The Mis-Measure of Men

Bruce L. Gary, 2017.02.27

The following "tale of two men" illustrates something. It could be the fortunes and failures of men, the role of makers and takers in society, or the evolution of a gene pool. It was inspired by a passage in my book Midnight Thoughts (item 1996.05.14). Let's begin with a quote of that item:

Nature has always pitted quantity in competition with quality. Sociobiology uses the terms K-strategy and r-strategy to represent the merely prolific versus those who invest greatly in a small number of offspring. My daughter visited former neighbors after a 15-year absence and reports that their household has so far produced approximately 50 children and grandchildren. Costello, the patriarch, is about my age, and just lost his waiter job, and his only son is in jail; but his many daughters have borne babies dutifully and unthinkingly. Whereas his genes can count 50 new carriers, mine can count two - with a prospect of none in the next generation! I may be more worldly, with secure employment and notable achievements, but to my genes I am a failure!

Whereas Costello was enslaved by his genes, and has done well by them, I have lived a life enslaved to ideas. I have enjoyed figuring things out in various fields: atmospheric science, aviation safety, sociobiology and astronomy. By traditional measures I have been a success (170 journal publications, 6 books, NASA awards, etc). When it comes to my civic duty of voting, I am informed by reading newspapers, magazine articles, books and TV news programs. I consider myself to be an asset to society.

My society, however, might have a different view of me. My vote is just one among many. I haven't contributed any sons for the Fatherland's use in war, and my daughters are childless. From the standpoint of the human gene pool, I'm a failure!

Consider the human gene pool, and how it may have changed during my lifetime. When I was born, 77 years ago, the world's population was 2.2 billion; today it is 3.2 times greater. No doubt, the quantity of the human gene pool has increased, but what about quality? Sadly, I think humanity is getting dumber! Even worse, since the modern world is an easier place for sociopaths to thrive I think it is inevitable that the incidence of sociopathy, presently 10%, is rising. Measuring mankind by its numbers is misleading, because while the numbers are increasing the quality is decreasing.

I have often wondered "Where are the musical composer giants that were so numerous during the 19th Century (when the world's population was 1/6th of its present value)?" and "Where are today's scientific geniuses, the likes of Newton, Darwin and Einstein?" The apologists for today will point to computers, the internet and space exploration. Yes, these are great accomplishments, but they are the products of a tiny cadre of engineers. The life sciences have also advanced in great strides; chief among them is sociobiology. But the bulk of humanity is being pulled forward by a diminishing elite. Surveys consistently reveal that half of Americans believe in the stupidest things.

Democracy is a noble idea. However, democracy is fragile, for it requires a sustained vigilance by an informed and well-meaning citizenship. When democracy is described as the least worst system of governance, this is equivalent to saying that humans are incapable of governing themselves. The human condition will remain unstable for as long as sociopaths are able to corrupt every form of governance devised, and for as long as the bulk of humans remain stupid. Since both conditions prevail today, and since both sociopathy and stupidity appear to be on the rise, I am pessimistic about humans finding that elusive winning place.

My only hope for humanity is in space! Colonies that are precarious in their conquest of harsh conditions will be less tolerant of sociopaths, and more rewarding of good men. It is ironic that the only possible winning place for humanity is an escape from a humanity that mis-measures men.


Gary, Bruce L., 2014, Genetic Enslavement: A Call to Arms for Individual Liberation, Create Space: link

Gary, Bruce L., 2016, Midnight Thoughts, Create Space: link