Friday, March 6, 2009

Prisoners of Biology

I posted the following over 2.5 years ago. I still haven't found out too much to contradict it.

"OK, I've been thinking about this theory for a little while now. It's not too terribly fleshed out, but I think I've got my mind around the basics. I call it "One Choice Theory on Human Behavior". Here is goes:

Human beings are simply prisoners of biology. Everything we do is dictated by biology, regardless of any rationalizations. We do not choose to draw breath or eat or sleep. Sure, some of the time we think these things are choices, or we choose how to do them, but this is an illusion.

We, as animals, seek to procreate. This is our end goal. It is why we do the things we do. We eat and breathe to provide energy so that we can accomplish social goals in order to win a mate. We earn a living to procure social status and provide for our mate and offspring. This encompasses everything from crime to sport and gossip. They are all done to meet this end, though we rarely acknowledge that this applies to humans as well as the other animals. Nature and evolution have ensured our reproduction by making it and things related to it carry with them pleasure. There is pleasure in reproduction itself, pleasure in providing, in success, in winning, in securing a mate in a stable relationship etc. Even drawing breath has small pleasure, or at least a lack of displeasure. If any of these things were unpleasurable, we would simply not do them and the species would adapt around them or die. This is the trick. We do not actually choose to do any of these things, but the pleasure makes us desire them and we confuse desire for choice. We are simple programmed to do the things that feel good, or perhaps we think things feel good because we have to do them.

So, what is the "One Choice" named in the theory title? Here's the depressing part. The only choice we have (that may or may not be unique to humans, but I doubt it is) is to not do the things that we are programmed to find pleasurable. Our choice lies in our ability to not reproduce, to not eat, participate in social activities, succeed, even breathe. What is the end result of this choice? Simply the pride in knowing that we can conquer our animal natures and actually choose. We are not so hard-wired that we cannot go against our needs. I'm not sure of the biological benefit of this, except of course that the ones who make this choice will be drawn toward each other by the attraction of mutual independence. (Meaning that perhaps, in certain circumstances, this is not a choice either, but another means to the end... more of that later.*) The negative of this choice is that we are denied the very things that give us pleasure.

So, we can remain supplied with pleasurable activities and the positive feelings that arise from them, but know constantly that we are just well-cared-for prisoners, or we can buck the shackles of biology and make the choice to forsake pleasure for the simple pride of knowing that we chose.

Sorry to ruin everyone's day. I'm still working on it and will post more as I figure things out.


* I am more convinced now that this is simply another form of mate selection. Being able to attract people with your nonconformity is apparently a pretty powerful tool in some circles. Perhaps, then, there is even less choice than I thought.

Also, this theory does not address homosexuality and how it relates to the genetic and biological need to procreate. I haven't figured out the right way to phrase that one yet... I guess the best way is to say that every population has outliers.