What Are Humans Like
and How Did We Get This Way?
What are humans like and how did we get this way? What part of our social behavior is learned and what part is inherent. These have been hotly debated questions for over a century. Many scientific disciplines have taken them on, yet still there seems to be more controversy than answers. One might come to suspect that the whole issue is simply not susceptible to scientific inquiry!!
The new science of Polymathic Studies suggests an interesting approach to answering these questions. It is a technique called Paleosociology and it incorporates epistemological methodologies from Physics and Game Theory and uses as its knowledge base Paleoanthropology, Primatology, Paleoclimatology, Population Genetics, Evolutionary Biology, Cultural Anthropology, Molecular Biology and Psychology. In other words, its massively polymathic.
Here is how it works. From Molecular Biology we know that sometime between 8 million and 4 million years ago something very much like chimpanzees and bonobos (sometimes referred to as pygmy chimps) wandered out on to the savanna and eventually became us. We also know from Molecular Biology that for most of hominid evolutionary history our ancestors probably lived in small, semi-isolated gene pools.
Now, modern humans have such a developed capacity for learned social behavior or culture that it is difficult to make any statements about the subject that aren't contradicted by one culture or another. While chimpanzees and bonobos have a rudimentary capacity for learned social behavior, for the most part, their social behavior is genetically programmed. So, somewhere along the way humans evolved the capacity for culture.
The Paleoanthropological record strongly suggests that the human capacity for culture exploded with anatomically modern humans, at most 250,000 years ago. Why is this important? Because it means that for most of human evolutionary history, our ancestors were behaving very different from chimpanzees and that those behavioral differences were driven by genetics. In other words, there is some intrinsically human Paleosociology from which all modern cultures are modifications.
Can we determine what this Paleosociology was like and why it was adaptive? Yes. The same way a Cosmologist can tell you what the Universe was like three minutes after the Big Bang. By deducing it. We won't go into all the technical aspects of it in this introductory web page. If you decide to join the Discussion Group, you'll pick it up over time. Instead let's focus on some of the surprising conclusions that have been drawn using the technique.
1. Chimpanzees are patriarchal. Bonobos are matriarchal. Which are we? Neither!! It became a 'man's world' with the advent of civilization. Humans evolved a balanced power structure. Feminists aren't inventing something, they are reinventing it!!
2. Why do humans pair bond? Or do we? Arabs probably don't think so. Well humans do preferentially pair bond. Neither chimpanzees nor bonobos do. So where does it come from? Simply put, humans can't decide what constitutes a good man. So all the men get to reproduce more or less equally.
3. Why do humans cheat on their spouses? Selfish genes not withstanding, the answer is that it benefits the community.
There is a whole lot more, but let's leave it for the Discussion Group. This Discussion Group is intended to explore a model of human social behavior. We welcome skeptics just as heartily as proponents. You may not accept the conclusions of Paleosociology, but we guarantee, it won't be boring!
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