Every now and then, we see some article argues about food, or male-female relations, or breastfeeding, migration, where the writer argues that we need to stick with or return to the behaviour of our ancestors when they were hunters/gatherers. For some reason, it is never the behaviour of early farmers or the pre-hominids that still went on all fours. These arguments always faintly irritate me, so I thought I should take some time to wonder why.
I think it has to do with how culture in its broadest meaning has utterly changed mankind. I may need more than one ‘note’ to explain myself.
Through ‘culture’ in its broadest sense, mankind has freed itself from the Darwinist law of natural selection. Through culture, i.e. through things like ‘technology’, ‘economy’, ‘society’ and ‘governance’, we are able to adapt to changes in our environment without necessarily having to adapt physically. Physical or psychological traits that make us humans less competitive than other species to survive and thrive in our habitat, can be compensated by the fruits of technology, of society, of the economy, of governance.
Questions like “how do other mammals behave? ” or “how did our ancestors behave” when they were still hunter/gatherers?” are no longer relevant if we want to find out what “good” or “successful” behaviour is in our present days.
“Good” or “successful” behaviour for the human race in its cultural phase is behaviour that maintains the resilience of the culture (technology, society, economy, governance) that allows us to thrive even with traits that are less competitive from a natural evolutionary perspective.