The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology was pioneered by the US anthropologist John Tooby and the US psychologist Leda Cosmides. They believed that culture shapes human behavior notwithstanding biological pressures, and therefore disagreed with purely biological explanations of social behavior such as Wilsonís and Ridley's.

Evolutionary Psychology basically investigates the biological origins of human behavior. For example, it studies the different patterns of behavior of males and females based on their roles in sexual reproduction (the male's only investment is in spreading his sperm as widely as possible, whereas the female's investment is much bigger and involves both bearing and nurturing the offspring). Natural selection has molded the brains of men and women in different ways as a result of their different reproductive goals.

Evolutionary Psychology rests on the seminal work of a number of biologists who dealt with the genetic foundations of high-level behavior, starting with William Hamilton("The Genetic Evolution of Social Behavior", 1963). The British geneticist Angus Batemanhad already suggested ("Intra-sexual selection in Drosophila", 1948) that natural selection had determined different male and female behaviors. The US biologist George Williamsformalized this idea in a different way: the "sacrifice" required for reproduction is different for the female and the male. In 1972 Robert Triversreplaced "sacrifice" with (parental) "investment": the investment required for reproduction (to increase the chances of survival of the offspring) is different between a male and a female, and that accounts for different attitudes towards the other sex and the offspring itself.

These biologists applied Darwinian thinking to the social behavior of animals. These studies, once applied to humans, laid the foundations for Evolutionary Psychology, basically a more scientific way to study human behavior than Psychiatry. In fact, Evolutionary Psychology is not about human behavior: it is about human nature (which determines human behavior).

Most of an organismís behavior is mechanical, instinctive, although it makes a lot of sense: all the "thinking" has already been done by natural selection and summarized in its DNA. Genes determine behavior that has been found to be rational over thousands of generations of testing. If it were not rational, those genes would not have survived, and that behavior would not exist.

Evolutionary Psychology introduced a new kind of "unconscious": the control that comes from the genes.


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