“Economic Development, the Nutrition Trap and Metabolic Disease”

Trabalho na interseção entre economia e biologia revela insigths sobre a saúde pública

https://news.yale.edu/2022/02/22/work-intersection-economics-and-biology-reveals-public-health-insight

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Luke, Nancy; Munshi, Kaivan; Oommen, Anu Mary; and Singh, Swapnil, “Economic Development, the Nutrition Trap and Metabolic Disease” (2021). Discussion Papers. 1087.
https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/egcenter-discussion-paper-series/1087

https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/egcenter-discussion-paper-series/1087/

https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2086&context=egcenter-discussion-paper-series

***

Durante décadas, os cientistas não conseguiram determinar por que exatamente há uma alta incidência de diabetes e outras doenças metabólicas entre indivíduos considerados de peso normal nos países em desenvolvimento. Um enigma relacionado é por que a desnutrição nem sempre diminui com o desenvolvimento econômico.

Um novo estudo liderado por Kaivan Munshi, de Yale, argumenta que há uma única explicação biológica para ambos.

Em um novo documento de trabalho, Munshi, professor de economia na Faculdade de Artes e Ciências de Yale e afiliada do Centro de Crescimento Econômico (EGC), e uma equipe de coautores descrevem como um aumento no consumo de alimentos pode colidir com uma metabolismo herdado do indivíduo, causando maior incidência de doenças por algumas gerações em uma linhagem familiar. Se os resultados suportarem mais testes, eles podem ter amplas ramificações para programas e políticas de nutrição destinados a conter o diabetes nos países em desenvolvimento.

O artigo foi lançado como parte da série de Documentos de Discussão do EGC.

Em pesquisas anteriores, Munshi explorou como os laços entre membros de grupos sociais – incluindo castas na Índia e grupos de migrantes nos Estados Unidos – funcionam na economia mais ampla. Em 2012, enquanto estava na Universidade de Cambridge, recebeu financiamento do National Institutes of Health para um estudo sobre o papel que os grupos comunitários podem desempenhar nos programas de controle da tuberculose no sul da Índia. Isso levou à sua pesquisa sobre doenças metabólicas – qualquer doença ou distúrbio que interrompa o metabolismo, o processo de conversão de alimentos em energia. Munshi continuou essa linha de pesquisa desde que ingressou no corpo docente de Yale em 2019.

O novo estudo remonta à história para entender as ligações entre as tendências atuais de desenvolvimento contemporâneo e a saúde pública.

Em estudos anteriores, os pesquisadores argumentaram que, na economia pré-moderna, a ingestão calórica das pessoas era geralmente baixa, embora houvesse grandes flutuações de curto prazo na quantidade de alimentos disponíveis. Ao longo de séculos, quando as sociedades humanas quase não viram crescimento econômico, o corpo humano se adaptou tanto a essa escassez de alimentos de longo prazo quanto a flutuações por meio de vários processos físicos, inclusive estabelecendo e defendendo um “ponto de ajuste” para a massa corporal.

A teoria do ponto de ajuste postula que o corpo tem um sistema estabilizador – ou “homeostático” – que usa ajustes metabólicos e hormonais para manter o equilíbrio energético do corpo contra flutuações na ingestão de alimentos. Esses ajustes metabólicos teriam compensado os períodos temporários de consumo maior ou menor, mantendo o corpo em um índice de massa corporal (IMC) estável – e necessariamente baixo -, que é aproximadamente o peso de um indivíduo dividido pela altura.

Os sistemas homeostáticos, entretanto, só podem se autorregular dentro de limites fixos; quando esses limites forem excedidos, o sistema falhará. Com o início do crescimento econômico na economia moderna, um aumento acentuado na disponibilidade de alimentos foi um choque para o sistema.”

“Wheat has corrupted humanity; The grain gave birth to the tyrannical state” by John Lewis-Stempel [Unherd]

“O trigo corrompeu a humanidade

O grão deu origem ao estado tirânico

POR JOHN LEWIS-STEMPEL
John Lewis-Stempel é agricultor e historiador. Seus livros incluem Six Weeks e Where Poppies Blow. Ele está atualmente trabalhando em uma história de Paris.

21 de março de 2022

https://unherd.com/2022/03/wheat-has-corrupted-humanity/

A praga que é o trigo se enraizou há 10.000 anos, quando o Triticum aestivum, ou trigo para pão, foi domesticado a partir de gramíneas selvagens no “Crescente Fértil” do Oriente Médio. Inicialmente, os neolíticos locais cultivavam trigo ao lado de caçadores-coletores tradicionais e pastoreio incipiente (pecuária). Mas o trigo é um senhor de escravos, exigente em suas necessidades específicas e diárias, não menos na interminável – ou assim nos parece para aqueles que já cultivamos o material – capina. O trigo nos prendeu a um ciclo sazonal de plantio, capina e colheita do qual não conseguimos escapar desde então. Também nos tornou mais sedentários, tanto em termos de nos acorrentar a assentamentos estáticos, quanto de nos tornarmos menos ativos. Proteger um campo de trigo de javalis requer menos energia do que caçar javalis (…).

A observação de colheitas pode exigir pouca energia, mas exige tempo. Com menos horas para caçar e forragear, optamos por uma dieta restrita. Em Abu Hereyra, na Síria, a arqueologia registra essa mudança: quando os ocupantes eram caçadores-coletores, consumiam 150 plantas silvestres; como agricultores aráveis, eles comiam apenas um punhado de colheitas. A saúde humana se deteriorou; o corpo humano mudou. Singularmente, a mandíbula encolheu, uma vez que a nova dieta de trigo exigia menos mastigação do que a carne. Os dentes humanos não reduziram proporcionalmente à mandíbula menor, então a consequência foi a supreposição dentária. A dieta de amido – o principal componente do trigo – causava cáries. E o valor dietético do trigo, que de qualquer forma era apenas modestamente nutritivo, diminuiu em até 30% sob a agricultura industrializada contemporânea.

A questão intrigante é: se o cultivo de trigo alterou nossa estrutura corpórea, isso alterou nosso cérebro? Os rituais e requisitos sistemáticos de plantar e colher trigo mudaram nossos cérebros para nos tornar mais dóceis? Organizados? Cooperativos? Desconectados da natureza? Afastou-nos do animismo para o louvor de Ceres, deusa das colheitas de cereais, e depois para um Deus abstracto e monolítico a quem pedimos o nosso pão de cada dia.

O que o trigo certamente fez foi facilitar a ascensão do Estado. Como explica James C. Scott, codiretor do Programa de Estudos Agrários da Universidade de Yale, em Against the Grain, o trigo se tornou a melhor maneira de tributar as pessoas: “A chave para o nexo entre grãos e Estados está, acredito, no fato de que apenas os grãos de cereais podem servir de base para a tributação: visíveis, divisíveis, avaliáveis, armazenáveis, transportáveis e ‘racionais’.”

(…)

Mas onde você tem trigo, historicamente, você tem controle estatal ou algo parecido. A taxação do trigo possibilitou o surgimento de elites improdutivas, que necessitavam de um braço armado para defender seu regime. A comida que alimentou o aumento populacional necessário para o pessoal do exército, o punho do Estado? Trigo. Pobre em nutrientes, mas densa em energia, forragem para as massas, fornecia energia e saúde apenas o suficiente para trabalhar, procriar, lutar. Os primeiros Estados de grãos eram “máquinas populacionais” (Scott novamente), domesticando as pessoas como o agricultor domestica o rebanho de vacas.

As pessoas mais “domesticadas” eram os escravos, utilizados nos aspectos mais desagradáveis da produção do trigo. Os Estados do trigo eram Estados escravistas.

