John Woodcock: Evolution and Ideology

This paper is intended to show that certain evolutionary phenomena appear to support s.i. I take as a starting-point the assumption made in Ideologies and Their Functions (page 29) that homo sapiens constitutes a term in the overall evolutionary series comparable to the preceding organic and inorganic terms.

The inorganic term itself divides into a series of four terms: subatomic, atomic, molecular and mega molecular organisation. The organic divides into two separately distinguishable terms: the cellular and multicellular. All six terms constitute an overlapping series, a continuum, in which as you suggest, earlier stages are preserved in the later and in which, despite external appearances, the significant feature linking and evolving in each, is the system of organised relations embodied within them. The statistically reliable integrity of these terms is to be contrasted with the unreliable immaturity of the next term in the series to which all its predecessors point and which is slowly emerging from the mists of time. I refer of course to the slow integration of differentiated multicellular systems into a new unity that we call society.

Man is the only multicellular system possessing the necessary variety which through effective integration can form this next term in the evolutionary series. At present most attempts at communion involve the eradication of the differences, as ideologists know, and until a true unity of variety is maintainable it is misleading to include man as a distinct term in the evolutionary series. Currently he is a mammal distinguished certainly by the variety of his behaviour but not by his capacity to use it for the creation of a new evolutionary term better capable of cosmic survival through joint control of the new inner and old outer environments that hopefully is to come.

Julian Huxley provides definitions of evolutionary progress in Evolution the Modern Synthesis (1942). In section II of chapter 10 he writes:

There is no need to multiply examples. The distinguishing characteristic of (successive) dominant groups all fall into one or other of two types – those making for greater control over the environment and those making for greater independence of changes in the environment. Thus advance in these respects may provisionally be taken as the criterion of biological progress.

In section 3 of the same chapter he rephrases his definition but without comment to signify the new condition introduced:

We have thus arrived at a definition of biological progress as consisting in a raising of the upper levels of biological efficiency, this being defined as increased control and independence of the environment. As an alternative we might (re) define it as a raising of the upper level of all-round functional efficiency AND OF HARMONY OF INTERNAL ADJUSTMENT.

The negative, identification of eidostatics with the physical environment and their positive identification, with their social group(s) places them close to the rest of the instinct dominated mammals, seeking to gain control over the physical environment in concert with their fellows generally, as outlined by Julian Huxley.

There is however the question of the “harmony of internal adjustment.” Mammals and eidostatic humans do not question the arrangements governing their internal social adjustments but eidodynamics are characterised by the opposite tendency. The problem is no longer control over the external environment but over the new internal or social environment.

The explanation for this switch of attention may lie with another evolutionary phenomenon. I am referring to the very rapid expansion of man’s neo cortex from a size of approximately 4/500 cc around 2/57000,000 years ago to 1400/1500cc 100,000 years ago.

Prior to the expansion of the neo cortex the mammalian world was dominated by the instinctual mechanisms located in the cortex of the cerebellum, itself part of the limbic system or old brain. The limbic system early man also had, and still has, responsibility for the internal stability and adjustment of the viscera including control of negative and positive emotional states.

It is only in the last 10,000 years since the retreat of the last ice age and the probably consequent mutations of wild cereals making them suitable for human propagation that the learning potential of the enlarged neo cortex has started to be realised.

Unfortunately it appears that the internal shift to learning and ultimately to self consciousness is effected by repression of the old limbic centre and all its works including its ambivalent capacity for love and hate and its monopoly of maturation.

For those who for one reason or another have adapted to society by relying on their neo cortical power and who in the process have inhibited their instinctual capacities, including in man and his ancestors the instinct for tight social grouping as an effective survival mechanism, including that of the gregarious instinct (Wilfrid Trotter) it becomes necessary to treat the harmony of social adjustment as a problem to be solved rather than as an instinct to be enjoyed.

This particular explanation of one major distinction between the behaviour of eidodynamics and eidostatics presupposes a failure of communication between the old and new brain and this is in fact the situation. Perhaps because of the speed of its growth the new brain is poorly linked physiologically with its old but still necessary predecessor. The hard data for this statement together with some interesting but unnecessarily pessimistic commentary is to be found in Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine. He is very honest with his sources.

All this would be a little depressing (as it is for Koestler) without some recognition of the role of consciousness as a mediator between the old and new controlling systems. C. G. Jung has a contribution to make here in his psychological cartography based on experience of many people rather than psychological or evolutionary knowledge.

My own interest in a specialised small group bottom-up communication network is the external counterpart of Jung’s internal process of individuation or reconciliation between the antagonistic centres of man’s nervous system. The theories of systematic ideology seem to me to have their genesis in the same conflict.

from Ideological Commentary 5, February 1980.

See also George Walford: Ideology Beyond Evolution from Ideological Commentary 6, March 1980.