Read selections from sections five and six of Dawkins and in 600 words minimum, answer:
1. If members of the same species are in direct competition for the same food, territory, and potential mating partners, why isn't nature as violently bloody as can be imagined?
2. In thinking about human beings, under what conditions are people aggressive and violent? Why does it make sense that they should be violent under these conditions?
3. Why do parents love their children? Why do they care so much about the safety, health, resources, and love interests of their children? Try to write an explanation similar to the explanation I wrote for why trees have broad branch structures.
4. Even more fundamentally, why do people care so much about themselves? Why do they care so much about their own safety, health, resources, and love interests? Again, try to use the language of genes, behavioral phenotypes, and natural selection similar to the explanation of the tree’s broad branch structure.
As a postscript to these questions, I should mention two points:
(1) Simply because we can theorize an evolutionary reason for certain psychological characteristics does not mean our particular hypothesis is true. It may be true, but as is always the case in science, a hypothesis must be tested by the predictions it generates. However, as Dennett has written, there is a very good reason for believing evolutionary explanations for psychological characteristics over all other types of explanations. Evolutionary explanations are the only explanations we know of which do not beg the question of their origin.
(2) When considering the psychological and behavioral traits of animals, it is almost impossible not to reflect upon ourselves and to consider why we personally are the way that we are and do what we do. It may seem cold and calculating to think of ourselves as robots driven by programs written in DNA, but there are several responses to this criticism of evolutionary psychology.
a. To say that we are merely robots following genetic programs is like saying the sun is merely a ball of hydrogen and helium. It is a deceptive misuse of the word “merely”.
b. Following programs is not as bad as it may sound when the alternative is considered. Supposing we followed no programs at all, what would life be like? It wouldn’t be like anything; it would be impossible in the same way a game of chess is impossible when all of the pieces can do whatever they want.
c. Lastly, in the words of Bertrand Russell, “Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cozy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor all their own.”