Tuesday 28 December 2010

In praise of economic growth

And today we give thanks for modern agriculture and international trade. It used to be much harder to get around local crop or herd failures:
A behavior can be adaptive without being an inherited biological adaptation, of course. But because starvation occurred with such regularity in our ancestral past, and because the starving mind predictably relaxes its cannibalistic proscriptions, and because eating other people restores energy and sustains lives, and because the behavior is universal and proceeds algorithmically (we eat dead strangers first, then dead relatives, then live slaves, then foreigners, and so on down the ladder to kith and kin), there is reason to believe—for Petrinovich, at least—that anthropophagy is an evolved behavior. The taboo against cannibalism is useful in times of health and prosperity; groups wouldn't survive very long if members were eating one another up. Yet starvation has a way of releasing the cannibal within.

In fact, starvation cannibalism may have been so prevalent in the ancestral past that it literally changed our DNA. Modern human populations appear to contain specific genetic adaptations designed to combat cannibalistic viruses.
HT: @ModeledBehavior

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