- 2011-11-04 16:41:37
11/11/01 I happened to find this original edition in SNU library, of which I have already read the translated version. I was so into it~ but I still decided to reread it. As expected, the original turns out to be much more fun and fascinating that I even would like to copy it out. This is a book talking about Human Nature (let’s call it HN for short:P I’m lazy) from a evolutionary perspective, and giving explanations to why we do what we do. (I would like to emphasize that psychology is good approach to make us complete, healthy and strong~) Let’s get started with some basic principles~ HN is frequently used in people’s daily conversation. But what is HN precisely? WHAT HN IS MADE OF? Our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are produced not only by our unique individual experiences and environment, but also by our innate HN, which is the cumulative product of the experiences of our ancestors millions of years ago. Evolutionary psychology (let’s call it EP for short) is the study of HN. From the EP perspective, HN refers to a collection of components called evolved psychology mechanisms (EPM) or psychological adaptations (PAs). HN is the sum of such EPM. EPM produces adaptive behavior in the ancestral environment, which increases the chances of survival or reproductive success by solving the adaptive problems (problems of survival and reproduction, without which we will not be able to live long or reproduce successfully). An adaptation is a product of evolution by natural and sexual selection, allowing an organism to solve particular adaptive problems. ex) eating of lots of sweet and fatty foods, which contain higher calories, is adaptive behavior that solves the adaptive problem of getting sufficient food to survive. Our body is full of adaptations. ex) hands allow us to hold and manipulate objects efficiently, collect and eat food, throw objects and use and manufacture tools. PAs are like these physical adaptations in our body, except they are in our brain. They often operate behind and beneath our conscious thinking, and only within a narrow range of life (domain-specific). We do not consciously choose or decide to do stuffs. We behave under some circumstances in response to certain predictable triggers, but we do not always know why. EP contends that these EPMs are behind most our preferences, desires, and emotions, and they incline us to behave in certain ways. The basic principles of evolutionary psychology 1. People are animals (the first and most important principle of EP). The same biological laws of evolution apply to humans as they do to all other species. Certainly we are unique, but we are not unique in being unique. Every species is unique and evolved its uniqueness in adaptation to its environments. 2. Human brain is not special. Just as millions of years of evolution have gradually shaped organs of our body to perform certain functions, so has evolution shaped the human brain to perform its function, which is solving adaptive problems to help humans survive and reproduce successfully. 3. Human nature is innate, not blank state. This follows from 1 above. Socialization and learning are very important for humans, but humans are born with the capacity for cultural learning, which is innate. Culture and learning are part of evolutionary design for humans. 4. Human behavior is the product of both innate human nature and the environment. Genes very seldom express themselves in a vacuum. Their expressions-how the genes translate into behavior-often depend on and are guided by the environment. The same genes can express themselves differently depending on the context. In this sense, both innate human nature, which the genes program, and the environment in which humans grow up are equally important determinants of behavior. Savanna Principle: the human brain has difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment. Why?—human evolution pretty much stopped about ten thousand years ago! But we still have the same EPM/PA that our ancestors possessed more than ten thousand years ago! Almost everything we see around us today-cities, nation-states, houses roads, governments, Internet, computers, etc-came about in the last ten thousand years ago (after the Ice Age). The human body including the brain evolved over millions of years in the African savanna and elsewhere on earth. It is to this ancestral environment that our body including the brain is adapted. But after the Ice Age, the basic shape and function of some organs of our body have not changed very much, so does the brain. Why?—the environment of the last ten thousand year has been changing too rapidly for evolution to catch up, relative to how slowly we mature and reproduce. Evolution takes many generations. The speed of evolution of a species is relative to how long it takes for individuals of the species to mature sexually. Evolution happens faster for fast-maturing species and slower for slow-maturing species. Human evolution happens very~very~very slowly. It takes humans about twenty years to mature and reproduce. But do you remember that there were no such things as the Internet or cell phones for most people outside of the military and scientific circles. Ten thousand year is a very short period of time on the evolutionary time scale. Evolution happens very gradually, and natural selection requires a stable, unchanging environment which it can respond to. A trait cannot get evolve if surroundings is constantly changing because natural selection would not know with which trait to select. For the last 10,000 years, our environment has been changing too rapidly for evolution to catch up. Evolutions cannot work against moving targets. That’s why humans have not evolved in any predictable direction since about 10,000 years ago. To sum up, our brains and bodies are hardwired to carry out an evolutionary mission-a mission that determines much of what we do, from life plans to everyday decisions. We are in a part behaving as a human animal with its own unique evolved nature-a nature that stopped evolving 10000 years ago. Furthermore, in case someone may conclude that because people are genetically different and born with different innate abilities and talents, they ought to be treated differently, we must add that Truth is not “ought to be”; ought to be doesn’t mean the truth!
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