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14 Apr 2013

Emotions and the Pursuit of Happiness

Posted by jofr. No Comments

Us_declaration_independence

The United States Declaration of Independence says that the pursuit of happiness is a basic, unalienable human right: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The pursuit of happiness is indeed something which we all strive to do. Driven by our emotions, we try to pursue what feels good, and try to avoid what feels bad. Animals are biological machines for the pursuit of pleasure and happiness. And these machines are controlled by an ancient control mechanism: emotions. They have evolved over hundreds of millions of years and enable to us to cope with all kinds of environments.

Emotions are an adaptation of animals to solve the problem of movment in fast changing, complex and challenging environments. They tell them what to do when. The main purpose of emotions is to guarantee the fulfillment of the primary directive of the genes: to eat, survive and reproduce, thereby levering the genes into the next generation. The number of different emotions can be staggering. But if we organize them along certain dimensions and distinguish different categories, the situation becomes a bit simpler.

Randolph Nesse proposes goal pursuit for this purpose [1]. If we view life as a sequence of episodes in which oragnisms attempt to reach goals and avoid threats, then according to Nesse, a simple model for goal pursuit goes like this: positive emotions are associated with opportunities, while negative ones are linked to threats. In this model basically everything boils down to pleasure (do it) and pain (don’t do it).

Before After
Opportunity Desire Pleasure
Threat
Fear Pain

A more detailed version of the table makes the following division of emotions [1,2]:

Situation Before During Obstacle After Success After Failure
Opportunity Desire,
Excitement
Engagement,
Flow, Interest
Frustration,
Anger, Despair
Pleasure,
Joy, Happiness
Disappointment
Threat Fear,
Anxiety
Confidence,
Coping
Dread,
Despair
Relief Pain,
Sadness

The interesting thing about this perspective is that negative emotions can be good for us and positive ones can be bad. In certain situations negative emotions can be useful, because they protect us and help us to avoid threats. Positive emotions can be bad if they are maladaptive, if we pursue the wrong opportunities because the emotions do not recognize the right thing [1,2].

The most complex goals arise in social situations and social relationships. Apparently these situations have been so ubiquitous that special emotions have evolved to deal with them. Nesse proposes the following categories for emotions that deal with situations which repeatedly arise in managing social relationships: “trust and friendship after repeated successful exchanges, suspicion and anger before and after the other defects, and anxiety and guilt before and after the self defects” [2]

Other cooperates Other defects
You cooperate Trust, Friendship, Love Before: suspicion
After: anger
You defect
Before: anxiety
After: guilt
Rejection
Disgust

 

 

References

[1] Natural selection and the elusiveness of happiness,
Randolph M Nesse,
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2004 September 29; 359(1449): 1333–1347.

[2] Evolutionary Foundations for psychatric diagnosis,
Randolph M. Nesse and Eric D. Jackson,
chapter 6 in “Maladapting Minds: Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Evolutionary Theory”
Pieter R. Adriaens, Andreas De Block (Editors)
Oxford University Press, 2011

 (The picture of the United States Declaration of Independence is from Wikipedia)

 

14 Apr 2013

Maladaptations of the Pleistocene

Posted by jofr. No Comments

mal·a·dap·tive – Not providing adequate or appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation

The last post was about fast food as maladaptation. The preference for fat and sugar which leads to fast food is not the only maladaptation. The preference for pornography is another. In a way, fast food is indeed like pornography: it is a bit like the real thing, and seems to taste well in the beginning, but is not really satisfying in the end. And it is not good for you. Constant stress is not good for you, either, although it was once useful to be instantly ready for fight or flight responses. A recent book about maladaptation says (Jerome Wakefield, chapter 5, p. 168 [1]):

“In our own society there are features of ours likely naturally selected, such as a taste for fat and sugar, a fight-or-flight response to stressful situations, shyness about speaking to groups of strangers, and sexual desire not limited to our spouses, that cause us much trouble. In the new environment we have created for ourselves (plentiful food availability, high stress, mass communication, lots of interaction with other people’s spouses) these features, which may previously have helped us survive, cause us problems.”

