Wednesday, November 30, 2011

AFL? - Part 2

(Continued from part one)
And a long break later, I am back. For all those people who I disappointed in the first part, there are some clarifications I need to make on why I started this article and what evolution actually means. So I am making my Part 2 into a Part 3, and putting this up first. 

There are 3 reasons I started this article. One was because of the way that particular argument was presented in the particular book I read. It sounded quite convincing in that context. Also, if you have read enough of evolution, you would understand that many human behaviors do actually rise from simple behaviors designed to hunt or kill in animals. That does not mean what you do today is to hunt or kill- just that that’s where your behavior started. So it is very well possible that many of current human behavior be an evolutionary consequence of lust. The third reason is that- in a country like ours this kind of argument is very easily accepted in private and seldom in public. People secretly relish any theory that moralizes the very acts they find immoral. And that is precisely why someone needs to bring out such a theory in public and list exactly what the flaws are.

However, I need to clarify what I call flaws.

Many people told me this theory is obviously wrong, because we can’t all be motivated by a low carnal desire. Now, THAT is not a flaw! Just because something does not “sound” nice or consoling does not mean it is not true. If science proves humans are selfish (for eg.) by nature, so we are. There is no point in saying it is not valid because it does not fit in my optimistic view of life. But, note the IF.
Anyhow, EVERY theoretical argument deserves to be examined and argued about. The arguments for or against may be obvious, but there must be LOGICAL reasons to accept or reject a theory. Anyone who says “I refuse to argue about this” is simply giving in to blind faith. Of course, if the question were something like “Can cows fly?” there isn’t too much to argue about because the arguments against it are obvious: a) cows are not light enough to fly b) cows don’t have any faculty (like wings) to fly with c) cows are not an advanced enough species to devise a mechanism to fly, and so on. But note that there MUST be arguments. If someone told me without thinking cows can’t fly because that’s how they are or God willed them to be so, I might someday find a genetically engineered cow which can fly (long-shot, but still!). Point being, I cannot and will not reject ANY theory without sufficient arguments against it. This theory is also being looked at from the same angle- with an open mind to see its for’s and against’s and then decide.
Another thing people tell me is something of this sort-- “I don’t accept this theory. I am not playing counter strike out of lust” or “I am not doing charity work out of lust” and stuff like that. “Of course you aren’t”. The theory didn’t say YOU as an individual magically transformed all your lust into your other motivations to study, work etc. What it said was that most of human action arises from an essential desire to impress other human beings (especially the ones who have impressed you!). And the desire to impress itself is evolved from the desire to impress a partner. Please read the last 2 lines again. THIS is the heart of the AFL theory. Go back to a list of your long term goals and see if you did not have any desire to impress anyone other than yourself at all throughout. Some of us might be able to say that, but more than 90% of humans work with an overt or covert, conscious or subconscious intention to impress. All that the AFL theory says is- since impressing someone itself started out as a side-effect of the impressing-your-partner gene, most of your actions are a by-product of this primitive behavior.

Second. I think I missed out a little on explaining what evolution actually means or implies. Most people look at evolution the same way they look at transformation. But there is an essential difference between the two. Evolution happens bit by bit. Piece by piece. Transformation happens drastically. Besides, evolution works in a scale of thousands of years on thousands of individuals. So a behavioral trait to impress could become a behavioral trait to lie to impress only in thousands of years. The reason this is so is because evolution is NOT metamorphosis. It is not as if early man was very truthful and 1000 years later one man started hiding the truth and another 1000 later some men started saying white lies and then they grew into grey lies. That is NOT evolution.

Evolution is like a sieve. Hundreds of humans would have lied and hundreds would have spoken the truth. Assuming lying helped some survive (or impress the partner better in order to survive and reproduce) and always speaking the truth didn’t, more and more humans who lied would survive and pass on their lying genes to their children while the truth-speakers would not survive and not pass on the genes. This would happen for thousands of years until no truthful gene was left out, or very few truth speakers remained or everyone evolved into a state midway between the two, which optimized the chances of survival. What this means is that for the lying gene to spread, millions of humans have tried to lie and succeeded and millions have spoken the truth and failed. All this hypothetically. (Please don’t comment saying there is no gene for lying :( )
In a similar way, when one says the desire to impress a female evolved into a desire to earn more- what it means is- more and more humans that earned more found it easier than those who didn't to impress others and especially a woman, and hence more and more of their genes survived and eventually, the male biological system optimally had genes that prompted men to earn more (so that they could impress a woman).* Once such a gene was created, there is actually no need for the man to really impress a woman. His biological setup (mental/physical/whatever) would still make him want to earn more, independent of his desire to impress a woman.

That being said, is there still a catch in the theory? If not, do I agree with the theory? Answer is- No. I don’t agree. But what’s the reason I refuse to agree with the theory? What was the real catch? Part 3 coming soon! :)

*Remember it is called "Survival of the fittest". It may be cruel, it may not sound nice, but so it is.


  1. I'm impressed.
    (How do you feel when you read the above line? May this comment be useful to your AFL blog:P)

    P.S: I'm truly impressed, when I read your poems. "Unable to remain.". Awesome.

  2. @Lakshmanan:
    Thanks! I definitely feel happy when I read that line. Though I don't think all my writing is motivated solely by the desire to impress anyone :D
    And on the poem, thanks! :)


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