„Biologically, man is an animal with the species name homosapiens, whose fore-brain or neo-cerebrum is more developed than that of other animals. Consequently man is less governed by his instincts than other animals, who, due to preponderance of the lower brain or paleo-cerebrum are primarily driven by instincts. According to the medical materialists, man is a physiologically driven machine made of complex biochemical molecules. These basic concepts of man have been accepted by almost all the non-theological philosophers of the West, each of whom has added his own adjective to the animal-man. Greek philosophers considered man a rational animal. Aristotle has defined man as a political animal, and the American philosopher Benjamin Franklin calls him homo-faber, or tool-making animal. Man has produced tools as extension of his own body, as it were, and has increased his productivity manifold. He has harnessed energy, like steam energy, electricity, atomic energy, etc. He has produced devices that replace thought itself (automation, cybernetics). E.Cassier has emphasized that man is a symbol making animal and the most important symbol invented by him is the word through which he can communicate with others.”( Swami Brahmeshananda)
The Rise of Civilization
By Brain P. Smith
Rochester Institute of Technology
The development of the brain and the development of the human society occurred in relative parallel. While people were learning to live
together cooperatively, they were also adapting to the new non-physical environment they found themselves in. A review of literature concerning human society and culture, as well as certain psychological adaptations is presented. The author intends to demonstrate key ways in which society influenced psychological development, and likewise ways in which the human mind steered the growth of the cultures we see in the world today.
How is modern man different from prehistoric man? How do people living in bustling cities differ from their distant, cave-dwelling ancestors? These questions are ones evolutionary psychologists ask themselves when they set out to do research. Evolutionary psychology seeks to better understand the human mind by considering the evolutionary and hereditary aspects of development. The role of growth and development (ontogenesis) in the formation of the mind is not dismissed, but more emphasis is placed on the genetics of the brain, and how they have changed over the centuries.
Many species live in social groups, from the great apes to fish and insects.
The fact that humans do too is not in and of itself of note. What is interesting is the sheer complexity of the social system that humans exist in. Prehistoric humans lived mostly in small family groups to pool resources and increase their survivability.
As populations began to grow, more and more people had to live together to maximize resource utilization and provide adequate safety.Now, in addition to the pressures of survival and passing on their genes, people had to concern themselves with the laws of the societies they lived in. With time, the challenges people faced in their social lives became internalized, and successful behaviors and traits were passed on to offspring. Evolutionary psychology seeks to understand these adaptations; why they first developed, what they were meant to accomplish, and how are they represented in modern man.
Note that there is no such thing as a "universal" society or culture.Many, if not all, of the adaptations made by prehistoric humans are still evident in the world of today. This is particularly obvious in the case of purely biological adaptations. Humans have incredibly complex biological systems. The eyes alone contain billions of highly specialized cells for sensing light, determining colors, detecting edges, etc. It would then stand to reason that the systems of the mind are both evolutionary adaptations and incredibly complex.Two articles, one on depression and one on stigmatization, are summarized below in order to demonstrate te workings of these systems, and why they can be considered evolutionary adaptations.
According to Allen and Badcock (2003), depression is a self-defense mechanism by which an individual attempts to prevent his or herself from being cast out of a group. Individuals in a depressed state avoid socially risky behavior, become hypersensitive to social risk and send out signals in an attempt to elicit support from others in the social group. Depressed people are likewise less confrontational or competitive than they might normally be, since these are traits that would lead to high-risk situations.
People sensing that they are close to being evicted from a group that is important, either for survival or reproduction, they adopt these behaviors in an attempt to stay within the group and stave off exclusion. By becoming a very low-risk individual, people experiencing depression attempt to show to others that there is no reason to exclude them from the group, that they are "safe." Studies have been done that show there are specific traits that are only apparent in individuals experiencing depression. Overall, depression is a highly specialized response to the perceived social environment. It is very hard to believe that it could be anything but an evolved adaptation to the human social world (Allen & Badcock, 2003).
Another notable social mechanism, tangential to depression, is stigmatization. Stigmatization is the process by which a group excludes individuals from social interaction based on their desirability to the group. People are stigmatized for a variety of reasons, which vary wildly from group to group, but there seems to be an overall reasoning behind these exclusions. Any given group has an ideal member, who has certain traits and displays certain behaviors.
Those who do not posses these traits or show these behaviors are thus not desirable members of the group, and could potentially be harmful. As important as the need to belong is, belonging to the "wrong" group has benefits for neither the individual nor the group. While stigmatization can have a powerful effect on a person, as anyone who has lived with a teenager can likely attest, it remains an important process by which social groups maintain themselves. Evidence that stigmatization is an evolutionary adaptation can be found in the fact that stigmatization is present in a wide variety of species, not just humans.
