy rates of operation, and scarcity in general. In the presence of a technological mechanism which has evolved to a high-energy operation with—for the first time in human history—the potentialities of plenty, the Price System rules of enforced scarcity are found to be no longer adequate.
Since it is human beings and their habits with which we are now obliged to deal, it is well that before proceeding further we inquire somewhat more deeply than heretofore into the nature of this human animal.
There is probably no field of scientific investigation in which more resistance has been encountered than in those domains which have affected the superstitions men have entertained about themselves.
The history of science is littered with burnings at the stake, heresy trials, imprisonment of scientists whose works have contradicted, or otherwise cast doubt upon, popular superstitions.
The Solar System. Before the time of Copernicus, the universe was regarded by the inhabitants of Western Europe as consisting of the earth at the center, with the sun, the moon and the stars revolving around it. A terrific furor was created when Copernicus had the audacity to suggest that it would greatly simplify matters if the sun were regarded as fixed at the center of the solar system, while the earth and the other planets revolved around it in circular orbits. The former system of thought, having the earth as the fixed center, has come to be known as the geocentric system; the latter, propounded by Copernicus, is known as the helio-centric system.
All this seems rational enough to us now, and one may be inclined to ask what all the shooting was about. What earthly difference does it make whether one regards the earth as revolving around the sun, or the sun as revolving around the earth? That it evidently did make some difference is attested by the fact that, while Copernicus avoided the trouble by dying before his famous paper was published, his illustrious successor, Galileo, was imprisoned for defending it, and his health broken so badly that he died in consequence.
When one goes a little deeper into the matter, the reason for all this becomes evident. According to the prevalent superstitions, or folk-ways, backed up by all the authority of the Church, God had created man in his own image, and had created the earth as man’s place of abode. Such being the case, God could not have done less than to place man, his most perfect and important creation, in the center of his universe, with all the parts of lesser importance revolving around. Now, if the sun were to be regarded as the center of the solar system, with the planets revolving around, the earth would be relegated to a position merely of one of the planets, and a lesser one at that. Consequently, such a heretical doctrine constituted, should it be allowed to prevail, an undermining of the faith, not to mention an insult to God himself, and hence was under no circumstances to be tolerated.
In spite of all this the heretical doctrine did prevail and, while it may have been a blow to man’s egotism to be removed from the center of the universe and to be condemned to an abode on a lesser planet, human beings seem to have been able to adjust themselves to this change, and to have got along for better or for worse subsequently.
The Age of the Earth. The next great blow to human egotism and superstition came when the geologists and biologists began to make certain significant observations about the rocks of the earth’s surface. Late in the 18th century a Scotsman by the name of John Hutton made extensive studies of the stream valleys and canyons in the Scottish Highlands. Hutton, after long and careful study, arrived at the then astounding conclusion that the canyons in which the streams flow were cut into solid rock by the streams themselves. Again, the fight was on. The whole thing was ridiculous and preposterous, men said, for was it not known already from the scriptures that the earth was created in the year 4004 B.C.? Since the canyons had not been visibly deepened during historic time, and since the earth was only a little less than 6,000 years old, was it not obvious that such canyons could not have been produced by running water in so short a time, and hence must have been present when the earth was created?
In this case, as before, scientific observation and induction had produced results squarely in contradiction to the inherited folkways. Hutton was attacked, not on the basis of the facts themselves, but on the basis of what men thought they knew already. It had not occurred to these critics that possibly their own source of information, having been handed down from a primitive and ignorant people of the remote past, may have itself been erroneous. In so square a contradiction as this somebody had to be wrong, and the more the evidence was examined, the more firmly was the Hutton theory established, and it gradually dawned upon the learned world that the earth was ancient beyond all comprehension, contrary to biblical tradition.
The implication of the studies of Hutton and his followers to subsequent human thought have been very great, indeed, for if the history of the earth was not in accordance with biblical tradition, was there not a suspicion that possibly the remote history of the human species might be somewhat at variance with the same account?
The next great step in this progression came from the biologists. Even before the time of Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci had observed the presence of seashells in the rocks of Italy, in high mountains at great distances from the sea. To da Vinci this seemed to indicate that these rocks had once formed a part of the sea bottom or seashore, and that when the shell-fish had died, their shells had been buried in the sands and muds which were subsequently lifted up into dry land and consolidated into solid rocks.
By his contemporaries, these ideas of da Vinci’s were accounted as being little less than insane and were paid no particular attention. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, however, other men began the study of the seashells contained in rocks and found themselves obliged to come to essentially the same conclusion reached previously by da Vinci. It was then discovered that the same strata or layers of rock over extensive areas always contained the same shells, but that the shells contained in different strata were different. Finally, it was reasoned that if these rocks were sediments deposited in a sea, the older rocks should be those at the bottom of a series, and the successively younger rocks should be successively higher, one above the other like the layers in a layer cake. Then it was observed that in certain regions of England and France, the nearer one got to the present seashore, the successively higher and therefore younger beds contained shells that more and more closely resembled those contained in the present ocean.
Besides seashells there were now beginning to be dug up here and there whole skeletons of large animals, the like of which do not exist on the earth today.
This was, indeed, a puzzle. Men were obliged to come to the conclusion that the earth was extremely ancient, and that regions which are now dry land had been repeatedly under the ocean in times past. Not only this, but the animals in times past had been different kinds of animals from those living at the present time. Still clinging as best they could to their folklore and theological doctrines, the men in the early 19th century had to revamp their ideas to include these new facts. This they did by deciding that instead of one divine creation there must have been several. God had evidently created the heavens and earth at some time in the extremely remote past, and being an amateur at the art of creating, he had peopled it with some low forms of life. These, evidently, did not turn out to his liking, and in the meantime, he developed some new ideas, so in order to try out his new ideas, he produced a great cataclysm, and wiped out all the forms he had previously created, and then repopulated the earth with a new set of creatures of somewhat improved design. This process was repeated—so men at that time thought—until at last perfection was reached when God created man in his own image, together with the lowly beasts of the fields to do him service.
This beautiful picture was soon upset when the English geologist, Charles Lyell, issued in 1831 his famous textbook, Principles of Geology, wherein it was shown that no evidence of a great worldwide cataclysm or catastrophe existed, and that the making of the mightiest mountains was probably accompanied by no more drastic phenomena than occasional earthquakes and volcanoes such as occur today.
