Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and many other religious groups share very similar high moral values, such as love of family and neighbor, looking out for the poor and downtrodden and obedience to their religion’s dictates.
Yet at times their ethical tenets are forsaken when encountering other religions.
Too often encounters commence with hate speech and escalate to armed conflict. If each religious group holds high ideals, how can there be such animosity toward other nonaffiliated religions? Is this not puzzling?
Between political groups, the right and the left, conservative and progressive, bitter disagreement is common and consensus between political parties is difficult if not impossible to achieve. Another question: Why are members of the LGBTQ community or people of color or of differing ethnicity often despised? Why is there such intolerance toward outsiders or those who belong to other groups?
Lately we have witnessed pro-Trump activists appearing in state Capitols, shouting and waving Confederate and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags. Some individuals carry assault-style weapons as they protest the closures. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is now a target of far-right vitriol, evidently for contradicting President Donald Trump and correcting what The New York Times described as “his falsehoods and overly rosy pronouncements.”
Global warming conversations have caused similar disputes. On one side of this issue are the scientists, concerned politicians and most citizens. Opposing taking action to forestall the changing climate are the doubters, belittling not only the science, but directing ridicule toward climate change advocates.
What is the polarizer — the causal agent uniting like-minded individuals and turning outsiders into adversaries? Six million years ago our hominin lineage split from a chimpanzee lineage and went on to inhabit the entire planet. What may be forgotten, there were dozens of similar hominin species, such as Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergenis to name just a few of the dozens of other hominin species.
The last non-Homo sapiens were the Neanderthals who disappeared about 40,000 years ago. What happened to all the dozens of other hominin species? Were they less fit or less intelligent? Were they victims of some cataclysmic event? Or did one species, Homo sapiens, facilitate the other’s demise?
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The competitive exclusion principle states that when two non-interbreeding species occupy the same niche, over time, one species will replace the other. Homo sapiens likely occupied the same niche as the other hominin species, sourcing the same foods and occupying similar habitats. It is likely our species displaced the other hominin species, not by clever negations, but by possessing superior genetic survival traits, traits that strongly bonded tribal members.
Fear, aggression, greed, prejudice, creativity, compassion and our morality are genetic traits that strengthened tribal unity and contributed to our success. Humans have been and remain tribal animals. We inherited genetic survival traits from our very ancient ancestors.
These genetic traits remain vibrant in modern humans. Religious and political groups could be considered tribes. They are social divisions within a society consisting of groupings of individuals having strong unity and commonality.
Humans are keenly adept at noticing variations in patterns, markings, physical characteristics and behaviors as well as having the ability to discern the political or religious affiliations of others. Idiosyncrasies often lead to the assumption that those “others” may be our competitors.
Elimination of competitors has been a time-honored tradition. Killings, warfare and non-brutal methods such as shunning and ostracizing can be common. Tribal leaders have honed the skill of stirring up their base, identifying the “ugly” characteristics of the opposition. And tribal members faithfully follow their leader.
This pandemic and the ongoing global warming offer a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the future holds global solidarity, the realization that the whole biosphere is connected and borders are meaningless. Control of this pandemic is within reach, but there will be other pandemics in our future.
The discovery of a vaccine might be able to eliminate COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but there will be no vaccine that will eradicate the drastic effects of climate change. Only truth, science and a better educated populace will lead the way for humanity.