Take the idea of evolution.
I’m no scientist, but organisms adapt to the environments that they’re in, and that’s why the polar bear is white, and why some animals grow legs, and why some people are funnier than others.
And while we have shared a notoriously short portion of earth’s 13 billion year history here on the pale blue dot as the human species, we’ve acquired and lost certain needs along the way. Back in the days of saber-toothed tigers and life spans of certainly not 80 years, I’m assuming that intelligence wasn’t what kept you alive.
They had no GDP, and didn’t need to structure the nation’s finances. They didn’t have to worry about Benghazi, or tsunamis in places they couldn’t pronounce, and they couldn’t use Skype to know that their friends were covered in snow while they were bathed in sunlight.
As the world changed, we changed.
So, since a completely different set of favorable traits was necessary to not die, those were traits that developed in people. They involved quick thinking, reasoning, and strong bodies, and that was what developed.
But it wasn’t all that we needed forever.
Imagining The Human Species as One Lifetime
If you fast-forward to where we are right now, you’ll see a viciously partisan political environment. Whether it’s senate Republicans who vow that sitting President Barack Obama should not appoint a judge when he’s got a year left in office, or baffling things like a public official holding up a snowball as proof that climate change isn’t real, you see people that are not willing to work with each other.
And I think I know why. It’s because they’re having a biological reaction to intelligent problems.
If you go back to the original scenario, you will remember that quick reaction times and thinking were the cornerstones of not dying or becoming something’s lunch. Malcolm Gladwell even talks about this in his book Outliers, where students at the University of Michigan re-create, in everyday interactions, dynamics of the American frontier based on professions like husbandry or farming, despite the fact that none of them grew up raising livestock.
What this kind of study shows is that traits are both individual and hereditary.
What I suggest we do is take this idea of traits, reactions, and ideas being both individual and hereditary and stretch them out to “the length of human existence.”
Luckily, because I don’t know when we’re all going to die, I don’t know how old the human race is yet. But, because of what we’ve discussed, I know what we have learned. And what I’m suggesting is possible is that we learned things in our infancy as a species that do not serve us in the future, or that the nature of our lessons has changed, as happens to us all with age.
They Really Think You’re Trying To Kill Them.
And here’s the crux of it: I think we can better understand irrational behavior if we understand the other side literally thinks we’re trying to kill them.
If you think of it in this way, it makes much more sense. People are living in bodies that are not 30, 40, 50 years old, but instead millions of years old.
Is it possible that while we no longer live in a situation where our death is consistently imminent, that this adherence to ideas that are more irrational and ill-founded is the product of bodies that DO still live in that time?
Think about this.
When someone says “Well, growing up…” and then explains their behavior, they are admitting that a past action directed at them or a situation they were in is currently affecting their decision making or actions, though the initial conditions are gone. Given what we know, doesn’t it make sense that therefore, we would still be very heavily influenced by the initial conditions from whence we came, whatever the realities of those were?
I think so.
And I’d be interested to see the implications of such an idea and how we treat irrational beliefs or behaviors. What if you understood that when you suggest gun control measures that seem completely reasonable to you, the other side feels actual physical, present danger, and so they react in ways that appear irrational, but are consistent with good behaviors for avoiding physical danger? Immigration, ISIS, police brutality – what would this idea look like translated to other topics?
We might get somewhere interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.
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