How Evolution Explains the Human Condition
How Evolution Explains the Human Condition
Or, Why We See Beauty
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Ah, the mysteries of life Why is mankind a boom species? Why should we worry it if is? Why is the Bible’s Curse of Eve real, and necessary for human progress? How does Panic and Blunder Thinking get us into deep, deep trouble? And if it’s so bad, why do we still use it? These are questions of the human condition, and using evolution to answer these questions is what this book is all about.
Sexy Young Women ... ummm. There is a surprise effect to assisted childbirth, as well—sexy young women. In generic mammals, a female is either a child (too young to have children), a reproducing adult (ready to have children), or dead (too old to have children). In humans there is a fouth state: “Old” (too old to have children, but still valuable as a repository of knowledge). In humans this “old” state is treated very differently from the “young” state. I will call a young, reproducing woman a “bride” and an older knowledge-repository woman a “matron”. What are the differences between a woman’s relation to the community when she is a bride and when she is a matron? When a woman is a bride, she is raising young children. She spends much of her life either pregnant or lactating and all of it tending young children. All of these activities are taxing, and all benefit enormously from community cooperation. Therefore a bride-age woman is constantly searching for cooperation. She needs a lot of cooperation, and if she gets it, the community prospers. When a woman is older, her children have grown and she’s no longer in the pregnant-or-lactating stage of her life. This means her day-to-day living is not being physcially and mentally surcharged by family-raising activities, so her support needs change from tremendous to average. This means her need for cooperation changes from tremendous to average as well. In recognition of this change in condition, she is seen by the community in a different light. She transforms from a bride into a matron. How does a young mother signal that she needs help? She signals this by being attractive. She signals that even though there are kids around and she may have a swelling belly, she’s still fun to be around. This is why young women look sexy. Older women are ready to take an average role in society; they are ready to engage in classic dominance disputing. They gain in their community by looking like someone you don’t want to cross rather than someone you will feel good about helping even though you get little back. Older women are not fools. They feel acutely what they are losing as they age and they would like to have the best of both worlds: Be able to win dominance disputes as an older woman can and have people help them spontaneously as they did when they were younger. This is the foundation of the pursuit of beauty. Beauty and Cooperation The foundation of the human concept of beauty is cooperation. As human beings adapted to supporting assisted childbirth and long dependent childhoods, they needed a way to signal a need for cooperation. Mother Nature found a way to do that by modifying some existing mammal instincts to come up with what we now call “beauty”. When we see something beautiful, we want to cooperate with it. In the modern extension of the beauty concept, that something can be a child, a woman, even something inanimate, such as a car. Seeing something as beautiful is a signal to the brain that if that something can be cooperated with, it should be. An example: Wildlife conservation organizations have recognized the importance of beauty for years. This is why beautiful pictures of wildlife areas and/or wildlife are used to promote donations to wildlife causes. Likewise, the goal of “becoming beautiful” is to signal that a person is willing to accept more cooperation from “strangers”—people who would previously not have offered cooperation. This signal to cooperate is closely linked to the signal to mate, so in humans “beautiful” and “sexy” are closely tied. These are a couple of the many changes mankind had to make to become Stone Age humans. These changes allowed mankind to prosper in hunter-gatherer societies, first in Africa, Europe, and Asia, and later in the Americas. These changes started about seven thousand generations ago, so the gene pool has had a long time to adjust to hunting-gathering humans with arranged marriages and strong language skills. About 250 generations ago (5,000 years), a few humans developed a radically new way of living. They learned to farm, and that ushered in the Agricultural Age.
In Roger’s words, “More than most people, I’ve ‘been there and done that.’ And while I was doing it, I was taking notes.” Roger is a careful observer of the human condition, technology, and history, and this is what he writes about. He was a soldier in Vietnam in the sixties, an engineering student at MIT in the seventies, a personal-computer pioneer in the eighties, and a writer, traveler, and teacher in the nineties. He has visited twenty countries and worked in five. He has worked in five industries with both superstar and falling star companies. He's seen a lot. Other Fun Facts about Roger • Helped engineer the Space Shuttle • Climbed 4,000 meter peaks in the Colorado Rockies and bicycled from Boston to Minnesota • Is a nephew of Margaret Bourke-White, photographer for Life magazine • Has a commercial pilot's license with an IFR rating • Was one of the first hundred people to play Dungeons and Dragons

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