There are a couple of list-serves that keep your incoming mail quite full. One is the HBES (Human Behavior and Evolution Society) and the other Applied-Ethology. There's some difference in focus between the groups; I've been teased lightly for mentioning human issues in the AE network, but I've the kind of mind that gets interested in a wide array of topics. Both lists are important to my continuing education.
I used both lists to relay a question from Brian Robinson. Brian asked:
"Moidering - or as the Oirish say, Moithering!! Jim, why do you think it is that humans never seem to have developed what would have been a most useful habit of looking around first before turning, and crashing into other humans, beasts, trees, or falling off cliffs? Or am I thinking too much of our modern pavement (sidewalk to you!) conditions?
It's probably another of my daft questions! But it does bother me. Perhaps there weren't so many people/animals around in the stone age to bump into??"
Any data? Any speculations?
Thanks ... ----------------------
ROBIN WALKER in the UK (who admits in other correspondence to being 60 but able to chase hoodlums away from his automobile)
"No Jim this is not daft. The modern practice of milling about in unrelated self-serving crowds is wholly maladaptive! Humans belong in family groups, clans, hunting parties, teams, regiments and hierarchical task forces.
"Just as horses nip and bully each other into a disciplined groups of half ton gallopers that flee in formation and turn like minnows after their leaders so Man evolved in cultural groups with foraging and mutual defence controlling much of their lives. It is no surprise that schools, seminaries, clubs, ships' crews and infantry units rediscover the 'band' and its rules. We live isolated in ones and twos and congregate as strangers. It may be progress but it is not how we started!
"Hedony is very much part of the debate (wouldn't you know it? :-) The rites of passage (formalised and accepted bullying) offer exclusion from the group as a punishment and acceptance as a prize. The 'escape' into acceptance is rewarding. In some cases the relief is positively addictive and people suffer withdrawal when obliged to leave or retire.
"Pathological bullying is that which becomes an end in itself and is no longer adaptive as a discipline or offers escape into conformity as a relief.
"But more interesting is Nigel's observation!" ----------------------------
NIGEL GOODWIN (from Nottingham):
"Human behaviour on the applied ethology network - always guaranteed to start a riot! I'll get my oar in early....
Humans are inherently vigilant (whether by nature or nurture, but I'll leave that line of argument to someone else....). Observe any film footage of indiginous peoples moving about in their environment and you will see vigilance very much in evidence. But in modern western society, most environmental threats and hazards have disappeared, and we have become lazy. Combine this with the artificial overcrowding of the city and you get the everyday accidents and collisions that seem to cause Jim such distress.
Try walking through a rough part of town late at night, and your own sense of vigilance will come flooding back."
--------------------------- ROBIN again, via the Applied Ethology List:
"Yes! Yes! Yes!
"Freeze Fight Flee Flirt, runs the list of tactical responses in defence' Before any choice is made, there is 'behavioural inhibition', or the process of stopping the motor program of the moment, orienting and observing, alerting and preparing a choice of 'F',
"The rewards of successful fighting, fleeing or flirting are rooted in the chemistry of hedony. The nature of reward in Behavioural Inhibition and Freezing is a little more difficult to divine. It seems to be of great importance to study of anxiolytics and serenics by those trying to marry ethology and psychopharmacology.
"I am intrigued by the anti-predator responses of mice to owls and other birds. There seems to be an initial response with analgesia which is not opioid based. This rapid response is clearly an automatic neural analgesia and must be adaptive in suspending proprioceptive discomforts.
"The threat of a serious predator (tawny owl) evokes opioid based longer term analgesia. The assumption seems to be that the endogenous opioid analgesia is required to maintain a longer period of behavioural inhibition, risk assessment, stretched attention, vigilance etc.
"I wonder if the analgesia is in fact the relevant manifestation. Useful yes to suppress fidgeting but otherwise a concomitant of actual reward for the behaviour in hand i.e. vigilance. An incentive to keep doing this for quite a long time.
"After all stimulation the female genital tract by various means is shown to evoke opioid analgesia but the question "why do you enjoy sex" is unlikely to induce the answer "because it is not particularly painful!" The reward component is much greater.
"Automatic motivations such as defaecation and urination may well evoke analgesic responses but the relief is not merely the cessation of discomfort but a feeling of positive pleasure.
"What fogs these issues is the Great Electrician's parsimony with the circuitry. Whereas there maybe many happy instances where the responses are dual and useful it remains that the system is like a intruder alarm which is always accompanied by sprinklers because there is only one switch. Refs. C.A. Hendrie and S.M Weiss The Development of an Animal Model of Panic with Predictive and Face Validity. Ethology and Psychopharmacology Eds as cited. 1994 Wiley." ---------------
"Thank you for putting so much into this. I must just work amongst clumsy people with a death-wish! And maybe our British streets are more crowded with impatient, ambitious folk who haven't left themselves enough time to do/get what/where they have to ... They're forever saying things like, "Sorry!", "Excuse me!", or (after several hits) "Do look where you're going". It was probably a foolish thought! Thanks for thinking on it!
Best to you
This posting is done with consent from Brian Robinson, Robin Walker, and Nigel Goodwin. My gosh! To be able to think and to write like these people!
The stew simmers through the night and day, flitting electrons, spinning emergent structures which, in turn, are spun into larger structures in our individual minds. The point at which the net exhibits volition? Perhaps when other organizations tried to censor it. Focus, collaboration, and self-defense, all a single reaction. But, probably not the Net's first seizure. You also will note symbiosis, alliances (as with this piece of fun), and competition. The prolonged, solitary debates between minds separated by 12K miles or four decades. Sometimes the spark, the rare comment or meme, that crystalizes a clump of messy prior thinking, that encourages pursuit of a difficult personal mission. (i.e. expect some more GrandDad postings!) It all waits for me at the next icon, the next call, "You've got mail."
Even the addresses call out ... terms like "skybat" or "skyway" appended to sask, usask.ca! Or one that includes nottingham.ac.uk. Or, "music-weaver.demon.co. Strange icons, gates to far minds but get one wrong and nothing works. Darn computer is still too literal, no system redundancy in most of our machines, no instructions to "make the best match with available programs" although spell-checkers are a first approximation.
Thanks to all ...