06 July 2009

Envy thy neighbour - it's good for you!

Darwin taught us that we are the way we are as a result of natural selection. But scientists have often puzzled over why our brains have become so highly developed as our mental capability is vastly in excess of anything that would be necessary to keep us at the top of the food chain.

However, according to a report in the journal “Human Nature” the reason the human brain has tripled in size over the past two million years is because we became envious of our neighbours.
In other words, once we no longer needed to compete with other animals we started competing with each other. Scientists at the University of Missouri came to this conclusion as they have uncovered evidence to suggest that the brains of our ancestors who lived in larger communities grew faster than the brains of those living in smaller communities.

Their conclusion is that competing against other people is the biggest factor in the brain’s development.

So there you have it, science has established that one of the Deadly Sins delivers beneficial effects – just six more to go!

1 comment:

  1. Although this makes sense to me intuitively, I do sometimes worry about the way in which some scientists arrive at their conclusions. For example, could it not be that the faster brain development in the larger communities might be attributable to the greater complexity of that society and the potential a larger community might have for ‘pushing the boundaries’?

    To simply say that it was as a result of ‘envy’ would seem to me to be starting with the conclusion and then looking for the evidence to support it.

    Interesting idea though.


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