It’s kind of amazing in this day and age, with technological developments happening at the speed of light, that Darwin’s natural selection, which he deduced from exhaustive research about 150 years ago, still forms the basis for modern molecular biology.
In last week’s post, I wrote that concern over what-the-neighbors-think is a “learned notion.” I may have been wrong. I recall dear-ole mom drilling that concept into us at an early age. I thought I learned it. While that could be partially true, Robert Wright’s book, Why Buddhism Is True, suggests that this powerful desire of caring with others think (about us) is deeply embedded in our emotional DNA. The urge to titivate seems to have been developed as part of our species’ natural selection.
We like to think of ourselves as in control of everything we do and think. But we, as organisms, have been developing for billions of years, constructing, continually altering, and perfecting, subtle behaviors which become ingrained in our genomes. The one driving force behind every creature, from the most basic single cell to complex, emotionally-driven humans, is the need to reproduce. More innately powerful than anything else is every organism’s tenacious impulse to make sure its genes are passed on. Sex did not develop into a pleasurable act that homo sapiens are driven to perform, again and again, for nothing.
For humans, living for hundreds of thousands of years in small bands, meant making sure we were attractable as a mate. As groups and tribes grew more substantial, so did our need to make sure we always presented our best side. This self-esteem preservation, to appear attractive to others, has crawled into the depths of our being. Evidently, for example, the natural angst of speaking in public was designed by natural selection. For most of human history, we did not speak in public.
When CD came up with Survival of the Fittest, he wasn’t referring to how long an organism could survive relative to another, but how many offsprings it could successfully leave behind before it died. These microevolutionary instincts, driving behaviors embedded in our psyche, carry on long after our jobs of passing on genes has been accomplished.
I wish I could say I’ve evolved beyond the grasp of what I imagine the perceptions others have of me. It may be though, that I’m still in amoeba level.