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Darwin was wrong12 Feb 2009 09:44 am

Look at this man. He’s the owner of the peanut plant in Georgia, the source of contaminated peanut products that killed nine people and sicked about 600 others. Stewart Parnell, president of the Peanut Corporation of America:

peanut-parnell.jpg

This guy is accused of knowingly shipping out tainted peanuts that ultimately ended up in products sent to nursing homes and schools. Has evolution left him behind?

During congressional hearings yesterday on the salmonella outbreak Greg Walden, a Republican congressman from Oregon, held up a container supposedly filled with contaminated products and asked Parnell if he would be willing to eat any of the peanut items. He took the fifth.

Watching Parnell I wondered how any individual could do such a thing in the name of profit.

When I woke up this morning, NPR had a great piece marking the 200th birthday of naturalist Charles Darwin. His ideas revolve around how all humans, all species, evolve over time. But have humans really evolved to a higher state?

Sometimes you have to wonder where’s the compassion, where are the ethical standards we evolved beings should have.

Yesterday I was talking with a labor lawyer who maintained that all business owners are not to be trusted, that they all only have the profit motive in mind, not the workers.

He asked me what I thought. I paused for a moment and told him I thought the majority of business owners were indeed good people who maintained integrity and treated workers well.

Many people argue that we shouldn’t heavily regulate businesses because most are run by good people trying to do what’s right for their companies, employees and customers. But the bad apples are really bad. In consumer products, the banking industry, in mining, etc., you can find people who, for some reason, were not naturally selected out of the population. Then you have the enablers, the managers, workers, government investigators, who turn a blind eye to bad, even deadly behavior.

How do you deal with this? How do you stop bad behavior in a world where greed and power have become so revered?

We have to change our mindset, yes. But we also need tougher regulations, because businesses can not be expected to police themselves. Thankfully the Obama administration is moving quickly to beef up labor laws in the United States that have taken a battering for far too long. I’m all about free market, but clearly it doesn’t work. People dead from tainted peanuts, an economy in the dumps because of Wall Street greed. Someone has to keep an eye on the store.

Both Democrats and even Republicans are realizing that.

At the peanut hearing, according to a New York Times article today, the talk was about giving government a stronger hand.

…the panel promised victims’ families that they would strengthen the nation’s food-safety net.

“I’ll just make this commitment to you: We’re going to do this, and we’re going to do this in your loved ones’ memories,” said Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado.

Darwin scholars may take issue with my post, especially since I proclaim he was wrong because it doesn’t seem we have really evolved much.

But maybe he did understand that we humans will always have to fight our beastly beginnings.

We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities… still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

darwin.jpg

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