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A sociedade ocidental acabou se organizando em torno da produção e consumo de trigo. E assim se tornou a ferramenta política final. A iconografia do comunismo de um martelo para o proletariado e uma foice de corte de trigo para o campesinato acabou sendo uma das ironias mais cruéis da história. O martelo foi levado para os trabalhadores, a foice para o camponês. Além de ser fácil de tributar, o trigo é fácil de confiscar. E como o trigo é uma cultura de subsistência, remova-o e você terá fome. Durante o Holodomor, a fome ucraniana de 1932-33, Stalin deliberadamente privou a população do país – que não tinha ardor suficiente para o governo de Moscou – de trigo. Cerca de 3,9 milhões de ucranianos, cerca de 13% da população, morreram.

(…)

Em 1976, a Monsanto desenvolveu o herbicida Roundup. Eles então criaram cultivares de trigo geneticamente resistentes ao seu próprio produto, eventualmente produzindo em massa a linha de sementes Roundup Ready em 2019. Sim, você leu certo: os grãos foram desenvolvidos por sua capacidade de lidar com um produto químico que a Monsanto queria negociar. Portanto, se o agricultor comprar a semente Roundup Ready, ele comprará o herbicida Roundup vinculado. E a Monsanto fatura duas vezes.

O uso de produtos químicos no cultivo convencional de trigo faz muito pelos cofres da Monsanto (agora propriedade da Bayer), mas está transformando áreas do interior do Reino Unido em um caixão para a natureza. O trigo é a causa de mais problemas ambientais do que se pode imaginar. Embora os lobistas e os apologistas do agronegócio insistam que o uso de pesticidas diminuiu no último quarto de século, isso não ocorre quando se trata do trigo. Entre 2000 e 2016, a média de passes de pulverização (aplicações) sobre trigo aumentou de 5,5 para 6,6, enquanto as substâncias ativas em sprays passaram de 14,7 para 20,5.

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Os problemas ambientais do trigo continuam. O plantio anual requer lavoura anual e essa agitação constante da terra mata os organismos vivos do solo, libera CO2 do carbono armazenado no solo e exacerba as mudanças climáticas. E eu nem mencionei os efeitos negativos do nitrogênio como fertilizante artificial principal do trigo industrial, com seus escoamentos poluentes e sua liberação de óxido nitroso – um gás de efeito estufa que, libra por libra, aquece o planeta 300 vezes mais que o dióxido de carbono.

(…)

De qualquer forma, em um mundo que ruma para a obesidade a e diabetes tipo 2, dificilmente são necessários mais carboidratos dos pães fatiados da Mother’s Pride.

(…)

A humanidade tomou um rumo errado com o trigo. Mas nem tudo não está perdido. Se a invasão russa da Ucrânia está causando um repensar em nossa dependência de petróleo e gás, este também é o momento de lançar sementes de dúvida sobre nossa dependência do “grão de ouro”. Por que não capim sobre faixas das pradarias aráveis de East Anglia – e Ucrânia – e os abastecer com gado e ovelhas criados ao ar livre? O capim não precisa de produtos químicos, e o esterco de gado é excelente para restaurar a fertilidade do solo e a biodiversidade; uma única vaca pode alimentar 2,2 milhões de insetos por ano, o que significa abundância de petiscos para pássaros e morcegos.

Eu sei, eu sei, como todo vegano exclamará: “Vacas arrotam metano”! Mas não é a vaca, é o como [“But it is not the cow, it is the how.”]. Uma vaca ao ar livre, em pasto estabelecido, com suplemento de algas marinhas redutoras de metano e baixa densidade de estocagem, está na verdade sequestrando carbono. Assim, os bovinos são um problema climático menor do que as roupas sintéticas, já que os esportistas sozinhos causam 1,4% das emissões globais de gases de efeito estufa. Só se pode presumir que os conselheiros de Oxford que tomaram a decisão, recentemente, de defender uma política “sem carne” são nudistas. Ou estúpidos. Ou anti-natureza. Ou todos os três.

Para salvar o planeta, a pastorícia é a solução inteligente. O cérebro é composto 60% de gordura, e a gordura rica em ômega da carne alimentada com capim é excelente para a saúde mental. A condição sine qua non do pensamento livre. Carne e liberdade! Mais carne, menos trigo!”

“Outrage! Our minds and morals did not evolve to cope with social media” By Tim Dean

“Ultraje! Nossas mentes e moral não evoluíram para lidar com as mídias sociais

A indignação é uma emoção útil que ajudou nossos ancestrais a sobreviver. Hoje, isso nos deixa com raiva, cansados, impotentes e miseráveis.

https://bigthink.com/thinking/outrage/

18 DE MARÇO DE 2022

Tim Dean
Tim Dean é Filósofo Sênior no The Ethics Center e autor de How We Became Human.

A indignação é uma emoção evolutivamente útil porque pune os infratores e mantém as pessoas na linha. Hoje, expressamos grande parte de nossa indignação online, que não serve a nenhum propósito específico e raramente aborda a ofensa moral ou procura corrigi-la. Não somos escravos da nossa natureza. Podemos nos desvencilhar da indignação.

O que a evolução tem a ver com o problema da toxicidade das mídias sociais? A resposta curta é: mais do que você imagina. A resposta mais longa é: a toxicidade da mídia social é, em parte, um subproduto da maneira como nossas mentes evoluíram para pensar sobre o certo e o errado.

Assim como nossos corpos, nossas mentes foram moldadas por nossa longa história evolutiva como animais sociais, que passou a maior parte de seu passado evolutivo vivendo em sociedades de pequena escala. Essas sociedades tinham dinâmicas sociais radicalmente diferentes em comparação com as sociedades online massivas, diversificadas e globalizadas em que vivemos hoje. E muitos dos problemas sociais e morais que nossos ancestrais distantes tiveram que resolver também eram radicalmente diferentes dos que enfrentamos hoje.

Portanto, as ferramentas que a evolução deu aos nossos ancestrais para resolver seus problemas – incluindo heurística mental e emoções morais – podem ter funcionado bem em seu mundo, mas jogue essas mesmas ferramentas em nosso mundo e elas podem causar mais mal do que bem.

De muitas maneiras, partes-chave de nossa psicologia moral evoluída já passaram do prazo de validade. E é hora de recuarmos e trazermos nosso pensamento para o século 21.

A indignação como mecanismo de sobrevivência

Considere a indignação. Normalmente não pensamos na indignação como uma emoção “moral”, mas é isso que é. A indignação é um tipo especial de raiva que sentimos quando alguém faz algo errado. Isso nos enche de uma onda de energia que nos motiva a atacá-los e puni-los. É o que experimentamos quando alguém mente, rouba ou viola nossa dignidade.

(…)

O problema com a mídia social é que muitos dos ultrajes que testemunhamos estão muito distantes de nós, e temos pouco ou nenhum poder para evitá-los ou para reformar os malfeitores de alguma forma significativa. Mas isso não nos impede de tentar. Porque a indignação exige satisfação.

(…)

Quando você vê o Twitter em ação, você vê a indignação funcionando como a natureza pretendia. Exceto que não está funcionando no ambiente para o qual foi “projetado”. A indignação funcionou para nossos ancestrais que viviam em comunidades de pequena escala, onde eles conheciam o malfeitor pessoalmente e podiam se unir a aliados para trazê-los de volta à linha.

No mundo moderno, quando estamos separados por telas e só conseguimos nos comunicar em pequenos trechos de texto, a indignação pode falhar. Torna-se uma relíquia de um tempo diferente que está fora de sintonia com a maneira como experimentamos o mundo hoje.”

