The Evolution Gap and Rule Eight

Aug 7, 2023

Tell the Truth — or, at least, Don’t Lie

Jordan Peterson’s eighth rule in his book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” is “Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie.” When examined through the lens of the Evolution Gap, this rule sheds light on the complexities of truth-telling in our rapidly changing world.

The Evolution Gap refers to the divergence between our slow-paced genetic evolution and the swift pace of social and technological change. In our distant past, living in small communities with interpersonal relationships at the core, honesty was morally upright and pragmatic. Lying had immediate social consequences — mistrust, ostracism, and potential conflict — that could endanger survival.

Today, however, we live in complex, expansive societies where we interact with vast networks of people, many of whom we may never meet face-to-face. This environment, combined with the anonymity offered by the digital world, can make lying seem less immediately consequential and, thus, more tempting. This dissonance between our evolutionary instincts and current environment illustrates the Evolution Gap concerning truth-telling.

Peterson’s rule is an implicit acknowledgment of this gap. By advocating for Truth — or at least a rejection of falsehood — Peterson seems to argue for applying an age-old survival mechanism in our modern context. It’s a reminder that even though our social structures have changed dramatically, the fundamental dynamics of trust and communication have not. Dishonesty can still lead to mistrust, conflict, and social fragmentation, albeit often in more nuanced and delayed ways.

This rule, viewed through the lens of the Evolution Gap, underscores the importance of maintaining honesty as a core principle, despite the complexities of our modern world. It suggests that truth-telling is not only a moral imperative but also a practical strategy to navigate the social complexities that the rapid pace of societal change has brought about.

In conclusion, Rule Eight is a guidepost to bridge the Evolution Gap. By encouraging truth-telling, it prompts us to recognize and apply the timeless social dynamics that were crucial in our evolutionary past and remain so in our present.