[Paleopsych] grappling w/EP

Alice Andrews aandrews at hvc.rr.com
Fri Oct 29 02:05:32 UTC 2004

Hi Paleo people,

I have an EPish question which I can't seem to wrap my Floresian-sized brain
around...And hoping someone out there has some thoughts...
In terms of evolved psychological mechanisms/innate releasing mechanisms
(IRMs) and manifest behavior or traits...etc...I would like to be able to
argue for a universal human nature, even in the face of huge individual

However, say I wanted to argue that, along with our hierarchical nature, we
also have the capacity to be nonhierarchical. Now, right there it almost
sounds nonsensical to say it is our human nature to be hierarchical but that
we have the capacity  not to be that way.
But I do understand Cosmides, I think, and I'm willing to view it as an
epigenetic structure that can be turned up/on, or not, that there's great
human variabilty, IRMs, etc...

However, it seems to me, that we'd be better off talking about
multi-phylogenetic modes [along lines of (tri) MacLean or (quad) Jim Henry]
or even a bi-human nature...rather than uni. Homo sap's hierarchical mode
(Appolinian) is probably a lot newer than homo sap's
spiritual/connected-to-everything-feeling/nonhierarchical mode
(Dionysian)--which must represent, phylogentically, something older, not
more primitive-- even though we think of the hierarchical mode as being more
primitive and the connected/spiritual as being more 'evolved'...

(Or binary human nature: in terms of left brain/right brain; agonic/hedonic;
reason/emotion, ad infinitum.)

But getting to question:
I realize EP and behavior genetics are at odds sometimes...but...I've long
known about the possibility of a belief-in-god module. From my novel, Trine
Erotic (2002):

She suspected these romantic, fate thoughts they both had were "designed"
for a reason. That there had to be some kind of belief-in-fate module, a
mental organ in the brain, just as there is a belief-in-God module. Some
people's are "set" very high. Others don't even have them. Perhaps this fate
module was even close to the God module, some kind of Belief area, maybe
near the amygdala or hypothalamus.

And now it looks like that they've found the genes controlling spiritual
'feeling'...And my suspicion that some people have and some don't, appears
to be true. Now, that doesn't mean that someone who doesn't have all the
genes that might make someone feel spiritual naturally, can't get to that
place. But it would probably take concerted effort...lots and lots of
meditation and will, and indoctrination, and mushrooms, etc. And then still,
it may not be the same thing as the natural 'Dionysian' man...not even

So... how would the universal human nature argument proceed? We all have
psych evolved mechs/structure to feel connected/ spiritual, (Dionysian)

But...again...What about people who don't feel this way and don't have these
genes? Do they have this potential/structure? What does that look like?

If nonspirituals (Appolinian types) don't have genes that seem to carry such
a disposition and their brains don't appear to reflect it either...How can
we say it is there for everyone? Especially when, despite powerful forces
like models (parents), school, peers, society, some people have no spiritual
feeling or religiosity, etc etc. And the reverse is also true.

Is it that the 'spiritual' program isn't universal, because even the
environment doesn't seem to be able to kick it in...? Or that it is a part
of universal human nature, because if it's not there innately, it IS
possible for people to feel such feelings given the right set of

Is it semantic and political? If we say there's no universal human nature,
but then make nativist claims here and there, do we get closer to right-wing
ideology and behavior genetics?

Uni-human Nature versus Bi-human nature

I'm thinking we have two choices--but we can choose both if we want:

1.We can say here is human nature warts and all and it's taken millions of
years of mother nature's 'fine-tuning' to get it where it is and it's not
likely to change in any dramatic way anytime soon, so let's, with our
knowledge and understanding of who we are and where we came from, try to
change (as some EPists suggest), our environment, to make it more compatible
with our hunter-gatherer minds. (eg, focus on creating more cohesive
communities and less fractured alienated ones, much like EEA tribes. ) This
is the practical, pragmatic, active approach. The idea would be to try to
create a world that by and large helps to activate certain modules/programs.
However, this could sound, to some, like on the path to right-wing ideology
or whacky Luddite utopia..But it doesn't have to be either.

We needn't not be realistic nor give up freedoms and individual rights and
choice. Freedom and individual rights trump the notion that there may be an
inherent, archetypal, mother-father system, say. If we maintain as the
ultimate goal, though, the pursuit and experience of happiness, then other
ways will not only be tolerated, but embraced and supported. What the
project in this case would do would be to try to support people's innate
archetypal goals and programs.

2. And/or we can take the more existential, romantic, transcendental,
dualistic route and say, one of human nature's features is that it is
binary. Reason and passion, Id and Superego, reptilian brain and neocortex,
feeling and thought, left-brain and right brain, head and heart, Dionysian
and Appolinian, agonic and hedonic, hierarchical versus affiliative,
instinct and rationality, animalness and godliness, nature and culture,
individualistic/separate-feeling vs communitarian/connected- feeling.I could
go on. We are every bit of one as we are the other. And we can choose to act
on instinct or not. When we are hit, we can choose, through thinking first,
whether we wish to do what feels good (limbically and reptiliany) and
 "right"--which is, generally, to hit back. Our prefrontal lobes give us the
gift of not hitting back, running away, or freezing. We can reason, we can
ask why, we can negotiate, we can forgive. The proliferation is the West of
the Eastern traditions, philosophies, spiritualities (by way of prayer,
meditation, yoga, belief, etc.) in the past 3 decades attests to our
yearning for this way of being...

Sorry if this isn't more clear...I welcome your thoughts...



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