The evolutionary argument has been thriving lately. I'm left wondering however whenever it is employed to justify anything's virtues. Take the "fasting diet" for instance. Evolutionary speaking, it makes sense that short-term fasting wouldn't have the better of us. In the primal savannah, we didn't always find game or proper food. Somehow we survived. Does that mean we should fast for better health however? Not necessarily. It means we could fast without deteriorating our health. Should / Could - Big difference. Now, next level:
"Their fitness [cultural inventions i.e. ideas] is to some degree independent of our own fitness. Blindness to this idea is endemic, and is particularly evident when people discuss evolutionary accounts of religion. “Oh, so you’re working on an evolutionary theory of religion. What good do you think religions provide? They must be good for something, since apparently every human culture has religion in some form or other.” Well, every human culture has the common cold too. What is it good for? It’s good for itself. We should be prepared to find cultural replicators that are not beneficial but that manage to thrive nevertheless. This even playing field theories of cultural evolution, replacing the blinkered idea that cultural innovations – just like genetic innovations – always enhance the fitness of those who transmit them." - Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and other tools for thinking
This is the sort of thinking stick that suddenly allows you to poke into many other ideas. Take leadership. Is it really beneficial for our communities? Or is leadership a cultural virus some catch - after watching too many political discourses and Hollywood movies - and go on, under its influence, wanting to lead the rest of us. Are we certain we can't live without a leader? Maybe leaders are only good for themselves. Take meaning. What is meaning good for? We've fought religious wars over entrenched conceptions of the meaning of life, and the meaning of a piece of land. Many died, meaning survived. Maybe we could live without meaning?
Are these ideas haunting? That's ok. They scare me too but I find this fear interesting. I'm thinking the millions of years that have led where we are are actually a drop in the history of our yet-to-come evolution. There are many cultural inventions left to test out: New identities beyond leadership, new drivers beyond meaning. 2000 years ago, Mathilda would've never known she's an Emo. There was no such thing. But today, this identity, this cultural invention, helps her thrive. So this here is a case for extending our universe of identities. Good morning ;)