Supernaturalism of Man. At about this same time new seeds of heresy were being sown by investigations in the fields of chemistry and medicine. The chemists were discovering that all matter on the face of the earth is composed of a small number of elementary substances which they called the chemical elements. With this knowledge came the ability to chemically analyze various substances and to determine of what elements they were composed. As a consequence, it was soon discovered that the human body, instead of being something mysterious or supernatural, was composed of identically the same chemical elements as are found in air, water, rocks, and other common substances. In addition to all this, the German physician, Robert Mayer, discovered that the energy released inside the body by food eaten is identically the same amount as would be obtained were the same amount of food burned outside the body. The picture of the supernaturalism of man and the special creations received a final thrust when, in 1859, Charles Darwin issued his book Origin of Species. In this book Darwin showed that instead of species being separately created, animal and plant life undergoes gradual and very slow change, and by this evolutionary process, given a sufficient amount of time, entirely new life forms develop from primitive stock. Thus, life on earth according to this new notion of Darwin, must have begun at some time so remote that no record of it is available, and from these simple primitive forms all of the diverse species of plant and animal life, including man, himself, must have arisen.
This was too much, and the theologians were up in arms again. Dogs, horses, cows, and monkeys may have evolved from lower life forms, but man—never! Man, after all, had a soul and a conscience. He could reason and could discern the difference between right and wrong. He was something above and apart from the brute beasts of the field. While this fight lasted for a period of 30 to 40 years, as usual the facts won out against tradition, and human beings, much as it hurt their egotism to have to do so, were so far removed from the pedestal upon which they had originally imagined themselves to be, that at last they were obliged to admit blood kinship with the other members of the animal kingdom.
But traditional ways of thinking are persistent and not easily outlived, and even though it was granted that the human species is merely one out of many species of animals which had had a common evolutionary origin, still the notion prevailed that there was somehow or other an aura of the supernatural that differentiated man from the rest of the animal kingdom. Man, so it was thought, had a ‘mind’ and a ‘conscience,’ and even the vestige of a ‘soul’. Also, there were ‘spiritual values’ which still kept the human species in a slightly elevated position.
Then, too, men had ‘wills’ whereby they could decide what to do and what not to do.
The developments in the fields of physiology, biochemistry, and biophysics, chiefly since 1900, are at last bringing us down to earth. Attention has already been called to the fact that the human body is composed chemically of the ordinary substances of which rocks are made. So are dogs, horses, and pigs. In an earlier lesson, while discussing the ‘human engine,’ we pointed out that the human body obeys identically the same laws of energy transformation as a steam engine. This also is true of dogs, horses, and pigs. These facts might lead one to suspect that human beings are very far removed from the semi-supernatural creatures they have heretofore supposed themselves to be.
Objective Viewpoint. There was still, however, the age-old puzzle of human behavior and of what we called ‘thinking.’ It might be remarked that the most minute anatomical dissection had never revealed anything that corresponded to a ‘mind’ or a ‘conscience’ or a ‘will.’ The reason for this is not difficult to find when one considers that all of these terms were inherited from an ignorant, barbarian past, and had never been subjected to scientific scrutiny. Let us remember that real scientific progress is at all times based upon the correlation of objectively observable (see, feel, hear, taste, smell, etc.) phenomena. When we subject such concepts as the human ‘mind’ to this sort of test they rapidly fade out of existence. When we observe a human being, we merely perceive an object which makes a certain variety of motions and noises. The same is true, however, when we observe a dog or a Ford car. Only the form is different in each case, and the particular pattern of motions and noises is different. We observe, likewise, certain cause and effect relationships. If, for instance, we press the horn button on the Ford car, the Ford gives vent to a honk; likewise, if we step on the dog’s tail the dog lets out a yelp. Thus, we can say in the case of these two mechanisms, the dog and the Ford car, that: Pressing horn button produces honk. Stepping on tail produces yelp.
We see, therefore, that when we begin to correlate what we actually observe, without introducing any of our inherited preconceptions, we can treat a dog with the same dispassionate objectivity which we are accustomed to use when dealing with Ford cars or radio sets.
Stimulus and Response. It was with exactly this point of view that the famous Russian scientist, Pavlov, began a series of experiments which have already resulted in some of the most profound changes in human knowledge, and in what human beings think about themselves. Early in the present century Pavlov began the study of dogs in the manner we have described. He observed, for instance, that when beefsteak was shown to a dog, the dog’s mouth began to water and to drop saliva. This, mind you is just the kind of observation that one makes with a Ford:
With the car—one pushes the button; horn sounds.
In the case of the dog—one shows beefsteak; saliva flows.
In the case of the car, we know that the horn is connected to the push button by an electric circuit, and that if this circuit is broken the pressing of the button will no longer cause the horn to sound. Likewise, in the case of the dog, Pavlov knew that there are nerves leading from the eyes and the nose of the dog through the brain to the glands which secrete saliva. Thus, the sight and smell of a beefsteak in the case of the dog is just as mechanistic a process as the pressing of the button is in the case of the Ford car. Should these nerves be severed by operation, as has been done in Pavlov’s laboratory, the saliva is no longer secreted in the presence of the beefsteak.
This cause and effect relationship between the beefsteak and saliva flow, and other similar reactions occurring in animals, are called reflexes. If one should use the same terminology in the case of the automobile, he would say that the sounding of the horn is a reflex action occurring in consequence of the button having been pressed. The pressing of the button is called the stimulus; the sounding of the horn is called the response. In the case of the dog the stimulus is the sight and smell of the beef steak, the response is the flow of saliva.
Now, in order to observe and measure this flow of saliva more accurately, Pavlov performed a slight operation on the dog’s face, and brought the salivary duct out and grafted it to the outside of the dog’s face, so that the saliva flowed outside where it could be caught in a measuring device and accurately measured.
The dog was then put into a carefully shielded room, from which he could not see the outside, and into which no sounds from the outside could penetrate. A mechanical device was installed whereby the dog could be shown beefsteak without his seeing or hearing the operator. A metronome was also installed. The operator sounded the metronome, and no saliva flowed. Hence the stimulus, or the sound of the metronome, produced no response in the flow of saliva. Now the dog was shown beefsteak and the metronome sounded simultaneously. This was repeated 30 to 40 times, then the metronome was sounded alone. This time the saliva flowed upon the sounding of the metronome. That is, the stimulus, sound of the metronome, then produced the response, flow of saliva. In other words, the repetition of the sound of the metronome, together with the showing of beefsteak, somehow produced in the dog’s brain a nervous connection between the nerves of the ear and the salivary glands, which did not previously exist. That this is so Pavlov demonstrated by removing the part of the dog’s brain containing that particular connection, and, just as when one cuts the wire between the button and the horn on a car no honk can be induced, saliva no longer flowed at the sound of the metronome.
