Monday, August 30, 2010

Social Network: Superior Evolutionary Traits from God?

Well, that's kind of what NPR story that just ran today, if you connect the dots.

According to NPR story, if people believe there exists supernatural being, whether it is God or ancestor, watching over you, people are less likely to engage in unsocial behavior. That is, people are more likely to suppress the urge to maximize their immediate gain and cooperate with perfect strangers, if they believe in some supernatural being present and watching. This, article contends, is true regardless what kind of deity or supernatural being that you believe in.

Now imagine yourself born into thousands years ago. No Bill of Rights, no basic human rights, no protection of states and nations. Worst of all no Internet and no Social Network. Unimaginable, yes, but bear with me for a minute. Only thing that you can rely on is your spear and your bare fists (or your legs if you can outrun your enemy). How the heck trust and cooperation based society could be formed at the beginning? What was it that allowed these ancient humans to all of sudden start cooperating?

This is an interesting question because it only takes a few act of violent (unsocial) behavior to cause breakdown of social trust (look at Afganistan's lawlessness or Mexican drug war). If we are greedy and make decisions to maximize our immediate gain, how could society have been formed? Wouldn't law and order quickly breakdown as people try to take advantage of each other?

One plausible explanation is natural selection preferring those people with belief system over those who acted in unsocial way. People who banded together to share resources and cooperate had higher chance of survival than those who couldn't cooperate with others. And social group of people were able to do this because of their belief that some being is watching over them.

So the theory goes, having a belief system, cooperating with others and behaving socially responsible may be all naturally selected traits that we learned over thousands of years of evolution.

Does this mean that Social Network is embodyment of self-actualized group of human beings?

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