Caring For The Earth And Its People
The Nature of Humanity in the Face of Climate Change
It will seem odd, in the course of a discussion on climate change, to revert back to a time about 200,000 years ago when our species, homo sapiens, first appeared on this planet. However, there are several reasons for doing so, the most obvious is that our species appears to be on a course to destroy itself, its home planet or both, or at least there is a risk of doing so. This, to my knowedge has never happened before and certainly not in the time of modern man. This makes this a unique time in human history. It also has resulted in behavoirs, while not unheard of in a general sense, seem especially dangerous at this specific time.
Explaning human behavor feels like taking on a dissertation in quantum mechanics. However, at this point in history it seems to me that thinking about modern man has advanced to the point that we can hope not to be off on a useless tangent.
Three books come to mind as important and/or fundamental. The most important I believe is E.O. Wilson's Sociobiology that, amid enormouos controversy, laid the foundtion for the discipline of evolutionary psychology. This, in turn, along with Stephen Pinker's The Blank Slate set a foundation of how to think about the behavoir of homo-sapiens. The most recent is The Righteous Mind by Johathan Haidt. I had begun to think of what we are doing to the earth as a moral issue and Haidt brings a new perspective in thinking about morality.
Needless to say, the prospect of an MIT engineer diving into his boiling pot seems not to be profitable. However, the question of why humans have such a mixed history of behavoir, especially the proclivity to make war and the need to divide into tribes, almost no matter the subject of concern and with a willingness to adopt extreme views with little or no supporting evidence. An odd example I read recently represents well this behavoir.
The are apparently a fair number of groups that are active deniers of American moon landings, accusing NASA of staging everything. One enthusiastic supporter of the NASA conspiracy, after a long discussion with a NASA representative who thorough demonished every objection the denier could raise, the denier laid out his final position, "I don't care what you say, I will never believe a man landed on the moon." We therefore have, something that is a threat in so many situations, a closed mind for which evidence is irrelevant. At some point enough of this behavoir can destroy a civilization, or at least cause serious disruptions, bringing to mind another current problem in the failure of parents to have children vacinatted. So what is going on here?
Nurture vs. Nature
Learned Psychology vs. Emotional Need
This strikes me as an emotional parallel to nuture vs. nature, except that it is psychology what we know or have learned vs. emotional need.
What there is to be learned in the world is enormous. My experience is engineering, science, photography, the fine arts, the nature of my nature, and so forth. Within each of these categories such as engineering, there are not only the various disciplines such a mecanics and electronics but the depth and breadth of knowledge we acquire from our experience but our emotional reaction to what we have to do and think. At MIT I disliked solid state physics, but enjoyed quantum mechanics and I particularly enjoyed acoustics and loudspeaker design. This in turn led me to live classiczl music and wonderous experiences, not to mention that I played some of what I heard on the piano.
Besides my love of music and the sound of orcheras I spent 40 plus years as a fine art nature photographer. (You can view my work at lightsongfineart.com and learn a bit about my emotiona reactions to nature.) Photography and music both require and teach an ability to observe and to sense emotionally.
Engineering and science also require an accomplished ability of observation but with the further requirement that it must be understood mathamatically. The end result is a close connection to the nature. However it does not address the nature of emotional need. I believe that two stand out. One is the unknown of death, the difficulty of thinking about our non-existence or thinking about what existence might awaight us after death. The second is the emotional needs we have in life, of which the most important is relationships with other humans, and there is one modality of relationship (that is of good relationships) and that is reciprocity which is widely known as the golden rule. It requires us to exchange the elements of comfort and joy. An interesting example is the essential approach to getting a prisoner to built faith in his interigator by the interigator willing to spend the time and effort to learn about the life of the prisoner to the point that the prisoner eventually feels a relationship and may even come to rely on it.
So what does this have to do with climate change? Pretty much everything thing I believe, everything in the sense that the dire prediciment in which climate change places us is fully underestood intellectually and emotionally.
How can this be true?
There is no other physical phenomena a human has to face with the complexi4ty of climate change. It is simple enough to refognizde it but very difficult to understane the reponse that is neceessary. Hunter-gatherers have to learn both disciplines but there has been no mecchanism to pass on the learning when agriculture came along, nor has modern education encorporated these needs into standaredd curtuica leading in many ways to the destruction of our environment and in otther ways a need, for some, to kill.