“Evolutionary Mismatch, Emotional Homeostasis, and Emotional Addiction: A Unifying Model of Psychological Dysfunction” by John Montgomery [Evolutionary Psychological Science, 2018]

“Evolutionary Mismatch, Emotional Homeostasis, and Emotional Addiction: A Unifying Model of Psychological Dysfunction

John Montgomery

Evolutionary Psychological Science, volume 4, pp. 428–442 (2018)

Artigo Teórico
Publicado: 02 de maio de 2018

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40806-018-0153-9

Resumo

Este artigo propõe uma estrutura evolutiva unificadora para a compreensão da gênese de uma ampla gama de transtornos psicológicos. Os transtornos psicológicos como um todo parecem se desenvolver em frequências significativas apenas sob condições de “incompatibilidade evolutiva”, nas quais pessoas ou animais vivem em ambientes, como cidades modernas ou culturas industrializadas em geral, para os quais não são evolutivamente ou biologicamente adaptados. Ambientes evolutivamente incompatíveis parecem frequentemente causar interrupções nos estados de unidade que evoluíram para manter a homeostase. Com base em várias linhas de evidência, vou sugerir que estados emocionais dolorosos e angustiantes podem fornecer recompensas bioquímicas inconscientes no cérebro e, em condições ambientais incompatíveis, podem se tornar reforçados, criando “vícios emocionais” compulsivos e inconscientes. Esse fenômeno central pode ser a principal força motriz da grande maioria dos distúrbios psicológicos. Sugere-se que o impulso ou força desadaptativa que os vícios emocionais parecem gerar – mencionados aqui como “impulso não-homeostático” ou “impulso viciante” – de modo disfuncional, desnecessário e repetidamente tiraram as pessoas da homeostase, criando desequilíbrios sistêmicos que podem resultar em uma variedade de disfunções psicológicas.

Os drives homeostáticos e não-homeostáticos

Talvez o princípio mais fundamental na biologia moderna seja que todas as coisas vivas se esforçam para alcançar e manter estados de homeostase, ou equilíbrio, em todos os níveis (Craig 2003; Damasio 1999; Marder e Tang 2010). Na verdade, a capacidade de renovar os constituintes de uma célula viva ou coleção de células e de manter a homeostase fisiológica dentro dessas células para vários minerais, nutrientes, íons e outras biomoléculas é considerada uma capacidade fundamental para que a vida exista (Luisi 2006). Em organismos unicelulares, nutrientes e íons são mantidos em equilíbrio quase automaticamente por uma variedade de moléculas de transporte que estão incorporadas no envelope celular do organismo (Cook et al. 2014). Com a evolução de animais multicelulares mais complexos, no entanto, e particularmente com a evolução dos mamíferos, a expressão de estados emocionais específicos e as ações ou escolhas comportamentais que esses estados emocionais motivam tornaram-se um elemento central da manutenção da homeostase (Craig 2003; Panksepp e Biven 2012).

Quando os níveis de nutrientes na corrente sanguínea ou no corpo de um animal, por exemplo, caem abaixo de um limiar homeostático crítico, um desejo ou fome por comida, que pode ser visto como um verdadeiro estado emocional (Anderson e Adolphs 2014; Giuliani e Berkman 2015), é gerado no cérebro do animal (Fig. 1). Como a maioria dos estados emocionais, a fome é biologicamente projetada para motivar uma ação específica ou um conjunto de ações, que neste caso é a busca e consumo de alimentos adequados. O estado emocional de fome com efeito tira o animal da homeostase para a não-homeostase, mas esse estado não-homeostático é projetado especificamente para conduzir um comportamento – a busca e o consumo de comida – que trará o animal de volta à homeostase.

O estado emocional de repulsa, para dar outro exemplo, parece ter uma função homeostática semelhante. A repulsa parece ter evoluído como parte do “sistema psicológico imunológico”, que é biologicamente projetado para gerar evitação comportamental de patógenos potencialmente perigosos (Neuberg et al. 2011). Em humanos, o cheiro de carne podre, por exemplo, evocará uma sensação de repulsa que fará com que os olhos, narinas e boca se fechem parcialmente de forma automática e inconsciente para minimizar a exposição a parasitas potencialmente perigosos ou outros patógenos transportados pelo ar. A emoção de nojo também tende a motivar as pessoas a se afastarem com segurança da fonte de nojo, o que, mais uma vez, minimiza o risco de infecção. Todas as outras fontes comuns de uma reação de nojo físico, como a visão de feridas pustulentas, da mesma forma representam um risco de infecção por patógenos contra o qual a resposta emocional e fisiológica de nojo é projetada para fornecer proteção. Assim, a emoção de nojo novamente joga o sistema na não-homeostase com o objetivo de motivar o comportamento que é projetado para permitir um retorno à homeostase (Damásio, 1999).

Em humanos e outros animais superiores, um estado geral de homeostase parece ser expresso principalmente como um estado emocional de paz ou bem-estar, no qual não há ameaças iminentes percebidas (como uma ameaça de patógenos) e nenhuma necessidade urgente (como necessidade de comida). Estados emocionais homeostáticos, como sentimentos de paz ou bem-estar, normalmente parecem refletir estados subjacentes de homeostase fisiológica, enquanto estados emocionais não homeostáticos, como fome, nojo, ou medo, sinalizam ameaças potencialmente sérias à homeostase que devem ser abordadas de alguma forma. Assim, o aparente projeto biológico de todos os animais, incluindo humanos, é estar em homeostase sempre que possível, mas, quando a homeostase é ameaçada, desencadear estados emocionais não-homeostáticos apropriados projetados para motivar ações que tendem a permitir um retorno à homeostase (Fig. 2). Esta tendência de todo o organismo de manter estados de homeostase pode ser vista como um “impulso homeostático” global, representando uma força biológica fundamental e extremamente poderosa projetada para manter o organismo ou animal em homeostase sempre que possível (Montgomery e Ritchey 2008).”

The Economic Legacy of the Holocene By Lisi Krall [The Evolution Institute]

“O Legado Econômico do Holoceno

Por Lisi Krall 
30 de dezembro de 2021

http://evolution-institute.org/the-economic-legacy-of-the-holocene/

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“Tenho muitas lembranças pungentes dessa época, mas uma é particularmente relevante aqui. Na semana antes de morrer, quando as linhas de tempo e espaço começaram a se desfazer como fazem de maneira confiável, Paul [Shepard] voltou-se para minha mãe uma noite e disse que ela não deveria ficar alarmada se quando ela acordasse ele não estivesse lá – ela o encontraria no quintal, ceifando. Na época, parecia-me um lugar estranho para ele ir, visto que ele havia dedicado a obra de sua vida a um avaliação crítica do impacto da agricultura nos humanos e na Terra, destacando tudo o que se perdeu quando os humanos começaram a domesticar plantas e animais. Achei que ele preferia retornar ao Pleistoceno, a era antes da agricultura, mas em vez disso ele adotou um ato do Holoceno, ceifa. Paul não tinha acabado de pensar na importância da agricultura. Desde então, internalizei sua inclinação no leito de morte, o impulso de entender o que aconteceu aos humanos e à Terra quando os humanos começaram o cultivo de grãos anuais e embarcaram na agricultura animal, trazendo comigo minha formação como economista.

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A Revolução Agrícola é o antecedente direto do curso de colisão atual entre a economia global e a Terra, e o capitalismo é apenas uma representação institucional particular de uma mudança de sistema que esteve em movimento por 10.000 anos, muito antes da economia de mercado. No entanto, muitos críticos assumem que as crises de hoje são produto da Revolução Industrial, tecnologia avançada e capitalismo. A importância da Revolução Agrícola é obscurecida, nunca totalmente descartada, mas nunca totalmente reconhecida. Um exemplo é o trabalho de Jason W. Moore (2016), que argumenta que devemos falar de um “Capitaloceno” distinto. Moore está certo em expandir nossa visão do capitalismo para uma longue durée – não apenas nos últimos 250 anos, mas talvez começando no século 14, quando a “ecologia mundial” do capitalismo se consolidou – mas ele descarta a importância da Revolução Agrícola em sua análise. Certamente, a versão específica de dominação, exploração e expansão do capitalismo levou à extinção e à decadência ecológica, mas um contexto histórico mais amplo e uma perspectiva ecológica mais profunda são necessários para compreender o surgimento e a complexidade da ordem econômica do capitalismo.

