RE: Vegetarianism and Ethics

Richard Brodie (
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 11:34:16 -0800

Roderick Carter wrote:

> But, do feelings and emotions not have a logical and reasonable
>basis? Are they not designed to direct us towards goals? Procreation?
>Self-preservation? Attainment of wealth? I maintain that emotions ARE
>designed logically, just designed generally on an unconscious level
>we are sometimes unable to see the reasoning behind them.

The fairly new field of evolutionary psychology studies just that. The
unfortunate consensus of most researchers is that feelings and emotions
were "designed" (i.e. evolved) to aid selfish DNA in replicating in the
social and cultural environment of prehistory. This is because we
haven't evolved much, genetically, since the Stone Age. So today these
instinctual drives are often inappropriate and unproductive given an
individual's personal goals.

One big example is fear. Originally useful for keeping people safe from
physical dangers (so they could reproduce), today people are scared of
all sorts of imagined cultural "dangers" from meeting strangers to
asking for a raise. These situations probably map onto ancient
situations in which the fear was a useful tool for directing people's
energy so that they would have the best chance of reproducing.

Another important drive, as you mentioned, is for status. Vance Packard,
author of The Hidden Persuaders (bestseller about subliminal
advertising), died recently. He made quite an issue of Madison Avenue
exploiting our drive to attain higher status to create the consumerist
culture we have now.

There have been several books written on evolutionary psychology. I have
reviews of a couple good ones -- The Evolution of Desire by Buss and The
Moral Animal by Wright -- in the Amazon.Com Memetics Bookstore
( There is also a chapter
on evolutionary psychology in my own book Virus of the Mind.


Richard Brodie +1.206.688.8600
CEO, Brodie Technology Group, Inc., Bellevue, WA, USA
Do you know what a "meme" is?