In a world filled with an estimated 7 billion inhabitants and over 6,000 languages there is one commonality everyone understands; it makes the world feel small due to its universality. Music. It has the power to join strangers, unite families, and remind us of stories that forever linger in our conscious. Those stories may be one of joy or one of sorrow, but music has its way of connecting our feelings to those memories. It could’ve been the song at a wedding or a funeral. Either way that song reminds us of a specific event, no matter the time of day or our current mood. This is why music and story go hand in hand. If you’ve ever read a Nicolas Sparks novel there’s a high chance you thought of your favorite love song.
The same goes for other novels, but one novel and song in particular comes to mind: Chris Claremont’s graphic novel, X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills and Linkin Park’s, War from their album titled, The Hunting Party. This song’s lyrics, tone and emotion draw direct relation to the Literary Darwinist themes of theory of mind and group selection.
As every person grows older we tend to think we know what’s best for others and ourselves. Parents are perfect examples. They watched us grow up enjoying certain foods, toys, and TV shows. They are subject matter experts when it comes to their own children. This ability is the foundation of theory of mind. In the book The Literary Animal Jonathan Gotschall and David Sloan Wilsondefine this theme as “the ability to assess or predict the thoughts, feelings, motives, and reactions of our fellow humans; surprisingly enough it usually occurs around age 4.” (pg. 188)
This theory is wildly evident in Reverend William Stryker. He believes the mutant race, homo superior, is a threat to mankind. This belief developed when he killed his wife after she gave birth to a mutant. He said his wife was the reason this happened, “She was the vessel used by God to reveal unto me Satan’s most insidious plot against humanity…” (pg. 39) His experience was one of such high magnitude he predicted the rest of the human race would reciprocate the hatred and fear he had for them. I found the lyric, “There’s no peace” to reflect these specific feelings. Styker was tormented years after the incident. These feelings came out of the inability to find peace within his mind from the actions he committed. I found the tempo of the entire song to accurately echo Stryker’s mental state at the time he was at his lowest point. The song is fast-paced and almost out of control just like Styker was during the rest of his enlistment. Not only did Stryker emulate theory of mind, Magneto clearly demonstrated the belief of group selection.
The chemistry of siblings might be the most difficult science to understand. It’s likely each sibling grows up despising the other at some point in his or her life. They fight about sharing clothes, playing with a toy, or what cartoon to watch on Saturday morning. They might even give each other bloody noses or black eyes; as the get older they might debate about political views, ethical scenarios or religious beliefs. This type of behavior is typical between siblings, but if a third-party decides they want to attack a sibling in the same manner, this is when you see the siblings drop all quarrels and come to the defense of each other. For example, take a pair of brothers who are slotted against each other during a neighborhood snowball fight; it is completely acceptable for the one brother to drill the other as hard as he can, but the instance someone else tries to do that, it becomes an issue and the brothers automatically become allies.
That is precisely what takes place with Magneto. Regardless of being a mutant, he has always been the X-Men’s greatest nemesis. But now there is a greater danger: the threat of mutant extinction. He will not stand idly by and do nothing as someone else threatens his race. He decides to join forces with the other X-Men to aid and defend their possible extinction. This is evident when he says, “I am not your enemy, X-Men, nor do I consider you mine. True, my goal has ever been the conquest of Earth—but solely to create a world where our race, homo superior, can live in peace.” During his TED talk, Psychologist Jonathan Haidt shares that Charles Darwin tells us in his book, Descent of Man, “If…the one tribe included a great number of courageous, sympathetic and faithful members, who were always to…aid and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the other.” This explicitly shows us Magneto’s belief of group selection. He believes if he puts aside his feelings towards the X-Men and bands together as a single unit they can extinguish the possibility of extinction. The lyric that comes to mind is “For laying down your life.” The lyric acts as a metaphor for the action of Magneto putting aside his ultimate goal of conquest of Earth in order to save his race.
In conclusion, theory of mind and group selection is present in everyday life. Whether it is in the classroom, workplace or home thinking we go about our day thinking we know what is best for others. Those thoughts may sometimes turn into radical beliefs that we try to achieve by any means necessary. Lastly, group selection is part of what makes us human. Friends or family, we share a common bond with those people and it’s human nature to lend a helping hand when they’re in need.
Claremont, Chris. X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. New York: The Marvel Comics Group, 1982. Graphic Novel.
“LINKIN PARK – WAR.” A-Z Lyrics Universe. A-Z Lyrics, n.d. Web. 7 Jul. 2014. http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/linkinpark/war.html
Haidt, Jonathan. “Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence”. TED Talk. Long Beach, California. March 2012. Lecture.