Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Look At Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature

Perhaps you've read or heard about the article, "Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature" (Psychology Today, Alan S. Miller, PhD., and Satoshi Kanazawa, Ph.D.)
Some of the things listed are not surprising - that men are physically attracted to blond Barbie-types, humans are naturally polygamous, most suicide bombers are Muslim, men become less competitive with age, and politicians do things like Clinton did.

Others many of us will not have heard of -- offsets of the Trivers-Willard theory -- wealthy couples with higher status have more sons. People with at least one son are less likely to divorce. And beautiful people are more likely to have daughters - 56% v. 48%. (One has to wonder if that is statistically significant. Seems to me to be hovering awful close to chance.)

Interesting too is the proposition that if a woman's being harassed in the workplace, she's being treated equally, at last. (Oh thank heavens, at last I can be abused like a man?)

But wait. Isn't this the ten politically incorrect truths about our ANIMAL nature? And haven't we spent most of our time on earth trying to rise above our animal natures? Trying to get beyond the talon principle, nature red in tooth and claw, climb up out of the slime and stand on two legs?

These are instincts from the reptilian brain, which was programmed eons ago and which we still share with - um - reptiles. They are polygamous, yes. Their instincts are uncomplicated: "Can I eat it, will it eat me, can I copulate with it?"

One politically incorrect behavior not mentioned because it's so REALLY politically incorrect, is that we, as individuals, would like to kill someone in order to get what we want. These may be truths about our animal nature, but many people manage to get to a higher level. Some men find a courageous, loving brunette who may even be middle-aged and marry her and remain faithful. Some men avoid becoming a suicide bomber even if in a country which encourages this. They refuse, or they emigrate to a country more favorable to the good life. Not all politicians behave like Clinton did, or Spitzer, even if they could "get away with it." There are CEOs who treat the men who work for them with respect.

Don't bite the hand that feeds you, after all, is using your thinking brain. Some individuals continue being creative and productive well past the age when Gates and McCartney quit, because the drive is not at the animal level, it's coming from higher up. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE SAPIENS IN HOMO SAPIENS?

We have a limbic brain (why we do not eat our children when we're hungry, like reptiles do), and a neocortex - which allows us not just to think, but to think about thinking. Therefore, we can note that we have an animal instinct operating (big deal) and choose not to act on it (that would be stupid). It isn't a command, these "instincts". Unless you aren't linked to your limbic brain and neocortex, that is. If our "human" nature is anything, it is the "homo sapiens" - we're the ones who can think. That means we have choices.

This list of "human nature" is implicitly hooked in to the selfish gene theory, which is, after all, selfish. This is the "it's all about me" side of human nature, amped up. But no less than Pope John Paul II has apologized for acts of "human nature" that were wrong, such as the missionary abuses against indigenous peoples of the South Pacific, and the persecution of Galileo Galilei, a case of workplace harassment if you will.

Killing people may be part of our animal nature, but caring for and about other people is part of our human nature. I thought we left Freud's drive theory (sex and aggression) behind us in the last century. There is just as strong a drive to bond, nurture and protect, which of course would be included in the Politically Correct Truths list, but it goes beyond that. Human nature isn't just about you and procreating your genes at the expense of others. Some of the things Miller and Kanazawa mention may be part of our nature. They may be politically incorrect. But in some cases acting on them is just plain wrong. And that's why you got a limbic brain and neocortex to go along with that reptilian brain. So you'd know this and feel this!

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