Our bodies have evolved to eat, survive and reproduce in an environment where food and mates were sparse, where stress and stressful emergencies were unpredictable and rare, and where there was plenty of space and large need for movement. Now we have plenty of food, sit around the whole day in a stressful office, move around in public transport, and watch porn on the internet. It is not surprising that this behavior makes us sick. As Robert Sapolsky has shown [2], our bodies are not designed for the 21st century and the constant stress of modern life. They are more suited to life of the Pleistocene and in the open Savanna. The constant stress in noisy offices and polluted cities makes us sick and leads to stess related and cardiovascular diseases, for instance ulcers and coronary heart diseases. Zebras don’t get ulcers, as Sapolsky observed cleverly [2], because they do not sit around in smelly and noisy offices the whole day. If the stress response set ins, they simply run away and outrun the lion.

A changed environment has turned useful adaptation into maladaptations:

  • Desire for Fat and Sugar (=> Fast Food related diseases)
  • Stress Response, Need for movement (=> Stess related cardiovascular diseases)
  • Desire for Mating (=> Sex addiction)
  • Flexible sexual desire based on imprinting (=> Pornography)

800px-Tiger_in_South_IndiaWe have all kinds of mental disorders in modern life as well, addictions, depressions, phobias, mental disorders etc.. They are not directly maladaptations, but often byproducts of emotions. Emotions have an evolved function, i.e. they are normally useful and adaptive, but can go “off the rails” in certain cases in wrong environments. Fear and anxiety are natural responses to life-threatening situations. In modern environments there are no longer big cats and wild cave bears. In our world traffic accidents are much more life-threatening than meeting a lion, tiger or leopard. Thus we develop traffic phobias after traffic accidents instead of being frightened of dangerous predators after meeting one [1] . Mild forms of depression for instance are natural, too. They are a useful response to disengage from useless efforts and failing enterprises [1], as we have discussed earlier depression is an adaptation to hopeless situations. But in modern environments this “disengagement” mechanism can be maladaptive, for instance if many people just can not find a job (due to bad political or economic conditions) it will make them sick.

But we are a clever species, and we will find a way to cope with it 😉

References

[1] Maladapting Minds: Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Evolutionary Theory
Pieter R. Adriaens, Andreas De Block (Editors)
Oxford University Press, 2011

[2] Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping
Robert M. Sapolsky
W. H. Freeman, 1998

(The image of the tiger is from Wikipedia)

24 Feb 2013

Fast Food as Maladaptation

Posted by jofr. No Comments

Maladaptation is a trait or property required by adaptation that is (or has become) more harmful than helpful. Fast food and addictive junk food can be considered as a consequence of maladaptation. It is not suprising that we crave for sugar and fat. DNA and RNA are made of sugar (they both have a sugar phosphate backbone), and cell membranes are made of fat (i.e. lipids), and both sugar and fat are basic energy sources for the metabolism of the cell. The brain would not work without sugar at all. As carbon based life-forms we need to take in our basic building blocks – carbohydrates and hydrocarbon chain compounds – to maintain our physical integrity. The problem is that the drive to consume sugar and fat was the best genes could construct when food was sparse and hard to obtain. In modern times where food is pervasive and plenty, it is no longer a good adaptation. One could speak of a maladaptation. Genes selected and adapted to survive undernutrition in ancient environments produce overnutrition in modern environments [1]. This maladaptation to the modern world leads to obesity, diabetes and metabolic diseases. And fast food makes money of it. We all know that too much of a good thing makes you sick. Companies naturally produce what sells and tastes well, and not what is good for us. A recent NYTimes article says “As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.” [2]

References

[1] Metabolic syndrome: maladaptation to a modern world, Terence J Wilkin and Linda D Voss, J R Soc Med. 2004 November; 97(11) 511–520

[2] The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, NYTimes.com article from Michael Moss

9 Feb 2013

To be an adventurer

Posted by jofr. No Comments

We have seen earlier that the most difficult question in philosophy, the what it is like to be question of subjective experience (Thomas Nagel), the explanatory gap (Joseph Levine) and the hard problem of consciousness (David Chalmers), is connected to the most obvious things in everyday life: to ordinary things such as watching films and going to the cinema. By watching films or reading books about the life of a certain person, we can get a glimpse of what it is like to be that person, because we can experience directly what it is like to be in a certain situation or environment. Why hasn’t this been noticed clearly before? Maybe philosophers don’t do what ordinary people do, like going to the cinema for example. Or people who go to the cinema do not think about deep philosophical questions. Or maybe it is just too obvious?

