Re: Spoiled Reward-Pathway Hypothesis

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Mon Aug 20 2001 - 15:05:07 BST

  • Next message: Philip Jonkers: "Re: Spoiled Reward-Pathway Hypothesis"

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    Subject: Re: Spoiled Reward-Pathway Hypothesis
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    Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 16:05:07 +0200 (CEST)
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    > > Natural selection ought to favor birds who aren't drunk an entire
    > > season. I am well aware also that drug-usage (including alcohol) is not
    > > uncommon in the animal kingdom. I cannot imagine that natural
    > > selection would allow for animal `druggies' to emerge and maintain in the
    > > extremely competitive and demanding natural world.
    > It sounds like the Hollywood image of drug addicts as completely
    > wasted incompetents is at work here. Excessive intoxication is, by
    > definition, suboptimal. However, natural selection does not optimize, it
    > allows organisms to be fit enough. Given the prevalence of human addictions,
    > perhaps the relative lack of addiction in other animals occurs only
    > for lack of opportunity. If other animals were able to make fermented
    > drinks, refine drugs, make fire and smoke herbs, make candy,
    > audio-visual recordings, video games, and TV programs, then we might
    > see much more addiction in them.

    Hi Bill, thanks for the feedback. Indeed, the filter of natural selection does
    seem to allow for the occasional, perhaps even regular, intoxicated animal
    to live out its life successfully. We humans separate from the rest of the
    animals in that we have ample opportunities to frequently sedate ourselves and
    still be able to thrive. Our cultural tradition to use drugs (in europe:
    alcohol, tobacco, coffee) and our ethical systems, providing support to
    addicts (social security systems, charity), permit universal sustenance of
    addictive behavior. I agree with you that if animals had more knowledge
    on ways to acquire more drugs or other redundant addictive stimuli and
    provided they wouldn't be engaged in survival and reproduction
    all of the time, they certainly run the risk of swapping occasional use of
    drugs for habitual. But they don't as this necessarily would come down to
    animals having a culture.

    I believe that it is precisely our culture that has a large share in rising
    (evolutionary) and maintaining human addiction in accordance with my hypothesis.
    That is, it is by having a culture what makes humans stand out from the rest of
    the animals. If our brain wasn't predisposed to reward activities
    aimed at warranting cultural evolution and existence it would whither away as
    humans would lack motivation in trying to doing so.


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