Hector Warnes’ Comment


Joseph Knoll: The Future of Mankind


            My congratulations to Professor Knoll for the translation into English of his book "The Future of Mankind."   I shall cite two paragraphs where he exposed the neurophysiological underpinnings of his life research. On page 10 he writes: “the development of an acquired drive always originates in one way or another from an innate drive which relation later becomes unrecognizable. Nothing exists in the brain without a rational origin.” (I presume that man has to justify, find an implicit bias or a reason for, whatever folly he does during his life time, e.g., the cunning of reason).  Another paragraph, on page 25, reads: "Vertebrates can be divided into three  groups according to the mode of operation of their brain: a) those that operate with innate drives only (the majority); b) those with an ability to adquire drives (a minority); and c) the  group of one that operates almost exclusively with acquired drives.”

            For Professor Knoll, men are either myth-directed or ratio-directed.  I am not sure that I undertand the use of the words "myth" and "ratio," particularly the latter.  My sentence above in parentheses underlines the fact that the use of the word "rational" can have several meanings. The Zweck, or purpose of the French Revolution, was to bring about Liberté, egalité et fraternité, but it failed absolutely.  In less than a few months the contrary  happened. There is a method to the madness which can be a collective one and nurtured by myths, just as it happened with the Nazi propaganda machine.

            Further, I am reminded of the "Triune brain" (the reptilian, the paleomammalian and the neommalian) and would appreciate it if Professor Knoll would expound further on the parallels with his tripartite drive concepts.

            Prof. Knoll raises many questions.  I am not sure that Homo sapiens or the ratio-directed man (oriented not by myths or illusions but by science and art) are following the right path in our historical time. We are not much further ahead,  in terms of ethics and morality, as the ancient Greeks were  with their clear division between  Logos and Ananké.

            H. L. Mencken, in his Minority Report: H. L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956), says: “It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise,  just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods. If such a board actually exists it operates precisely like the board of a corporation that is losing money.” After Professor Knoll’s dreadful and nightmarish life experiences during the Nazi era, I am sure that he would agree with Mencken and see the word "money" in all its meanings (power, enslavement, death, revenge, excrement, corpses, foul odours, etc.).

            Hitler’s extermination camps, Stalin’s Goulag, the Armenian genocide, the Rwanda-Uganda genocide, the Bosnia genocide, the Dafur and the Pol Pot genocide, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki genocide,  etc., the persistent sectarism, the recurrent terrorist masacre, the fanaticism, totalitarism and/or State terrorism,  and so on, point to  man’s undiminished  demonic  and darker side, and his  compulsion to repeat the most hineous crimes against humanity and against his fellow men.   

            Mass aggression is contagious and can be induced by a charismatic leader who is able to find suitable scapegoats  and incite idiologies or myths to rouse the crowds. The manipulability of the mind is evident and has been experienced in many guises under many names, such as brain washing, mind control, thought reform, propaganda, menticide, the hidden persuaders, etc.  Leni Riefenstahl’s movie, "Triumph des Willen," is an example of the rousing fanaticism or orgiastic collective arousal, the profound influence that the oratory of the Führer had on the masses.  It portrays how the raging ferosity, the uncritical zeal, the scapegoating and, at times, the perfectionism (mass murder with indifference, premeditation and coldness) on an industrial scale and the extermination of human beings were accomplished. 

            Hannah Arendt (1963), in her book "Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report  on the Banality of Evil," could not have chosen more suitable words, triviality and the banality, to portray evil on a large scale. Robert Jay Lifton’s (1986) studies on the psychology of Nazi doctors were  interpreted in the light of a  Faustian Bargain and the Auschwitz Self.

            After having personally interviewed several dozen  survivors of concentration camps of  the Nazi era and having heard many times about the conduct of the Russian army invading Berlin or the intentional saturation bombing of civilian populations in Germany, Britain, or Syria  and the destruction of wonderful cities like the destruction of Antique monuments in the Middle East or the use of lethal gases in Vietnam, I wonder about what has become of man.  I am personally  sinking into the pessimism of the astro-physist regarding the future of mankind. Maybe we shall end up like the Martian did.  Maybe another cycle of life shall start elsewhere.

            Professor Knoll’s research on the life enhancer deprenyl and other substances is an example of hope, faith and scientific orientation to solve the many mysteries of life decay and death. His scientific outlook on the future of mankind completes his wide-ranging exploration of our destiny.  Recently,  I came across  a 2002 article written by Professor Imre Zs.-Nagy of Debrecen University in Hungary who is a scientist experimenting with cellular membrane malfunction and aging (lipofuscin).  I wonder if Professor Knoll could enlighten me on this different approach to the issue he has devoted  decades to investigate.



Arendt H.. Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report  on the Banality of evil.  London: Faber and Faber; 1963.


Lifton RJ. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide.  New York: Basic Books; 1986.


Mencken HL. Minority report: H. L. Mencken’s Notebook.  New York:  Knopt; 1956.

Nagy I.Zs. The biological waste product formation in the light of the membrane hypothesis of aging. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics  2002; 34: 329-41.

 September 21, 2017