John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, maintained that the infant’s mind was void of innate ideas and thus was a blank slate on which the stimuli received by the five senses writ thereon the character of the individual. Locke was wrong. In fact, modern science has discovered that what one is, is determined to a large extent at the moment the parent’s sperm and egg unite. Much of character is writ indelibly in the genes.

From the evidence available, one scientist has asserted that if a group of children were isolated on an island without any knowledge of its culture and history and its descendants could survive, the descendants would in a few generations create a culture little different from the one from which the group was exiled. Their innate ideas, predispositions, and genetic mandates would produce essentially the same culture that their parents’ innate ideas created. Nature and DNA would create on the isolated island the same culture, laws and religions by which their ancestors lived. History repeats.

Lawrence Kohlberg, an educational psychologist, has constructed six stages of human ethical reasoning: “The child moves from an unquestioning dependence on external rules and controls to an increasingly sophisticated set of internalized standards, as follows: (1) simple obedience to rules and authority to avoid punishment, (2) conformity to group behavior to obtain rewards and exchange favors, (3) good-boy orientation, conformity to avoid dislike and rejection by others, (4) duty orientation, conformity to avoid censure by authority, disruption of order and resulting guilt, (5) legalistic orientation, recognition of the value of contracts, some arbitrariness in rule formation to maintain the common good, (6) conscience or principle orientation, primary allegiance to principles of choice, which can overrule law in cases the law is judged to do more harm than good.”

Professor Edward O. Wilson in his book “On Human Nature” writes with respect to the stages: “Depending on the intelligence and training, individuals can stop at any rung on the ladder. Most attain stages four or five. By stage four they are approximately the level of morality reached by baboon and chimpanzee troops. At stage five, when the ethical reference becomes partly contractual and legalistic, they incorporate the morality on which I believe most human social evolution has been based. To the extent that this interpretation is correct, the ontogeny of moral development is likely to have been genetically assimilated and is now part of the automatically guided process of mental development.”

That is, one’s moral growth, as well as one’s intellectual growth, is determined mainly by a person’s genes; and a person’s moral growth can run from sociopath to saint. A person’s moral growth can stop at any one of the stages, depending upon his genetic makeup and nurture, and most stop at stage four and five. Stage six includes those people that are self-directed, principle-oriented and morally precocious: Jesus, Socrates and Gandhi among others.

Thus, within the human community there are those with high IQs and low EQs; that is, those with high reasoning intelligence and low emotional intelligence. Both intelligences appear to be hardwired. An emotional moron is likely to reach only stage 2 or 3 of Kohlberg’s spectrum but yet can have a high IQ. Such a person is a sociopath. He is narcissistic, individualistic, greedy, non-sympathetic and non-empathetic. He is scornful of charity and altruism. And politically he is a libertarian, believing in social Darwinism; that is, let the law of the jungle prevail. He is opposed to all communal policies designed to ameliorate the conditions of the unfortunate.

Ayn Rand, the priestess of libertarians, was unquestionably a sociopath with high intelligence. She was extraordinarily gifted intellectually and wrote a number of books, became an icon of the far right and a prophet of unbridled capitalism. She believed that humans were inherently selfish and acted only out of self-interest. Thus, the state was an obstacle to human progress in that it was basically a collectivist institution. She equated material gain with progress. She would be happy to learn that Forbes 500 are all billionaires.

Mark Twain considered what man is and concluded this: “From cradle to his grave man never does a single thing which has any first and foremost object but one—to secure peace of mind, spiritual comfort for himself.” But he left this admonition: “Diligently train ideals upward and still upward toward a summit where you will find your chiefest pleasure in conduct which, while contenting you, will be sure to confer benefits upon your neighbor and the community.” This from one who had high IQ and high EQ.

It’s seems true that one acts only out of self-interest. But those with a high EQ act selfishly in a manner that redounds to the benefit of all society. They do so because they are aware that an individual cannot survive without the community, without the state, without all the assistance that comes from the altruism of millions.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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