A concern that many public leaders face is how to work for the longer-term well-being of Florida during a time when the public continually appears to be concerned with more immediate results. It is becoming increasingly difficult for political leaders representing a complex society to work toward programs that impact the common good.
What Robert Graham, Governor of Florida, says above in his July 17, 1980 letter to Dan Reutenberg, who was then chairman of the Board of Directors of the Florida Endowment for the Humanities, is typical of the frustration that many political leaders are experiencing in our society today. On many issues that come before local government councils, state legislatures, and the United States Congress, leaders often are caught between special, short-term interests of individual citizens and private groups and longer-term concerns for the welfare of an entire population. When the questions being addressed concern environmental matters, the problem is even more complicated, because decisions that affect the environment often lead to consequences for future generations that are difficult to foresee.
The values which guide mental and physical behavior seem to be derived from evolutionary facts. In our brains, selection of genes has tied the experience of pleasure to motivating what nature requires us to do for the good of ourselves, our kinsmen, and our ecosystem. When our brains evolved to house also a cultural heritage (including religion, the motivation of sociocultural goals, and rational discourse), hellish tensions could arise to split brain function (minds) and societies. Salvation could and did come from natural selections replacement of discordant elements in our heritages by better coadapted ones. In this replacement, human rational decisions participated. Selection also continued to adapt these symbiotic heritages to their common environment.
Ralph Wendell Burhoe is research professor emeritus in theology and the sciences at Meadville/Lombard Theological School and Zygons founding editor. His address is 1524 East 59 Street, Chicago, Illinois 60637.
Individual Needs and Social Consensus by Victor Ferkiss
The United States today is faced with a crisis of the liberal system stemming from a shortage of resources and ideas. Liberalism assumes that there will always be enough resources to meet all needs and that politics consists of the struggle of interest groups for resources to meet their particular needs. Liberalism is wrong on both counts: there are not enough resources and there is a common good which includes all particular needs properly understood. We must now revise our ideas and institutions in order to make the common good attainable. Various changes in ideas and institutions toward that end are suggested.
Victor Ferkiss is professor of government at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 20057.
This essay examines current decision-making procedures in politics, especially those employed in parliamentary procedure, with a view to determining the extent to which they contribute to the making of rational political decisions. It concludes that political decision-making procedures are, on the whole, inferior to court-trial procedures, and proceeds to exploit this conclusion by describing a new method of political decision-making based on the concept of a political jury. This method, it is claimed, is more likely than present methods to produce sound legislation.
Bruce B. Wavell is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Philosophy at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida 32789.
Reliable Darwinian theory shows that pure altruism cannot persist and expand over time. All higher organisms show inheritable patterns of caring and discrimination. The principal forms of discriminating altruisms among human beings are individualism (different from egoism), familialism, cronyism, tribalism, and patriotism. The promiscuous altruism called universalism cannot endure in the face of inescapable competition. Information can be promiscuously shared, but not so matter and energy without evoking the tragedy of the commons. Universalism is not recommendable even as an ideal. Survival now requires the creation of an intellectual base for a new patriotism.
Garrett Hardin is professor emeritus of human ecology at the University of California. His address is 399 Arboleda Road, Santa Barbara, California 93110. The paper was prepared while he was with the Environmental Fund, Washington, D.C.
Evolution of the Psychencephalon by Paul D. MacLean
In evolving to its great size the human brain has retained the distinctive features and chemistry of three kinds of brains that reflect an ancestral relationship to reptiles, early mammals, and late mammals. It constitutes, so to speak, a psychencephalon comprised of three-brains-in-one, a triune brain. In the evolution from reptiles to mammals two key changes were the development of nursing and maternal care. Through the agency of newer parts of the brain a parental concern for family eventually generalizes not only to other members of the species but to the entire biosphere, a psychological development that amounts to the evolution of responsibility and what we call conscience. Given our freedom to decide yes or no on various issues, we need not look beyond the evolving family to find a reason for being, an ethic to live by.
Paul D. MacLean, M.D., is chief of the Laboratory of Brain Evolution and Behavior, National Institute of Mental Health, Post Office Box 289, Poolesville, Maryland 20837.
Ethics and Science by Henry Margenau, reviewed by George E. Pugh