I try to stay off Twitter except for brief times I’ll allow myself to play on it a few days in a row. The temptation to troll is too great for me and the medium has become less fun as people only tend to interact with you if you’re famous or to humiliate you. But I do follw a few feeds as a part of my morning reading. Geoffrey Miller, author of Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior and The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature is an entertaining and informative part of that ritual. A few days weeks back he produced this tweet:
Monday morning, and we all go back to work. We do different jobs, but they’re all really the same job: protect and nurture Civilization. pic.twitter.com/kWVXZOaVBF
— Geoffrey Miller (@primalpoly) May 15, 2017
Over all I agree with this. The bigger question is whether or not our minds are tailored to think on such a grand scale. I think we’re probably not, but if we think on a local, interpersonal scale, we consequently build civilization. Also, from the intellectual framework Miller uses, it’s hard to say why one value (civilization vs individual hedonic pursuit) is objectively better than another. Suicide bombers and Elon Musk are both behaving, as one might put it, as they’ve been selected to. From the point of view of most people, the version of civilization without suicide bombers is best. And indeed, from the point of view of the suicide bombers, so is their vision of civilization (a world in which they’ve been atomized is the world they’ve chosen). Both visions seems self-evident to those who choose them. What then?
From a Christian point of view, seeking the good of civilization, even as an outsider is an imperative:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:5-7 ESV)
In other words, the imperatives of Genesis 1-2 apply not only to one’s personal pursuit of the good life, but also to the pursuit of civilization over barbarism. While one’s own welfare might be the ultimate goal (the Israelite’s own welfare is the rhetorical hook in the passage), the penultimate goal is the maintenance of civilization itself, even if one finds elements of that culture objectionable.