However, while philosophers continue to ponder over deep philosophical questions, technological progress goes ahead and enables people to witness extraordinary things never seen before. Modern versatile compact cameras that can be attached to helmets allow observers to immerse themselves in the world of the actor. They show what it is like to be someone in every detail. Of course we don’t want to know what it is like to be a loser or a coward (although that can be funny, too). We want to see what it is like to live the exciting life of a hero, athlete or adventurer.

This video for example, which is an ad for the GoPro camera, shows adventurers in various extreme sports. Suddenly, it seems very easy to see what it is like to fly down a mountain, to have a Kayak aventure, to be a surfer spending your day at the beach, to be a ski champion, to meet a white shark during diving, to take part in an ocean race or even to swim with dolphins. All you have to do is watch a short film. We can experience flying, diving, racing, surfing, etc. in high resolution while sitting on a comfortable couch at home.

These short clips are useful to understand the excitement and the arousal which can be experienced during sports in spectacular and splendid surroundings. They reveal what it means to be a sportsman in extreme and extraordinary environments. To understand more complex emotions which involve the self, like anger, fear, pride and gratitude, it is necessary to follow the individual on a longer path. If we do this, we begin to understand what it is like to be this specific individual person. The principle is simple: we can understand and reproduce path-dependent behavior if we follow the path that led to this behavior – which is why the CV of a person is so important for the human resources department. The deeper we immerse into the history of the person, the better we understand the behavior.

For example if we want to understand what is was to be an outlaw in the adventurous wild West, say Billy the Kid, it is helpful to take a look at his story. If we read a book or to view a film about the life of Billy the Kid, we learn that he had no parents and no home, and was more or less a fugitive. He began to steal because he had nothing to eat. Later he rustled cattle to make a living. He lived in a lawless time of the wild West, surrounded by other outlaws, gunmen and cowboys, and participated in the Lincoln County War. Like other soldiers in wars, he killed people because he was scared that they would kill him. When he was in prison and killed two guards in a jailbreak, he was acting out of fear, since he should be hanged. Viewed in this way, even the life of a legend becomes less mysterious, but still remains fascinating.

25 Dec 2012

Multicellular life and the origin of cancer

Posted by jofr. 2 Comments

We had an interesting discussion in the mathematical oncology group (co-)founded by David Basanta in the last days. David is interested in studying cancer as an evolutionary disease, knows a lot about the evolutionary aspects of cancer, and drawed our attention to some controversial articles from Paul Davies.

Paul Davies suggested last year that cancer might be an evolutionary throwback to the dawn of multicellular life. This year he has proposed again that cancer may be an throwback to ancient biological age, this time together with Charles Lineweaver. While this has caused refusal and anger, especially among professionals and biologists, some of his ideas are fascinating. Can cancer be considered as an “evolutionary throwback to the dawn of multicellular life, when single cells began cooperating and forming rudimentary aggregations”, as Davies argues in his 2011 article? Is, as Davies suggests in his 2012 article, the fact that “cancer cells thrive in low-oxygen conditions” a sign that they are “reverting to an earlier, albeit less efficient, form of metabolism known as Fermentation” used in the ancient era before multicellular life?

