The word, "evolution," commonly applies to changes over time, especially to those changes that occur across generations. There are a lot of other, associated meanings including that of a kinship between us and other life. Unfortunately, this notion of kinship often activates the "Us/Them Chip" (1) and causes an immediate cerebral spasm of automatic thoughts summarized by one young friend, "I ain't related to no ape."
Evolution also has to do with survival but not only in the tooth and claw sense. Evolution entails kindness, mutual aid, sympathy, succorance, and grieving. Evolution implies for some of us a set of values consistent with other values that we already have (2) and with the presumed conditions under which we may have first appeared.
Those early conditions included living in small groups and strong mutual dependency for getting food, handling sickness, managing families, and rearing children. We likely have the same needs today; it's been only about 40,000 years since we came into our present form. Unfortunately, we attempt to meet them in highly dispersed ways and with multiple groups instead in a single, primary one. It's as if the old "neighborhoods" of Philadelphia no longer exist; instead, we are scattered by income level regardless of our origins. Such a practice offers one set of opportunities but at the cost of sacrificing other, more fundamental ones.
Evolution is about: How we rear our children. For example, there should be a mother and a father in the home and close contact with grandparents and uncles and aunts. Someone should always know where the children are and their friends. We should have a personal relationship with our children's teachers. Discipline should be effective; that is, proportionate to the person's developmental need, consistent, and successful in redirecting problematic conduct. Children should have earlier and greater responsibility in helping the family survive and grow. Helping a neighbor without expecting immediate payment Smaller schools, churches, closer markets, smaller neighborhoods Living within an hour's walk of our work Playing games without electronic toys Having meaningful physical exertion as we work or have fun. Providing personal, not organizational, compassion for the sick
Humans appear to have "Executive Functions," mental skills that help organize other pieces of behavior, beyond those shown by any other species. Our Executive Functions are thought to rest on our ability to inhibit immediate behavior, to recall past actions, and to compare them with the present situation. This process of inhibition and comparing memories encourages the use of language, the creation of plans, and the sharing of those plans with other people. We have the ability to inhibit emotional reactions and to kindle our feelings artificially in order to meet a goal. Finally, our Executive Functions allow us to break events into smaller pieces and to rearrange them, mentally, into a different, more useful outcome. (3)
There is responsible opinion that the mismatch between how we now live and how we used to live creates much discomfort for every one of us. This discomfort is experienced in our relations with our children, neighbors, coworker, and even our physicians. It is indeed time that we use our Executive Functions, our abilities to plan and to anticipate the future, to arrange some better ways of handling ourselves.
1) The "Us/Them Chip" is my shorthand for one of our Psychological Adaptations, the ability to form alliances for or against an idea, a person, or a group. The ability to work in teams is a powerful boost to our other talents; it also helps us redress individual weaknesses by getting help from someone with a different set of weaknesses. Unfortunately, the Us/Them Chip can be a major handicap when people consider new ideas.
2) Human values are usually consistent with survival, otherwise they would have no one to pass them on. Distortions can often occur, distortions that arise from cultural accidents, population pressures, or problems with resources. Nonetheless, there is likely a core set of values that are found in all human societies and, like other traits we have, contribute to our survival.
3) See Russ Barkley's chapter on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Mash E & Barkley R (1996) Child Psychopathology. NY: Guilford.