We Haven’t Evolved in Over 10,000 Years
Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist and intelligence researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is Reader in Management at LSE as well as Honorary Research Fellow in Psychology at Birkbeck College University of London. He has written over 90 articles and chapters in psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, biology, and medicine. His latest book is The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One (Wiley, 2012).
Question: Has human evolution stopped?
Satoshi Kanazawa: It depends on how you define evolution. If you define evolution as frequency of genes then no, the gene frequencies tend to change over time all the time, but if you’re talking about important psychological traits then yes, probably the human evolution, directional human evolution towards certain psychological mechanisms probably stopped about 10,000 years ago because since then things change, environment has changed so quickly, so rapidly for evolution to catch up evolution of certain traits requires that the environment stay stable for many, many generations and that hasn’t happened for the last 10,000 years, so there hasn’t been any significant evolutionary trends in the last 10,000 years and we are essentially the same as we were 10,000 years ago.
Question: Can you give a specific example of this?
Satoshi Kanazawa: Most of the work in evolutionary psychology shows that we are essentially still acting as if we’re hunter/gatherers in Africa. That’s why for example we like sweet and fatty foods. When we were hunter/gatherers on the African Savannah tens of thousands of years ago food was scarce and you’d better eat when there was enough food to eat and sweet and fatty food that have more calories were good for us because we… our ancestors suffered from shortage of calories and whenever you can get you know hand on sweet and fatty food the more you eat the better and we still act like that. That is why we still have cravings for sweet and fatty food, except that now we have supermarkets and we have food stores and you can always get food. We don’t suffer from food shortage, but our brain doesn’t know that. There was no such thing as abundant food 10,000 years ago and our brains still cannot comprehend supermarkets. If our brain comprehended supermarkets there is no need for us to crave sweet and fatty food. Food is always there, but our brain doesn’t understand that.
Question: Are humans innately aggressive?
Satoshi Kanazawa: Not so much human character, but probably male character because humans have been naturally polygamist men had to compete more to get access to women than vice versa and also most or our productive resources are held by the females, the women, so throughout human evolutionary history, throughout the evolutionary history of most mammals males have had to compete more than females to gain access to their mates. As a result men are more violent. Men are more aggressive and it’s definitely the case that aggression, violence is unfortunately a large part of human male nature.
Question: What other traits from our hunter-gatherer society are still around?
Satoshi Kanazawa: Yeah, men’s greater tendency to engage in violence and crime. What we now call interpersonal crime, stealing, beating up each other, killing each other was a routine part of male competition in the ancestor environment. There were no police. There were no courts. There were no jails, so men only had to deal with their enemies or their competitors and possibly their friends and kin. There were no third party enforcement of law in the ancestor environment, so unfortunately men still have a tendency to engage in competition violently and try to beat up each other, try to steal from each other when that might benefit their reproductive success.
In a number of fundamental ways, human psychology hasn’t budged in a very long time.
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