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As formigas da colônia são tão profundamente interdependentes que a autonomia individual é essencialmente inexistente e a cooperação é tão intensa que alguns membros da colônia são estéreis. Nenhuma formiga tem conhecimento da produção de fungos; que o conhecimento está embutido no coletivo e na maneira como ele funciona em torno do propósito comum. Seguindo o exemplo de Hölldobler & Wilson (2011), não parece exagero dizer que as formigas têm “civilização” e se referir à colônia como um “superorganismo” em virtude de sua inteligência e ordem. A colônia, como uma unidade de seleção natural, tem posição em termos evolutivos. Essas espécies são extremamente bem-sucedidas pelos padrões biológicos e evolutivos, pois a interação autocatalítica da produção de fungos e do crescimento populacional permite uma grande expansão no tamanho da colônia. Há também expansão por meio da migração para um novo local de nidificação e o estabelecimento de novas colônias.

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Quando me dei conta dessas semelhanças na organização econômica e na dinâmica populacional em relação à agricultura, me senti compelida a identificar os processos e mecanismos que deram origem a configurações econômicas notavelmente semelhantes em espécies, de outra forma, muito diferentes. A Revolução Agrícola dos humanos não parecia ser apenas uma questão de engenhosidade, intencionalidade, razão, instituições e cultura, uma vez que os insetos agrícolas haviam alcançado o mesmo marco, a mesma configuração e o mesmo “sucesso” milhões de anos antes dos humanos.

(…)

Ao pesquisar espécies agrícolas, busquei a biologia evolutiva, algo que os cientistas sociais progressistas geralmente evitam. A compreensão da ruptura da estrutura e da dinâmica da vida econômica humana pela agricultura é iluminada pela teoria da evolução – particularmente uma estrutura evolucionária ampliada que abrange a complexidade da evolução no que se refere à formação de grupos, a evolução da cooperação e a construção de nichos (Margulis, 1970 ; Okasha, 2006; Wilson & Wilson, 2007; Pigliucci & Muller, 2010; Jablonka & Lamb, 2014; Laland et al., 2015). Essa teoria evolucionária estendida permite que as análises ultrapassem os limites estreitos dos genes e da seleção de parentesco. John Gowdy e eu argumentamos que o uso da biologia populacional e da teoria evolutiva para entender as sociedades pode ajudar a explicar a formação do coletivo econômico como uma força e unidade de seleção em evolução (Gowdy & Krall, 2013, 2014, 2016).

(…)

A dinâmica de expansão e produção excedente, a profunda interdependência material e a relação alienada com o mundo não-humano permanecem conosco na forma contemporânea de capitalismo global e suas tecnologias, ideologias e instituições concomitantes. Pior para nós e para a Terra. Dez mil anos com este sistema agrícola serviram apenas para realçar e cimentar certas tendências. Se quisermos parar o extermínio em massa do mundo não-humano e deixar possibilidades razoáveis para as futuras gerações de humanos, teremos que desmantelar este “superorganismo econômico”. Não é uma tarefa fácil, e a questão da eficácia da ação humana nessa frente obviamente é grande.””

“Evolutionary Mismatch, Partisan Politics, and Climate Change: A Tragedy in Three Acts” By Helen Camakaris [This View of Life]

“Evolutionary Mismatch, Partisan Politics, and Climate Change: A Tragedy in Three Acts

By Helen Camakaris
Helen gained her Ph.D. in 1975 and worked as a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She studied the regulation of gene expression in bacteria and archaebacteria, which aligned with her interest in evolution. She retired in 2008 to pursue her interest in the nexus between evolutionary psychology, sustainability, and climate change, and has been studying and publishing articles in this area for the past ten years. Her articles have appeared in Meanjin Quarterly, The Conversation, Cosmos Magazine, New Internationalist, and Kosmos Magazine, and can be found online under Notes on her Facebook Page.
Twitter: @helenmcama
Facebook Page: ‘The Climate Conundrum, with Helen Camakaris’ at https://www.facebook.com/h.camakaris/

This View of Life

https://thisviewoflife.com/evolutionary-mismatch-partisan-politics-and-climate-change-a-tragedy-in-three-acts/

(…)

During the Pleistocene, our brains were upgraded by changes that enabled our ancestors to leave more descendants, largely as a result of expansion in the cerebral neo-cortex. Evolution is glacially slow and our rise is recent, so our psychology suffers from evolutionary ‘mismatch,’5 whereby the shadows of the past still influence our behavior.6

(…)

Like biological evolution, cultural evolution builds upon whatever has preceded it and is also subject to a form of ‘natural selection,’8 whereby some ‘memes’ or ideas persist and spread.9 Cultural evolution and natural selection acted together as a ratchet, culminating in vastly increased intelligence and creativity.5

Altruism too, was a product of natural selection involving language and social intelligence, its selection enhanced by multilevel selection, with competition at the level of groups or tribes.10 Altruism, however, is generally circumscribed by an obsession with ‘fairness’ and discrimination between ‘them’ and ‘us’, presenting problems when we must plan for the distant future, or cooperate beyond the local tribe.

So although we may now be extraordinarily intelligent, we are not always rational, simply as a result of our evolutionary journey.11 Our decision-making often involves emotional reasoning, using ‘gut instinct’, which we then justify by rational thought.12 Our cognition is also subject to a myriad of biases affecting our judgment.13 For example, we tend to discount the future, follow our in-group, and collect evidence to justify our pre-existing opinions. We are further limited by our poor comprehension of large numbers and exponential growth, as became obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, even intelligence has been a double-edged sword, promoting the transition from hunter-gatherer to improviser, and the ‘progress’ that followed. Technological advances like agriculture around 10,000 years ago made surpluses possible; people began to live in towns and cities, to specialize, trade with other groups, and have larger families. Whilst this satisfied the evolutionary imperative of increasing population, it heralded poorer diets, more disease, and greater social stratification.”

“This is your brain on political arguments” By Derek Beres [Big Think]

“This is your brain on political arguments

Debating is cognitively taxing but also important for the health of a democracy—provided it’s face-to-face.

DEREK BERES

18 January, 2021

https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/your-brain-on-arguing

– New research at Yale identifies the brain regions that are affected when you’re in disagreeable conversations.

– Talking with someone you agree with harmonizes brain regions and is less energetically taxing.

– The research involves face-to-face dialogues, not conversations on social media.

You probably know the feeling: a rush of heat that assaults your entire body; your fingertips and forehead suffering fiery consequences of conflict; restrictions around your chest and throat; quickened breath, as if your lungs can no longer draw in the required oxygen; ears on alert, biding time for a break in your opponent’s rhetoric to let loose the torrent of thoughts crowding your brain.

Of course, not everyone is an opponent. You likely know the opposite as well: the cool excitement of agreeableness, when the words in your head are returned to you from another being as in a mirror; unconscious head shaking as your sense of righteousness is validated; the warm exuberance of easy dialogue with a fellow tribe member.

In a digital age in which physical contact seems foreign and long past, we might have forgotten what it’s like to agree—or debate—with someone in person. Pandemics are temporary, while societies are—well, nothing is forever, but we’ve outlived diseases before. According to new research from Yale University, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, disagreeing with someone takes up a lot of brain real estate, while finding a compatriot is a much less cognitively taxing endeavor.

(…)

Senior author Joy Hirsch notes that our brain is essentially a social processing network. The evolutionary success of humans is thanks to our ability to coordinate. Dissonance is exhausting. Overall, she says, “it just takes a lot more brain real estate to disagree than to agree,” comparing arguments to a symphony orchestra playing different music.

