Wednesday, February 10, 2016

600; The Individual, CB and evolution

In the debate after the previous lecture CB made some remarks which unfortunately passed unnoticed due to the racist and discriminating remarks of one of the participants.

Unfortunately we first had to deal with that. However, I’d like to discuss CB’s remarks, for they suggest a real issue.

CB said: “As soon as the individual feels threatened, it seeks to band together with others who think the same. I don't know if we can completely pull ourselves away from tribal thinking.”

This morning there was an article in my newspaper, an interview with the authors of the book “Mismatch. Hoe we dagelijks worden misleid door ons oeroud brain.” (2016)

It is a Dutch publication. Translated the title of the book is “Mismatch.How we are day-by-day are mislead by our age-old brain.”

The point here is, that humans have most recently evolved to life as hunter-gatherers, where food resources were scarce. 

In the 10,000 years the advent of agriculture, the environment and lifestyle that humans live in have changed considerably, 

so much so that evolution has not been able to keep up with the rapid changes in environment. This leads to the notion of a mismatch theory in humans.

The essence of mismatch theory is that organisms possess traits, including behavioural, emotional, and biological,

that have been passed down through generations, preserved by natural selection because of their adaptive function in a given environment. 

However, the given environment of the evolutionary period can be quite unlike the current environment. 

Therefore, traits that were at one time adaptive in a certain environment, are now "mismatched" to the environment that the trait is currently present in. (from Wikipedia)

Maybe within this context CB’s observation regarding inclinations to tribal behaviour could be explained. An explanation by Evolutionary Psychology.

Our present cultural situation shows, that we have adopted the stand that ideally conflicts have to be resolved in peaceful and democratic ways,

based on the respect for every individual and for instance on Human Right. Our ability to use our ratio should be the leading principle and not primitive US versus THEM reflexes.

The later could be regarded as an example of a Mismatch, demonstrating that our brain is not adequate in dealing with enmities.

Another beloved example of mismatch is our current tendency to obesity. In Pleistocene environments sugars were relatively uncommon in the human diet since 200.000 year ago. (assumption)

In the modern Western diet, however, food with such properties is relatively easy to acquire. This can be problematic since an abundance of sugars

combined with the human adaptation to prefer them can, and often does, contribute to obesity and chronic metabolic syndrome.

However, the mismatch hypothesis is based upon assumptions regarding our ancestor’s environment, how we interacted with it, 

and how we evolved as a result.  There are many assumptions and guesses based upon few direct observational data. 

All nature loves sweets, from bee to bear and none of them suffer of obesity. And that we do, should be caused 

by the fact that our evolution of the brain didn’t keep pace with the changes in our environment? I have my serious doubts about that theory.

Being an individual doesn’t mean that our brain is like a compute,where you have input and output. Our brain is much more complicated.

You have input and how it is dealt with just depends on who you are as an individual.

Thank you…the floor is yours….

The discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: To introduce you to evolutionary psychology...:-)
[13:21] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): I would love to see you discuss with one
[13:21] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): or with an anthropologist
[13:21] herman Bergson: I don't think it leads to understanding the individual..
[13:22] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): ah more in general you mean
[13:22] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:22] CB Axel: I still feel that when stressed, our cerebral cortex gets overwhelmed and lets the more primitive part of our brains take over.
[13:22] herman Bergson: yes some extend this is true, I think
[13:23] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): maybe is stress situations we need shelter near other individuals
[13:23] herman Bergson: Yet, you can ask the what this extend decreasing for instance?
[13:24] herman Bergson: Last week there was a column in my newspaper...
[13:24] herman Bergson: the auther discussed those prehistoric findings in Kenya of this massacre...
[13:24] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): when in stress, anxiety or fear... seek other like minded... tribe, religion etc.... sounds plausible Beertje
[13:24] herman Bergson: and he said...yes there we go...
[13:25] herman Bergson: remove the thin layer of varnish and man is that ferocious animal again....
[13:25] CB Axel: Exactly.
[13:25] herman Bergson: but in his opinion that was too easy....
[13:26] herman Bergson: we HAVE changed.....
[13:26] herman Bergson: we are less violent to begin with....
[13:26] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): due to language
[13:26] CB Axel: Until cornered.
[13:26] Chantal (nymf.hathaway):
[13:26] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): does that count for every human on this planet?
[13:26] herman Bergson: even when cornered....
[13:26] herman Bergson: of course not Beertje...
[13:27] herman Bergson: no
[13:27] herman Bergson: The complexity of this world is that it is in so many different stages of development
[13:27] CB Axel nods
[13:27] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): always have been... seems to shift around the globe
[13:28] herman Bergson: That is one of the tricky points of this project...:-)
[13:28] herman Bergson: the suggestion that we as Western civilisation are in the lead :-))
[13:29] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): This time we are
[13:29] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): China has been for were the greek and romans etc
[13:29] herman Bergson: and here I mean in the lead of developing a way of coexistence with our fellowmen based on the concept of individuality
[13:30] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): as you said Chantal last week..maybe it is because we live in a cool area, we can keep our heads cool
[13:30] herman Bergson: China for instance never has been, Chantal....
[13:30] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): By what standards Herman?
[13:30] herman Bergson: by the standard of individuality.....
[13:30] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): writing? they did centuries before we did
[13:30] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): ah true that one 100%
[13:30] herman Bergson: Teh individual never has been a value in Chinese culture...
[13:30] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): true
[13:31] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): opposite even
[13:31] herman Bergson: the family was or the collective...
[13:31] CB Axel: They even have one time zone for the entire country. °͜°
[13:31] CB Axel: Although, that could be a good thing.
[13:31] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): yes CB funny really
[13:32] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): sorry herman... get back on track please
[13:32] herman Bergson: It needs a lot more of research but it is my belief that this typical concept of individuality is a European "invention"
[13:33] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): isn't america an example of it too? american dream and all
[13:33] CB Axel: I'm not sure but I think some tribes of native Americans valued the individual.
[13:33] herman Bergson: That could be the case indeed, CB....
[13:34] herman Bergson: But I also relate this concept of individuality to a scientific interpretation and approach of reality
[13:34] CB Axel: That would be really interesting, since native Americans descended from Asians.
[13:35] herman Bergson: I mean...the relation between the individual and how he looks at his world
[13:35] herman Bergson: To begin with...
[13:36] herman Bergson: it was the European individual who discovered based on hard data that he was NOT the centre of the universe
[13:36] herman Bergson: to discover that you just are somewhere in the universe on some random planet...
[13:37] CB Axel: But did the Chinese, for example, think that mankind was the centre of the universe?
[13:37] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): (Chinese communism states china is the centre)
[13:37] herman Bergson: I don't know enough about Chinese culture in that detail...
[13:38] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): even taught their students you can see the great wall from space
[13:38] herman Bergson: But the emperor was their centre of their universe
[13:38] CB Axel: Did they think the earth was the centre of everything?
[13:38] herman Bergson: I wonder if thy ever thought about such things at all :-)
[13:38] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): me too
[13:38] herman Bergson: in the way we did
[13:39] CB Axel: Yes. We and our one god.
[13:39] herman Bergson: Confucius didn’t for instance...
[13:40] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Chinese kept their philosophies close to nature, family life and the emperor
[13:40] herman Bergson: Well..Kepler and Galilei caused problems for that one god....
[13:40] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): earth business
[13:40] herman Bergson: for he too was removed form the centre of things and had to find a new home :-)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Chantall....
[13:43] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): during the black death in  
[13:43] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): some died... some did not
[13:43] herman Bergson: Today you may have learnt that I have no high hopes of Evolutionary Psychology to bring us a better understanding of the development of the concept of "teh individual" in an evolutionary sense
[13:44] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): past years we discovered some people are immune .... can it be so... thats some brains are made to function individually and others need "tribes, being part of a group"?
[13:44] herman Bergson: so when we try to understand tribal inclinations in our own behaviour....the mismatch there is just speculation...
[13:45] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): you mean some brains are developing in another way Chantal?
[13:45] herman Bergson: Here I prefer neurobiological insights more
[13:45] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): yes... as in their brain or mind needs others?
[13:46] herman Bergson: I already referred to that issue in my latest lecture Chantal....
[13:46] herman Bergson: and I therefore distinguished between evolution of the mind and evolution of the brain
[13:46] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): yes i recall
[13:47] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): but I keep searching for the why
[13:47] herman Bergson: as I said last and a scientific view of the world, Chantal....that could explain a lot
[13:48] CB Axel: That could.
[13:48] herman Bergson: it is also the nature  nurture problem
[13:48] herman Bergson: we just do not know....
[13:48] CB Axel: It's shown that the better educated a woman is, the less likely she is to have children.
[13:49] herman Bergson: that is nly true in a culture where such a woman can get a demanding job, CB :-)
[13:49] herman Bergson: and a cerreer
[13:50] herman Bergson: otherwise you say that there is a simple causal relation between level of education and procreation
[13:50] CB Axel: There seems to be.
[13:51] herman Bergson: Then...when you want a population to grow you should  exclude women form education :-)
[13:52] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): bad idea!!!!!!!
[13:52] herman Bergson: At this moment for instance in China where the one child policy has disastrous consequences
[13:52] Chantal (nymf.hathaway):
[13:52] CB Axel: Well, is it because education makes women want fewer children, or does having lots of children keep a woman from getting an education?
[13:53] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Maybe the ability to protection is the reason
[13:53] herman Bergson: It is true that birthrates went down the more educated a population became here in Europe :-)
[13:53] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): I can imagine african women have less options to get a pill or condom
[13:54] herman Bergson: and education
[13:54] CB Axel: Even when women get condoms, the men refuse to use them.
[13:54] herman Bergson: true...
[13:54] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): I know CB... you are as well as informed I often notice love it
[13:55] herman Bergson: I think it is time to come to an end again :-)
[13:56] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): (oh I am assuming here, excuse me, was talking about Africa and the struggles women have there to have safe sex)
[13:56] herman Bergson: Thank you for your participation again ...:-)
[13:56] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:56] Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Was great Herman
[13:56] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman

[13:56] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^