A braindead approach to free will | Angus Kennedy | Consciousness | Scoop.it
In Pagel’s view, we do not have culture because we are human or conscious or have language or labour; it is the other way round. What gives meaning to being human is culture, ‘something akin to a software “operating system” installed without our consent by our parents and others in our societies. It defines who we are and is our internal voice.’ We are ‘imprinted’ with culture like ducklings, which explains our ‘surprising and sometimes alarming devotion’ to the culture in which we are accidentally born. And with it, he sees in us a propensity for racism, xenophobia and violence driven by natural self-interest: survival at the expense of others.

He warns us to be careful about our illusion of free will. Because what we want is always locked into a ‘chain leading all the way back to our birth’ and because ‘to an evolutionist, free will isn’t even all it’s cracked up to be anyway’. For him, those who survived in the past are not those who merely did what they wanted, capriciously, but those who survived. For Pagel, survival is too important to be left up to us. Rather than us creating culture as testament and witness to our existence we are in fact just passengers in ‘cultural survival vehicles’ that exist for the benefit of culture and not for us. Forget about beauty and truth. As he charmingly puts it, culture is just ‘the most successful way there has ever been of making more people’.