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Evolution Mess
(Kyrnos, Pixabay)

Pictures, Pixabay)

Natural Sheep
(HolgersFotgrafie, Pixabay)
 The Conflict between Evolutionary Skills & Modern Life

Over millions of years, evolution has developed in us skills that help us survive. For example, we instantly can detect potential danger and are primed to act. We don't need to slowly analyse the situation with logic, which exposes us to the possible danger.

Civilisation, and especially the modern lifestyle, often conflicts with these ancient skills. We have a Stone Age brain in a Technological Age society. For example:-
  • Nature knows best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is... "likely to be detrimental to that system" (Barry Commoner, 3rd Law of Ecology, The Closing Circle, 1971)
  • "Instinct injury is the greatest loss to survival and happiness." (Sister MorningStar)
This series of articles on evolutionary psychology addresses some of these conflicts - and what we can do about it.

Graphic shows (from left to right) various primates getting more upright, then man with tools, spear, finally an obese man with a club smashing the planet Earth = Evolution Mess

There are two basic approaches to handling these detrimental conflicts or injured instincts:-
  1. ADAPT INTELLIGENTLY: Adapting our environment and ourselves is useful when confronted with evolutionary programming that is resistant to change.
  2. REDISCOVER: Re-harmonising with the evolutionary skill is useful when our modern lifestyle has corrupted the evolutionary skill. Also called 'Restoration', 'Rewilding'.
ADAPT INTELLIGENTLY: Adapting our environment and ourselves

Evolutionary adaptations - whether spoken of as skills or biases - are so deep rooted in our evolutionary past, they are often very difficult, if not impossible to change. See here (posted and accessed 24 February 2014). Deciding to change them is not going to work. The way forward is to adapt to them, to create environments that allow for our inherent bias and irrationality, thereby enabling us to make healthier decisions.

An example is our evolutionary programming to enjoy sweet foods, as, in nature, these foods are never dangerous. This 'skill' is also linked to times of abundance, to harvests, when our bodies needed to eat as much as possible to prepare for leaner times ahead (see here, accessed 24 February 2014). The food industry has exploited this, especially after fat was maligned in the 1970s. It has added sugar to almost everything. Just like tobacco has been socially ostracised, we need to do the same with sugar. There is little point in educating the world about the dangers of sugar and associated obesity - and making it all about personal responsibility - when we are fighting our evolutionary programming that is millions-of-years-old. It is clear that government and food industry must reduce/stop adding sugar. When this happened in the Simpsons, the supermarket had nothing it could stock on its shelves! Even if it proves unpopular initially, we need to adapt our environment to minimise our exposure to added sugars (e.g. here).

Graphic of 11 doughnuts with pink icing, on a yellow background, seen from above

REDISCOVER: Re-harmonising with the evolutionary skill

Sometimes, our modern lifestyle has blocked or corrupted the evolutionary skill.

An example is the drastic reduction in natural birth and the loss of attachment parenting. Contributory factors include the breakdown of extended family by civilisation, and the medicalisation of society in the past few hundred years. We need to realise that natural family living harmonises far better with our evolutionary programming - and that we need to act in concert with it. Ways to do this are described here.

A lamb suckles a ewe in a sunlit field

In terms of the map of consciousness 'Animal, Human and Angel', evolutionary programming is related to the Animal.
The Human is us - today - grappling with all these issues.
The Angel in us also provides some in-built knowledge and skill, if we can access it, such as life-after-death knowledge and other superpowers.

In another map of consciousness - 'Personality & Psychology' - our genetics is our evolutionary programming, our environment is the world we live in, to which we adapt.

Related Quotes

Many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of ‘unadjusted’ individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself. (Erich Fromm, The Sane Society)

Human activities are at the root of our descent toward chaos. But that means human action can help to solve it. (António Guterres, UN secretary general, cited in The Guardian, posted 2 December 2020, accessed 20 March 2021)

Our challenge is to be well-adjusted in a dysfunctional world, without becoming well-adjusted to a dysfunctional world. (George Monbiot, 22 February 2021 tweet)

  • Evolutionary Psychology articles (PWP) [Some of these further explore evolutionary conflicts and solutions].
  • The Glamour of New Technology (PWP).
  • Evolutionary mismatch (Wikipedia).
  • Body clock linked to mood disorders (BBC, 2018). [Professor Daniel Smith says, "It wouldn't be too controversial to say we need to reorganise the way we learn and work to be in tune with our natural rhythms." Just think of the implications of this  in terms of the work system, the money system, the educational system, etc! Our most basic natural rhythm is Love. We need a Culture of Love.]
  • Why We Have So Many Problems with Our Teeth (Peter S. Ungar, Scientific American, 2020) [Dental problems such as crowding and cavities are common today. But other species tend not to have such afflictions, nor did our fossil forebears. Our teeth evolved over hundreds of millions of years to be incredibly strong and to align precisely for efficient chewing. They developed these characteristics to function in a specific oral environment. Our dental disorders largely stem from a shift in the oral environment caused by the introduction of softer, more sugary foods than the ones our ancestors typically ate. There is a mismatch.].
  • How ultra-processed food took over your shopping basket (Bee Wilson, The Guardian, 2020) [it's linked to illness & obesity, it's killing food preparation & cooking skills, it's heavily marketed by corporations].
Also see:-

Evolutionary Psychology

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Page last updated: 27 October 2022.