Hello Rex, thank you for generating this tread. Nice subject title. My
comments below

On Sat, Jun 18, 2011 at 3:04 PM, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:

> If evolution by natural selection were correct, then it seems to me that if
> the overall environment remained relatively stable for an extended period of
> time - then regardless of how it ended up, humans would be at about same
> level of happiness.

In this statement, you seem to posit a relationship/correspondence between
happiness and evolution. Also, that natural selection would favor happy
traits. I'm not sure that's the case, but seems a theory worth exploring.

> A paradise or a hell, the species should evolve towards the same overall
> happiness level.

If an overall happiness level can be described as acceptance of
environmental conditions instead of an individual sense of fulfillment, then
comparison to other's conditions, either in paradise or hell, would provide
the overall contrast to feel better or worse than someone else, and
happiness would depend on the individual's perspective: The glass is
half-empty or half-full, an individual or a mass perspective, as the one
that predominates our culture. However, it seems to me that true happiness,
true individual fulfillment would see a glass with no water in an
environment such as that; comparison has no bearing in their happiness.
Instead, an unhappy, unfulfilled individual would use comparison as a crutch
of hope, as an adjusted perspective in order to cope with unfulfillment
until personal fulfillment occurs.

> We can only be "excessively" happy, or excessively unhappy, in a world that
> we aren't well adapted to.

I never thought about this exactly this way but makes a lot of sense. The
excessively happy part was a surprise. Self- sabotage can level the field if
we are not adapted for excessive happiness..

> My reasoning is that happiness serves a purpose...it motivates us to do
> things that enhance our reproductive success.
> Unhappiness also serves a purpose...it motivates us to avoid things that
> decrease our reproductive success.

You are making an assumption that happiness is directly proportional to
reproductive success. I'm not sure there's enough evidence to support a
theory that reproductive success is in direct relation/proportion to

> Happiness is useless as a motivational tool if it's too hard *or* too easy
> to achieve.
> Unhappiness is useless as a motivational tool if it's too hard *or* too
> easy to avoid.
> There has to be some optimum "motivational" mix of happiness and
> unhappiness...and I'd think it's always approximately the same mix.
> Even in a hellish world, humans would be about as happy as they would be in
> a paradise...once they (as a species) had adapted.
> Which brings me to my next point.

> IF this evolutionary theory were true, then scientific advancements only
> increase human happiness to the extent that it puts us into situations that
> we're not well adapted to.

I believe that in evolution theory, evolution happens because of changes and
adaptation in the environment, that is, as the environment changes,
organisms currently not equipped to live in that environment need to adapt,
evolving themselves in turn as they do adapt. Scientific advancements are
subject to this evolutionary theory and natural selection: scientific
advancements are evolved tools that have adapted in response to our
interactions with science and of science with us. Some advancements have
gone extinct, like the mini-disc, or VHS, or many of the theories
themselves. Evolution is a dynamic process because we are part of the
environment that affects us and that we affect.

I would say that scientific advancements increase human happiness to the
extent that they fulfill a need, a desire, a demand of a society or of the
individual. A definition of happiness (fleeting versus true, or relative
versus absolute) and of progress seems to be in order. Keeping up with the
neighbors carries a very different feeling than say, catching a glimpse of a
double rainbow, or eating when you are really really hungry. Perhaps
happiness and progress, and their levels, can be likened to Maslow's

> AND, given enough time (and mutation), we should adapt to all scientific
> advancements...and a key part of this adaptation will be to reduce the
> amount of happiness that they generate.

I remember the first time my dad sat down in front of a computer, the whole
scene invoked the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was obviously
intimidated, and the gap between his adequacy and the technology seemed as
large as the Grand Canyon. However, when my daughter, at 6mos old, was on my
lap and I was working on the computer, she seemed uncannily ready to use it.
I sat there watching her take over the mouse and the keyboard, with her eyes
fixed on the screen, effecting change.

I wonder if scientific advancements are a response to generational evolution
or if it's the other way around. The former seems to follow quantum

> We can only be "happier" than cavemen when we are in a situation that we
> are not well adapted to.
> For instance, food. Most people really like sweets and salty greasy foods.
> Much more than they like bland vegetables and whatnot.
> The acquisition of junk food makes us happy *because* those things were
> hard to acquire a few hundred years ago...and if you're living in
> resource-poor circumstances, then calories and salt are just what the doctor
> ordered.

Food has d-Evolved to fulfill the three of six primary taste buds needs in
our tongue. Meat, bread/fries and ketchup are a response to those needs.
Natural selection eliminated the human-competitive races and the main
differentiator for homosapiens is that we were the only carnivores: this
trait helped us become strategists, it helped us become the only surviving
human race, it helped us adapt and evolve.

Slower metabolisms were better equipped to survive famine and according to
the theory, are selected because of their adaptation to hard times. In
abundant times, however, a slower metabolism combined with traits like
self-discipline, high activity, healthy tendencies, would balance/adapt
itself so chances of reproduction are enhanced. Of course it depends on the
predominant attitude regarding appearance, survival, success, etc.

> BUT...we're now out of equilibrium. Junk food is at least as easy to get as
> vegetables, if not easier. So our evolved preferences push us to consume
> more than is good for us.
> Given time, and if we allowed heart disease and diabetes to do their work,
> the human race would eventually lose their taste for such unhealthy fare, as
> those with genetic tendencies in that direction died off. Anticipating a
> greasy meal of pizza and consuming it would no longer make us as happy.
> Because that happiness is too easily satisfied to provide the optimal level
> of motivation.
> In the future, I would think that our taste for junk food will decrease
> while our taste for vegetables and fruit will increase.

There's a theory that we are not currently adapted to junk food, but that
future generations will be. The body has two main functions: absorption and
disposal. The main cause of illness is usually our body's inability to
dispose of certain waste. Amazingly, our bodies get rid of stuff that goes
through our bodies in a perfect, sometimes violent way. Vomit, cough, and
even a sneeze are traits we have to make sure we survive. Future
generations, hopefully, will adapt and evolve to absorb and dispose
resources we have then. Or, those organisms more prone or ready to adapt
will evolve and endure through natural selection.

The thing is that nature can change drastically and the traits needed to
adapt and survive can be very different. If there's a catastrophy that
brings famine and takes us back to agricultural practices, slower
metabolisms and those prone to gain fat would be favored. If our food
becomes mainly artificial in the name of progress, faster metabolisms would
have a better chance. The fork on the road to our future leads to countless
outcomes, like an elevator with thousands of floors, which is my version of
multiple universes, on a societal and on an individual level: which button
do we/I push?.

> Further, this "adjustment process" isn't just true of food. It should be
> true of everything.
> Even something that IS good for us will cause less happiness if its easily
> available, because there's no real harm in not being highly motivated to get
> it - since you'll get it even if you're relatively indifferent to it. Also,
> even good things can become detrimental if over-indulged in.  So, over time
> entropy will eat away at the structure that underlies the desire for that
> thing.

That is such a predominant masculine trait :)   not to say that it is
exclusively for males. Some people have a hard time valuing something that
was easily obtained, for them, reciprocate love at first sight is probably
out of the question. Our ancestors had to fight for desirable things,
desirable lands, desirable women, desirable outcomes. Fortunately, a more
feminine trait, not exclusive to females, a more matriarchal approach, of
ease, stability, family, nurturing, acceptance and contentment, can and does
value things independently of how easy they were to obtain. Both traits are
necessary, in my view, for a society to evolve, for a family to adapt, or
for a couple to survive.

Thank you for the thought for food!

> Ya?
> Rex
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