The human creature differs from the rest of the animal kingdom in the degree to which our behavior is learned rather than genetically predetermined.
Depending upon who you ask, chimps and humans diverged from a common ancestor 5-6 million years ago, or in another version, diverged 10 million years ago, then interbreeding and hybridization occurred, and they diverged for a second time 5-6 million years ago. A chimp-human ancestor baby with a birth defect was born. A retarded baby which had a slowly developing brain. The mother of that baby nursed it along in spite of it’s slow development, and while it was slower to mature, when it did, it was mentally far more capable than it’s peers. By delaying development, the brain remained in a plastic state much longer, and so could learn readily and be influenced by and adapt to the environment to a much greater degree.
Although there were numerous failed attempts along the way, eventually a descendant of this retarded human-chimp ancestor became modern humans. The slow developing brain eventually enabled it to out-compete it’s fellow fast developing chimps and other primates.
For many millions of years people lived in small groups competing with other groups for resources and our social skills evolved to aid our survival in that environment. Females chose to mate with males who seemed to have the ability to protect and provide for them and their off spring.
For males, it was easier to acquire substantial resources by taking them from other males than through more effective or intense hunting or foraging efforts. In addition, stealing resources from other males made their victims less reproductively competitive. Females mated with males with more resources sexually selecting for aggression. For men, greater aggression meant more reproductive opportunities.
Deception was also selected for since another way for males to acquire resources was through deception of his peers. In addition, it wasn’t actually necessary to have resources, only to convince a potential mate that he had them. Thus deception was doubly advantageous and thus genetically selected for.
The invention of agriculture and the civilizations that resulted changed our living environment from one in which we lived in very small groups to one in which we formed large cities and lived together in much larger groups. Our population grew and we developed better transportation technologies, we came to a point where we now live in large interdependent groups of cities, states, and nations.
This current state of affairs, living in groups of millions in nation-states is relatively recent event and our genetics have not yet adapted to the new reality. Women still seek men that they believe will be good providers and defenders and unfortunately deception and aggression are still seen indicators of these qualities. In a nut shell this is why women are attracted to jerks and not “nice guys”.
These things largely happen on a subconscious level. They happen on a deeply ingrained instinctual level. Women will sleep with military men who will impregnate them, go off to war, and get themselves killed providing nothing. Or they’ll sleep with bad boys, people who will obtain resources by stealing, bullying, or through the use of deception. On a conscious level they know the likely outcome is not favorable in todays environment, but on a subconscious level they see these traits as indicative of a good provider.
Men in positions of wealth and power, start wars, take great risks, and they know that what they are doing. They know this is not in the best interests of the species as a whole, but whether or not they are consciously aware of it, they are driven towards aggression, driven to seek wealth and power at all costs, because they are the product of generations of ancestors who reproduced successfully because they were able to acquire resources and impress potential mates. Today large nations have hundreds or thousands of nuclear weapons, each capable of obliterating hundreds of thousands to millions of lives in seconds. Behaviors which favored the survival of the species in the past now threaten our extinction.
Until recently, I had wondered about something I’ve observed time and time again. Rich people aren’t content to be rich, they need to be richer than other people. I read about a study in which men were given the opportunity to receive $5 from a researcher gratis, the only condition was that when they received $5, another man whom they did not know would receive $20. Men who had high testosterone levels turned down the $5, while men with low testosterone levels accepted it. Why would they care if someone else got $20? Because the fact that someone else got more gives them a competitive breeding advantage. On the surface this seems absurd because $5 is nothing compared to a normal income. However, the part of our brains making these decisions isn’t the modern more evolved portion, it’s the primitive portions that evolved eons ago which are not so good with math or logic let alone ethics.
Now I’m not saying this is a conscious effect for most people, on the contrary, most people would deny it, women will say they marry for love, men will make up excuses for their behavior. For most people it takes place in a primitive portion of the brain at a subconscious level, but not for everyone.
However, we’ve evolved bigger brains capable of far more complex reasoning, but it is difficult for us to override the primitive brain. It still provides the “drive” for everything we do. The trick, I believe, is awareness. The more we as a species become aware of what goes on in our primitive brain, of our genetic programming, of our distant past and history, the more effectively our more recently evolved larger brain can override that programming and choose behaviors that are more appropriate for todays environment.
Women can influence the development of our species by making some conscious decisions with respect to their choice of mates. Does it really make sense to allow someone headed for Iraq to impregnate you? Dead people really don’t make good providers no matter how macho they might appear. Does it make sense to propagate genetic traits that are harmful to our species and the planet as a whole? No it doesn’t because it will ultimately harm or eliminate your descendants. So choose wisely.
Men, particularly older men who’ve done all the reproducing you’re going to, consider how irrelevant the number of your offspring are if the entire civilization collapses? Perhaps it’s time to put some of that wealth into the preservation of civilization? Helping people in poverty get out of it will ease the overpopulation problem, and the likelihood that your offspring and their offspring and future generations that follow, will survive. This is completely contrary to your genetic programming but remember that genetic programming largely evolved when clans and small tribes and a global population of perhaps a few hundred thousand existed, not nuclear equipped nation-states and six and a half billion people.
You powerful oil company execs out there, you need to allow, encourage better energy technologies to evolve so that poverty and in the long term, overpopulation, can be eliminated. All your money won’t mean anything if there is no civilization producing goods that you can buy, no potential mates that you can impress. Use that big brain for the betterment of mankind.
Haliburton, you could be making just as much money building infrastructure in impoverished areas as in rebuilding after war and providing support infrastructure during war.
GE, you make your turbines can be used to power civilian or military aircraft, they can be used to make electricity, you also make wind turbines. Presently, the demand for large wind turbines exceeds the capacity to manufacture them because the economics of power generation from wind are so favorable. Why not shift your production facilities to producing additional wind turbines, the whole economy will grow as the result of the increased energy input and in the long run you will profit more than if you place your emphasis on military products. Military products destroy infrastructure and economies, and in the long run this means less money circulating to buy your products. So GE, why not do the right thing and manufacture products for peace?
Raytheon, you guys make missiles and torpedos and military radar. But you also make Beech aircraft, civilian radar, and a variety of other products. Your focus though does seem to be on destruction, I don’t know if there is any hope for your company.
Powerful men you really need to think in terms of future generations. If you have a billion offspring in this lifetime, it will mean nothing if no future generations survive.
Women, you really need to put some conscious thought into your selection of mates so that future generations are genetically more adapted to present day conditions.