In what way such discussion can benefit us? The answer is obvious to me: so that we can understand better such important things as society, environment, and ourselves - - and how all these interrelate. Believing in a Utopia is believing that a harmonious relationship between the three is possible and that it should be explored. So why did so many (all?) previous attempts at formulating a Utopia failed? The ugly ruins of Marxist Utopias still litter the landscape of our times. The history of these misguided attempts at a Utopia is fairly well known to all of us. But we should not forget that Utopia is also a key Christian belief. This is the idea of a New Jerusalem. Of course God is the one who would bring it about, yet the role of the believer was not to be understated. Everyone has to try to be good so that Christ will come again sooner in a cloud of glory. The dream of constructing a Heaven upon Earth has been embraced by Christians throughout history, from Pope Gregory the Great, to John Calvin in Geneva, to the Moonie communes of today. I would venture that the key error of both the Marxists and the Christians was their condemnation of the human nature springing from the notion of the Original Sin. (Of course, this applies primarily to the Christians. How the Marxists got on to the Original Sin may not be obvious on the surface, but such a belief is in there -- it simply needs a more detailed investigation). Both believed that the human nature is something "bad" and in dire need of reformation. For the Marxists, as for the Christians, Nature as the whole had to be reformed. "Nature is not the temple where to worship, but a workshop where to create", they wholeheartedly adopted this quote from a Russian 19th century classic. I think the key to elucidating the nature of Utopia is to understand this important concept of the human nature. I have been quite interested in sociobiology in the last few years. This is a rather new science that straddles the areas between anthropology, sociology and biology. E. O. Wilson, a prominent biologist, is usually seen as "the Father" of sociobiology. A lot of what I write here is borrowed from Robin Fox's book, THE SEARCH FOR SOCIETY. He is a well-known British anthropologist. This book is a sort of a manifesto of sociobiology. What Fox is criticising in his book is something that perhaps can be described as "THE HUMAN NATURE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT". This strange enterprise has been sponsored by various ideological parties over the centuries -- parties of both the Right and the Left. Such misguided "improvers of human nature" are often armed with the theory of human mind as a "tabula rasa" (blank page) on which anything could be and is written. There is, of course, a very active "Nature vs. Nurture" debate currently in social sciences. Fox is definitely of the side of "Nature" and "the innate ideas". He is strongly opposed to those deluded theorists who claim that the boys can and should be brought up just like the girls (and vice versa), who claim that "gender is an arbitrary construction". And he is strongly opposed to a separation of "nature" and "culture". To provide a thumb-nail sketch of the book, his friends are Aristotle, Hume, F. H. Bradley, Darwin. His opponents are Locke, Skinner, Levi-Strauss (who attempts the separation of Nature and Culture), and J. S. Mill (although he is somewhat ambivalent with the latter). His view, in opposition to the "improvers", is that the human nature is something as good as given: the product of millions and billions years of evolution. The human nature is essentially unchangeable. It must be understood and respected. Any attempt to reform and to "improve" it is futile and is liable to produce grief. Is this pessimistic? Does this preclude social change and improvement? Not at all, in my view. Society and social institutions do change and rather often. They are changing rather faster than ever recently. Some of the changes at this time are clearly positive, some may give us pause. Society evolves, it has a mind of its own, many of the changes are inevitable and irreversible. WHAT PROPELS SOCIAL CHANGE? But what is the main mover of social change, what propels it forward? This is certainly an important question. My view here inclines to a one that could perhaps be described as neo- Marxist. That is, I believe technological changes beget economic changes which, in turn, beget social changes. Yes, the evolution of the means of production! Echoes of such classical Marxist terms as "the structure" and the "the super- structure"... IS SOCIOBIOLOGY A PESSIMISTIC SCIENCE? I don't think so. To come back to the concept of a Utopia. A sociobiologist, who is also an optimist, would say that our global society is evolving towards a goal (yes, a Utopia!) whereby social institutions are gradually brought more and more in line with the (more or less fixed) human nature the way it really is. In such a Utopian future, the perennial conflict between an individual and society is gradually minimized -- because social institutions are increasingly based on the respect for the human nature, and allow it to flourish. Something, clearly, that our present-day social institutions fail to deliver. WHAT CAN SOCIOBIOLOGY DO FOR US? In what way can the insights gleaned from sociobiology help us to live happier lives? What sociobiology can do, it can elucidate for us the nature of the human nature. It can help us to understand our nature from the evolutionary perspective. What to do with this knowledge is perhaps a somewhat separate question. I don't think sociobiology can give us automatic prescriptions on how to organize our society. That can only be done on the basis of clearly defined ethical principles formulated by consensus after informed debate. To begin, we must determine _realistically_ what kind of a society would we like to live in? What is possible? And then we can proceed to formulating the laws of such a society, making sure to take into account the true nature of human nature. The idea, of course, as seems obvious to me, is to allow people as much freedom as possible while making sure the society will function smoothly and without disruptions. The balance of freedom and responsibility is the key. Obviously, some of the more difficult aspects of this hypothetical utopian system of laws would be the areas of sexuality, as well as such things as the attitude to intoxicating substances. But this is nothing new. Our present- day governments are having plenty of problems regulating "sex and drugs" matters, and it is a major disaster area, not to put too fine a point upon it. How can we have a society where people are not repressed sexually? Is it possible? The area of sexuality is precisely where sociobiology can be very enlightening. Sexuality is the most "primordial" area of our social and emotional lives, something that we are forever confused about, something that is determined by our instincts and emotional needs the roots of which go very, very far back in our evolutionary history. ============= For a long time, I've been of the opinion that envisioning Utopia as a tiny isolated community of "a happy few" is not too satisfying for the intellect. I tend to think that if a happy future is ever to arrive to this planet (hundreds years from now?) it will be a happiness in the context of a peaceful global community the existence of which is based on some of the principles I've looked at. Needless to say, the basis of such a community will be stability and sustainability. They will live in harmony with nature. Will they have a choice? But I am a pessimist short-term. I don't think we can escape global cataclysms, wars and disasters, perhaps totalitarianisms, in the next few decades. The global population explosion and ecological depletion will see to that. These will create such scarcities of vital resources that much of what we take for granted at this time may be seen as luxuries attained at the expense of great effort and severe competition.