The immense diversity of imagined realities that Sapiens invented, and the resulting diveristy of behaviour patterns, are the main componets of what we call 'culture'. Once cultures appeared, they never ceased to change and develop, and these unstoppable alternations are what we call 'history'. *1
One on one, even ten on ten, we are embarrassingly similar to chimpanzees. Signiɹcant diʃerences begin to appear only when we cross the threshold of 150 individuals, and when we reach 1,000–2,000 individuals, the diʃerences are astounding. *2
some evolutionary psychologists argue that ancient foraging bands were not composed of nuclear families centred on monogamous couples. Rather, foragers lived in communes devoid of private property, monogamous relationships and even fatherhood. In such a band, a woman could have sex and form intimate bonds with several men (and women) simultaneously, and all of the band’s adults cooperated in parenting its children. Since no man knew deɹnitively which of the children were his, men showed equal concern for all youngsters.
There are even a number of present-day human cultures in which collective fatherhood is practised, as for example among the Barí Indians. According to the beliefs of such societies, a child is not born from the sperm of a single man, but from the accumulation of sperm in a woman’s womb. A good mother will make a point of having sex with several different men, especially when she is pregnant, so that her child will enjoy the qualities (and paternal care) not merely of the best hunter, but also of the best storyteller, the strongest warrior and the most considerate lover.
The proponents of this ‘ancient commune’ theory argue that the frequent inɹdelities that characterise modern marriages, and the high rates of divorce, not to mention the cornucopia of psychological complexes from which both children and adults suʃer, all result from forcing humans to live in nuclear families and monogamous relationships that are incompatible with our biological software. *3
Members of a band knew each other very intimately, and were surrounded throughout their lives by friends and relatives. Loneliness and privacy were rare. *4
Just as the economic success of a company is measured only by the number of dollars in its bank account, not by the happiness of its employees, so the evolutionary success of a species is measured by the number of copies of its DNA. If no more DNA copies remain, the species is extinct, just as a company without money is bankrupt. If a species boasts many DNA copies, it is a success, and the species ɻourishes. From such a perspective, 1,000 copies are always better than a hundred copies. This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.*5
From the moment they are born, you constantly remind them of the principles of the imagined order, which are incorporated into anything and everything. They are incorporated into fairy tales, dramas, paintings, songs, etiquette, political propaganda, architecture, recipes and fashions. For example, today people believe in equality, so it’s fashionable for rich kids to wear jeans, which were originally working-class attire.
Even what people take to be their most personal desires are usually programmed by the imagined order. Let’s consider, for example, the popular desire to take a holiday abroad. There is nothing natural or obvious about this. A chimpanzee alpha male would never think of using his power in order to go on holiday into the territory of a neighbouring chimpanzee band. The elite of ancient Egypt spent their fortunes building pyramids and having their corpses mummiɹed, but none of them thought of going shopping in Babylon or taking a skiing holiday in Phoenicia. People today spend a great deal of money on holidays abroad because they are true believers in the myths of romantic consumerism.
Romanticism tells us that in order to make the most of our human potential we must have as many different experiences as we can. We hear again and again the romantic myths about ‘how a new experience opened my eyes and changed my life’.
Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible.*6
How can we distinguish what is biologically determined from what people merely try to justify through biological myths? A good rule of thumb is ‘Biology enables, Culture forbids.’ Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural.
In truth, our concepts ‘natural’ and unnatural’ are taken not from biology, but from Christian theology. The theological meaning of ‘natural’ is ‘in accordance with the intentions of the God who created nature’. Christian theologians argued that God created the human body, intending each limb and organ to serve a particular purpose. If we use our limbs and organs for the purpose envisioned by God, then it is a natural activity. To use them differently than God intends is unnatural. But evolution has no purpose. Organs have not evolved with a purpose, and the way they are used is in constant ɻux. There is not a single organ in the human body that only does the job its prototype did when it ɹrst appeared hundreds of millions of years ago. Organs evolve to perform a particular function, but once they exist, they can be adapted for other usages as well. Mouths, for example, appeared because the earliest multicellular organisms needed a way to take nutrients into their bodies. We still use our mouths for that purpose, but we also use them to kiss and speak.
According to one theory, insect wings evolved millions of years ago from body protrusions on ɻightless bugs. Bugs with bumps had a larger surface area than those without bumps, and this enabled them to absorb more sunlight and thus stay warmer. In a slow evolutionary process, these solar heaters grew larger. The same structure that was good for maximum sunlight absorption – lots of surface area, little weight – also, by coincidence, gave the insects a bit of a lift when they skipped and jumped. Those with bigger protrusions could skip and jump farther. Some insects started using the things to glide, and from there it was a small step to wings that could actually propel the bug through the air. Next time a mosquito buzzes in your ear, accuse her of unnatural behaviour. If she were well behaved and content with what God gave her, she’d use her wings only as solar panels.*7