Sunday, June 22, 2014

We are not as frightened as our ancestors were

We are not as frightened as our ancestors were. (At least most of us aren't.)

This RadioLab program is amazing!
It seems humans have actually domesticated ourselves.
Apparently this involves having less active adrenal glands--making us less prone to fear.

As a result, we are less prone to the violence that accompanies fear in wild animals. 
One expert notes that if you filled an airplane with chimpanzees on a trans-Atlantic flight, only a handful would be alive at the end of the flight.  But human beings can sit together quite happily for hours and hours without coming to blows--partly because we don't fear each other as much as wild animals do.

New Nice

Brian Hare tells us the story of Dmitri Belyaev, a geneticist and clandestine Darwinian who lived in Stalinist Russia and studied the domestication of the silver fox. Through generations of selectively breeding a captive population, Belyaev noticed not only increased docility, but also unexpected physical changes. Why did these gentler foxes necessarily look different than their wild ancestors? Tecumseh Fitch has a hypothesis, something about trailblazing cells and embryonic development. And Richard Wrangham takes it a step further, suggesting us humans may have domesticated ourselves.

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