(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Economist Terry Burnham and biologist Jay Phelan have written a book about
suppressing instinctive impulses and making decisions based on experience and
The fundamental thesis is intriguing, because it goes counter so many
preconceptions about the genetic predisposition of the brain to our wellbeing:
our brain is programmed to behave recklessly.
We eat too much, we over-react, we miss opportunities, we say things that cost
us dearly, we spend more than we can afford, we date the wrong boy/girlfriend,
etc. We are constantly tempted by our brains to perform actions that we will
Our life is a mess because our brains have been programmed to screw it up.
If that's the thesis, the prescription is kind of obvious: do not trust your
Your brain is manipulated by "mean genes", whose goal is to get the ride of
their life (literally), not to maximize your happiness and longevity.
This is an extreme view of the theory advocated by sociobiology and evolutionary psychology that our behavior is genetically determined according to the theory of evolution. We behave the way we behave because only the people who behaved that way survived in our environment. The trouble is that the environment we live in today is not the one we lived in a million year ago. Genetically, we are still cavemen, even if socially we are supposed to be nice, smart, educated people living in the post-industrial society.
This is the light-hearted, cocktail-party version of Wilson's books. In a sense, it works as an antidote to so much "new age" literature that aims at providing "self-help" on much less scientific bases.