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How it evolved?

Note that just because something is natural doesn't make it moral.


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Jim Bennett wrote:

Remember several things.

1. Lower Paleolithic peoples didn't have much of any food preservation or storage technology -- when you killed an animal it had to be eaten before the meat spoiled. There was no big advantage in grabbing more meat than you could eat very quickly.

2. Success in hunting, which was usually done in groups, was due more to luck (and successful randomizing of hunting direction, to avoid over-hunting any given area -- hence using random-number generators --dice, etc. -- to determine the direction of today's hunt) than individual differences in skills. It was more rational to share the catch (since you couldn't accumulate the capital anyway) and in return get a share of somebody else's catch the next time. Sharing was a form of insurance and risk-spreading.

3. Military success was also not very skill-dependent -- it depended more on numbers. Therefore it was pro-survival to have as many spear-bearing tribal members as possible. Better to feed your fellow-tribesman so he will be available to fight on your side than to hog the meat which you can't save anyway.

Sharing and relative egalitarianism was pro-survival in a world without food preservation or storage, and with relatively flat skill distributions in hunting and fighting. You don't need a more complex theory than that to explain primitive egalitarianism. These tribal values could be seen until very recently in the tribal assemblies in the smaller Swiss cantons, where every voter had to show up in person at the tribal assembly with weapon in and when you voted.

Bill White wrote:

The final sentence is exactly right, IMHO:

Egalitarianism and competitive urges are key elements of human nature and egalitarianism's development came about to help people compete more effectively.

BOTH are key elements of human nature and remain in tension.

"Too much" egalitarianism and a group loses in competition to another group.

"Too little" egalitarianism and a group loses in competition to another group.

How much is "too much" or "too little" is not easy to predict in advance and clever people are always seeking out new angles to win those group competitions as well as becoming alpha within the group itself.

Gears within gears within gears.

= = =

The Obama versus McCain election is also an example of this:

A better organized group is going to wipe out less organized groups.

Recent reports of infighting within the Florida GOP are hampering united efforts to defeat Obama. Charlie Crist's people are blaming McCain for choosing Palin rather than Crist himself, for example.

Thus, Crist's self interest in rising in stature within the GOP is today weakening the GOP's efforts to defeat Obama.

SSFC wrote:

"Me and my brother against my cousin. Me and my cousin against my neighbor. Me and my neighbor against the world."

That's what the thesis boils down to. Questions of morality aside, I'm not sure that a scientific paper is necessary to explain an aspect of the evolution of our particular primate species that's pretty obvious to anyone who's been through high school.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 11, 2008 2:01 PM.

Well, At Least It Can't Get Any Worse was the previous entry in this blog.

Hope, Change is the next entry in this blog.

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