Biological Human

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* Book: The Biological Human. By Terje Bongard.


Norwegian book, not yet officially and fully translated into English.


Source: from the introductory chapter.

Chapter 2

Terje Bongard:

'The ultimate driver over evolutionary time is the difference in the sex cells, which is discussed in Chapter 2. Mate choice is the primary driver of sexual selection and the ultimate mechanism that formed our brain. The dominating human strategies of wastefulness and squandering are a direct response to the showy type of selection characterising humans, which is observed cross-culturally, throughout all known history, including in today’s cultures [2]. The urge to have more and to consume and the resulting problems, such as settling down and be content, are emotions, inclinations and drivers inherited from the most generous consumers among prehistoric man. They became our ancestors, and the connection between these drivers and wave 5, the outgroups of larger communities, is destroying the Earth’s life support abilities. The same mechanisms are crucial for brain evolution (wave 3) and are found in the arsenal of similar dispositions, feelings and tendencies with which each of us is now equipped. We introduce a definition of human drivers derived from evolutionary science: ”The emotions, inclinations and tendencies felt by an individual are inherited rewards or punishments that have helped them to act in an evolutionarily fruitful way in the past”

Consciousness is, itself, a trait that shows every sign of being sexually selected. Even an earthworm finds its food and mate without a brain. The only need for a feeling of being oneself is the self-assertion that “I am important. I am something. Look at me; I am self-aware and attractive”. In Chapter 2, we address the paradox of “the half-second delay”, i.e., that our consciousness is found to be alerted half a second after decisions and actions are made [3, 4]. Consciousness occupies only approximately a millionth of the brain’s activity, and this fact conflicts with the purpose of the whole concept that “I have full control through my consciousness”. The results of verifiable experiments confirmed that the last decades are therefore problematic to accept.

Chapter 2 deals further with the individual, emotions and what we are evolved to strive for. The limit of consciousness and the surprisingly minimal control it exerts represents a literally unbelievable challenge. To confer the illusion of control, self-deception is an important characteristics of humans. Is it possible to see ourselves from outside and expose our own ego using insight and knowledge? The chapter concludes by describing emotions as evolved means to survive and make individuals attractive. In this context, “evolved” is a better word than “developed”. Evolution is not "development", meaning "improvement." Evolution only consists of value-neutral changes.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 addresses the wide range of strategies that form individuals and cultures. The decisions we make are always related to what others are doing. Mate choice and differences in attractiveness are core factors that have shaped human behaviour. Feelings that have evolved through mate choice are therefore the reasons for most of the misery and joy in life. This chapter address why people behave differently. "People are different" is a comforting, soothing and inaccurate simplification. Differences between people arise from the actions and strategies triggered by each specific situation. "Relate to what the others around you are doing" is the catchphrase. Attempting to be like others or daring to be different are two main ways of changing behaviour and creating strategies. Furthermore, Chapter 3 discusses deviations from the norm and why a majority always deviates from the arithmetic mean. Human behaviour illustrates evolutionary mediocrity. Fig. 2 illustrates evolution’s “good enough” principle.

Physical performance has been less important for the development of human behaviour. It was mostly brain “spikes” that selected ancestors. Those who had slightly blunter spikes were left on the evolutionary scrap heap. Our ancestors were only slightly better than their contemporaries. It is not necessary to be a genius when one is surrounded by mediocre contestants. Evolution is about being only slightly better, and consequently, nobody is perfect. The competition to win access to resources and mates has always been fought against those who are closest. Even the most attractive and talented have, throughout time, only performed barely better than their competitors. Therefore, all individuals of all species generally exhibit both large and small irregularities, variations, halfway solutions, failures and shortcomings, both physically and mentally. Let the history of the Svalbard researchers follow you throughout the book. It describes a principle that forms variation. Furthermore, adaptations fit the past, corresponding to the environment in which they were originally selected.

It should be noted that exaggerations may also act as a "good enough" solution: to feel more worried and suspicious than necessary may constitute advantages for the prescient. Too much food is a smaller problem than no food, and to always be on the alert for strangers is better than to have a careless attitude [5]. Humans therefore exhibit many smoke detectors that are triggered before they are needed. Exaggerations are inherited from our worried ancestors. The carefree were eaten by evolution’s polar bears. The saying goes “It may soon be raining…”.

