— Will Durant
— Richard Maybury
We have 21st century minds, but our brains and bodies are from the Paleolithic. That’s when humans became humans.
Compared to the condition of our ancestors, we of the modern unnatural world are fantastically hale and hearty. But — my key point — today’s male is walking around with the amount of testosterone necessary to cope with the poverty of the natural Paleolithic.
I don’t write about women, here or anywhere else, because I’ve never been one and don’t know enough about them. So this article is mostly about men. I find us rather simple and transparent.
After being a man and watching them for 70 years, I think everything about our behavior boils down to just two words, testosterone toxicity. Well, not everything, but plenty.
I truly mean toxicity, poisoning. In my opinion, the removal of natural stressors makes our Stone Age level of testosterone poisonous — so much so that this is the most dangerous — and unrecognized — medical and behavioral problem in today’s world.
I believe this poisoning explains, for instance, both world wars, the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crises.
Think about it. Males have not only enough testosterone to generate the gumption to charge a mastodon, but enough to win the fight using just sticks and rocks. What would we expect from such people when they’re given control over tanks, artillery and aircraft carriers?
Ask any doctor. Testosterone is a powerful psychotropic chemical. It can warp judgment just as surely as alcohol and cocaine. History offers many examples.”
— Robert Wright From “Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment” P. 7
We were ‘designed’ by natural selection to do certain things that helped our ancestors get their genes into the next generation — things like eating, having sex, earning the esteem of other people, and outdoing rivals. I put ‘designed’ in quotation marks because natural selection isn’t a conscious, intelligent designer but an unconscious process. Still, natural selection does create organisms that look as if they’re the product of a conscious designer, a designer who kept fiddling with them to make them effective gene propagators. So, as a kind of thought experiment, it’s legitimate to think of natural selection as a ‘designer’ and put yourself in its shoes and ask: If you were designing organisms to be good at spreading their genes, how would you get them to pursue the goals that further this cause? In other words, granted that eating, having sex, impressing peers, and besting rivals helped our ancestors spread their genes, how exactly would you design their brains to get them to pursue these goals? I submit that at least three basic principles of design would make sense:
- Achieving these goals should bring pleasure, since animals, including humans, tend to pursue things that bring pleasure.
- The pleasure shouldn’t last forever. After all, if the pleasure didn’t subside, we’d never seek it again; our first meal would be out last, because hunger would never return. So too with sex: a single act of intercourse, and then a lifetime of lying there basking in the afterglow. That’s no way to get a lot of genes into the next generation!
- The animal’s brain should focus more on (1), the fact that pleasure will accompany the reaching of a goal, than on (2), the fact that the pleasure will dissipate shortly thereafter. After all, if you focus on (1), you’ll pursue things like food and sex and social status with unalloyed gusto, whereas if you focus on (2), you could start feeling ambivalence. You might, for example, start asking what the point is of fiercely pursuing pleasure if the pleasure will wear off shortly after you get it and leave you hungering for more. Before you know it, you’ll be full of ennui and wishing you’d majored in philosophy.
If you put these three principles of design together, you get a pretty plausible explanation of the human predicament as diagnosed by the Buddha. Yes, as he said, pleasure is fleeting, and, yes, this leaves us recurrently dissatisfied. And the reason is that pleasure is designed by natural selection to evaporate so that the ensuing dissatisfaction will get us to pursue more pleasure. Natural selection doesn’t ‘want’ us to be happy, after all; it just ‘wants’ us to be productive, in its narrow sense of productive. And the way to make us productive is to make the anticipation of pleasure very strong but the pleasure itself not very long-lasting.”
— Hippocrates (Greek physician 460-377 BC)
— Steve Jobs
One of the very few silver linings about me getting sick is that Reed’s gotten to spend a lot of time studying with some very good doctors… I think the biggest innovations of the twenty-first century will be the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning, just like the digital one when I was his age.”
— David Eifrig Jr.
It feels good to make the right call.
Maybe you predicted the Super Bowl champ at the start of the season or backed the winning presidential candidate early on. When you look back and can say you knew what was going to happen, it gives you bragging rights. And in the financial business, it can make you money.
But recognize that the human brain wasn’t built for modesty…
We tend to trumpet our insights, but brush off all the wrong forecasts we make. You don’t deserve much credit for your Super Bowl prediction. One dropped interception by your young defensive back could have changed the entire outcome. And what about the other years when you’ve gotten it wrong?
Even worse, you can fool yourself into thinking you called something that you didn’t… Today, the number of folks who claim to have known that Donald Trump would win the election far exceeds the number who predicted it publicly beforehand.”