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Neuroscience News: Are humans hardwired for transgressions?


File:A small cup of coffee.JPGFrom Neuroscience News:

A transgression can be defined as an “act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offense.” Brains Behaving Badly focuses on the Western religious classifications of the “seven deadly sins:” pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Accordingly, this post will attempt to provide a few ideas relating to behaviors that many in the Western world consider to be immoral. This post is an opinion piece covering ideas involving morality, evolutionary psychology, religion and philosophy. As such, much of it is speculative, opinionated and is meant to help spark conversations involving behavior and morality, rather than serve as a definitive scientific paper on any of the subjects discussed.

I believe most of these transgressions to be hardwired in the brain for generally simple reasons in the light of evolution. They were extremely important in helping our species survive despite great pressures over millions of years. Many of these “sins” probably evolved because they were extremely useful at some points in time.

Sexual promiscuity increases genetic variation. A male that has offspring with various females, has a higher probability of passing along his genetic material into that species. When a species has a larger amount of genetic variation, it is possible for that species to cope with different pressures that may arise over time. These pressures may be from predators, climate change, meteors, parasites, other groups within the same species, and the list goes on. It seems a few of the sins we are all familiar with may be thought of as originating from reproductive needs of the species.

That is not history; it is fiction, and a particularly poor example at that.

Note the claim: “Many of these “sins” probably evolved because they were extremely useful at some points in time”

We don’t know how any such behaviour “evolved” at all. Or that it was “extremely useful.”

What in fact “evolved” (if that is what happened) was the recognition of the behaviour as “sin,” which implies among other things that it is not adaptive. Check out “The wages of sin is death.”

Given that children take a lot of resources to raise to adulthood, there is little evidence that unchecked general male promiscuity has ever done much of anything except raise the child death rate along with the conception rate. So yes, the wages of sin is death, as a matter of fact.

And this is what passes for insight in the pop science media… Also,


Perhaps successful groups of people created rules to stifle competition from others. Many rules throughout societies seem to have been put into place to oppress others only after the rule makers made it to the top. Many times, different socioeconomic in-groups judge other out-groups’ crimes as more severe than theirs, though they are essentially very similar, if not the same crimes. A hungry person stealing food may not be a more severe criminal than a CEO of a major corporation lying about profits, loan risks, the safety of cigarette smoke, or airbag shrapnel, yet I tend to only hear about the food thieves serving time. More.

What? “yet I tend to only hear about the food thieves serving time”?

If so, our author, whose name I can’t find, is obviously wasting his time on some unusually poor sources of information. Most public news media are crammed with reports about misdoings in high places, many with risk of jail time (often realized).

If it’s really true in a Western society that any significant number of jail inmates are poor people who stole food, then the policy consultants are complete idiots. It costs more to keep a person in jail than to put him up at a respectable hotel.

But, one suspects, it’s not true. It’s just another talking point for pop Darwinism-at-public-expense, a talkng point that makes its believers feel and sound good about themselves in comparison with others, while they invent “Darwinian” reasons for moral values.

Let’s hope the National Geographic offering is not just  Marc Hauser’s “Evilicious, the Series.”  See also: “Betrayals helped humans spread?” Does Marc Hauer have a twin? (Hope he at least deals with his data honestly.)

Hardwired? Yes and no. See Genesis 3, and many other reliable sources for background on temptation and free will.

See also: How can we believe in naturalism if we have no choice?

Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away


More scientists doubt materialism explains consciousness Whatever the merits of Koch’s theory or Tonioni’s, they try to reduce the nonsense quotient (NQ) and deal with the relationship of consciousness and information

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Genes has very little to do with it, or they would have asked instead “What tribe does he come from? What is his ethnic background?” Nope, its the family that matters most.
??? I don't know if you are aware, but children share rather more genes with their parents than they do with a random member of their population. The rest is as incoherent as ever, I'm afraid. wd400
I do wish these fellows would distinguish between evolution and adaption, between genetics and epigenetics. For example, from its overwintering refuge in the mountains of Mexico, the Monarch butterfly takes 3 generations to reach Toronto in the late summer. The 4th "methuselah" generation caterpillar munches on Canadian milkweed, morphs into a butterfly and then flies 3000 miles back to the square kilometer of Mexico. How does it know the way? Is it genetics? Why do some butterflies go to Montreal, but seem to know the way back too? Are there different genetic maps for each town in Canada? Well about 30 years ago, oil companies started building rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The Montreal butterflies that travelled down the East coast to Georgia, then made a right turn and followed the Gulf coast to Texas, then made a left turn for the Mountains in Mexico, found they could save a couple of days if they headed out across the Gulf and spent the night on an oil rig. So no, the butterfly map is not genetic--it can change from year to year. And yet it goes down 4 generations. That's what we call epigenetic. Something a great-grandfather did, is remembered by his great-grandson. And that is where a lot of learned evil comes from. I have at least a dozen anecdotal stories of adopted babies that grow up and behave nothing like the biological children of the parents, but just like their biological parents they have never seen. Schizophrenia, drug addiction, military service, food preferences, dating preferences. Where did these adopted children learn this preference? Epigenetically. This should not come as a surprise. It is common knowledge in 88% of the world, America being the exception. When a daughter comes home from college with a new boyfriend, what is the first thing an "old world" parent wants to know? "Is he from a good family?" Genes has very little to do with it, or they would have asked instead "What tribe does he come from? What is his ethnic background?" Nope, its the family that matters most. Robert Sheldon

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