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Monday, December 3, 2007

I've had enough travel for a bit and as long as I have a nice Lowe's next door to the last night's Wal-Mart I've decided to stay here for the day and catch up on some domestic chores. And remove the old defunct swamp cooler from the roof of the Lazy Daze and patch the 14 x 14 inch hole it leaves in the roof.

Night camp: Wal-Mart in Leeds AL

Genetic Determinism and Human Nature

The "implication" that seems to worry people the most is so-called genetic determinism - the notion that if human nature was shaped by evolution, then it's fixed and we're simply stuck with it; there's nothing we can do about it. We can never change the world to be the way we want; we can never institute fairer societies - policy-making and politics are pointless.

Now, that's a complete misunderstanding. It doesn't distinguish between human nature - our evolved psychology - and the behavior that results from it. Certainly, human nature is fixed. It's universal and unchanging, common to every baby that's born, down through the history of our species.But human behavior, which is generated by that nature, is endlessly variable and diverse. After all, fixed rules can give rise to an inexhaustible range of outcomes. Natural selection equipped us with the fixed rules - the rules that constitute our human nature. And it designed those rules to generate behavior that's sensitive to the environment. So the answer to genetic determinism is simple. If you want to change behavior, just change the environment.