The Mating Mind

Geoffrey Miller is the author of the “Mating Mind”, a highly interesting book on what evolutionary biology has to say about all of our weird “dating and sexual quirks.” David Pearce highly recommends it, too.

Miller’s talk in this video is just as interesting as Ogi Ogas’ talk about his book “A Billion Wicked Thoughts”. Both talks deal with the evolutionary basis of human sexual desires (yes, even the weird ones… specially the weird ones):

Both use sound empirical methods and develop theories of our sexuality based on genetic, anthropological, and biological analysis of human experience and behavior.

Here is an interesting observation: If we were descendants of a specie that used clones as a way of reproduction (or perhaps formed large asexual social colonies like bees or ants) then we would all love each other unreservedly.

Competition for good genes has made us quasi-psychopathic and selfish. The fall of humanity is not, apparently, the result of sinning against God. But rather, for having evolved in small tribes with heavy in-group genetic biases.

Likewise, our Darwinian origin is responsible for states of low mood, depression, anxiety, and so on. Depression itself, to dive into a specific example, is an adaptive strategy for non-alpha males in the ancestral environment, which predisposes you to keep your head low and reproduce in spite of the presence of an Alpha male who is capable of killing you if you try to challenge him. Additionally, depression is a behavioral response that allows you to passively accept and endure a long-lasting stressor, where “trying to make things right” instead of submitting to the reality of the situation was simply not as genetically adaptive. Of course, since we don’t live in the African Savannah anymore, all of that programming is useless.

Unfortunately, since happiness is itself a sign of status, we are stuck in an awful Moloch scenario: Geoffrey Miller would agree that people are sexually motivated to *pretend that they are happier than they are.*

Forgetting about people with a heavy genetic predisposition to depression who cannot even *conceive of what happiness is*, most people are stuck in recurrent cycles of high, neutral and low moods. And yet, they are anxious to pretend that they are happier than they really are; after all, one’s genes are at stake in this signaling activity.

I have often met highly intelligent people who seem incapable of understanding David Pearce’s Hedonistic Imperative. Although there are many possible causes for this, a very prominent one is the fact that believing that “everyone has a chance to be happy” is itself a happy thought. We run away from depressive worldviews, even if doing so is ethically disastrous.

Let us hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Yes, we can hope that somehow everyone has a chance to be happy, and sincerely wish that “it really isn’t that bad.” However, let us not act *as if this is true.* We are in a unique position to alleviate and outright exterminate all future suffering in our forward light cone. It would be really sad if we let billions of beings suffer for eons (say, in other galaxies) simply because we entertained too heavily the thought that reality is conspiring in “our” favor (nature, perhaps, is not as kind as it looks when one is in a happy state).

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  1. Pingback: Burning Man | Qualia Computing

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