Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Direct-Causal Link

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I take great interest in Evolutionary Psychology recently and spent some time thinking of this topic. It is basically about how Evolution and Psychology are linked.

One of the many Evolutionary behaviour we have is perceiving things in a direct-causal manner – to see Cause and Effect as directly linked. This behaviour is important as a part of human being’s mechanism for survival and also to navigate around the world. Imagine you are walking in the jungle and then you see a tiger. What will be your first instinctive reaction? Obviously, it is to run away or else you will be eaten up, your mind tells you. When we see the sky is looming with heavy cloud and accompanied by faint thunder, what does that tell us? We instinctively know it will rain soon and that means it is time to seek shelter.

This simple yet effective behaviour has ensured the survival of human being from many years ago until to this very day. But it has also its downside – our lack of ability to see the big picture or think deep.

When i was in my teenage years, i often watch animal documentaries on Discovery Channel and National Geographic Special. In one of the episodes which showed endangered animals, I asked myself, to what extent the extinction of tigers or elephants will affect us? Since our daily life do not revolve around these wild animals, so what if they go extinct? Humanity will live on and nothing bad will happen to us, right?

That was my mistake of seeing things in a direct-causal way. I was not aware at the time that i only have a simple mind while attempting to understand the world’s complexity.

Yes, everyone of us have a simple mind trying to understand the complex world. If you are not aware of that, you better do.

Back to the tigers, the potential disappearance of big cats will affect us… big time. If the tigers go extinct, that means their prey, whether it is deer, antelope, bull, wild boar, etc. will grow exponentially because there’s no natural predator to keep the herbivore population in check. Hence, sooner or later, these cute little creatures will flood the jungle and they will pose two problems.

1. There will be a shortage of food – eg. grass, plants, vegetables because the demand overwhelm the supply. Therefore, it might force the herbivore animals out of the jungle and invade human areas (rural area or small town) in order to look for food. These animals will very likely to destroy human’s farm/garden/plantation and will cause a series of chain reaction (eg. shortage of food for village). And secondly …

2. Should these animals bear diseases with them, they may very likely spread it to domesticated animals (cow or goat). Hence, when human eat the meat of the infected animals, in turn, human will be the victim. And this will potentially turn into a global epidemic.

(Many years ago, Spain visited South America as part of their world conquest. When they first arrived, they spread a disease which wiped out numerous tribal groups in the region. The reason being – there are certain virus/bacteria which the Spanish have already adept over the years in their country but the South American tribes have not encountered it before. Hence, once the tribal people were exposed to these virus/bacteria, their body couldn’t adept to it and a local epidemic took place.)

So, you see, the point here is that the world do not operate as straight forward as we instinctively thought so. Nature work like a domino effect or a chain reaction. An event will trigger another series of unforeseeable events. That’s the reason why, not everyone is good at Chess or Sudoku which requires multi-step thinking (basically to think several steps ahead). Human being are only comfortable doing one or two steps thinking, because this the only thing matter to our survival. We don’t need to be an Einstein to survive the rough times. We just need to behave instinctively and life will go on. This is psychology… Evolutionary psychology.

Due to this very same ‘bad habit’ of human being, we often use divine power to justify world mysteries. How could something possibly happen from nothing? There must be someone who is responsible for all these mysteries, they believe. Thousands years ago, people could not explain lightning, hence they believed a God called Thor or Zeus were behind the cloud summoning it. Not surprisingly today, we are still using the same old divine power argument to justify higher level of mysteries such as the origin of humanity and universe.

This is because we are still engaging in one or two steps thinking or direct-causal mind set. A typical Jane or Joe do not ‘get it’ when you tell them that life and universe is a series of complicated chain reaction. They believe that God creating human being is common sense while life evolve itself is not because it is ‘unthinkable’.

Just because your brain couldn’t comprehend complexity, it doesn’t mean that simple answer must be right. And no, this does not contradict Occam’s Razor if you understand what i’m trying to say.

Life itself is a product of ‘scientific chain reaction’. Basically, chemical reaction … or convergence of physics + chemistry + biology + etc. I do not know how to describe it properly with words. So, you have to figure it out yourself…


Written by elan85

June 13, 2008 at 3:00 am

Posted in Evolution, Psychology

One Response

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  1. […] we are a social animal and it is not a mystery that psychology and evolution are closely linked (evolutionary psychology). Because we are social animals, our psychology is bound by psychological conditions such as peer […]

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