Chapter 1: From Primitive Conditions to Present Needs

1. What is both the greatest triumph of our intellectual growth and the self constituted danger which threatens us within?

2. What is our position today and what is our danger?

3. How does Alexander understand the term evolution?

4. What are the two functions of evolution and how do they work?

5. How has the civilization of the past 100 years been unlike the many that preceded it?

6. Why is the return to a simpler life a futile remedy for our incipient danger?

7. What tendency stands out clearly in our history?

8. By what means must atavism be counteracted?

9. Where lies the secret of our “ability to resist, to conquer and finally to govern the circumstances of…[our]…life”?

Thought Questions

1. What are current views or theories of evolution, and how do they compare to Alexander’s views?

2. What part does cultural relativism play in Alexander’s analysis of the history (evolutionary, social and political) of humankind? Does it make any difference to the rest of his theories or principles? If so, in what way?

3. What is conscious selection and how is it different from natural selection?

4. Does Alexander’s idea of evolution as a force that we combat influence his theories? If so, how?

5. What are the “chains of evolution?” Alexander seems to imply that we can free ourselves of them. Is this possible? If we were able to completely genetically engineer our offspring, would this ability free us from the chains of evolution? Or do the chains include more than biological material?

6. Do you think Alexander sees a distinction between our ability to use our mind to discover specific “secrets” of nature–e.g. genetic engineering–and the ability to use our mind to achieve the plane of conscious control? Do you see a difference?