Now, let us see what this means. If the dog were able to talk and to describe his experience, he would doubtless say that he had heard the metronome so often, together with seeing and smelling beefsteak that finally every time he heard the metronome it made him ‘think’ of beefsteak. But we have been able to observe that what actually happened inside the dog was a series of very slight nervous and muscular reactions, including the secretion of saliva. Stated conversely then, this series of slight nervous and muscular reactions, including the secretion of saliva, is what ‘thinking of beefsteak’ consists of. It should have been stated that the amount of saliva flowing at the sound of the metronome was somewhat less than the amount flowing when beefsteak itself was present. Thus, the reactions which take place in the dog when he ‘thinks’ of beefsteak are the same to those that occur when he actually sees and smells beefsteak, except for somewhat diminished intensity.
This new connection where a response is made to follow a stimulus for which no reflex previously existed Pavlov called a conditioned response. The new reflex set up in this manner he called a conditioned reflex.
An almost endless variety of experiments of the same sort have since been performed on dogs, monkeys, human beings, and all sorts of lower animals, even to snails. It has been found that conditioned reflexes of second and higher orders can be set up. For instance, if a black square is shown the dog, no saliva flows, but if the black square is shown 30 or 40 times, 15 seconds before the metronome is sounded, and then the black square is shown alone, saliva flows. This latter is called a conditioned reflex of the second order. In certain cases, third order reflexes, but no higher orders, were established in dogs.
Thinking, Speaking, Writing. Experiments with human beings have given identically the same kinds of results, with the exception that the human being requires a smaller number of repetitions to establish a conditioned reflex than a dog, and he can sustain a higher number of orders of conditioned reflexes than a dog can. It is of this that a superior intellect consists.
We have already remarked that the series of nervous and muscular twitching involving the secretion of saliva, which takes place at the sound of a bell or other conditioned stimuli in the absence of beefsteak, is of what ‘thinking of beefsteak’ consists. It is now incontrovertibly demonstrated that all thinking is of this sort. If a certain object is placed in front of a human being and at the same time a certain sound is uttered, and this process is repeated a number of times, then if the sound is uttered without the object being present, the human being ‘thinks’ of the object, which means that inside him the same muscular and nervous twitching occur which were originally evoked only by the object itself. This is the basis of all language.
Suppose the object be a familiar tool used for digging soil, and that the sound emitted in connection with it is the word ‘spade.’ If these two are repeated together to a human being who never before saw such an object, or heard such a word, he is soon conditioned to a stage where the sound of the word ‘spade’ evokes in him a conditioned response essentially similar to that produced originally only by the object itself.
Now carrying this to the second order, suppose that the word ‘spade’ is spoken, and simultaneously the individual is shown a certain configuration of black marks on paper. After a few repetitions, this particular configuration of marks will evoke the same response, only to a slightly lesser intensity, than was formerly evoked only by the word ‘spade,’ or by the spade itself. This is the physiological basis of writing.
Conversely, no conditioned response to a given stimulus can ever occur unless the subject has previously been through the conditioning experience involving this stimulus and the corresponding response. Thus, suppose that you are asked to think of ‘rideck,’ and you think just as hard as you can. Nothing happens. The reason nothing happens is that no conditioned reflex has ever been set up in your experience between the word ‘rideck’ and some unconditioned response due to some other cause. If, however, you hear the word ‘rideck’ tomorrow, in all probability you will have a response similar to, only somewhat less distinct than the one you are having now. Tomorrow the sound of the word ‘rideck’ will make you ‘think’ of this lesson.
Suppose, likewise, that the word ‘London’ is sounded. If you have never been to London this stimulus will evoke in you responses from a multitude of your past experiences with regard to the word. These responses will be those evoked originally by certain motion pictures that you have seen, geography textbooks, newspaper pictures and articles, and probably certain books that you have read. What is more, the responses probably will be more or less vague and indistinct and certainly different from those that would be evoked had you ever been to London yourself. Likewise, the following black marks on paper, ‘Franklin Delano Roosevelt,’ will cause you to utter certain sounds, and will evoke within you responses reminiscent of certain pictures you have seen in the newspapers and the newsreels and a certain voice you have heard on the radio. The effect would be just the same to you, assuming that to be the limit of your experience, if the whole business were a hoax, and the pictures and the voice were of somebody else entirely, and merely put out for your illusion. This latter type of thing, as a matter of fact, is what was done during the first
World War, when we were told in the magazines and the newspapers about the Germans cutting off the hands of Belgian children. All we saw were certain black marks on paper, and we saw and heard certain people talking. Then we went out and acted as if Belgian children had actually had their hands cut off; which was exactly what was intended that we should do. However, no one has ever seen, then or subsequently, any of the Belgian children who were supposed to have suffered this misfortune. In other words, it was a pack of deliberate lies, and we, the uninformed public, were the unsuspecting and helpless victims thereof.
Suppression of Responses. Another thing that Pavlov discovered in his experiments on dogs was that, not only could responses be produced by conditioned stimuli, but they could also be suppressed or inhibited. In one case the dog’s foot was given an electric shock. This produced a defense reaction. When, however, the shock was applied, together with giving the dog food for a number of times, the defense reaction was inhibited, and thereafter the electric shock caused a flow of saliva.
It was found that temporary inhibitions to the conditioned responses were always set up when stimuli foreign to the experiment were allowed to act upon the dog. Thus, an unusual noise or the sight of a cat would completely inhibit the conditioned responses such as the flow of saliva. In general, strange stimuli always produced strong inhibitions of the ordinary conditioned responses, though they might or might not produce positive responses of other sorts.
In the case of human beings, striking examples of this type of temporary inhibition are to be found in such instances as stage fright (partial paralysis in the presence of an audience), microphone fright, the inability of one not accustomed to doing so to dictate to a stenographer, and the inability to move freely while at great heights.
In the case of the dog, a particular disturbing factor, if repeated often enough, loses its power to inhibit. Likewise with human beings, all of the above forms of temporary inhibition diminish rapidly with frequent repetition. The way to overcome stage fright is to appear before an audience frequently. The disappearance of the inhibition of movement at great heights is evidenced by the indifferent manner and freedom with which structural steel workers move about in skyscraper frameworks.
Another type of inhibition was produced in the dog by repeatedly sounding the metronome without presenting any food. On successive repetitions the conditioned response gradually diminished until it finally disappeared entirely. This is a fact that is well appreciated by farmers and ranchers. The farmer sets up a conditioned reflex in his hogs by sounding a certain call at feeding time. By daily repetition of this, within a few weeks the hogs become so conditioned that the sound of this call alone will cause them to come in from distances as great as the sound can be heard. If, however, the hogs are called repeatedly without being fed, the conditioned response will soon become inhibited and disappear, and the hogs will no longer respond to the call. A human example of this same type of inhibition is contained in the familiar story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Likewise, a farm boy, when brought to the city for the first time, is confused by literally thousands of simultaneous stimuli which are impinging upon him. He allows little to go unnoticed. He sees the flashing of the electric sign boards, the automobiles, the people, the street cars, and the elevated trains, all simultaneously, and so strong and uninhibited are his responses to these various stimuli that his motions are likely to be irregular in consequence. It is only after weeks of city experiences that he can walk along a busy street and pay no particular attention to anything. In other words, it takes some weeks to inhibit his responses to irrelevant stimuli such as electric signboards.