Chapter 4

In Chapter 4, we examine how the "good enough" principle has led to many mental disorders. An entirely new view regarding how to address psychiatric patients may arise from the science of human behavioural ecology.

Understanding human behaviour is necessary to understand human societies. It seems self evident, but in Chapter 4, we integrate human evolution with culture. This approach constitutes the foundation for a comprehensive social analysis that has not yet been discovered by the mainstream social scientist. Evolution is the only factor that can be identified as part of every detail of human behaviour. Cultural expressions are limited by the evolved human arsenal of emotional behaviour. There are many cultures that we know will never be discovered. However, when we know why certain sought after cultural expressions are in conflict with human behaviour, it might be possible to override ourselves through common action.

Chapter 5

In Chapter 5 we address how human cultures have generally attended to resources and how subsequent environmental problems lie in the wake of humanity. History shows that man has never been prudent [2]. When opportunities have arisen and technologies have been invented, the most extravagant have ended up as our ancestors, in line with the evolutionary logic of the past. Global environmental problems, capitalism, war and religious struggles have originated from the four inner rings in Figure 1. Congenital feelings and urges govern the strategic choices appearing in both small and large groups. A central problem is egoism, which leads to "the tragedy of the unregulated commons". Egoism is only one of many innate traits influencing culture. We are closest to ourselves and the inner group of our family, as well as people who we know and are personally connected to. These human emotions are present cross-culturally, and we find them manifested throughout history. Suspicion against "outsiders", or outgroups, is one of the most problematic factors today because the world has become a large community in a very short period of time.

Human mate choice constantly progresses, associated with evaluations of status, appearance and intelligence. Outwardly, this triggers reactions: it is uncomfortable to admit that you look for and evaluate differences. The human scenario consists of a cacophony of patience, kindness, showing off, generosity and trampling on competitors, and we discuss this quagmire thoroughly. Every stone must be turned. We cannot close our eyes in the quest for answers.

Chapter 6

In Chapter 6, we elaborate on the basis of current knowledge about human behaviour. Understanding how communities work is the first step towards achieving ecologically sustainable use of resources. What is possible within the evolved human individual and group behaviour? What is the significance of human behaviour for social organisation? Insight into how some aspects like egoism and lack of prudence can be controlled, and others like cooperation, generosity and solidarity can be encouraged, may lay the foundation for a sustainable and safe future. Is it possible to design a stable, democratic platform so that the problematic parts of human behaviour are inhibited, while the cooperating and generous parts dominate? We suggest a model in which evolved ingroup feelings may thrive. Solidarity, generosity and responsible feelings dominate transparent ingroups, where everyone knows everyone. Corruption and selfishness are kept under control when actions are visible. We believe that the emotions obtained the human past in small groups and tribes can be transferred to large societies via organising representative democracies.

Concluding Chapter

The book concludes with a chapter we have entitled "The battle over truth". This battle permeates all parts of human life and is an echo of the quest for status; i.e., the individual who has the last word increases his or her status. The battle over truth is one of the greatest obstacles to a safe future because the purpose of a discussion seldom approaches truth. Rather, it is usually about winning the argument itself. Evidence of such unwanted effects of human behaviour is uncomfortable to accept and leads to battles between the natural and social sciences.

The effect of the innate "I want to win the discussion" emotion is fights for the truth in every aspect of life, from religions and politics to how children should be brought up. These drivers lead to difficulties in introducing new ideas, which are also perceived as a challenge to achieve status. Consequently, someone attempting to come up with something new is usually opposed. The battle over truth is one of the main reasons why it is difficult to organise large human communities. Might it be possible to unmask ourselves and, thus, reveal the purpose of the fight, thereby allowing reason to decide our actions? Do knowledge and insight increase free will?

By now, you will perhaps see our biggest problem as authors: in which sequence should this be presented? Inasmuch as everything is connected, it seems to be impossible to find a logical path. Our advice is therefore to read the book twice.

Science is, in its essence, without morals. It is dishonest to choose the pleasant and sought after results and leave the unpleasant facts aside. The latter type of knowledge must be included to organise a sustainable society. The biological term for the type of science addressed in this book is Human Behavioural Ecology."

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