Vestigial Drifting Drives in Homo sapiens

Abstract

In this study some typical aspects of human behavior are reconsidered in a new evolutionary perspective. Firstly, a theoretical paradigm is introduced, according to which animals show a natural propensity to maintain behavior far beyond the time when the triggering motivation has been removed;, these drifting conducts are defined as Vestigial Drifting Drives or (VDDs). Such a paradigm is then applied to those human attitudes that once conferred an adaptive advantage on our species but have now become dysfunctional within the framework of the current ecological crisis. In this context, human beings are considered the repository of VDDs that may play out as evolutionary threats. This thesis is supported by many examples and references that, hopefully, could stimulate scientific debate and further research in evolutionary anthropology, psychology, and related disciplines.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Population is taken to mean an evolutionary unit.

  2. 2.

    As with Mauritanians and the Tuareg of the Sahel, who have the practice of force-feeding adolescent girls, also known as leblouh or gavage. The phenomenon is particularly widespread in Mauritania but also takes place in Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda. For more information see Fantino et al (1983).

  3. 3.

    Rapacity and expansion are not exclusive to human beings and cannot therefore, in themselves, be traced back to definite human bio-cultural factors. In fact, they are common to all living beings. What concerns us here is the fact that these two components have so greatly increased, quantitatively and qualitatively, as to create a crisis in the whole ecosystem. Unfortunately, in spite of being aware of this threatening increase, human beings have not, at least for the moment, managed to implement inhibitory systems to limit the danger.

  4. 4.

    A process of completion that, in fact, never stops inasmuch as the plasticity of the human brain, although it decreases quantitatively, continues to provide the need for stimulation and learning.

  5. 5.

    The stigmatization of desire. The “condemnation” and the disapproval deriving from yearning, from excessive desire, is to be found: (a) In the Judeo–Christian culture in which Adam, dissatisfied with a condition in itself fulfilling and satisfying in the Earthly Paradise, is driven by an overwhelming desire to know the unknown, the forbidden, to be able to distinguish between good and evil and so is condemned to work by the sweat of his brow. This stigmatization is also to be found in the book of Ecclesiastes of the Old Testament. “The eye is not filled with seeing, neither is the ear filled with hearing.... And I have given my heart to know prudence, and learning, and errors, and folly: and I have perceived that in these also there was labour, and vexation of spirit, Because in much wisdom there is much indignation: and he that addeth knowledge, addeth also labour” (Ecclesiastes 1:8; 1:17–18). (b) In Buddhism, in which the Four Noble Truths contain the statement that the origin of suffering is desire, and a condition of total fulfillment (Nirvana) can only be attained through the elimination of desire. In fact, in the Second Noble Truth it is maintained that we suffer because we desire things that are temporary. The Third Noble Truth contains the message that the only way to free oneself of suffering is to eliminate every desire (Nārada Mahā Thera 1986; Carter 2006). (c) In Islam, which states that in the struggle against one’s own ego, far from the field of battle, one only confronts a single enemy, namely the invisible enemy: desire (passion) and Shaytân (may he be damned). Therefore, Islam is living in accordance with the desires and rules of the omnipotent Creator, but not in accordance with the desires of a person’s ego (source: http://religione-blog.blogspot.it/2013/03/comprendere-l.html).

  6. 6.

    Borgognini, personal conversation, December 2013.

  7. 7.

    Around the EEA concept there are many interpretations. For example, Kurzban claims: “The EEA concept is a technical term, and, I concede, its meaning is relatively hard to master…. In sum, the point is that the EEA concept is, and has been since Tooby and Cosmides began writing about it, defined not as a time or place, not as a claim about the weather or climate, but as invariances, properties across scale, complexity, abstractness, and so forth, that influenced selection of some trait or traits” (Kurzban 2012).

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Acknowledgments

I’d like to especially thank Prof. Sergio Tofanelli, University of Pisa; as well as Prof. Gianfranco Natale, Dr. Angelo Gazzano, Dr. Alessandra Benedetti, Prof. Roberto Barale, Prof. Riccardo Ruffoli, and Prof. Silvana Borgognini, all of the University of Pisa; Prof. Mariano Pavanello, University of Rome; Prof. Giuliano Boccali, University of Milan; and Prof. Maurizio Cardaci, University of Palermo.

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Rognini, P. Vestigial Drifting Drives in Homo sapiens. Biol Theory 13, 199–211 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-018-0297-7

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Keywords

  • Adaptation
  • Environment
  • Human behavior
  • Maladaptation
  • Mismatch