In a comment to the Spanish version of a previous article in this blog, JI Gs wrote this:
All societies have an explicit social order, whether they are fundamentally believers or not in the immaterial; even animal societies, let alone insects, have a strict social order and the immaterial has no need to act to generate it or to maintain it.
I have two considerations to make:
|Solitary bee (Megachile) and social bee (Apis)|
- Comparing human societies with insect societies is a false step. The human social order is based on a set of moral rules that has remained fairly constant over time, except in relation to sexual morality (see the appendix to The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis). The social order of insects is programmed in their genes and their nervous system. While in the human species it is possible, even frequent, that one or more members of society rebel against one or more rules, or even attempt to overthrow the entire social order, the members of insect societies cannot rebel. In other words, man is conscious and free, insects are not. Any comparison between them is out of place, because they are based on totally different structures.
- I am not aware that there has ever been, throughout history, a society based on absolute unbelief in the immaterial. Personally I don’t know any, apart from recent partial attempts in communist countries, like Cambodia or North Korea, with evident social consequences. It is true that our society seems to be moving in that direction, although surveys indicate that theoretical atheism is still relatively minor. As far as I know, these societies only exist in dystopian literature, whose two best-known representatives are Nineteen eight four by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
In his important work Society, culture and personality, the great Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin pointed out that every human social group has an identity that is expressed in a set of meanings, values and norms. Let us look at what he says:
Once born, the social group must preserve its unity as well as its identity. This represents a remarkably difficult and complex task. In the first place, the group must preserve the identity of its component of meanings, values and norms... The United States of America, the Catholic Church, Harvard University, the American Federation of Labor, differ profoundly, either in their components, or in their interconnections, from what they were when they started their activity. The same can be said of all other social groups. Hence the mystery of the problem: how groups manage to maintain their identity despite the incessant transformations within the group itself and in the environment that surrounds it.
In other words, the identity of a group can remain fairly stable even if some of its values and norms change, as long as other components are maintained; for example, their population (something like this happened when communism dominated Russia). But Sorokin adds:
There is no group that can afford the indiscriminate use of any biophysical object, or phenomenon, as a vehicle for its meanings, values and norms... If the devotion of a group towards its values and its heroes is expressed through objects and actions that ridicule, reduce or belittle them, the result will be the degradation of the values and heroes, and, in consequence, the group itself.
This is what we are seeing today in the European Union, which is very advanced in this path of social degradation.
What can be affirmed is that the social order of an atheistic materialist society would be very different from the one that has ruled our societies in the recent or the remote past. Since human freedom and responsibility are denied, there is no choice but to rely on an absolute dictatorship to control its members, and to treat as sick those who do not accept every norm. On the other hand, JI Gs is right when he says that in such a situation
all [social order] imposed would be artificial and changeable, regardless of what it is. Even the greatest aberrations would not be fundamentally important, since they would just generate chemical reactions like any other, in beings that would not really be different from any natural chemical element, which would have no pain or real feelings, they’d just be apparent or simulated.
In other words: in a society governed by the axioms of atheistic materialism, the social order would not be totally destroyed, but it would be replaced by another one with continually changing meanings, values and norms at the whim of the rulers, who would establish an absolute dictatorship, not very different from those described in the two famous dystopias of the twentieth century. A different question is whether such a system would be able to maintain itself for a long time, which is very doubtful.
I agree with these words by JI Gs.
The same post in Spanish