Involuntary Process. To summarize, Pavlov, by working experimentally with dogs, was able to demonstrate that there are certain inborn reflexes which are just as mechanical in their performance as is the relation between the pushing of the horn button and the sounding of the horn in an automobile. In addition to this, he demonstrated that there is some nervous mechanism in the dog, whereby, through a process of repetition or conditioning, formerly irrelevant stimuli can be made to set off any of these inborn reflexes. He also found that it is possible to remove, by operation, the upper part of the dog’s brain, the cerebral cortex, without killing the dog or impairing the inborn reflexes. After this operation, the dog could still walk, and if food were put into his mouth he would eat it, but the sight or the smell of food would have no effect upon him whatever. Consequently, after this operation, if not cared for, the dog would soon die, because he was completely unable to take care of himself. The reason that the sight and smell of food no longer affected him was that the nervous connection for the conditioned reflex between the sight and smell of food and eating was situated, at least in part, in the cerebral cortex which had been removed.
Thus, a dog is a mechanism with certain inborn responses and an ability to set up, depending purely upon his individual experiences, an almost infinite variety of responses to new stimuli. This process is automatic and mechanical. The dog has no power, whatever, when being subjected to a given experience, to refrain from having the conditioned reflex established which occurs as a consequence of that experience.
We have dwelled at length upon Pavlov’s experiment on dogs, merely because it is simpler to follow Pavlov in his classical experiments without danger of losing our objective point of view. We have digressed from time to time to point out equivalent cases in the behavior of human beings. Other workers both here and abroad have found that everything which Pavlov found to be true in the dog is true also in human beings. All habit formation, all language, all ‘thinking’ is nothing more nor less than the human being’s response to miscellaneous stimuli, internal and external, in accordance with his existing conditioned reflexes. The human being differs from the dog principally in this respect—in the fact that he can acquire a conditioned reflex after fewer repetitions than the dog, and that he can sustain a higher number of orders of conditioned reflexes than can the dog.
Control of Behavior. Practically all social control is effected through the mechanism of the conditioned reflex. The driver of an automobile, for instance, sees a red light ahead and immediately throws in the clutch and the brake, and stops. This behavior is no whit different from that of a dog which hears a metronome and secrets saliva.
Of no less importance in social control are the conditioned inhibitions. If they are taken young enough, human beings can be conditioned not to do almost anything under the sun. They can be conditioned not to use certain language, not to eat certain foods on certain days, not to work on certain days, not to mate in the absence of certain ceremonial words spoken over them, not to break into a grocery store for food even though they may not have eaten for days. Of course, the human being rationalizes all this by saying that it is ‘wrong,’ or that his ‘conscience’ would bother him, but the interesting thing about ‘wrong doing’ and ‘guilty consciences’ is that they are only involved in those cases where one’s past training has rigorously inhibited him from performing the actions in question.
It is interesting to observe a man with a ‘conscience.’ Suppose that he is put into circumstances where he is forced to do the things which he has been taught not to do. Suppose, further, that these forbidden actions are themselves pleasurable, that is to say, of themselves they set off no reactive or defense reflexes. The first few times the person is obliged to do the forbidden thing he does so with great hesitancy and shows considerable signs of uneasiness. If, in that stage, he discusses the matter, he is likely to protest that ‘it just isn’t right.’ If the action is repeated a number of times, however, and no ill consequences occur, the signs of uneasiness begin to disappear, and finally the action is taken with no hesitancy whatsoever. If, at this stage, the person comments upon his action, he is likely to remark upon how silly he must have been formerly to have been so diffident with regard to so harmless a matter.
If one observes a dog, he will find an exactly equivalent mode of behavior. Suppose the dog is a farm dog which has been taught since he was a puppy that he may stay on the porch but must never come into the house. Suppose further that on a cold winter day someone takes compassion on the dog and decides to invite him in to warm before a big log fire in the fireplace. The door is opened, and the dog is invited in, but he does not come; he takes a step or two in the doorway, looks uneasy as if he expects someone to hit him with a broom, and backs out. Finally, he is taken by the collar, and persuaded somewhat more forcibly to come in by the fire. While the fire is a delightful contrast to the cold out of doors, the dog still sits uneasily and appears ready to run at the slightest false gesture. After warming a while, the dog is sent back to the porch. The second time he is asked in he comes, but still with considerable diffidence. After that he is likely to hang around the door in the expectation of a third invitation. Soon he sneaks in without being invited, and thereafter it becomes almost impossible to keep him away from the fire on a cold day.
These two cases, the man with a ‘conscience’ and the dog which has been taught to stay out of the house, are identical in all essential particulars. Both are conditioned inhibitions, and only signify that the animal in question (man or dog) has been subjected to an inhibiting influence in his earlier training.
One sees the same type of thing among farm animals. Most farm fences are of the nature of the red light in traffic, in that the farm animals, but for an inhibition to the contrary, would be physically able to jump them or tear them down if they tried. Wild horses, cattle, or hogs, for instance, will jump over or tear down fences which hold the more domesticated members of the same species quite effectively. What is the reason for this? Can it be that the domesticated individuals are not as physically strong as their wild relatives? This is usually answered to the contrary among farm animals by the familiar barnyard rebel—horse, cow, or hog—which discovers how to jump or climb over fences and how to open gates and barn doors. The author knows of one hog which, when it was young, was given a slight encouragement in learning how to climb into a grain crib. This early experience seems to have removed the pig’s inhibitions concerning fences and barns, for thereafter with no further encouragement or training this pig learned how to open barn doors and how to climb over every field fence on the farm. Finally, when he had grown and was placed in the pen with the fattening hogs, he climbed right out again. This was repeated until a pen was finally built of bridge timbers nearly five feet high, and tapered inward, so that it became physically impossible for him to climb out. The interesting thing about this is that every other hog on the farm could have done the same thing but for their carefully cultivated inhibitions to the contrary.
In this connection it is extremely instructive to observe a miscellaneous cross section of the human beings in any community. A certain small number of individuals always enjoy a greater freedom of action than the great majority of their fellows. These few are forever doing a great variety of things that the others dare not do. This difference is largely a difference in inhibitions. To carry the contrast to an extreme, consider a person raised entirely on a farm to be placed for the first time in a large city. While this person will not in general be without a quiet self-confidence, he will be extremely shy and loath to ask questions of strangers about means of getting about. If placed in social circles of unfamiliar dress and customs, his actions will be almost completely inhibited. By way of contrast the city-bred person, when placed in rural surroundings, is likely to be quite at ease with people, but almost helpless in case he is completely alone and there is no one to ask what to do.