As the team notes, language, visual, and social systems are all dynamically intertwined inside of our brain. For most of history, yelling at one another in comment sections was impossible. Arguments had to occur the old-fashioned way: while staring at the source of your discontent.

(…)

Leading us to an interesting question: do the same brain regions fire when you’re screaming with your fingers on your Facebook feed? Given the lack of visual feedback from the person on the other side of the argument, likely not—as it is unlikely that many people would argue in the same manner when face-to-face with a person on the other side of a debate. We are generally more civil in real life than on a screen.”

***

“Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

13 January 2021

https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2020.606397

Interpersonal Agreement and Disagreement During Face-to-Face Dialogue: An fNIRS Investigation

Joy Hirsch 1,2,3,4,5*, Mark Tiede 1,4, Xian Zhang 1, J. Adam Noah 1, Alexandre Salama-Manteau 1 and Maurice Biriotti 6

1 Brain Function Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States
2 Department of Neuroscience, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States
3 Department of Comparative Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States
4 Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT, United States
5 Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom
6 Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University College London, London, United Kingdom

Although the neural systems that underlie spoken language are well-known, how they adapt to evolving social cues during natural conversations remains an unanswered question. In this work we investigate the neural correlates of face-to-face conversations between two individuals using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and acoustical analyses of concurrent audio recordings. Nineteen pairs of healthy adults engaged in live discussions on two controversial topics where their opinions were either in agreement or disagreement. Participants were matched according to their a priori opinions on these topics as assessed by questionnaire. Acoustic measures of the recorded speech including the fundamental frequency range, median fundamental frequency, syllable rate, and acoustic energy were elevated during disagreement relative to agreement. Consistent with both the a priori opinion ratings and the acoustic findings, neural activity associated with long-range functional networks, rather than the canonical language areas, was also differentiated by the two conditions. Specifically, the frontoparietal system including bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, left supramarginal gyrus, angular gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus showed increased activity while talking during disagreement. In contrast, talking during agreement was characterized by increased activity in a social and attention network including right supramarginal gyrus, bilateral frontal eye-fields, and left frontopolar regions. Further, these social and visual attention networks were more synchronous across brains during agreement than disagreement. Rather than localized modulation of the canonical language system, these findings are most consistent with a model of distributed and adaptive language-related processes including cross-brain neural coupling that serves dynamic verbal exchanges.”

“Rick Shenkman – Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics” [ The Dissenter]

“#417 Rick Shenkman – Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics

14 de jan. de 2021

The Dissenter

RECORDED ON NOVEMBER 9th 2020.

Rick Shenkman is the founder of George Washington University’s History News Network, the website that features leading historians’ perspectives on current events. He is a New York Times best-selling author of seven history books. His latest book is Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics. Mr. Shenkman is an Emmy award-winning investigative reporter and the former managing editor of KIRO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Seattle. In 1997 he was the host, writer and producer of a prime-time series for The Learning Channel inspired by his books on myths. In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. He gives lectures at colleges around the country on several topics, including American myths and presidential politics.

In this episode, we talk about Political Animals. We go through topics like evolutionary mismatch; how good we really are at reading politicians, and if it is easy for them to lie to us; self-deception in politics; the role the media play in politics; the problem with presenting information in the form of stories; empathizing with strangers in modern large-scale societies; relying on gut feelings; and solutions to current political problems.

Time Links:
00:48 Political evolutionary mismatch
07:32 Can people know politicians well enough?
20:40 Is it easy for politicians to sell us lies?
25:26 Self-deception
30:12 The media, and presenting information in the form of stories
38:44 Can we empathize with people that are not part of our group?
44:07 Should we rely on our gut feelings?
53:11 Solutions to these problems
1:04:27 Follow Rick’s work!”

“The pandemic exposes human nature: 10 evolutionary insights” By David M. Buss, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, David Sloan Wilson et al. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]

“The pandemic exposes human nature: 10 evolutionary insights

Benjamin M. Seitz, Athena Aktipis, David M. Buss, Joe Alcock, Paul Bloom, Michele Gelfand, Sam Harris, Debra Lieberman, Barbara N. Horowitz, Steven Pinker, David Sloan Wilson, Martie G. Haselton

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Oct 2020

PNAS first published October 22, 2020

Edited by Michael S. Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, and approved September 16, 2020 (received for review June 9, 2020)

https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2009787117

Abstract

Humans and viruses have been coevolving for millennia. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19) has been particularly successful in evading our evolved defenses. The outcome has been tragic—across the globe, millions have been sickened and hundreds of thousands have died. Moreover, the quarantine has radically changed the structure of our lives, with devastating social and economic consequences that are likely to unfold for years. An evolutionary perspective can help us understand the progression and consequences of the pandemic. Here, a diverse group of scientists, with expertise from evolutionary medicine to cultural evolution, provide insights about the pandemic and its aftermath. At the most granular level, we consider how viruses might affect social behavior, and how quarantine, ironically, could make us susceptible to other maladies, due to a lack of microbial exposure. At the psychological level, we describe the ways in which the pandemic can affect mating behavior, cooperation (or the lack thereof), and gender norms, and how we can use disgust to better activate native “behavioral immunity” to combat disease spread. At the cultural level, we describe shifting cultural norms and how we might harness them to better combat disease and the negative social consequences of the pandemic. These insights can be used to craft solutions to problems produced by the pandemic and to lay the groundwork for a scientific agenda to capture and understand what has become, in effect, a worldwide social experiment.

***

“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1), and nothing about the human response to COVID-19 will either.

(…)

Insight 1: The Virus Might Alter Host Sociability

There are two possibilities for how SARS-CoV-2 might be altering human behavior. First, it may be suppressing feelings of sickness during times of peak transmissibility. SARS-CoV-2 is characterized by a high rate of viral shedding, and the peak of viral shedding—and therefore transmissibility—occurs 1 d to 2 d before the onset of symptoms (5). It is possible that SARS-CoV-2 has been particularly successful because it is highly infectious before symptoms appear. Suppressing sickness-related behavior of hosts is one way that viruses can increase their fitness. Hosts that are infected but do not feel sick are more likely to go about their usual activities, which allows them to come in contact with others whom they might infect. If they do not display symptoms of infection, the human behavioral immune system fails to activate in others (see Insight 3: Activating Disgust Can Help Combat Disease Spread), silently spreading to new hosts.

The second possibility of how SARS-CoV-2 could affect host behavior is by contributing to mood disorders, such as mania, that could increase activity levels and decrease feelings of sickness, at least temporarily, during times of peak transmissibility. This could potentially lead to a “tug-of-war” over host behavior, with the virus “pulling for” greater host activity and sociability and the host fighting against this to reduce activity and instead prioritize healing. If sometimes the virus is winning and other times the host immune system is able to regain control, this could manifest as a mood disorder with periods of high activity/sociability and depression/fatigue, respectively.

Similarly, if SARS-CoV-2 is affecting host social behavior, this would also affect epidemiological models, because contact rates change over the course of disease progression (10).

(…)

Insight 2: “Generation Quarantine” May Lack Critical Microbial Exposures

The pandemic has focused the world’s attention on microbial influences on human life. Whereas the emphasis has been on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, quarantine has temporarily halted the regular exposure to novel pathogens that is characteristic of human social interaction. An evolutionary perspective reminds us we must consider the potential trade-offs of this intervention. Children and adolescents whose immune systems and brains are actively shaped by microbial exposures may be most impacted by this change.

Although reduced exposure to neuropathic viruses during quarantine may protect some, normal brain development requires adequate and diverse microbial exposure. During development, communication between the gut microbiota of a young animal and the microglial brain cells that shape networks through myelinization and selective synaptic pruning influence its future cognitive, motor, and affective characteristics (17).

