Thursday, June 01, 2006

Intelligence fails the evolutionary test

I'm reading this book right now. This guy basically looks at nature and species and makes observations about the world in which we live. Some of the more interesting points he puts forward are:

- Human beings are leading the planet to another big "die off" of species. For example, fully one third of bird species have disappeared due to man's influence on the planet. It takes 10 million years for life to rediversify after a big species die off.

- It is entirely possible that intelligence is an evolutionary trait that always extinguishes itself.

- We live in a world that we have created, and not one that we are evolutionarily adapted for. This is why people have phobias of high places and snakes and not guns and bombs. Over time, we became genetically programmed to fear those things in varying degrees because those are the traits that favored success in the species.

- Homosexuality is evolutionarily helpful in hunter gatherer societies because additional people to care for young helps more young survive. This is true in social animals that have few offspring at a time (ie: monkeys). The groups that didn't have the diversity that included homosexuality fared worse and so their genes did not make it into today's version of the human being.

- Nature probably should have picked a less aggressive and selfish animal to test its intelligence experiment.

He talks a lot about ants and termites too, there are whole sections that read like an Animal Planet episode. I'll be done with it today and take it back to the library so someone else can tickle their mind with it.

18 comments:

Snooze said...

I live in denial. I can't read anything that talks about our inevitable extinction. Sounds cool though.

CoffeeDog said...

I'm with Snooze, about living in denial...but I do enjoy reading about things like that - odd isn't it.

nongirlfriend said...

I don't like to think about it, either. Call me an ostrich.

Or optmistically foolish.

I just keep thinking we'll wake up someday.

Lee said...

> Homosexuality is evolutionarily helpful in hunter gatherer societies because additional people to care for young helps more young survive.

You could tell them apart thanks to the caves with the nice curtains.

St. Dickeybird said...

Makes sense. So I'll say it again...
... and put it back in!
... and pull your head out!
... and put it back in!
... and pull your head out!
... and put it back in!

What the hell - the world is coming to an end.

Chunks said...

Waaaay deeper than the last book I read, which was "I Am Not Myself These Days" by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. It was a cool book and the mere mention of it brought a new visitor to my blog!

I will see if my hick library carries the book. Is it textbookish, because if it is, I may not be able to handle it. I'm not that evolved. Oh and I am afraid of many man-made things, maybe I am the exception not the rule.

Dantallion said...

Suddenly my self esteem has plunged though the floor. Human beings baaaad.

Jason said...

That's is totally my kind of book. Thanks.

Kevin said...

I'm reading a book too. Apparently, the protagonist, Dick, has plans to go on a picnic with the antagonist, Jane. I'm not sure where the plot is headed (I'm only halfway through), but I'm guessing she tries to ply him with liquor and promises of sexual delights.

Unfortunately for her, it's pretty clear Jane is not his type, if you catch my meaning.

jjd said...

Hmm. I'm confused -- please clarify: how does homosexuals help hunter gatherers in serving as additional people to care for the young? Is the implicit assumption in this statement that gay men (and women) weren't allowed or able to hunt or gather and only to serve as live-in nannies? Not a particularly powerful image of homosexuals.

Em said...

jdd, are you saying that childcare is demeaning?

GayProf said...

Homosexuality is evolutionarily helpful in hunter gatherer societies because additional people to care for young helps more young survive.

Em: I don't see childcare as demeaning.

But what if you are a homosexual who hates and despises children? I am not saying that I am that type of homosexual, but I have other things to occupy my time than tending children -- mostly because I hate and despise them.

JoeL said...

Don’t you find that Humanity is like when we were kids. We couldn't wait to grow up and be adults. Not caring what we missed, lost or crushed. And what happens when we get to that age where it’s suppose to be considered “old” 25, 30, 40 even 50?

If I had known!

Ed said...

50 isn't considered old. Just wait until you reach that plateau. The human race may go out with a whimper but my money on on a very loud mushroom cloud bang! I agree with Gayprof, what if you hate brats er I mean little children couldn't I become a gatherer?

David said...

I was going to comment that the post was fascinating and armed me with a good argument about the necessity of homos in society. Then all the pithy comments kinda burst that bubble. Oh well, at least I got a few giggles out of it.

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

You know it's a good post when a debate rages in the comment column.
And I thought Mike Davis was apocalyptic. This guy wilson makes the Book of Revelations seem tame.

t said...

Whoa! Sounds like a cool book!
I showed this posting to my wife and she's hooked (she loves to read). She said she heard Edward Wilson books are excellent.
She'll probably end up getting it.
By the way, Tornwordo, she wants to know if you've ever read Collapse by Jared Diamond, about how societies choose to fail or succeed.
She said it's a very powerful book.

The "homosexuality is helpful to care for young" part is silly when you think about it:
Do you have to be straight to hunt and gather? Are gays poor hunters or unable to recognize edible plants? Not that I'm aware of. The writer probably devoted too much attention to the topic and let his imagination run a little.
I'm not gay, but why couldn't they have done all three...hunt, gather and take care of kids? The only thing different is, they wouldn't have as many kids so they don't have their own to watch.

JoeL said...

Guys!

Read carefully!

"- Homosexuality is evolutionarily helpful in hunter gatherer societies because additional people to care for young helps more young survive. This is true in social animals that have few offspring at a time (ie: monkeys). The groups that didn't have the diversity that included homosexuality fared worse and so their genes did not make it into today's version of the human being.
"

"This is true in social ANIMALS"