A question frequently arises regarding the extremes toward which human beings can be driven in their conditioned actions. No better test in answer to this question is to be found than that provided by military service. In this case millions of adult men can be regimented and put through a conditioning process consisting of the familiar ‘squads right, squads left’ of the military drill, practice in handling firearms, and conditioning in assuming the proper attitude or deference toward the insignia of higher rank than those on the uniform of the particular soldier in question. Let it be emphasized that the attitude of deference and obedience on the part of a soldier to a superior officer is a case of pure conditioning with regard to the uniform the officer wears, and not with regard to the man himself. Place a man in the uniform of a buck private and he will evoke the response on the part of his fellows which they have been conditioned to give in the presence of the uniform of a buck private. Place identically the same man in the uniform of a general, and he will be accorded all the respect and deference to which a general is accustomed.
So strong are these conditioned responses on the part of the soldier to such stimuli as spoken commands, bugle calls, sleeve stripes, flags, etc., that when these stimuli are manipulated, the soldiers can be made to face even machine-gun fire and shrapnel.
Glandular Types. So far, we have been talking about the reaction of a given organism to its external environment, and we have found that there is a great similarity in response, not only of human beings among themselves, but of other animals as well, to external stimuli. It has long been recognized, however, that there is a very fundamental difference in patterns of behavior in response to similar external circumstances by various human beings of the same sex, and an even more marked difference of response between members of opposite sexes. Even Shakespeare recognized this difference as shown by the remark of Julius Caesar:
Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep of o’nights:
Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.’
It is a matter of commonplace observation that fat men are likely to be jolly and good-natured, whereas the lean and hungry type are more likely to be caustic, nervous, jittery, and, as Shakespeare expressed it, dangerous. It is only recently, however, that physiological knowledge has advanced to the point where it is now known that being fat and jolly or lean and dangerous is almost exclusively a matter of difference in internal secretions of certain of the endocrine glands of the body. If a certain combination of secretions from these various glands takes place a person becomes fat and jolly; if a certain other combination of secretions occurs the person becomes lean and has a pattern of behavior of the type that is more commonly observed in lean people.
These fundamental differences of behavior are even more marked between the opposite sexes. In the mammals and many other animals, the male is commonly larger than the female, and is inclined to be belligerent and stubborn. The male hog, for instance, not only is larger than the female, but also has long protruding tusks on each side of his mouth. The male deer has antlers. The male chicken has a large comb, long tail, and neck feathers, and fighting spurs. The female not only is different in appearance from the male in most species, but also has a distinctly different mode of behavior. Besides, this mode of behavior varies widely from time to time, as in the case of the setting hen or a hen with chicks as contrasted with the same hen at other times; or as in the case of a mammalian mother with young, as contrasted with the mode of behavior of the same female at other times.
The Endocrine Glands. In the past we have been content to obscure these distinct modes of behavior behind such expressions as ‘motherly love’ and other terms equally meaningless. What is now being learned is that these distinct modes of behavior, as well as bodily differences of form, are due very largely to a difference of internal secretions of the endocrine glands in the various cases.
Farmers have long known that castration of male farm animals produces a marked physiological change, as well as a change in the mode of behavior. A bull, for instance, has a deep-throated bellow, is squarely built, is stubborn to the extreme, and is inclined to be quite dangerous. Castration changes this almost immediately. The castrated animal becomes docile and easily manageable; he also loses all interest in the opposite sex. He loses his square-built shape and tends to become taller and more rotund. Similar changes are noticed in the males of other species. It follows, therefore, that some very potent secretion must be present in the non-castrated male which is no longer present after castration. This secretion has been called the male hormone.
There is a similar type of thing with regard to the female ovaries. Just as in the case of the male, where castration produces a metamorphosis to a form which is intermediate to that of the distinctly male and the distinctly female characteristics, so the removal of the ovaries of the female causes the disappearance of the distinctly female characteristics. If, for instance, the ovaries are removed from a chicken hen, she develops longer tail and neck feathers and other external features intermediate to those of a hen and a rooster and resembling those of a capon.
There is a case on record where a prize laying hen, on which accurate records had been kept, finally quit laying, and began to develop a large comb, long tail and neck feathers, and fighting spurs like a rooster. Not only did the hen begin to look like a rooster, but she also began to act like a rooster. She developed the male tendency to fight, and also developed the male sexual behavior. The result was that this former prize laying hen actually began to produce fertilization. Thus, we have a case of a single chicken which during the course of its lifetime was successively both the mother and the father of offspring.
Principally within the last decade or two, various ones of these internal secretions have been isolated chemically and, in some cases, produced synthetically. It is found simply that very minute amounts of highly potent chemical substances, such as adrenaline, which is produced by the adrenal medulla, thyroxin by the thyroid gland, pituitary extract by one of the pituitary glands, female hormone by the ovaries, male hormone by the testes, and various other internal secretions by the other endocrine glands, are injected into the blood stream, and that to a very great extent the state of health, shape of the body, and fundamental modes of behavior are thereby profoundly affected. If these substances are injected into the body from the outside, they produce the same effect that would be produced, were they secreted by the body itself.
We have already mentioned the metamorphosis in the physiological processes, body shape, and modes of behavior of animals which have been artificially deprived of certain of these secretions, the male, or the female hormones. Both of these hormones are now being obtained in concentrated form, and experimental investigation of their effects upon animals is proceeding apace.
Some years back experiments, which have since become classical, were performed upon chickens. From a normal chicken hen, for instance, the ovaries were removed. This deprived the hen of the female hormone, and she developed the capon-like features already described. Then she was injected daily with a concentrated solution of male hormone, obtained in this case from bull testes. Under this treatment, the comb, neck wattles, neck and tail feathers began to grow, and within a few weeks the former hen became metamorphosed in all outward appearance into a rooster—a slightly squatty rooster to be sure, but a rooster, nevertheless. Now, when the injection of male hormone was discontinued these features gradually subsided, and the squatty rooster became a capon again. Similar experiments have been performed with guinea pigs. A normal young male guinea pig was castrated and allowed time enough to reach a stage of sexually neutral equilibrium in the absence of the male hormone. Ovaries were then transplanted into his body, which began the secretion of female hormone. Under this influence the guinea pig developed enlarged mammary glands and a general body contour resembling that of a female guinea pig. Finally, after this metamorphosis had taken place, the guinea pig was given injections of an extract obtained from the anterior pituitary gland. It might be remarked that it is the secretion from the anterior pituitary gland which sets off the milk producing function of the mammary glands. After the injection of the pituitary extract lactation was produced, and this formerly male guinea pig actually nursed a litter of young when they were given to him. The experiment ended there. It is entirely likely that there are still other hormones, possibly those from the posterior pituitary, which, had the guinea pig been injected with them also, would have produced in him a full-fledged case of ‘mother love.’
