Everything around us is here for a reason: It works. As Charles Darwin theorized, Mother Nature acts on all things using “natural selection.” If something is able to survive and reproduce, it persists in nature, passing on its successful genes to its progeny, who in turn pass them on to their offspring. If something fails to survive or reproduce, it goes away, because it has no offspring to carry its genes forward. Thus, every plant or animal you see today is the descendant of things that worked. Conversely, history’s failures are lost to the ages, doomed to extinction on a competitive planet with not enough food and resources to let everything survive.
Natural selection is cool because when things reproduce, they don’t always do so perfectly…there are mutations. Some mutations are harmful or undesired, like being born with an extra foot where your nose should be. That won’t help you survive and it definitely won’t help you get laid and pass on your genes. The creatures that bear such mutations die off. Other mutations, like slightly stronger muscles or bigger brains, are beneficial, and the creatures that have them thrive. So while a mutation for a slightly longer fin on a fish might not seem like much, if it helps the fish, it will persist. Over hundreds of millions of years, the fin might get so long that it becomes something else, like a limb. Amazing as it sounds, that’s how single celled organisms became bacteria, bacteria became microbes, microbes became fish, fish became amphibians, amphibians became reptiles, reptiles became mammals, and mammals became humans. If you don’t believe me, go find one of the 0.002% of the population that still has a vestigial tail left over from the evolutionary journey. I guess God might have given them tiny tails for a reason, but I admit his genius eludes me on that one.
Well just like your hands and eyes developed as adaptations over hundreds of millions of years, so did everything else about you. Even things we can’t see, like personality. The blossoming field of evolutionary psychology explores this notion. Why modern humans have propensities for cooperation, competition, hatred and love are just as much a part of their evolution as hands and eyes. These traits crept into our gene pool randomly; but they were passed down for a reason. Somehow, someway, they helped our ancestors survive.
I believe an active understanding of evolutionary psychology sheds light on much of the human behavior we observe every day. This site chronicles some of those observations, fusing intellectual debate on things like politics and relationships with an evolutionary slant that answers the question not just of what happens, but why. And along the way, I also like to curse and make jokes about famous people.