CIVILIZED MAN'S EIGHT DEADLY SINS by Konrad Lorenz

CIVILIZED MAN'S EIGHT DEADLY SINS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The sins are eight instances of wrong turns, ill-advised cultural choices which set our species on a course of development at odds with the rest of nature. Cultural selection is a tricky business, lacking the built-in controls of biological evolution and consequently able to wreak havoc on the environment, as we know, or produce a helpless, gross, aggressive mutant species of human being, which we'd prefer not to contemplate. This is not new, except perhaps for the breakdown and the elaboration; but, in fairness, the German original was written at a time when these ideas were still considered crank. And, in fairness again, until solutions are found, every perspective is welcome. Lorenz doesn't have solutions (except in the case of nuclear armament: stop) but does, from his ethological standpoint, offer the idea that we are congenitally predisposed to -- and need -- certain of the vanishing facets of traditional culture, including the values and the range of emotional possibility that go with them. And further that to disregard these needs and our responsibility for preserving the societal forms that serve them is to subject ourselves to genetic decay (terrible phrase) and destruction. There are dangers, in other words, as great as the demolition of the planet and they tend to be mutually reinforcing; the complete list runs (1) Overpopulation, (2) Crimes against nature, (3) Obsessive technological development, (4) Emotional atrophy, (5) Genetic decay, (6) Ruptured traditions, (7) Indoctrination (ads are propaganda too), and (8) Nuclear weaponry. The catch-clause is that cultural evolution, depending as it does on conscious transmission, can be voided almost overnight. And catch-22, once it's gone we may not even know it. Provocative and scary, but opinionated in damaging ways. Expect a mixed reception.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1974
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich