Thanks for your response, bill. I am especially pleased that we share the view that there may well be "something unique about human cultures in that...fitness landscapes are being modified by cultural and economic forces." I would only add that a very important aspect of these cultural and economic forces is the enormous role played by our advanced (and advancing) technology. Economic factors led me to purchase a PC for word processing. The scientific world is very competitive. Scientists spend a great deal of time writing papers, books, book chapters, reviews, grant proposals, etc. To remain competitive, I needed the time- and work-saving advantages of a word processor. Likewise, my choice of an HP PC over a Mac was dictated by the need to be compatible with the computers in my lab. Work use of computers in data collection and analyses required that I gain other skills - all to remain competitive. Thus, due to economic forces, I am now communicating these ideas with you using a PC and yet another technological development, the internet. While I surely enjoy the new opportunities that these technologies have provided (I could never have written my first book on a typewriter - too poor a typist - nor would I be exchanging these ideas with you), I have had to develop new skills for dealing with the dramatic increase in the speed of information flow that these technologies have created. This is something new for the human species. Never before have humans been required by their environment to process so much information so rapidly. While this may not have changed the fitness landscape in the strictest Darwinian sense of altering anyone's reproductive success directly, it is clear that a dramatic failure to cope with new technology can relegate an individual to only the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, where poor health care and increased exposure to biohazards may result in decreased reproductive success, but surely results in a decreased quality of life.
As to your second point, I agree that in many ways, the economically advantaged (i.e., the rich) can and do use their wealth to shelter themselves from hazards that their source of wealth (a factory) may inflict on their non-rich employees. I've never seen the CEO of a major corporation wearing a wrist brace, yet many of their economically enslaved workers suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because of the repetitive nature of their work. And not surprisingly, many such sufferers acquired their condition from the repetitive nature of operating a PC keyboard. I think that's a good example of what you refer to as, "modern problems of adjustment (that) are a result of conditions created by one group at the expense of another." So I think that we agree that sociological factors, certainly class dynamics, should be considered in terms of how they alter the "fitness landscapes" available to individuals based on class. The rich and powerful DO create cushy psychological "stock options" for themselves, and these unfair benefits do accrue at the expense of the un-rich and un-powerful. The only thing that I would add is that at the heart of this example of exploitation is a technological innovation, the PC. I expect to see more tech. exploitation in the future. There's a not-so-old joke in the biomedical field to the effect that at some (very) near future date, you will find yourself talking to your doctor. He will say, "Well, we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that, thanks to medical advances, we have a cure that can save your life. The bad news is that you can't afford it and your insurance doesn't cover it."
I personally don't think any civilization was ever DESIGNED to accomodate human nature, aside from the fact that, having been built by humans it must by default "accomodate" humans, although not necessarily well. Beyond that, we do see some design features imposed upon most of us by the wealthy elite as part of their exploitation. Likewise, it is by no means hyper-empathy to abhor a system that produces a few hyper winners and lots of losers. Even if it were not morally repugnant, it would be logically undesirable, due to the waste of talent among the disadvantaged and the bad decisions made by inept people thrust into power via family ties or sheer wealth.
As for the Ghandis & the Rachel Carsons of the world, there are indeed those individuals who buck the trend and scarifice part of themselves for the greater good. This might be a manifestation of something derived from reciprocal altruism, but wherein the payback to the giver is an internalized sense of being a good person. We have all had moments when we helped a stranger, with no chance of any payback, simply because the giving made us feel better about ourselves. This may sound cold and mechanical, but I'm glad for any mechanism that leads to a more "user friendly" world, even if it's one that's less noble than we might like.
Thanks again for your response, bill. It's always a pleasure when you share your thoughts.
PS: No, bill, I really didn't mean YOUR running shoes!