In 2011, Steven Pinker borrowed the closing line “better angels of our natures” from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address to set the stage for a book arguing that humanity has become more peaceful, law abiding and less murderous through time. Pinker's compelling argument goes that some combination of governance, law, education, globalization and trade have allowed four better angels (empathy, self-control, a moral sense, and reason) of our natures to increasingly dominate five inner demons (practical violence, dominance, revenge, sadism, and ideology) resulting in decreasing human violence across millennial time scales.
Let me try an analogy in those angels for how, when, where and why societies work well, and when they break down into argumentative stalemates. Today’s counterproductive angel of human nature is our need for team identification. Apparently, our angels love team colors, jerseys and the spectacle of sport as much as the rest of us.
Sure; humans evolved in small groups and well-being within our tribes relied heavily on sticking together as a team. This may help explain the seemingly inexplicable propensity for young men, in particular, to voluntarily put their very lives on the line for the well-being of the larger tribe (the nation) without a fair assessment of the very high personal risks involved (i.e., patritoism).
I just wrote to lambast Mike Noel for this quote: “When we turn the Forest Service over to the bird and bunny lovers and the tree huggers and the rock lickers, we’ve turned our history over. We are going to lose our wildlife and we are going to lose our scenery, the very thing you people wanted to try to protect. It’s just plain stupidity.” Mostly, I focused on what he got wrong.
Today I take a more positive look at what he could have said that would have been constructive and more accurate, and likely accomplish what he wanted to in the process.
Utah State Representative (73rd district) Mike Noel recently blamed US Forest Policies for the 70,000 acre Brian Head fire. Specifically, he said, “When we turn the Forest Service over to the bird and bunny lovers and the tree huggers and the rock lickers, we’ve turned our history over. We are going to lose our wildlife and we are going to lose our scenery, the very thing you people wanted to try to protect. It’s just plain stupidity.”
This quote is wrong, and wrong-headed for three important classes of reasons: (a) factual errors; (b) process errors; and (c) ethical transgressions.
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