While the foregoing experiments have regarded principally animal species other than the human, this is largely because these other animals are more amenable to experimentation than are human beings. Clinical data, however, indicate that essentially the same phenomena that have been observed with regard to dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and farm animals generally, are equally true for human beings. Over secretion or under-secretion of any of these endocrine glands in the case of the human being produced pathological states that affect the whole body and mode of behavior in varying degrees. Diseased ovaries, for instance, causing insufficient secretion of female hormone, frequently cause the development of a coarse, masculine voice and other masculine characteristics, including the growth of beard. These pathological conditions have been, in some cases, successfully treated by an operation involving the removal of the tumor or other disturbing factor, or else by continuous injections of the hormone in which the patient was otherwise deficient.
Results on Behavior. It is very important that one distinguish the difference between modes of behavior resulting from external conditioning and those occurring as a result of glandular and similar differences which are frequently inherited. These differences are excellently shown in the case of farm animals. Different varieties of farm animals of the same species are frequently quite different in their fundamental modes of behavior, even though their external conditioning is practically identical.
Hogs afford an excellent illustration. A razor-back pig can be raised along with a litter of Poland-China pigs of the same age. The whole litter can be subjected to practically the same sort of conditioning, but still when they are grown, the razor-back will be lean and wild, and will fight furiously at very slight provocation to protect its young. The Poland-China pigs, if well fed, will incline to fatness, and will be tame, stolid, and unexcitable. Even if cross-bred with Poland-Chinas, the wild and excitable characteristics of the razor-back will persist for several generations.
A similar thing is true of cattle. In the pioneer days the range cattle and the razor-back hogs, as well as the mustang pony, were breeds which evolved from ordinary domestic stock imported from Europe. Under wild environmental conditions this formerly domestic stock underwent a rapid evolution, with the development of those characteristics best suited to survival under such conditions. Among the outstanding characteristics thus accentuated were wildness, tendency to fight for young, and ability to endure on little feed. It is precisely these characteristics which differentiate this stock from its domestic counterpart, which is biologically inferior. The old range cow, like the razor-back hog, was not only wild, she was also a fighter. If a range cow with a calf were corralled, any person molesting the calf would do so at his own risk and there was a high probability that he would be put up a tree or over the fence. The tendency of the range cattle to stampede when collected in herds is now famous in song and story.
No amount of domestication of the range cattle ever more than slightly altered those inherent modes of behavior. During the transition period while the range cattle were being replaced with white-faced Herefords, it was not uncommon for a range calf to be raised among Herefords. This more genteel (if one prefers) environment had little effect on the fundamental tendencies of the range stock. The range calf would grow up lean, wild, and with a propensity for fighting.
A similar thing has been observed in turkeys. The present domestic breed of turkeys has been evolved since the settlement of America by Europeans, from the native wild stock indigenous to this Continent. The evolutionary process here is in the opposite direction from that of the razor-back hog and the range cow. In the case of turkeys, a part of the original wild stock has been gradually domesticated, leaving another part of the original wild stock as a biological control for comparison.
There have been cases where the eggs of wild turkeys have been found and hatched by a domestic turkey along with a number of eggs laid by domestic turkeys. Here, again, is a case where the young wild and domestic turkeys are brought up under identical environmental conditions from the date of hatching. As this flock of young turkeys grew up the wild members were easily detected by the difference between their mode of behavior and that of domestic turkeys. At any slight barnyard commotion, such as the barking of dogs, for instance, the domestic turkeys would fly to the top of nearby fences, while the wild turkeys would fly to the top of the tallest pecan trees in the vicinity.
What we are getting at here is that, granted all the similarity in the basic physiological structure of different individuals of the same species, there are also inherent individual differences which are probably in part glandular, and which no amount of conditioning or training can iron out. Certain individuals are excitable. They flare into a rage on short notice, and from slight provocation, and cool down equally quickly. Others are long-suffering, and are slow to anger, but having become angry, may require days or weeks to subside to normal.
The basal metabolisms of some varieties of the human species have, through some evolutionary process, become peculiarly adapted to the tropics. Others have in like manner become adjusted to temperate, and still others to Arctic climates. All this has nothing to do one way or the other with the superiority or inferiority of one variety of race of human beings with respect to another. It is merely an observation that human beings differ, both individually and racially, and that such differences are fundamental.
Pecking-Rights. Much light in recent years has been thrown on the problem of individual differences by observations made on various sorts of animals. It is a common observation, for instance, around any barnyard that certain individuals for no apparent reason, assume priority and take precedence over other members of the same species. In a dairy herd, for example, coming from the pasture to the barnyard, a certain cow always goes through the gate first, and the others follow after in their proper order. Or, between two cows, it is observed that one will hook the other without the second one fighting back. If a strange cow is introduced into the herd there may be a bit of fighting until she establishes her proper rank, but after that rank is once established it remains fixed.
Within recent years a German biologist has made extensive studies of similar relations among chickens. He found that in a given flock of chickens there existed a fixed system of what he called ‘pecking-rights’—which chicken pecked which. He found, for instance, that between A and B, say, A would peck B, but B would not peck A. Hence, A was said to have a ‘pecking-right’ over B. This man studied the pecking-rights between every pair of chickens in a given group, and he found the system, though complicated, to be quite rigid. Sometimes the pecking-right system would form a closed chain. That is, A would peck B, B would peck C, C would peck D, and D would peck A.
According to press reports a series of similar experiments has recently been made at the University of Wisconsin, using apes. According to this report, pairs of strange apes of like sexes were placed in a cage together and allowed to remain there until they established a state of mutual tolerance. It was found in each case that there was no such thing as equality between the two members of the pair. There might be quarreling in the earlier stages, but once equilibrium was established, one of them always assumed priority over the other thereafter; one was definitely No. 1, and the other was No. 2. No. 2 in one pair might be No. 1 in another pair, but in any given pair there was nothing that corresponded to the concept of equality.
One sees identically this same type of thing among any group of children on a playground, or among any group of workmen of the same rank on a job. Certain individuals dominate, and the others take orders. These dominant ones need not be, and frequently are not, large in stature, but they dominate just as effectively as if they were.
In the Declaration of Independence there occurs the familiar line: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…’ This concept is philosophic in origin and, as we have seen, has no basis in biologic fact. Upon biologic fact, theories of democracy go to pieces.
