We’re Supposed to be Conflicted

Edward O. Wilson’s newest book, a light little tome entitled The Meaning of Human Existence, states that humans are supposed to be conflicted. It is actually in our DNA. Wilson, a professor emeritus at Harvard and a biologist, says that as humans were evolving, an individual human would have the biological advantage of survival if he acted selfishly, but a group of humans would have the biological advantage of survival if the members of that group acted altruistically. Since banding into groups was actually necessary for the survival of the species, altruistic group behavior needed to develop. But individual selfish behavior resulted in an advantage within the group (bigger share of the kill, more procreation) so that those selfish individuals themselves thrived. Ergo, conflict in our very DNA. Help the group so the species survives; help yourself so that you thrive within the group.

There’s a lot more in his book about why humans are fascinated with gossip, why we need such large memory banks (which is partly why our brains are so big) why the idea of belonging to a tribe (think of tribe broadly—religion, sports, race, economic status, etc.) is so strong and dictates so much of our behavior.

I was fascinated. Makes us seem less complicated, somehow. More cause and effect. I highly recommend giving it a read.

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2 thoughts on “We’re Supposed to be Conflicted

  1. You highlight some interesting points and strikes at the essence of the movie, Two Days, One Night, which will dovetail your thinking beautifully.

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