From Selfishness to Species-Level Morality: Can We Overcome Our Genetic Programming?

Humanity has come a long way in terms of its evolution and progress. From the discovery of fire to landing on the moon, we have achieved incredible feats that have transformed our lives and the world around us. However, these achievements have come at a cost. Our actions have also led to the degradation of the planet, the extinction of species, and the exploitation of the vulnerable. Our survival and prosperity have often been driven by selfish incentives that are ingrained in our genetic makeup. But can we overcome this programming and transition to a species-level morality that prioritizes the well-being of all beings, including the planet?

At the core of our genetic programming lies the principle of survival of the fittest. This principle is based on the idea that those who are best adapted to their environment will survive and reproduce, passing on their advantageous traits to their offspring. This mechanism has allowed humans to thrive and dominate the planet, but it has also fueled our individualistic tendencies and selfish behaviors. In a world where resources are limited, we have learned to compete for survival, often at the expense of others.

However, as humans have evolved and developed consciousness, we have also gained the ability to reason and reflect on our actions. We have developed moral codes and ethical frameworks that guide our behavior and decision-making. These codes have allowed us to overcome our genetic programming to some extent, by tempering our selfish impulses and encouraging us to act in the interest of others.

But can we go further? Can we transition from a selfish morality to a species-level morality that considers the well-being of all beings, including the planet? This is a complex question that requires us to grapple with our values, beliefs, and the systems that govern our societies.

One way to approach this question is by examining the role of incentives. Our genetic programming has given us a set of incentives that have driven our behavior and decision-making for millennia. These incentives have been based on the principle of self-interest, where we seek to maximize our own survival and well-being. This principle has been at the heart of our economic systems, where we compete for resources and wealth in a zero-sum game.

However, this approach may not be sustainable in the long term. As we continue to face global challenges such as climate change, resource depletion, and inequality, we need to rethink our incentives and prioritize the well-being of all beings, including the planet. This requires a shift in our economic and political systems towards a more cooperative and collaborative model that considers the long-term consequences of our actions.

One way to achieve this shift is by promoting a sense of collective identity and purpose. When we identify with a larger group or community, we are more likely to act in the interest of that group, even if it means sacrificing our own self-interest. This principle has been demonstrated in various contexts, from sports teams to social movements. By fostering a sense of global citizenship and promoting a shared vision of a sustainable and just future, we can overcome our selfish impulses and work towards a common goal.

Another way to achieve this shift is by promoting education and awareness. By educating ourselves and others about the impact of our actions on the planet and other beings, we can develop a more empathetic and compassionate worldview. This can lead to a greater appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life and a recognition of our shared responsibility to protect and preserve the planet for future generations.

Ultimately, overcoming our genetic programming and transitioning to a species-level morality requires a collective effort that involves individuals, communities, and governments. We need to rethink our values, beliefs, and systems to prioritize the well-being of all beings, including the planet. This is not an easy task, and it requires us to confront some uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our societies.


Seth Taube