Functional Priority. The greatest stability in a social organization would be obtained where the individuals were placed as nearly as possible with respect to other individuals in accordance with ‘pecking-rights,’ or priority relationship which they would assume naturally. Conversely, the most unstable form of social organization would be one in which these ‘pecking-rights’ were most flagrantly violated. Examples of this latter type of instability are to be found in the case of the army during the late World War, and in many business organizations at the present time.
In the case of the army, several million men were hastily put under arms, so that there was little opportunity in advance, had any provision to do so been made, to choose the officers on the basis of spontaneous natural priority. Instead, following the well-known West Point tradition of catering to the ‘right people,’ and to what is ‘socially correct,’ the officers were picked largely on the basis of the social prestige of their families, their college training, and other superficial considerations, but with little or no regard for their ability to command the respect of the men under them. Their positions consequently were maintained largely by military police power, and many an officer fared badly once the protection of that police power was relinquished. This accounts for the reputed high fatality of officers at the front from bullets in the back, and for the scores of others who took a proper beating upon the discharge of the men serving under them.
The same thing is true of business organizations. The weapon of control in this case is the police power of the state and the club of economic insecurity which is held suspended over the heads of the workmen. There are few business organizations today whose administrative staffs, selected largely upon the basis of favoritism to relatives, and upon pecuniary considerations, are not to a great extent inverted with regard to the question of natural priority. In such organizations this state of inversion is maintained under the protection of the police power of the state, and by means of the weapon of economic insecurity which the relatively incompetent staffs are enabled to wield over the heads of the workmen. Were these artificial controls removed, it need hardly be added, these functional incompetents would find their existences extremely unsafe until they gravitated back to the level where they properly belonged.
A great amount of confusion exists as a result of mistaking social position for ability. For example, there are very few of the ‘Park Avenue’ crowd, most of whom have inherited money but have never done anything in their lives in evidence of superior intelligence or functional capacity, who do not adopt an attitude of condescension towards such people as farmers, members of the skilled trades, and other such people whose functions are the most vital (and require among the highest degrees of intelligence) of any that exist at the present time. Likewise, the professors of a university view with considerable condescension the activities of the skilled mechanics in the university machine shops, little realizing that it takes a considerably higher order of intelligence, both as regards training and in every-day performance thereafter, to be a master mechanic, than it does to become and remain the ‘learned’ Professor So-and-So.
No better example of this particular type of intellectual insolence need be sought than that afforded by Professor Ortega Y. Gasset in his book, Revolt of the Masses. In this book the writer is decrying the rise of the masses and uses the illustration of a savage who has learned to drive an automobile and to use aspirin. What the professor does not appear to realize is the irony of his own situation, namely, that in the world of action his own position is practically identical to that of the savage he is describing—one of complete functional incompetence. Professor Ortega y Gasset is a Jesuit Professor of Philosophy at the University of Madrid, and, as such, so far as is publicly known, has never done anything of more importance in his entire life, than to read books, talk, and write more books.
Social Customs. These facts lead us to the recognition of two things: first, that human beings, through the mechanism of conditioned reflexes, all react to their environment with a distinct cause and effect relationship; and second, that while human beings all react to their environment in this manner, there is considerable individual variation in the specific reactions of various individuals. In spite of individual differences, however, the degree of uniformity of reactions in a large cross section of people to similar environmental conditions is truly remarkable.
This fact is well brought out in the social customs of primitive peoples. In all primitive peoples the biological necessities of food, clothing and shelter to whatever extent is necessary, and reproduction, are always complied with, but the precise social customs and folk-ways such as marriage and other ceremonies, the ownership of property, etc., vary between extremely wide limits. Every conceivable marriage relationship such as polygamy, monogamy, and polyandry, together with all sorts of minor variations between these is the fixed and rigid custom of some tribal people somewhere. Similarly, this holds true with customs pertaining to rights of property. These customs vary from almost complete communal holdings of all property by a tribe as a whole, to cultures with highly individualistic customs of property rights.
The point is that there is no such thing as a ‘correct’ or ‘right’ system of social customs. Within each one of these tribes their own particular set of folkways is taken as the basis with respect to which the customs of all other tribes are judged —and almost invariably condemned. In any given tribe there is the usual latitude of range in individual differences, but in spite of these differences the early conditioning of the youth of the tribe is such that upon growing up all the members of the tribe of like sex present a remarkable uniformity of customs and behavior. In other words, it matters little what the particular set of customs or folkways happens to be, the conditioning of the youth of the tribe is in each case always such as to insure their carrying on in accordance with the best tribal traditions.
The same type of things occurs in the educational process in general. So similar, for instance, are the colleges and universities of this country that there is remarkable uniformity in the products turned out. On the other hand, within a given university one sees excellent illustrations of the uniform reactions of an ordinary cross section of students to different environments in the cases of different professors. It very commonly occurs in colleges that there is a Professor A, who is completely uninteresting and succeeds in inhibiting or putting to sleep almost all the students who come under his tutelage. Under Professor B, on the other hand, practically all of the students who come into his classes become intensely interested in the subject matter at hand. Were these two professors each to give his private opinion of the intelligence of college students, Professor A would likely say that all students are stupid and lazy; Professor B would say that, quite on the contrary, he had found college students in general to be alert and intelligent. Both would be correct, for under Professor A even the most brilliant of students would appear stupid, and under Professor B even the dull-witted ones would show at least a faint sparkle of intelligence.
One sees the same type of thing among workmen on various jobs. It is a simple matter to stand on the sidelines and criticize a gang of workmen for their lack of enthusiasm and apparent indolence, but if one places himself on the job as a member of the gang and under the same circumstances, it is observed that he soon acts in essentially the same manner as the others do. An excellent illustration of this came to the author’s observation in the case of what was known as an ‘extra gang’ on the Union Pacific Railroad. This gang consisted of about 80 men and was under the direction of a tough Swede by the name of John Swanson. Under Swanson’s leadership this was an efficient and well organized body of men with an excellent esprit de corps. After making a record in laying four complete railroad switches in one day, Swanson would take a look around at the men and remark, ‘Well, boys, we didn’t do much today, but we sure will give it hell tomorrow, won’t we?’
Finally, Swanson left the gang for a two-week vacation. During his absence, the acting boss was an old-time section foreman, who had not done anything in years more vigorous than to sit on the railroad embankment and watch the Mexicans dig weeds. The section foreman spent the two weeks sitting on a flat car smoking a pipe, and as long as the men made the slightest pretense at work he appeared to be quite contented. Within one week this highly efficient gang of workmen was almost completely demoralized. They were becoming disgruntled with the job and were volubly wishing that John Swanson would hurry back.
