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Concisely Stated: The Evolutionary Psychological Perspective on the Human Condition

by Dr. Dale Glaebach

(NOTE: This paper has been posted with permission from the author as a courtesy to readers and is not the work of this website's owner).

We are all hunter-gatherer tribesmen at heart as part of the original loving (non-dysfunctional) nomadic family. The estimated 2 million year experience as hunter-gatherers must be acknowledged as our original, natural environment and has, thus with some import, been scientifically termed the EEA, or the “Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness”. To get a clearer conception of the vast historical period of the EEA, picture a large amount of standard 8 X 10 sheets of paper placed lengthwise, end-to-end, across the full length of a basketball court. But for the last sheet, the entire distance would represent the EEA. The last sheet would represent the period of the time after the discovery of agriculture. And all of the time that has transpired since the industrial revolution would be represented by only the last slim 1/10 inch. As such, the EEA was the period that “locked in” our basic physiology and psychology. The human species has changed little since the EEA, despite the radical shifts in the cultural environment. From this broader context, the changing modern environment and all that we would term “progress” are really of very little evolutionary consequence. To drive this point home, noted evolutionary psychologist, Dr. Robin Fox asserts in his powerful and thought-provoking essay “Consciousness Out of Context” (one of the “14 Essential Works” supplemental to this paper listed at the end of the main body of the text):
The new sense of ourselves as a problematical and experimental blip at the end of the trajectory of human history has to take hold and everything has to be recast in that perspective before we can even start to think sensibly and constructively about ourselves, our behavior, our values, our societies. All our assumptions...will have to be re-examined and probably largely discarded. (Fox 1989, 232)
What this means in the simplest, yet most profound, description is the following: each baby entering the world is a hunter-gatherer in all respects. As noted by the great zoologist and author of the classic book, The Naked Ape, in his powerful sequel, The Human Zoo:
In fact, if it were possible, with the aid of a time machine, to take the newborn child of an Ice Age hunter into your home and rear it as your own, it is doubtful if anyone would detect the deception. (Morris 1996, 13)
Given this powerful insight as to the nature of each baby entering the world, it is clear that each baby expects those behaviors he has been hard-wired by evolution to receive. Every baby necessarily expects those natural child-rearing patterns he would have encountered in the original nomadic tribe for his optimal development. Unfortunately, each baby is born within the unnatural zoo we've created for ourselves called "modern civilization". This conflict between our fundamental Nature and the deviant Nurture provided within the modern living environment is at the heart of all psychological dysfunction (with the important exception of those conditions caused by birth defect) .

Here is the unfortunate sequence. First, the baby is warped by "deviant" child-rearing methods employed, most usually, by well-meaning parents. (As noted above, "deviance", in the context of Evolutionary Psychology, is measured in relation to what is "natural" to our species; and not in relation to what happens to be "normal" in this particular tiny slice of evolutionary time.) A great amount of human psychological dysfunction is caused by general deviation within our modern zoo from the natural model of child development, but especially with deviation from the natural model of sexual development (a model that turns out to be greatly counter-intuitive to our normative thinking patterns).

Second, the child continues to be warped by the current environment of "modern captivity" that is in extreme discord with the natural human "wild" environment (i.e. "the original nomadic family"). Within the modern zoo, each child then "develops" into an adult suffering under the continuing encouragement to adjust (as rationalized by traditional, pseudo-scientific, normative psychology) rather than to demand change for an emotionally healthier, "user-friendly" alternative that is more attuned to "objective human nature" (defined by Evolutionary Psychology as our "hard-wiring" shaped by over two million years of nomadic family life). The modern zoo becomes the unnatural ground for the continuing growth of a great many obsessions, compulsions, and other dysfunction so characteristic of life within it. Some of these are transitory, but others become much more deeply ingrained as life within the zoo continues. It is essential that we begin to learn to “THINK OUTSIDE THE ZOO” in order to affirmatively work to protect our own emotional health.

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