But the risk-taking, neophilia, and drive to be sexual and socialize that characterize adolescence and promote dispersal are influenced by microbiota now fundamentally altered for many millions of adolescents around the world. COVID-19 has temporarily ended practice dispersals, physical peer-to-peer play, sexual activity, and other activities which would otherwise bring millions of adolescents into contact with novel microbes.

(…)

Insight 3: Activating Disgust Can Help Combat Disease Spread

Disgust is a physical and social protective system that is a product of, and sheds light on, our evolutionary past. Disgust protects across three domains, all of which relate to pathogen exposure (25, 26). First, disgust is part of our food psychology and motivates avoidance of foods harboring, for instance, signs of toxins and microorganisms. Second, disgust is part of our sexual psychology and motivates avoidance of sexual partners (e.g., family members) judged to potentially risk the immunocompetence and, hence, health and viability of offspring. Last, and most pertinent, disgust is part of our physical contact psychology and motivates avoidance of individuals displaying signs of infection, surfaces revealing microbial infestation, and the skin, mouth, anus, and bodily fluids of unknown others. Together, consumption, coitus, and contact are all behaviors regulated by disgust and—because of the link to disease—all associated with one or more historical foodborne, sexually transmitted, or contact-facilitated pandemics.

Disgust might therefore be important, although sometimes less potent than other emotions, such as empathy, to persuade people to distance.

(…)

Insight 4: The Mating Landscape Is Changing, and There Will Be Economic Consequences from a Decrease in Birth Rates

Differential reproduction is the key to change over time. Humans have an evolved menu of mating strategies as products of successful reproduction, including long-term pair bonds, short-term casual sex, and everything in between (29). The COVID-19 pandemic is influencing these mating strategies and will have a profound impact on the global mating and economic landscape.

Short-term mating is the most obvious strategy to be affected. Novel sex partners are potential virus vectors, rendering the costs of casual sex steeper. In-person sex is being replaced, perhaps temporarily, with online versions—sexting, video cams, and virtual sex.

An evolutionary perspective predicts that those who pursue a fast life history strategy—marked by short-term mating pursuit, frequent partner switching, deceptive mating tactics, and steep future discounting (30)—are most likely to risk in-person sex during the pandemic and become potential superspreaders.

Touch and scent are central to mating compatibility (31), but distance deprives individuals of this vital information. Mating at a distance exacerbates the tendency of people to interpolate positive values for qualities for which they lack reliable information, such as honesty, emotional stability, and sexual history. This overidealization creates unrealistic expectations that risk being shattered when an eventual meeting takes place in real life.

An evolutionary perspective predicts that women will be reluctant to commit to men lacking financial stability, given the priority they place on this quality in long-term mating (32). It also predicts that men, in turn, will postpone marriage until they feel they have adequate resources to attract women of adequate or commensurate mate value (33). As marriage rates plummet and people postpone reproduction, at least for a period of time (34), some nations already on the cusp of population replacement level will fall dangerously below it as people opt to avoid bringing a baby into a virus-plagued world. Birth-rate drops, in turn, have cascading consequences for economic outcomes—job opportunities, the ability of countries to provide safety nets to an aging demographic, and a global economic contraction.

(…)

Insight 5: Gender Norms Are Backsliding, and Gender Inequality Is Increasing

With schools shut down, families have unanticipated needs for childcare. Who is picking up this slack? In April of 2020, women lost more jobs than men, in part because more women than men are employed in hospitality and service industries that lost customers. However, at that same time, women more than men felt more pressured to quit their jobs in order to manage added household responsibilities of childcare and education, and worried more that declines in their productivity during the pandemic would negatively impact their careers (35). Before the pandemic, women already felt more stressed than men by competing family and job roles (36). With children at home, that stress seems to lead women to become homemakers and makeshift teachers.

The default explanation in social science is to blame outdated gender stereotypes and lack of empowerment for women (39). However, women’s and men’s evolved preferences play an important role. One of the insights from evolutionary approaches to understanding sex differences is that women are far more limited in the number of offspring they can produce in their lifetimes than are men (40), and women, like females across primate species, have evolved to contribute a higher level of obligatory investment in each offspring through pregnancy and lactation (41). Therefore, throughout evolutionary history, a woman’s reproductive fitness hinged on the success of each individual offspring to a greater extent than a man’s. As a result (or in concert), women evolved stronger motivations to attend to the details of childcare and may feel pressured to accept more childcare and homemaking responsibility when others, such as teachers and childcare workers—or extended kin, who might otherwise help out—cannot.

For instance, in cities and nations with greater economic inequality, women self-sexualize more in social media posts (45). For men, economic inequality at both the cross-cultural level and neighborhood level is associated with increased rates of male-on-male homicide, which seems to be driven by men’s concerns with social status rather than a purely instrumental need to survive (46).

(…)

Insight 6: An Increase in Empathy and Compassion Is Not Guaranteed

There is anecdotal evidence that, in previous crises, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks, the common reaction—contrary to popular belief—is not a descent into savagery. Rather, in cases such as Hurricane Katrina and the London Blitz, there is an outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid (48). Barriers of class and race are temporarily suspended, and the benefit of the collective becomes priority (49).

This is all consistent with a Rousseauian perspective: Human nature is fundamentally kind, and, stripped of the constraints of civilization, we are more equal, more generous, and mentally healthier. But there are also reasons to favor a less rosy view. Research on the behavioral immune system suggests that disease threat makes people intolerant and punitive toward outgroups (54). Nations with a history of high levels of infectious disease have lower rates of extraversion (55), and experimentally inducing disease threat spurs social withdrawal (56).

Furthermore, at least in the United States—although less so in countries such as Canada—this pandemic is not bringing people together; rather, responses reflect the partisan divide that so characterizes recent times, with conservatives and liberals having different views about wearing masks, the wisdom of a continuing lockdown, and much else.

(…)

Insight 7: We Have Not Evolved to Seek the Truth

Humans evolved in small groups under threat of starvation, predation, and exploitation by outsiders—and generally lived brief lives, favoring short-term strategies for consuming resources that could support successful reproduction (59). We have not evolved to think clearly about long-term threats like pandemics—which are statistically abstract and global. And yet, for at least a century, we’ve understood that the threat of a deadly pandemic is real and ever present (60). How should we have responded to this knowledge?

Unfortunately, most of us are terrible at weighing risks presented as abstract probabilities (61). We also heavily discount the well-being of our future selves (62), along with that of distant strangers (63) and future generations (64), and in ways that are both psychologically strange and, in a modern environment, ethically indefensible. We’re highly susceptible to conspiracy thinking (65), and display an impressive capacity to deceive ourselves, before doing the hard work of deceiving others (66). These predispositions likely endowed our ancestors with advantages (67, 68), but they also suggest that our species is not wired for seeking a precise understanding of the world as it actually is.

When we encounter friends or family in thrall to some fresh piece of misinformation, we often lack the courage to correct them. Meanwhile, behind a screen of anonymity, we eagerly confront the views of complete strangers online. Paradoxically, the former circumstance presents an opportunity to actually change opinion, while the latter is more likely to further entrench people in their misinformed views (70).

(…)

Insight 8: Combating the Pandemic Requires Its Own Evolutionary Process

Some of the insights above point to flaws in our human nature that contributed to the pandemic and may make navigating it more difficult. But humans are paradoxical creatures. On one hand, we are products of genetic evolution in ancestral environments that bear little resemblance to modern environments. These “evolutionary mismatches” are likely responsible for our frequent lack of alarm in response to the pandemic. On the other hand, we constructed those modern environments, so our capacity for rapid cultural evolution—via behaviors, values, and technologies—must be acknowledged along with our genetic human natures.

