Archive for August, 2015

I’ve been rereading my previous entry and finding it not quite to my liking — so I’m going to start over with a clearer version of what I wrote before and work my way forward from there.

For millions of years after our ancestors started walking upright, they remained apelike in their bodies, brains, and behavior. It was not until around 1.8 million years ago, when they left the trees for good and became full-time ground-dwellers, that they took on more recognizably human characteristics.

That was probably when they shifted from an apelike reproductive pattern — in which the dominant males have preferential access to sexually responsive females but take no responsibility for the offspring — to a system of male-female pair-bonding that was more effective at raising slow-maturing, big-brained children.

However, the newer pattern of behavior has never fully supplanted our more primitive instincts. Even today, we put a lot of our energy into dealing with outbreaks of jealousy and violence, and we’re capable of reverting entirely to ape-mode at times of social breakdown. That may be why our most popular forms of entertainment are action movies and soap operas.

But we also have a more sophisticated way of regulating our social interactions, and that is by appealing to higher moral values. The roots of human morality probably go back at least half a million years, since that is when we see the earliest signs of a willingness to care for the old and infirm, a dawning sense of beauty, and a rudimentary capacity for language.

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