Chimpanzees have a social hierarchy where individuals at the bottom have restrictions placed on them due to factors such as size and kin group, which clearly shows that these individuals have traits that are not desirable. Likewise, three-spined sticklebacks, a variety of small fish, systematically avoid association with other sticklebacks that show evidence of having parasites. Thusly we can conclude that since humans have been living in societies for millions of years, certain adaptations must have been made to deal specifically with social situations, and stigmatization is one of them (Kurzban & Leary, 2001).
Evolution and adaptation needed to occur before human society could truly begin to blossom. Neurological changes needed to occur in the human mind, to allow for the new kinds of thinking that man would need to flourish in this new environment. Sedikides and Skowronski argue that one of the most important of these adaptations is symbolic self-awareness. Subjective self-awareness is the ability for an organism to differentiate between itself and things that are not itself. Objective self-awareness is the capability of an organism to become the object of its own attention and be aware of its own state of mind. This implies the organism has at least a crude cognitive representation of its self, and can recognize itself in a mirror, for example.
So far, humans are the only species that have been found to have the next level of self-awareness, known as symbolic self-awareness. The symbolic sense of self is necessary for social interaction because for two organisms to interact socially, each needs to be able to evaluate the benefits of the interaction in relation to themselves and to the other organism. Without a symbolic sense of self, it would be impossible for humans to have a society more complex than what is exhibited by chimpanzees (Sedikides & Skowronski, 1997).
Every creature on Earth has a collection of behaviors and instincts that help it to survive in its normal environment. Humans are no exception to this rule, and many of the traits and behaviors of modern day people can be traced back through the evolution of the species. Coalition formation is the process by which people decide with whom they wish to share their resources. Kinship is the strongest factor a given person will consider when deciding to share resources with someone. After kinship, a history of past reciprocal sharing is the most important factor, the logic being that if a sharing of resources has worked in the past, there is a chance it will work again.
A history of resource sharing is what might be considered a "friendship" by today's standards. Status is one of those traits that seem to have different value between the sexes. Overall, status is beneficial as it typically means better access to resources and increased social alliances. Males typically value status more than females, as females often use male status as a cue for mate selection. As a result, men will be more alert towards activities that would result in a loss of status, especially in comparison to his neighbors or competitors.
Self-protection is an interesting facet of human behavior, in that it has changed much as society has evolved. Ancient humans lived primarily in small family groups, and competed with other family groups. A person usually had little to fear from members of his family group since, from an inclusive fitness point of view, any harm inflicted on kin equates damage inflicted on the self. However, people from outside the family shared little or none of the same fitness goals, and were therefore decidedly more dangerous. As communities grew larger, more people began living in close quarters with people who were not their kin. This would lead to a lower aggression threshold, since these people are dangerous, from the perspective of inclusive fitness. The end result of this would be "mutually maintaining regions of hostility" present in every neighborhood in the modern world. Overall, it is easy to observe how modern day human behavior could easily have come from years of evolution within a dangerous world, both physically and psychologically (Kenrick, Li, & Butner, 2003).
Human memory is another interesting aspect of the species. Memory systems need to do two things: retrieve useful information, and retrieve it quickly. To remember every piece of information about a construct would take a long time. To remember something very quickly would require a drop in the amount of information retrieved, and the precision of that information. The human mind has developed a good compromise between these two needs. When something needs to be recalled, the memory retrieves a representative sample of the person's experiences with the construct, as well as specific instances of when the general "picture" of the construct was wrong. Another interesting feature of human memory, is the way in which it tends to compress things. People you meet are often represented as a collection of trait descriptions, such as "friendly," "angry," or "sad." The mind takes the multifaceted personality of the individual in question, and reduces it to a small set of predictive descriptions that allow for rapid, and often good, decision-making (Klein, Cosmides, Tooby, & Chance, 2002).
The human capability for language is a very specific evolutionary adaptation, but the capability to read, which is very closely related to language, is not found in all cultures and therefore most likely not biological in nature. It would appear the ability to read requires the use of many of the same neurobiological systems that language uses, but in different ways, which vary from culture to culture.
The ability for humans to use biologically primary systems for biologically secondary tasks is powerful indeed, as it allows for advancement without evolution. A generation that can teach a subsequent generation to perform a task does not need to develop biological support for that task in particular (Geary, 1995) The adaptations of the human species are nothing without experience. A biological predisposition towards anything is just a predisposition until it is allowed to become a behavior. As an example, a person who has never witnessed anyone else reacting with fear towards a snake will not react with fear, either. The goal of evolutionary psychology is just to explain why things are the way they are, not to explain the way things are going to be.