Basis for Chivarly-Now
is well known for its long and favorable relationship with Christianity.
But does it bode well with science
as well? Can psychology validate the social value of Chivalry-Now
as we face a diverse world of many faiths and secular philosophies?
With its pre-scientific, medieval roots, can we confidently recognize
it as a viable ethic for modern times?
We can and we must. In the burgeoning
science of evolutionary psychology we find growing
support for an instinctively magnanimous code of ethics, which just
happens to provide chivalry's foundation. There should be nothing
surprising about this. The attraction to chivalry has to come from
somewhere. Be it from God, evolution or a mixture of both, it's
presence and impact are real and examinable.
To illustrate, let's examine one of
the main tenets of chivalry, that of defending those in need. This
principle reflects the selfless dimension of our code, which stands
in contrast to such vices as greed.
From an evolutionary standpoint, the
warrior risks his life to help or save others in order to preserve
human potential for the future. This can be likened to the protection
response of parenthood, expanded to include others. Going to war
for a just cause, or intervening in the face of criminal violence,
and being killed in the process is considered a noble and unselfish
act that is not without moral justification. The risk and subsequent
consequences, which contradict self-preservation, are accepted in
order to save someone else.
Those who lack the warrior spirit
find this incomprehensible. They will turn and run.
The selfless warrior might not be
able to articulate it, but the reason he risks his life has definite
evolutionary purposes. On a genetic level, he is trying to preserve
the instinctive chivalry inside himthrough others.
We are all mortal. We eventually die.
Preserving ourselves from danger only goes so far in preserving
the continuation of our own genetic qualities. While the warrior
spirit includes self-defense and self-development (both falling
under the principle of self-preservation), it will also risk everything
to defend others, which differentiates him from those who are less
inclined. Here we see chivalry at work as a cultural enhancement
of the compassion gene. The action is real. It happens. It reflects
a genetic tendency we can identify.
If he dies in defending someone who
does not have this tendency, what we might call the "chivalry
gene" (it is not a gene, but a cultural development of other
genetic-responses) appears to die with him, which in fact it does.
This seems contrary to how evolution works. A dead gene is certainly
unable to propagate itself physically. But can it propagate itself
for future generations morally? In other words, can
its influence not only survive him, but increase in value
for future generations?
It can when the influence is cultural.
Culture is capable of modifying genetic logic.
The man of chivalry risks his life
for others because he recognizes a potential inside them that is
worth defending, something that will outlive them all if given the
chance, and contributes to the future well-being of humanity. While
this quality might not be obvious in the person being saved, the
selfless act of coming to the rescue might teach it to him, or catalyze
its potential, either in that rescued person, or in some witness
or later audience. The telling of the story, honoring the hero's
memory, might inspire someone elsea common occurrence around
campfires for the last million years, helping to define who we are.
Here we find the cultural influence we refer to as myth,
both similar and common throughout the world. This too is no accident.
It comes from human nature.
When chivalry is expressed and remembered,
it propagates itself in those who respond to it. The inclination
so many of us feel toward chivalry is real. It's principles have
purposes that are vital to our species. And since technology now
gives us power capable of planetary consequences, the values we
act upon present cosmic consequences as well.
It may appear self-serving for us
to say that chivalry is innate in men, part of our genetic coding,
but the fact is that morality is part of who we are.
At this level, evolutionary motivation
is clear. Every time a soldier dies on the battlefield it represents
an incalculable human tragedy. But when his sacrifice preserves
or inspires qualities that benefit our species, his death is not
in vain. It contributes something vital for future generations.
What remains unclear is how immorality
creeps in, producing selfishness that endangers us all for the sake
of temporary comfort or convenience. This seems to contradict the
genetic impetus of sacrificing oneself for others. The answer is
not as contradictory as it seems.
Our species has been bred for a million
generations to defend loved ones against perceivable threats, be
they other human beings, predatory beasts or natural disasters.
In earlier times, the threats people responded to were visible and
immediate, not gradual and subtle, such as global warming, poor
diet or pollution.
There was no need, until modern times,
to defend ourselves and others from threats that arise from comfort
and plenty. Primitive humans could safely keep warm around a campfire
and not worry about ruining the atmosphere so that it jeopardizes
all life on earth. Keeping warm and eating fatty foods contributed
to survival, and that was that.
Today we face a serious problem. Our
genes still tell us to crank up the heat, burn oil as quickly as
possible, and fill our stomachs with unnecessary calories. We scarcely
listen when modern science warns that we are hurting ourselves and
others. Some of us go so far as to deny the very consequences we
see every day. Our minds understand what scientists are saying,
but our genetic tendencies have not caught up.
This is where Chivalry-Now
provides valuable guidance. Through moral and cultural inspiration,
we can compensate for changes that evolution has yet provided. Call
it an intervention of the mind, prospective evolution, or just common
sense, an enlightened, motivated populace may be the only avenue
that can save us at this point.
To whatever extent it is possible,
our ability to think and influence the course of our lives has an
effect upon our evolutionary development. This is plainly seen in
regards to the impact of medicine upon those who might not live
or reproduce without it. It is also seen in the destructiveness
of war, where perfectly fine people, entire families, are decimated
due to politics, religion or close proximity to valuable resources.
Human intelligence becomes an evolutionary X-factor in deciding
who lives and who dies, and therefore which genes and cultural values
proliferate. Our beliefs, our principles, our code of behavior,
make it possible to influence at least some of the direction of
our evolution, and not necessarily in favor of the fittest. Genocide,
ethnic cleansing, miracle drugs, economic and military power, religious
attitudes toward life, death and reproduction, responses to natural
disasters, dietary habits, education and a host of other influences
are thrown into the usual mix of random change and adaptation. Nothing
is simple anymore. What we do influences our evolution.
Once morality enters the picture,
instinct is modified. Behavioral choices are made for reasons as
wide and varied as personal taste, culture, ideology, pride, and
familial expectations. One insane or ignorant leader can change
the whole course of history in a terrible fashion. Technology can
do this as well. Accumulated residual pollution provides a dangerous
component to what we might otherwise consider beneficial progress.
We are at the point in human development
when morality has to step more wisely into the mix to prevent the
unimaginable from happeningdestruction of all life on earth.
When religious leaders tell us to disregard environmental devastation,
we know for sure that the combination of instinct and moral judgment
has taken a dangerous turn. When political leaders fight to lower
pollution standards, exact revenge upon one nation for another party's
guilt, remove pertinent data from scientific assessments of national
and global concern, and the people accept all this without outrage,
then our moral standards are actively ruining our chances for survival.
We need to take personal control over
our natural instincts in order to prevent them from destroying us
entirely. Our instinct to preserve the species has to supersede
our instinct for wealth, comfort and convenience. In effect, we
need to delineate a moral code that is appropriate to living in
today's worldand that is what Chivalry-Now is trying
to provide. Not a cold moral calculus based on social Darwinism,
but a warm, enlightened, culturally ingrained set of values that
are a natural progression of human instinct, which Darwinian psychology
Chivalry-Now is part of us
already. To release its incredible, transformational potential,
all we need is to recognize it in our hearts, and respond accordingly.