Friday, February 25, 2005

Modern Skulls House Stone Age Minds

Modern Skulls House Stone Age Minds

It has long been an interest of mine to develop a better understanding of how our biological inheritance affects our ability to thrive in this technological and crowded world. This has drawn me to blogs such as Gene Expression and Enlightened Caveman. Now political think tanks are getting into the act. Cato Institute has published a policy report based upon the study of evolutionary psychology, entitled Capitalism and Human Nature, which attempts to reconcile our hunter-gatherer origins and our therefore primitive mentation with our ability to interact on a global level with the rest of the human race. The report reviews recent research in evolutionary psychology, which it describes as a field of science that "specializes in uncovering the truth about human nature."

Pointing out that human nature is absolutely incompatible with socialism is easy enough, even without the aid of peer-reviewed research (we have the mountains of corpses to prove it), but applying those same findings to a quest to understand how compatible our minds might be with a global free market is a bit more difficult. What we can not easily understand can be seen this way, thus:
Our zero-sum mentality makes it hard for us to understand how trade, innovation, and investment can increase the amount of total wealth. We are thus ill-equipped to easily understand our own economic system.
Anyone who has read the scribblings of economists, who devote their lives to the understanding of this "science," has realized that no two economists can agree on anything more than grand principles, and there is a huge amount of argument even at that level. Science can allude to a certain hopelessness inherent in progressivism, as in:
The shape of society is constrained by our evolved nature. Remaking humanity through politics is a biological impossibility.
But progress we shall, indeed we must, so gainsaying the direction in which leftists wish to take our society is not necessarily going to point to the true direction the human race, and American society, should take. It does provide food for thought, however, and it would be wonderful if more of our public policy were to conform to what is known about human propensities and abilities, rather than the current state of our legislation, which more often defies human nature, and attempts to change it, rather than trying to work with the raw material of the human mind.

We are what we are, and not some progressive construct of what we wish we were. Political correctness stands in direct opposition to progress, which is directly opposite to what its promoters claim. Human knowledge is ill-served by denial of, say, the cannibalism of the Anasazi, or refusal to recognize the nature of Homosexuality. Refusal to allow the study of, and understanding of, whatever it is that impairs many African-Americans from succeeding in our society does not help them. Indeed, it holds them in bondage to false ideas, and encourages the destruction and refabrication of the ideas of Martin Luther King, among others, in a mad attempt to avoid embarrassment. The continued attempts to redistribute wealth similarly shows a denial of human nature, as well as a poor understanding of the economics of wealth creation. The plain truth, that wealth is not a zero-sum game, seems to be hidden from these "thinkers," and the facts of the tension between our charitable nature and our resistance to coercion are denied as well. The current debate over Social security is a debate between those who want power over their fellows, and is not at all about providing for the elders of our society.

Until public policy reflects an understanding of the good, as well as the bad, in our natures, the personal freedom forseen by our nation's founders will continue to be elusive. Better understanding of human nature, and thus what will work, is the key, and the Cato piece is a great step forward. Too bad almost no one will read it. But it is a sign of better days ahead.

Hat tip to Enlightened Caveman for the link to the Cato piece.