This duality is captured by the label dual inheritance theory, which posits both a genetic stream and a cultural stream of inheritance that have been coevolving with each other for as long as we have been a species (71). The slower process of genetic evolution often follows where the faster process of cultural evolution leads, as we know from classic examples such as lactose tolerance in adults (a genetic adaptation) in cultures that keep livestock (a cultural adaptation) (72).

(…)

Insight 9: Cultural Evolutionary Forces Impact COVID-19 Severity

Evolutionary principles can be applied to understand cultural adaptations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Human groups under collective threat experience evolutionary pressures to tighten social norms and punish people who deviate from norms. Accordingly, we can predict that societies worldwide will tighten in response to the pandemic. From an evolutionary perspective, strict norms and punishments that deter free riders are essential to helping groups coordinate their social action to survive, and thus would be adaptive in times of threat. Consistent with this reasoning, nations with histories of ecological and human-made threats (e.g., natural disasters, disease prevalence, resource scarcity, and invasions) tend to be tight (i.e., have stricter norms and little tolerance for deviance), whereas groups with less threat tend to be loose (i.e., have weaker norms and more permissiveness) (76). Variation in tightness in nonindustrial societies is also related to collective threats such as pathogen prevalence, population pressure, scarcity, and warfare (77).

Accordingly, groups require stronger norms and punishment of deviance to survive under high threat (78). Indeed, experimentally priming humans with collective threat leads to an increase in desired tightness—either from God or government (79, 80).

The varying reactions of nations around the world to early stages of the pandemic reveal potential evolutionary mismatches, wherein some loose societies have had a delayed and often conflicted reaction to tightening norms. Countries that are tight (e.g., South Korea, Japan, China) have been highly effective at limiting COVID-19 cases and deaths (81). By contrast, loose cultures (e.g., Spain, Brazil, and the United States) have had an explosion of cases and deaths in early stages. EGT models also illustrate that loose cultures take far longer to cooperate when under threat than tight cultures (82). Because people in loose cultures have generally experienced fewer ecological threats, they may be more likely to underestimate the risk of COVID-19 than those in tight cultures.

(…)

Insight 10: Human Progress Continues

Evolutionary reasoning makes several predictions about the future humans will face in the wake of the pandemic––from shifts away from economic independence for women to birth rates dipping below thresholds needed to maintain some human populations. These are some depressing possibilities that invite a conclusion that humanity is spiraling downward to a new low point. Those who deny the possibility of social progress might feel vindicated by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, because it shows that life has gotten worse rather than better. But has it?

Many people have trouble reconciling the demonstrable fact of human progress—that, over time, we have become healthier, better fed, richer, safer, and better educated—with the constraints of human biology. Some fear that, if the mind has evolved as a complex structure, then progress would be impossible, because “you can’t change human nature.” Therefore, either there cannot be such a thing as progress or there cannot be such a thing as human nature.

(…)

Conclusion

COVID-19 has brought radical change, through deaths, stress of extended quarantine, confusion that slowed adequate responding, social unrest at a massive scale, and a long and uncertain social and economic aftermath. This radical change is global—no human, anywhere, is unaffected by COVID-19.

To understand the virus and our response to it, we need to understand how viruses and humans evolve. We know that there is a long history of the coevolution of viruses and humans. Viruses evolve to exploit their hosts to encourage their own replication, but they also depend on hosts to survive. Humans can tolerate some manipulation by viruses, but we have also evolved to combat them. This delicate coevolutionary dance is why we often seem to be running as fast as we can, just to stay in the same place (90).

However, humans also possess the tool of scientific insight that gives us a broader view than what the virus can see. Perhaps this can help us stay one step ahead. By understanding the nature of viral strategies, we can better anticipate the spread of COVID-19 and try to block it. Likewise, by understanding human nature, we can try to activate evolved motivational systems that will help fight the virus, such as providing cues that trigger our behavioral immune system. Understanding human nature will also enhance our ability to address the aftermath of COVID-19, as it has disrupted so many of our fundamental human activities, such as mating, parenting, and simply maintaining social contact.

Herein, we have described 10 insights offered by a broad range of evolutionary thinkers, with expertise ranging from evolutionary medicine to broadscale cultural evolution. These insights offer possibilities for guiding science to address the spread of COVID-19 and its inevitable aftermath. However, these insights represent only a limited snapshot of this historic moment, and a selection of topics, although important, that an evolutionary perspective on the pandemic can provide.

The objective in providing these insights is to help make sense of the vast confusion that mars this pandemic and to illuminate paths for research. In addition to insights that can produce immediate action, the pandemic has provided us with unique opportunities to witness human nature as it unfolds, from changes in patterns of reproduction, shifting social norms, and curiosities of cognition that can warp our recognition of threat. This paper is a call to action in science—both in the application of existing knowledge about viral and human nature and also as an opportunity to make discoveries that would not be possible except when a global social experiment is underway.”

“You’re most likely WEIRD … and don’t even know it” By Douglas Todd

“You’re most likely WEIRD … and don’t even know it

Opinion: WEIRD is a high-impact acronym invented by psychology professors at UBC, referring to people who are ‘Western,’ ‘Educated,’ ‘Industrialized,’ ‘Rich’ and ‘Democratic’

Douglas Todd

https://www.wallaceburgcourierpress.com/opinion/columnists/douglas-todd-youre-most-likely-weird-and-you-dont-even-know-it/wcm/1780da03-603d-4841-9196-5bf82a92c85c

(…)

Everybody talks about diversity now. But when these profs examined contemporary social-science research they uncovered a huge blind spot to cultural differences, which has led to misleading conclusions about human psychology and, for that matter, human nature.

The colleagues published a ground-breaking paper in 2010 that showed more than 96 per cent of experiments in social psychology were based on subjects who are WEIRD. Compared to the vast majority of people on the planet, WEIRD people tend to be highly individualistic, control-oriented, nonconformist, analytical and trusting of strangers.

We are not the global norm. As Henrich says, “Textbooks that purport to be about ‘Psychology’ or “Social Psychology’ need to be retitled something like ‘The Cultural Psychology of Late 20th-Century Americans.’ ”

(…)

Henrich explains all this and much more in his new magnum opus, titled The WEIRDest People in the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous. Despite its 680 pages, it’s quite readable.

Henrich’s book takes the UBC crew’s understanding of WEIRD traits to new levels of significance. Gleaning from history, philosophy, religion and anthropology it attempts to explain why there are differences between cultures, including why some are more prosperous. It’s reminiscent of the trans-disciplinary project Jared Diamond took on with Guns, Germs and Steel, which maintained geography shaped Eurasian power.

(…)

“WEIRD people are bad friends,” Henrich writes in one catchy subtitle.

WEIRD people aren’t really willing to lie for a friend, he explains. In a cross-cultural experiment in disparate nations, participants were asked to imagine what they would do if they were a passenger in a car with a close friend who, while driving above the speed limit, hit a pedestrian.

More than 90 per cent of people in WEIRD countries such as Canada, Switzerland the U.S. would not testify their friend was driving slower than he was. “By contrast, in Nepal, Venezuela, and South Korea most people said they’d willingly lie under oath to help a close friend.” Communal bonds matter more in places that are not WEIRD.

(…)

While clearly disposed to “celebrate diversity” he avoids the cliché that, because of our common humanity, “deep down everyone’s the same.” It’s only true to a small extent: If we’re cut with a sharp object, for instance, we all bleed.

But because of our collective histories and cultures humans can actually turn out starkly different. So much so that Henrich makes it clear that ethnic and religious conventions can rewire the structure of our brains, even our genes.

It’s a real-world position: Humans become the peculiar and often amazingly different people they are due to myriad unrecognized cultural forces.”

“What’s Behind Humanity’s Love-Hate Relationship With Exercise?” – By Marina Krakovsky [Sapiens]

What’s Behind Humanity’s Love-Hate Relationship With Exercise?

