… man’s instincts … were not made for the kind of surroundings, and for the numbers, in which he now lives. They were adapted to life in the small roving bands or troops in which the human race and its immediate ancestors evolved during the few million years while the biological constitution of homo sapiens was formed. These genetically inherited instincts served to to steer the cooperation of the members of the troop, a cooperation that was, necessarily, a narrowly circumscribed interaction of fellows known to and trusted by one another…
Although longer experience may have lent some older members of these bands some authority, it was mainly shared aims and perceptions that coordinated the activities of their members. These modes of coordination depended decisively on instincts of solidarity and altruism… The members of these small groups could thus exist only as such: an isolated man would soon have been a dead man. [11-12]
Now if, as nearly all of science concedes, human beings are largely (if not entirely) the product of evolution, Hayek’s view would seem to be, at the very least, highly probable. In any case, it explains a great deal of what we find in the altruist-humanitarian complex of motivations that animating much of the non-revolutionary left. Combine Hayek’s insight with those of Pareto and Sowell, and we can begin to form a psychopathology of left-wing humanitarianism. This psychopathology provides a far more convincing explanation of the “democratic” forms of socialism, collectivism, and leftist “progressivism” than Rand provides us, with her emphasis on philosophical premises and other will-of-the-wisp abstractions that are too topical to mean anything definite.
Rand seems to have sensed the danger that an evolutionary explanation of social attitudes posed to her philosophy, for she created several rather inept strategies to combat it. Her favorite was her rather absurd definition of “instinct.” Rand held that instincts are an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. This is obviously a definition Rand invented for the purposes of debate. No natural scientist has ever defined instinct in that way. Instincts can refer to any unlearned behavior or emotional propensity, whether in animals or human beings. The assumption that human beings don’t have any such instincts, that their minds are “blank slates” at birth, is not supported by science. Nor does the evidence support Rand’s notion that emotions are the product of ideas. Ideas may influence emotions, but they don’t produce them, as anyone familiar with the most basis psychological evidence regarding infants knows. Human beings do in fact have innate tendencies. The strength and intensity of these tendencies may differ between individuals. But the fact of these tendencies soon becomes obvious to anyone who observes human behavior.
In some people, these tendencies cause them to wish to see their altruistic instincts writ on society at large. Recall what the good people over altruists.org wrote: “We believe that [altruistic modes of behavior] can represent a more stable, sustainable solution than the money-focused, model of competitive capitalism.” Why do altruists, humanitarians, and other so-called do-gooders believe in such a thing? It is neither a rational nor an evidence-based conviction. All logic and fact point to the inescapable conclusion, as Hayek puts it, that to follow the altruist-socialist path “would destroy much of present humankind and impoverish much of the rest.” So it should be obvious that these altruists, these humanitarians, these socialists (call them what you will: the name’s not important, only the thing in reality that the name represents) are animated by a non-rational source—that is, by (again to quote Hayek) “an atavistic longing after the life of the noble savage”—a life which is, after all, more more gratifying to innate human instincts and tendencies. These instincts and tendencies are not implanted in the minds of men by intellectuals following the pedant of Königsberg. Thousands of years of evolution put them there. Bad arguments against Kant in the manner of Rand will do little to mitigate their pernicious influence.