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Consilience: a jumping together Most of the issues that vex humanity daily ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environment, endemic.

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Presentation on theme: "Consilience: a jumping together Most of the issues that vex humanity daily ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environment, endemic."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Consilience: a jumping together Most of the issues that vex humanity daily ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environment, endemic poverty, to cite several most persistently before uscannot be solved without integrating knowledge from the natural sciences with that of the social sciences and the humanities. Only fluency across the boundaries will provide a clear view of the world as it really is, not as seen through the lens of ideologies and religious dogmas or commanded by myopic response to immediate need. (13-14)

3 The Evolution, Cognition, and Culture Reading Group Larry DailyPsychology Laura RenningerMusic/Dean of Teaching and Learning Pete Vila Environmental Science Ruth ConleyBiology John SheridanDean of Libraries Karen AustinAcademic Support Heidi DobishPsychology Don PatchellClinical Psychology, Martinsburg VA Center Laura RobertsonResearch Geneticist, Fish and Wildlife Center Mike RaubertasOwner, Four Seasons Books

4 Why do human beings enjoy fictional stories? Proximate Cause: The observable and immediate cause of an effect. Stories give us pleasure; we like them Stories teach us important lessons; we learn from them Ultimate Cause: The deeper cause behind the proximate cause

5 Why do human beings enjoy sweet foods? Proximate Cause: Sweet stuff tastes good. Ultimate Cause: For 99% of the time that human beings have been a species, sweetness has indicated ripe, edible, nutrient rich fruit. Natural selection, therefore, favored those who found sweet foods pleasurable. Selection tends to favor organisms who derive pleasure from and commit resources to things that were once evolutionarily beneficial. This does not mean that everything that we currently derive pleasure from is adaptive.

6 The Pleasure of Stories All known human cultures have some form of storytelling or literature Most people are capable of deriving enjoyment and pleasure from a story that they fully understand to be fictional People from all cultures invest tremendous resources in the production and consumption of fictional narratives

7 WHY? Narrative is a crucial component of cognition We literally think in stories Narrative cognition offers some very important advantages in the way that we process information Why do people find stories pleasurable?

8 But Why Fiction? Shouldnt we like true stories instead? Almost all of the phenomena that are central to the humanities are puzzling anomalies from an evolutionary perspective. Chief among these are the human attraction to fictional experience (in all media and genres) and other products of the imagination. John Tooby and Leda Cosmides[i][i] [i] John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, "Does Beauty Build Adapted Minds? Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Aesthetics, Fiction and the Arts," SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism 30, no. 1-2 [94-95] (2001): 7.

9 Useful Fiction A narrative whose adaptive value is separate from its truth value. A narrative whose adaptive value is separate from its truth value.

10 Anxiety The most adaptive negative emotion Operates through the limbic system and invokes the fight-or-flight response Works on the smoke- detector principle of encouraging false-positives because of the tremendous consequences of false negatives.

11 What should Thag do? Assume that, in Thags world: 99% of strange noises behind rocks and trees are made by mice, squirrels, and other harmless animals 1% are made by large, hungry tigers.

12 Predation narratives are selected to be Exaggerated (because the cost of overstating the danger far outweighs the cost of understating it) Exciting (because exciting narratives produce the adrenaline needed for both fight and flight) Speculative (because determining the truth takes time that could be used for escape)

13 Self Deception Quixote wins the battle against the stronger man pretending to be a knight The difference: Carrasco only pretends to be a knight; Quixote actually believes that he is a knight

14 Advantages to Self-delusion in combat Self-deluded people tend to have higher expectations for their performance, which increases the likelihood of victory by increasing the costs that they are willing to pay in order to win. Self-delusion often allows one to project strength and confidence, thereby causing others to avoid fighting or make crucial mistakes. [i] [i] Richard Wrangham, "Is Military Incompetence Adaptive?," Evolution and Human Behavior 20, no. 1 (1999): 3-4.[i]

15 The Mantis Shrimp Just after molting, the mantis shrimp is completely helpless, yet this is when its behavior is the most aggressive. 50% of potential predators decline to attack a shrimp behaving this way, even though victory (and a good meal) would be assured. (Robert Trivers, Social Evolution, p. 410)

16 Human Self-Delusion The Lake Woebegone Effect A survey of one million high-school seniors found that 70% thought they were above average in leadership ability only 2% thought they were below average. 60% thought they were in the top 10% in ability to get along with others 25% thought they were in the top 1%! In a survey of university professors found that 94% thought they were better at their jobs than their average colleague. [i][i] [i] Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn't So : The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (New York, N.Y.: Free Press, 1991), 77. [i]

17 Self-narratives are selected to... Overestimate our importance or that of groups that we belong to Exaggerate our accomplishments and abilities Underestimate our responsibility for failures or weaknesses


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