Evolutionary history can help resolve the question of why so many people desire a physical break even when their bodies need movement.

By Marina Krakovsky

https://www.sapiens.org/biology/evolutionary-history-exercise

(…)

“What is it about human nature that pulls people to the chair or the couch when they’d be better off moving on their feet? The resolution to this paradox lies in evolutionary history, says David Raichlen, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Southern California.

Raichlen is one of several anthropologists studying how the evolutionary history of the human body shapes health today. In 2012, for example, he and his colleagues published findings from an experimental examination of the runner’s high, the experience of euphoria that some people report during aerobic exercise.

The experiments compared levels of particular feel-good chemicals—called endocannabinoids—in the brains of humans and two other species before and after treadmill exercise. Raichlen and his colleagues found significantly higher endocannabinoid levels in humans and dogs—but not ferrets—following this high-intensity activity. This finding is revealing because humans and dogs evolved to need endurance for hunting food and ferrets did not. The runner’s high could therefore be evolutionarily advantageous to some species, helping creatures run for longer distances to hunt for food despite the high energy costs of running.

In his quest to understand human health, Raichlen also does fieldwork with Tanzania’s Hadza people, a contemporary hunter-gatherer tribe. This community attracts scholars in part because the Hadza way of life resembles that of hunter-gatherers who lived prior to the development of agriculture in many societies some 10,000 years ago. The Hadza, Raichlen notes with affection, are “super-wonderful people,” and studying them could offer clues to what life was like for hunter-gatherers in the past.

(…)

Research on the Hadza certainly supports the idea that physical activity benefits health. For example, Hadza are more susceptible to deadly infections than people in industrialized societies because of differences in hygiene and medical care. Yet those Hadza who survive these dangers tend to live long and healthy lives because they are far less prone than people in industrialized societies to what public health experts call “lifestyle diseases,” such as obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. In fact, research shows that increasing one’s physical activity reduces the risk of developing these chronic diseases.

(…)

Like the sweet tooth at a time when calories are abundant, the need for much more physical activity than many people get is an evolutionary mismatch between human physiology and the present environment.

(…)

“The whole point of life is turning energy into kids—that’s evolution,” says Herman Pontzer, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University who frequently collaborates with Raichlen, including on the study of rest.

“Natural selection favors any strategy that makes you better at turning energy in your environment into offspring,” Pontzer says. Resting is part of such a strategy: In an energy-scarce environment, a strong drive to burn calories when you didn’t have to would have died out through natural selection.

(…)

Though not through conscious choice, sedentary Americans and physically active Hadza both follow this rule. “Our desire to rest is as strong as it’s ever been,” Raichlen says. This desire, he adds, often overcomes the choice to exercise. When you take away the need to move and make exercise a choice, as our current environment has done, he adds, “it takes a lot of motivation to do it.”

(…)

Unfortunately, people who live more sedentary lives can’t expect their bodies to adapt to that new mode any time soon. For one thing, in the time scale of human evolutionary history, “even a thousand years is the blink of an eye,” Pontzer says. “The other thing to understand,” he adds, “is that a lot of [lifestyle] diseases don’t kick in until after you’ve had your kids.”

“Pandemics and the great evolutionary mismatch” by Guillaume Dezecache, Chris D. Frith and Ophelia Deroy [Current Biology]

“Pandemics and the great evolutionary mismatch

Guillaume Dezecache, Chris D. Frith and Ophelia Deroy

Current Biology Magazine 30, R1–R3, May 18, 2020

https://www.cell.com/pb-assets/products/coronavirus/CURBIO_16385.pdf

(…)

What increases in times of anxiety and threat is not a drive to help the self at all costs, but an intuitive drive to help others. The unfortunate consequence is that, in response to the current threat of infection, we desire social contact, particularly with the loved and the vulnerable.

Pandemics and the ‘breakdown of social order’ narrative

When describing the behaviour of people living in countries affected by the spread of covid-19, the media has rapidly adopted a ‘Hobbesian’ view of human nature [4]. This is the expectation that exposure to threat makes people abandon social niceties and, being naturally rivals, fall back into ‘brutishness and misery’. Major newspapers report panic, with people running to shops to collect masks, hand sanitizers and food. Those behaviours are routinely qualified as irrational: why rush to buy food when we are told that there will be no shortages? We do not doubt that humans can be irrational (we misevaluate large magnitudes; underestimate risks and value shortterm gain [7]). At the individual level, however, it is rational to hoard food and toilet paper when we are told that we will have to stay at home for an indefinite amount of time. It’s not that we do not trust politicians, but we are right to be uncertain about the resilience of institutions, and the social contract in general, in the face of an unprecedented, unknown, and growing threat. Similarly, it is perfectly rational, at the individual level, to run for the exits when the building is on fire. However, these self-oriented rational decisions are the ones on which we have to consciously reflect [8]. Our initial, intuitive responses are, on the contrary, to be cooperative [9].

(…)

The coming of covid-19 is being met with inertia and placidity, rather than mass panic. The French population was (and is still being) criticized by their own authorities for their laxity and nonchalance. Some weeks ago, the French continued to gather in bar terraces and break the obvious rules of social distancing. The German state of Bavaria took stricter confinement measures on March 21st, after finding that many individuals, despite the explicit instruction to stay away from others, were still gathering in groups as if nothing had changed. Similar violations of official advice are occurring everywhere.

An alternative to the accusation that people are irrational and irresponsible is the suggestion that people are ignorant of the threat. We are not suggesting that these effects are not in play (more below), but we want to suggest that knowing the threat is perfectly compatible with seeking company of friends and loved ones. Being with others and getting but also providing social support is how we cope with stress [10]. Increasing threat is only likely to reinforce this social inclination.

(…)

Contactseeking may be a ‘natural’ drive which is embedded in our physiology. Social touch contributes to the physiological regulation of the body’s responses to acute stressors and other short-term challenges. Close social support is not an extra for getting additional rewards. It constitutes our baseline [15]. Our brains do not respond positively to its presence, but negatively to its loss. People can crave for social cues just like they crave for food [16]. The policy implications of decades of research in social neuroscience are clear, but widely ignored: asking people to renounce social contact is not just asking them to abstain from pleasurable activities; it is asking them to diverge from a point of equilibrium, toward which they normally all gravitate.

(…)

One major issue is that diseases are largely invisible, particularly diseases (like covid-19) which remain asymptomatic in a large part of the population. This imperceptibility means that it is not even detected, let alone recognized as a collective threat. Hence, the defensive avoidance mechanisms associated with fear and disgust will not operate. Similarly, our social tendencies simply continue as, in the absence of symptoms, we don’t perceive that we may carry the infection. Even if we believe that the threat is widespread within our own group, the implications for oneself are challenging. Recognizing that one is likely to become a deadly threat to others is incongruent with our self-image, leading to dissonance and denial of the danger.

There is, however, a second issue: a threat stemming from infection, in societies with optimally functioning health systems, may be detected and yet recognized to be severe only for a small fraction of the population. Unless we feel we belong to that fraction, the threat may not be construed as collective: it is them, not us. A threat that remains invisible, and is thought to apply only to some individuals, is unlike other threats (such as predators, enemies or hurricanes) which are clearly menacing everyone in a given location. More than physical proximity and covulnerability is needed for a threat to be recognised as collective. Some actual or potential understanding of aspects of the threat as shared by us all, in a collective ‘we’ [2,19], is also required.

(…)

In all likelihood, the mismatch between our misperception of the severity of the threat and its consequences is likely to become even more destructive in dense urban areas in which social isolation is a costly good.

(…)

So why don’t we avoid each other in times of infections? It is because our infection-avoidance mechanisms are overwhelmed by a much stronger drive to affiliate and seek close contact.”