This essay aims at an entirely fresh understanding of why we behave the way we do. It is based on the innovative finding that human behavior is mainly determined by beliefs, and that our beliefs are determined by an interaction between our two belief systems. To understand the origin of belief systems and how they bring about beliefs we must start with the understanding that all body systems, including belief systems, stem from adaptive traits that derive from being naturally selected for. (Traits are adaptive when they increase an organism’s survivability.) And because our belief systems are foundational to the understanding of human behavior, the understanding of beliefs based on belief systems as presented here leads to a comprehensive rewriting of psychology.
This essay not only revolutionizes our understanding of psychology by basing human behavior on beliefs and belief systems, but it is noteworthy that this was accomplished only after it was discovered that the established approach by which evolutionary psychology had been understood was flawed.
If you agree with geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1973) that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” then obsession with security makes sense, because, surprisingly and contrary to evolutionary psychologists’ present understandings, it is now evident that natural selection selects for genes, traits, and systems solely on the basis of security (safety.)
There has been general agreement by evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary biologists that the main determinant of natural selection is reproductive fitness, which results in an increased number of offspring. It is also agreed that human behavior is adaptive and that adaptations are shaped by genes that increase reproductive fitness by prolonging survival (prolonging life) into the reproductive years. But there is no known trait that can act directly to prolong life. Although a “prolonging life” trait or gene does not exist, there are traits that do prolong life, but they work through a mechanism of preventing (postponing) death. People die for usually recognized and sometimes unrecognized reasons. Security measures to prevent a possible cause of death is the one existing mechanism by which life can be prolonged. Security measures are preventative: they prevent demises. Security is the proximate goal of adaptations; prolonging life the ultimate goal. All medical and public health measures that have dramatically increased human life expectancy – from surgical operations to antihypertensive and antibiotic medications and clean water – are security measures that act to prolong life by opposing causes of death. That security measures tend to prolong average survival into the reproductive years is the likely cause that the ensuing increased reproductive fitness results in natural selection.
Sexual selection also results in reproductive fitness (success) and is naturally selected for, but is not an adaptation that increases security or the ability to survive in the environment. For example, the beautiful peacock's tail does not increase, it may even decrease, the peacock’s physical security, but, because the ornate tail leads to sexual selection, it increases reproductive success, and, therefore, is selected for by natural selection.
For the most part, except for sexual selection, human behavior is adaptive and, as noted above, adaptations are based on security. Security is the goal of almost everything we do. We value security more than we value anything else. Security is the primary concern of our every interest: personal, social, financial, health, home, national, etc. The reason security is so basic and so important to us is that natural selection selects for traits and systems only if they are adaptations that increase security. This shifts the emphasis of evolutionary psychology and human behavior from that of prolonging life to that of increasing security: a paradigm shift. Switching to a security paradigm may seem like a minor change, but if the hypotheses developed here, which are based on a security paradigm, are confirmed, monumental consequences from rewriting major segments of psychology and related disciplines will follow. Paradigm shifts are the cause of scientific revolutions (Kuhn 1962). Simply shifting natural selection’s paradigm from prolonging life to that of security, the mechanism by which life can be prolonged, has resulted in the ability to understand large segments of psychology and of human behavior that are otherwise not understandable or have been wrongly understood.
Because natural selection selects only for security, the primary goal of our behavior is to make us secure and/or feel secure. Being secure is recognized by the cognitive belief system (CBS), and when we appreciate that we are secure, we then feel secure, as recognized by the emotional belief system (EBS). Because of natural selection, which selects only for security, we and all living organisms are a synthesis of security systems. That belief systems are security systems will be discussed in the next section.
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