Tuesday, September 16, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Our biology is our history

By
From page A11 | August 24, 2014 |

By Mark Rollins

There are certainly many lessons to learn from history if you choose to pay attention.

Historians and archaeologists are always around to teach us lessons from history and point out how we are repeating the same mistakes of the past, whether it is spreading diseases, starting wars, destabilizing governments, exploiting people or simply ruining everything we touch.
The sad fact is that for the most part, we don’t choose to pay attention. That is because there is this notion that the distant past is irrelevant. That seems to go hand in hand with the idea that old people are irrelevant and only the new is relevant, so youth and the present have priority. But when it comes to improving social behavior and fostering wisdom in groups and in individuals, the past is much more relevant than the present.
For people to solve problems in their behavior, we must understand how we got here. We must learn the core reasons for all human behavior. We need to understand ourselves as the biological animals that we are.

Proximate, cultural causes do not go deep enough. The study of humanities only scratches the surface. The renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson said that history doesn’t make sense without pre-history, and pre-history doesn’t make sense without biology. I would go further and simply say that our biology is our history.
We need to start giving priority to biological sciences that look at animal and human behavior, like evolutionary science, paleoanthropology, ethology, biogeography, sociobiology, brain science and other ancillary subjects that examine human behavior from different perspectives.
We need to be studying aggression, greed, competitiveness, nepotism, deception, xenophobia, peer pressure, warfare, tribalism, patriotism, racism and envy, and try to get to the core causes of kin and non-kin altruism, selfishness, cooperation, gene/culture co-evolution, the need for religion, steadfast adherence to core belief systems, the connection between self-sacrifice in religion and terrorism, conflict resolution in modern state societies versus traditional societies, obedience to authority figures, etc.

These are the things that we as a species should be trying to understand if we are to save ourselves and the biosphere of this planet.

We should be in survival mode and be emphasizing the importance of college degrees in fields of study that delve into these problems. We must mature socially and culturally as a species just as people mature socially and culturally as individuals.
This will lead to evolving genetically as well, because, as sociobiology tells us, culture affects gene pools and gene pools affect culture.

Unfortunately, we are doing the opposite. We are putting the nerds up on a pedestal. We are emphasizing mathematics, engineering, business, computer science and physics. These fields are important, too, especially when they are used in conjunction with biological research, but it seems that we are using them primarily for competition, and frankly, for making better toys and better ways to waste time.
Do we always have to be competing? And what good are better toys if we ruin the planet and we all die?

Also, we seem to think it is OK to ruin this planet because someday we will be able to just go to another planet somewhere. Let me say right now that, no, we shouldn’t, and we won’t. Why do we have to be the only species of animal that soils our own bed? We should take care of this planet now and forever, period.

Also, for those who think we can simply replace ourselves with robots, forget it. We are too idiosyncratic for robots to ever think like us. Nerds, are you listening?

We are always very careful to look at the past record of behavior when we hire a new teacher, police officer, contractor or baby-sitter, or before we put a representative in public office. And speaking of the police, they use evidence found at crime scenes to piece together how and why a crime happened. In that way, their jobs are strikingly similar to evolutionary scientists and archaeologists.
I hope we do not become too obsessed with the now and lose sight of the importance of understanding and respecting the past. We need to understand that the arrow of time does not begin at this moment. The past is not something just for idle cocktail chatter. It is absolutely essential to understand it in order to understand anything at all.
If possessing understanding of the past does not become as cool as possessing the latest electronic time-wasting gadget, I fear that any future we still may have will be dim.

— Mark Rollins is a Davis resident.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

.

News

 
School nurses stretched thin

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
DPNS has afternoon openings

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Paws for Thought: Socialize your new pup at UCD’s Yappy Hour

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A3 | Gallery

DHS parents go back to school

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
New DHS Hall-of-Famers

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A3

Exploration of dementia lecture set for Sept. 25

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Sierra Club gathers for morning walks

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Bad roads cost Californians billions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Farmers market continues at Sutter Davis

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Yolo County’s looking for a few good advisers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Sick-pay benefits expanded to millions

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A4

 
Search the Internet at Connections Café

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Garage, bake sales benefit outdoor education trip

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5

 
Sutter qigong classes start Sept. 22

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Hundreds flee wildfires; homes burn

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Harmony Award nominations sought

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Da Vinci seniors take on Constitution essay

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
.

Forum

Maybe not the best rebound guy

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

Many reasons to back Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
I support Madhavi Sunder

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

A leader with heart and vision

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Carbon fee and dividend plan is the answer

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

Open Cup final has local flavor

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1

 
Devil volleyball victories keep piling up

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS needs just 10 boys to top Elk Grove

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Finding the good in a tough DHS football loss

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1

More pressure on QB would be nice for Aggies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
Raber: glad to join in bringing readers golf column

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1

Highlights galore in Junior Blue Devil weekend

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Big Monday for Masiel as DHS golfers win league opener

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Jane Eyre’ to screen at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘Shrek, The Musical’ shines at DMTC

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Anais Mitchell to play Third Space

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Irish fiddlers come to Davis house show

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Jenny Lynn and Her Real Gone Daddies play at Picnic in the Park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Woodland artist hosts event at her new studio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7