The significant thing here is that we are dealing with identically the same men in both cases. An outside observer, watching this gang perform under the leadership of John Swanson, would have described it as a fine gang of workmen. Another observer, describing the gang under the direction of the section foreman, would have described it as being composed of a completely shiftless lot, and here, again, both would have been correct. An ordinary cross section of workmen react to competent leadership by becoming a competent crew, while the same ordinary cross section of individuals under incompetent leadership tends towards a state of complete demoralization.
In other words, when any large number of individual human beings under the same set of environmental circumstances tend to behave in a certain specific manner, it is safe to say that any other similar cross section of human beings under the same circumstances would respond in a like manner.
This basic fact shows the futility of all moralistic approaches to the solution of social problems. Such an approach always consists of the pious hope that human beings can be instructed to do the ‘right’ thing, regardless of how contrary this happens to be to what their environmental controls dictate.
It is the same moralistic approach that is back of the current stupidities of the liberals, the communists and others, whose chief form of activity consists of signing protest lists—protests against war, protests against fascism, protests against capitalism, etc.—or else in the equally futile hope that they are going to educate the voting public to cast their ballots in the proper manner, while all the controls which produce the opposite effect are allowed to remain intact.
What we are pointing out is simply this: regardless of what occupation a man may pursue, the chances are highly in favor of his being obliged to pursue that occupation in approximately the same manner as it is pursued by others. One may not like bankers, lawyers, policemen, or politicians, but if he happens to follow any one of these professions, he will soon find out that if he does not indulge in the same objectionable practices common to that profession, he will soon be seeking employment elsewhere. Thus, bankers, lawyers, policemen, and politicians, as well as the members of other professions, are merely ordinary human beings who are obliged to operate under a set of controls which are peculiar to the particular profession considered; any other human being under the same controls is likely to behave in a similar manner. This being the ease, the only possible way of eliminating those types of behavior which are socially objectionable, and of replacing them with types of behavior which are socially unobjectionable is to alter the controls accordingly. No amount of social moralizing ever has, or ever will, effect this to any appreciable extent.
Social Change. This, of course, raises the question as to just how social change comes about. The answer is that social change comes about spontaneously. Human beings, when fed, housed, and clothed, in a manner which is not too uncomfortable, and when permitted normal social relationships among themselves, tend to crystallize their routine activities into non-varying social habits. These habits are buttressed by folklore and the sanction of religion. Any attempt made to change them will produce a reactionary response. If, however, for any reason whatsoever, these habits become incompatible with the same biological necessities of food, clothing, etc., the social habits are always observed to be readjusted in a form which is compatible with the fulfillment of those necessities.
It has already been pointed out in earlier lessons that present day social complexes are evolving and undergoing change at a rate faster than at any previous period in history. That, moreover, this evolution is a unidirectional and nonreversible process. At no two succeeding times is our social mechanism the same. Since human beings themselves are only one component of this evolving mechanism, they find themselves inextricably bound up with its evolution, and since stationary habits are only possible under stationary environmental conditions, it follows that with an environment which is in a continual state of flux, social habits have to change accordingly.
At the present time we find those of our social habits, which we have termed the ‘rules of the game of the Price System,’ becoming increasingly at variance with the biologic necessity that 150,000,000 people have to eat. Under these circumstances it follows that social change will occur spontaneously until a new set of relatively stable habits are acquired which are compatible with an environment characterized by a high-energy social mechanism on the one hand, and, on the other hand, by the biological fact that 150,000,000 people are going to be fed, clothed, and housed. ‘Social change,’ Howard Scott has succinctly remarked, ‘tends to occur at a rate directly as the approach of the front of the stomach to the spine.’
It was remarked at the beginning of this lesson that most of the fundamental advances in human knowledge have been opposed because these advances have contradicted what men have thought they knew about themselves. Little by little, as scientific knowledge has advanced, human ignorance and superstitions have retreated, until now, for the first time, we are able to view fairly objectively the fundamental nature of this human animal which we may summarize as follows:
- The human animal is composed of chemical atoms which are derived from the ordinary inorganic materials of the earth, and which ultimately return to the place from which they come.
- The human being is an engine taking potential energy in the form of chemical combinations contained in food, and converting this potential energy into heat, work, and body tissue. The thermodynamic processes involved, while more complicated in detail, are in exact accordance with the laws of thermodynamics, and are in no essential particular different from the corresponding processes in man-made engines.
- The human animal responds to its external environment through the mechanism of the conditioned reflex, which is a purely automatic but tremendously complex, nervous control mechanism. These conditioned reflexes are, however, subject to control and manipulation through the device of manipulating an individual’s environment. An individual’s present conditioning is always the resultant of all of his own past experiences. The more nearly the environment of a large number of people is kept identical, the more nearly are the human products identical. This is the reason for the great similarity among individuals of various groups, for example, college students, policemen, politicians, Rotarians, farmers, or soldiers. In other words, within the limits allowed by their physiological differences, all human beings respond alike to a like external environment. These conditioned reflexes are sufficiently strong that, so long as the human beings are amply supplied with the basic biological necessities, food, necessary amounts of clothing and housing, and gregarious and sexual outlets, they will perform in a routine manner without upsetting either their conditioned responses or their conditioned inhibitions. They will literally face bullets in preference to social disapprobation.
- There are basic physiological differences among individuals which are partly inherent and partly acquired through differences in diet, secretions of the endocrine glands, etc. It is these basic physiological differences among various human beings that upset all philosophic theories of equality, and hence any governmental theory of democracy. In any group of human beings having practically the same external environment certain individuals always tend to be dominant, and others with regard to these are submissive and constitute the followers. If there were only two men on an island, one of these men would be No. 1 and the other would be No. If this spontaneous natural order of priority among men is inverted by an artificial means whereby the submissive type is made superior to the dominant type, a socially unstable situation is thereby created.
- Human social habits and institutions tend to remain stable or else to undergo change extremely slowly, except in the case of a rapid change of the external environment, especially when this latter affects the basic biological necessities. When human beings are fed, clothed, and housed in a manner compatible with good health, are not obliged to do an uncomfortable amount of work, and are permitted normal social intercourse with their fellows, social habits and customs tend to become crystallize about this particular mode of procedure. Let any change of environment develop in such a manner that the biological necessities can no longer be met by activities according to the old habits, and these latter will be rapidly abandoned. For instance, just now the social habits and customs of some 20,000,000 people, most of whom until recently have been self-supporting, and many of them well-to-do citizens, but who are now on relief, are undergoing rapid and profound change. Social stability, on the other hand, is restored when a new set of social habits and customs are formed that so conform to the dictates of the new environment as to satisfy the basic biological necessities.
- Conditioned Reflexes, Pavlov.
- Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage, Cannon.
- Sex and the Internal Secretions, Allen.
- Folkways, Sumner.