In the experience of seven years of study at MIT the only relevsant courses were two symesters of "introdductiton to western civilization." Most of this becassue the critical areas of psyhologyr necessary had not yet been understood. The blank slate was still the foundation for understanding human development. Additionally, the core of most study was the essential preparation for earning a living even though much of the study did not contribute to that.
I beliebve the problem is more serious in other parts of the world. If professions relevant to modern economics are not taught then religion and war are the principal vocations left. When the United States invaded Iraq and dissolved the army and police soldiers and policemen, not having anything else to do, responded to a rise in sectarism. Sunis foought shites who fought kurds and eventually it seems everyone else.
In addition to the failure of education is the dismal performance of the media in failing to educate. Information about global warm was for decades burried in the lower corners on page 13, dispite it reporting coming cataclysms. My assessment of this is the a liberal arts education at Harvard leaves the student impressed what has been earned, partly as a result simply of the reputation of the school.So when serious science issues come along there msay ber little comprehension, little apprteciation of this, and little willinglyness to challenge the adequacy of an advanced degree from an Ivy League or other prestigeous scchool.
"Evolutionary psychology is a theoretical approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological structure from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations – that is, the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection in human evolution. Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology.
Some evolutionary psychologists apply the same thinking to psychology, arguing that the modularity of mind is similar to that of the body and with different modular adaptations serving different functions.
Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior is the output of psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments. Evolutionary psychology is not simply a subdiscipline of psychology but its evolutionary theory can provide a foundational, metatheoretical framework that integrates the entire field of psychology in the same way evolutionary biology has for biology. Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations including the abilities to infer others' emotions, discern kin from non-kin, identify and prefer healthier mates, and cooperate with others. There have been studies of human social behaviour related to infanticide, intelligence, marriage patterns, promiscuity, perception of beauty, bride price, and parental investment, with impressive findings. The theories and findings of evolutionary psychology have applications in many fields, including economics, environment, health, law, management, psychiatry, politics, and literature. Criticism of evolutionary psychology involves questions of testability, cognitive and evolutionary assumptions (such as modular functioning of the brain, and large uncertainty about the ancestral environment), importance of non-genetic and non-adaptive explanations, as well as political and ethical issues due to interpretations of research results.
"A hunter-gatherer is a human living in a society in which most or all food is obtained by foraging (collecting wild plants and pursuing wild animals). Hunter-gatherer societies stand in contrast to agricultural societies, which rely mainly on domesticated species.
Hunting and gathering was humanity's first and most successful adaptation, occupying at least 90 percent of human history. Following the invention of agriculture, hunter-gatherers who did not change have been displaced or conquered by farming or pastoralist groups in most parts of the world."
"In taxonomy, Homo sapiens is the only extant human species. The name is Latin for "wise man" and was introduced in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (who is himself also the type specimen).
Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus, extant during roughly 1.9 to 0.4 million years ago, and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus).
The age of speciation of H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo antecessor) is estimated to have been roughly 350,000 years ago.[note 1] Sustained archaic admixture is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 and 30,000 years ago.
The term anatomically modern humans (AMH) is used to distinguish H. sapiens having an anatomy consistent with the range of phenotypes seen in contemporary humans from varieties of extinct archaic humans. This is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, for example, in Paleolithic Europe."
Clinical Psychology Review. Vol. 17. No. 6, pp. 603419, 1995
Pergamon Copyright 0 1997 Elserier Science I.td Printed in the LISA. All rights reserved 027%7358/97 $17.00 + .OO PI1 s0272-7358(97)00037-8
HUMAN AGGRESSION IN EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
David M. Buss University of Texas at Austin Todd K. Shackelford Florida Atlantic University ABSTRACT.
This article proposes an evolutionary psychological account of human aggression. The psychological mechanisms underlying aggression are hypothesized to he context-sensitive solutions to particular adaptive problems of social living. Seven adaptive problems are prqbosed for which aggression might have evolved as a solution - co-opting the resources of others, defending against attack, inflicting costs on same-sex rivals, negotiating status and power hierarchies, deterring rivals from future aggression, deterring mates from sexual infidelity, and reducing resources expended on genetically unrelated children. We outline several of the con texts in which humans confront these adaptive problems and the evolutionary logic of why men are cross-culturally more violently aggressive than women in particular contexts. The article con eludes with a limited review of the empirical evidence surrounding each of the seven hypothesized functions of aggression and discusses the status and limitations of the current evolutionary psychological account. 0 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd