Is Our Behavior Governed By Our Animal Nature?
The equation between human and animal nature is crude and usually moralistic. I can observe the animal nature in myself without being ashamed of it. I eat, breathe, excrete, have sex, and inhabit a physical body because these are my animal inheritance.
There is no conflict with spirit in any of these things. The old religious prejudice against the body in favor of the soul blinds us to a simple fact: There is no shame in being a mammal, given the beauty and wonder of the animal world.
Every behavior has a genetic imprint. There is no reason to focus on only our so-called lower nature. Altruism is imprinted in our genes; many creatures beneath us on the evolutionary ladder will sacrifice their lives to save their offspring or defend a colony at the risk of dying themselves. A honeybee dies after it uses its stinger, yet the hive survives.
Genes donít distinguish between high and low behavior. Love and nurturing are genetically imprinted behaviors; so is language going back tens of millions of years. The most sophisticated functions among humans, such as my ability to type out these words, is rooted in brain structure. It will probably turn out that spirituality is too.
A certain portion of the brain is rational, and this higher brain produces the best in human behavior. Neurology locates various behaviors in specific portions of the brain, with the implication that these are control centers, switches that go on and off to make us feel what we feel and do what we do. But brain chemistry isnít the primary cause of change, only the indicator.
Everything spiritual is experienced as thoughts, feelings, or actions, all of which depend on DNA. So if you want to blame genes for violence, you have to blame them for sainthood, too.
Adapted from: Peace Is the Way, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2005).