Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Evolution of Good and Evil

The bible story of the Tree of the Forbidden Fruit is total nonsense, but in it there is a grain of interest. The fruit most likely tasted good. For knowledge of good and evil is evolutionarily advantagious. If the food you eat is good for you, then you and your mate are likely to produce healthy offspring.

By extension your tongue then becomes an arbiter of morality and aesthetics.

The ability to discern healthy foods from dangerous ones must have been something of a concern to early humans. Rotten fruits and meats are foul to the taste, and also responsible for disease, so we developed tastes that are critical of things we might eat.

Then we developed a way of discerning that which is bad for us overall. Trauma: bad. Emotional abuse: bad. Conversely we came to appreciate that which is good: Healthcare. Providing nutrients for our offspring and friends . A sense of collective safety.

Then we extended this to appreciation of things that merely make us happy, for happiness induces secretion of brain chemicals that foster healing and good health.

Your sense of beauty, if you are not a psychopath who is incapable of such feeling, comes from your tongue ultimately. If you are a nurse and service in the care of others is important to you as a person, then it is because your senses have become refined to detect this mysterious and innate sense of goodness which unfortunately can elude a few others.

If you are a musician or artist, then your sense of beauty derives from your evolved ability to get at the goodness in appropriate foods and behaviors.

So speaks the plate of shrimp.


wunelle said...

I've thought something along these lines (well, along the first part of it). Do my dogs enjoy their food? Nah. They don't savor anything. So for them, taste is exactly what you say: a poison- / contamination-detection mechanism (how good I can't say, as they are DRAWN to dead, rotting things...).

It's we humans who sublimate it and attach a conscious meaning and philosophy to it.

Chocolate chip cookies are the ultimate flummoxing of the survival instinct!

may said...

it was good, whatever it was. if it wasn't, why would she share it to her husband, and why would the husband even think of tasting it?

in that aspect, it makes perfect sense :)