[Paleopsych] grappling w/EP

David Smith dsmith06 at maine.rr.com
Fri Oct 29 02:43:26 UTC 2004


As I understand it (drawing on the work of Christopher Boehm) our common
ancestor with the chimpanzee was, in all likelihood, heavily into dominance
hierarchies.  Our stone age ancesestors, like nomadic hunter-gatherers
today, opposed dominance by deploying a counter-dominance strategy (the
whole group opposes any individual who tries to throw his weight around).
With the advent of a more settled life-style, and especially agriculture, we
reverted to ancient, despotic, chimpanzee-like ways.  So, I guess that this
would imply what we have the potential for dominance-hierarchies and
counterdominant anti-hierarchies.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Alice Andrews" <aandrews at hvc.rr.com>
To: "The new improved paleopsych list" <paleopsych at paleopsych.org>
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 10:05 PM
Subject: [Paleopsych] grappling w/EP

> Hi Paleo people,
> I have an EPish question which I can't seem to wrap my Floresian-sized
> 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
> differences...
> However, say I wanted to argue that, along with our hierarchical nature,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> primitive and the connected/spiritual as being more 'evolved'...
> (Or binary human nature: in terms of left brain/right brain;
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> it may not be the same thing as the natural 'Dionysian' man...not even
> close.
> So... how would the universal human nature argument proceed? We all have
> psych evolved mechs/structure to feel connected/ spiritual, (Dionysian)
> etc...??????
> But...again...What about people who don't feel this way and don't have
> genes? Do they have this potential/structure? What does that look like?
> If nonspirituals (Appolinian types) don't have genes that seem to carry
> 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
> 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
> circumstances?
> 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
> 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
> with our hunter-gatherer minds. (eg, focus on creating more cohesive
> communities and less fractured alienated ones, much like EEA tribes. )
> is the practical, pragmatic, active approach. The idea would be to try to
> create a world that by and large helps to activate certain
> However, this could sound, to some, like on the path to right-wing
> 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
> 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
> 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
> go on. We are every bit of one as we are the other. And we can choose to
> on instinct or not. When we are hit, we can choose, through thinking
> whether we wish to do what feels good (limbically and reptiliany) and
>  "right"--which is, generally, to hit back. Our prefrontal lobes give us
> 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
> 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...
> Cheers,
> Alice
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