From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Sun 24 Jul 2005 - 20:25:36 GMT
At 06:12 PM 24/07/05 +0100, Robin wrote:
>Sunday, July 24, 2005, 3:39:47 PM, Keith wrote:
> > At 10:36 AM 24/07/05 +0100, Robin Faichney wrote:
> >>Neuroticism is pandemic due to unhealthy attitudes, opinions and
> >>lifestyles, such as religious fundamentalism (but emphatically not
> >>only that). It first instills guilt and anxiety, telling you you're a
> >>sinner and will go to hell, and then provides a dramatic catharsis in
> >>the experience of being "born again": rather a successful strategy.
> > I won't argue with your analysis, heck, I wrote very similar things myself
> > many years ago, but it really needs to be grounded at a lower level. How
> > did "chronic anxiety," "guilt" and related become human psychological
> > traits? I.e., how did they (or something else that they are a side effect
> > too) convey a selective advantage during the millions of years we lived in
> > hunter-gatherer societies?
>The answer regarding chronic anxiety is very, very easy: it's the
>result of NOT behaving in the ways that evolution has determined suit
That's an awkward way to describe the process. The process of evolution
results in adaption to an environment. In the human case, adapting to the
environment of bands of hunter-gatherers living in a world with an erratic
It is also demonstrably not the case--unless I misunderstand you. I behave
in many ways that are extremely remote from the hunter-gatherer
environment. Today so far I drove an automobile 50 km, watched a few
trains thunder by from close range and shopped in two stores that between
them had several hundred customers and at least 100,000 items. (I would
have bicycled 15 km as well had a tire not gone flat.) None of these
behaviors result in anxiety chronic or not. (Not that I noticed anyway.)
Being stalked by predators (including human predators) is much more in
keeping with our primitive past. In my strange case, that's something that
I have to deal with. I think being stalked would generated chronic
anxiety if I were the type of person who responds with fear. While I have
some fear, I tend to get really pissed off when I am stalked or laugh off
particularly inept attempts.
(The text is duplicated below the page images so you don't have to read the
>Guilt is perhaps more difficult, as it might have an adaptive
>social function in hierarchical groups.
There certainly are hierarchical groups, but that's not the way evolution
of humans came about. The critical thing with the evolution of humans (and
for that matter chimps) is kin groups. To understand how that operates you
have to understand William Hamilton's kin selection and inclusive fitness.
"Hamilton (1964) wrote: The social behavior of a species evolves in such a
way that in each distinct behavior-evoking situation the individual will
seem to value his neighbors' fitness against his own according to the
coefficients of relationship appropriate to that situation.
"This observation was the capstone of his theory. Underlying it are the
constructs of kin selection, inclusive fitness, and the coefficient of
relationship and their respective powers over behavior. This is the
culmination of sociobiological thought, wherein genetic gain determines the
action and response of the individual.
"Kin selection has been described as "a beautiful and powerful extension of
Darwin's theory" (Hardin, 1978). It is an essential corollary to Darwinian
evolution, offering insight into previously misunderstood behaviors.
William Hamilton has shaken the evolutionary paradigms of the past and laid
foundations for future studies into evolution and behavior.
I have written a lot about this topic if you look around for
it. Hamilton's work is one of the essentials underlying evolutionary
> > Pascal Boyer's book _Religion Explained_ doesn't provide a full explanation
> > either, but his observations and insights look like they are leading in the
> > right direction. I think they will have to be incorporated into an
> > evolutionary psychology explanation of religions.
>Religions are extremely complex and diverse phenomena, but I don't
>think a general theory of them is possible without consideration of
>their relationship with sub-clinical mental illness.
True, especially religions on the cult end of the spectrum. Witness Tom
Cruise's behavior of late. But the question then becomes: Did these
people have evolved and biologically based mental problems that led them
into cults such as Heaven's Gate? Or are all people vulnerable and just a
few "catch" one of these "mental disease" such as scientology?
While both factors probably interact, I lean strongly in the former being
the more important. I can make a case that cult behavior is based on
psychological traits that were important in stressful times to
hunter-gatherers, but that would make this post too long (by about 20 pages).
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