Evolution and the Mind

Many people on the Right think evolutionary psychology is a nonsense field, probably because it has the word psychology in it. On the Left, the opposition comes from feminists who want to believe sex is imaginary. They use the word gender, when they mean sex, as it allows them break free of biological reality. They get to pollute the idea with cultural items like gender roles and homosexual advocacy.

The question though, is whether selection works on the cognitive traits in the same way it works on the physical traits. I’m thinking about that as I type this post, watching snow flurries and temperatures in the single digits. Climate is probably the most brutal of selection mechanism, and humans adapted to climate mentally, not physically. Skin tone and eye color can take many generations. One hard winter and those who failed to plan are wiped out.

For example, if this were five thousand years ago, I would be dead now if I was not prepared for this brutal cold snap. That means I would have collected enough wood for the winter, back in the fall when the weather was nice. I would have prepared my shelter for the cold and wind, back in the summer when the days were long and I had the time. Most important, I would have prepared a supply of fresh water and food that would remain edible through the winter.

In the late summer I could not possibly know what winter would bring or how long it will last so planning for the worst is the key to survival. For that to be learned behavior means the people who failed to learn were wiped out. It also means the folks who somehow survived or thrived had the capacity to pass on these lessons in a way that allows the progeny to survive. It also means every winter the best at this cognitive skill survived while those less skilled perished.

When you start with a simple example like this, it is not hard to see why the personality and culture of Iceland is different from sub-Saharan Africa. When you add in how this would change reproductive strategies, it’s easy to understand how the people in the harsh north evolved a different set of cognitive traits from those in the warm south. In the former, good planning attracts the ladies, while in the south it does not.

How much of difference this makes and how persistent it is in the genes of the human population is another debatable, but the way to be is on biology. Europeans in Africa, for example, don’t acquire African ways after a generation or two. Similarly, African populations in the north remain African in behavior and temperament. Maybe it really is the legacy of colonialism or whatever the Left is into these days, but that is very unlikely.