The idea that cancer might be an evolutionary throwback to the dawn of multicellular life sounds odd, but maybe it is not completely wrong. Cancer is a genetic disesase and an evolutionary one. Cancer evolves. It’s obvious that the ability of individual cells to proliferate is essential for life, and any deregulation of this process will have dramatic consequences in form of cancer. It is also clear that there is a certain similarity between early multicellular life, embryonic development and cancer: in all cases a single cell develops into a cluster of multiple ones. So where is the evidence? Well, for one there are many other evolutionary systems as well which are subject to evolution. And we do have these kinds of throwbacks in forms of cultural evolution. I wrote about it earlier here and here. Maybe there are indeed some common grounds between different evolutionary systems. I think that some of the ideas mentioned by Davies are not completely wrong. If we consider cultural evolution, there are indeed cases of ‘cultural cancer’ which are like a backslide, throwback or fall-back to earlier, more primitive forms of organization. Some forms of organized crime for example can arise from the ‘stem cell’ of the family. Fascism can emerge from the ‘stem cell’ of the religious or ideological group (think of the Nazis, WWII, etc.). These forms of organization are more primitive and have a lower degree of Differentiation than the surrounding environment, but also much more aggressive. There are indeed some deep similarities.

We know a lot about cancer and carcinogenesis. We know that it takes 5-7 independent mutations until a tumor develops. One of these mutations for instance often deactivates the tumor suppressor protein p53 or its regulator mdm2 (see picture, p53 controls a certain phase in the cell cycle and acts as a brake which prevents uncontrolled growth and cell Proliferation. This connection between cell cycle and cancer is well known. The p53 Family of proteins is indeed very old, at least 700 million years old). If cancer would be caused simply by a reactivation of ancestral silent genes, then this would have been found out and reported by now. And yet we are powerless against the most aggressive forms of cancer. It would be wonderful if we finally make some progress, especially because the search for a “unified model” of cancer biology has been an elusive goal so far.

The idea that cancer is based on a evolutionary throwback to the dawn of multicellular life, when single cells began cooperating and aggregating, fits also well to the hypothesis of cancer stem cells. Scientists have found some striking parallels between “evil” tumor inducing cancer cells cells and “good” stem cells – both have indefinite potential for self-renewal (see Reya et al. Stem cells, cancer, and cancer stem cells). And both have tremendous power, either to re-create or to destroy the system (since self-rejuvenation and cancer are linked). Cancer stem cells are similar to “selfish” single-celled organisms, as they must have existed at the onset of multicellular life.

Yet some biologists are upset that the solution to one of the most difficult problems is so simple. It is indeed a bit like presenting the name of the problem as its solution: a failure in the regulation of multicellularity is a description and more or less a definition of cancer, but not a solution or cure. And of course the genes for multicellularity are as old as multicellular life itself. Obviously the oldest genes will perform the most fundamental tasks in the cell, such as replication and regulation of multicellular development. Therefore it is not difficult to understand why biologists are angry about Paul Davies, he makes wild speculations and lofty conclusions in their playground, claiming to have identified trivial facts as the root cause of cancer without the willingness to make his hands dirty by formulating a full theory and presenting evidence for it. Somehow his “theory” is a bit like Anne Elke and her brontosaurus theory (which is possibly a parody of Stephen Jay Gould’s “punctuated equilibrium” theory). Yet I like dinosaurs, and most biologists agree that there is indeed a relation or at least a similarity between the evolution of multicellular life, embryonic development and cancer. Cancer belongs to life like explosions to rockets. It is a fundamental property of genes to reproduce and proliferate, just as it the fundamental property of rockets to burn and to explode in a controlled way. If Davies is at least partially right, then “cancers” maybe are the rule, and highly organized biological life-forms are the exception.

Unlike Paul Davies Guadian article from 2011, the Guardian article from 2012 places emphasis on an earlier, less efficient, form of metabolism known as fermentation. Do we have any evidence for an altered metabolism in the majority of cancer cells? This would indicate that some malicious cancers are indeed similar to an alien or ancient life-form based on a distinct type of metabolism. In our discussion, Joe Juliano mentioned a paper from Mark Vincent, Cancer: A de-repression of a default survival program common to all cells which supports this views. According to the hallmarks of cancer paper from Hanahan and Weinberg (2011) the answer seems to be yes: reprogramming of energy metabolism seems to be a hallmark of cancer. It is one of the two new hallmarks proposed by Hanahan and Weinberg to extend the classic hallmarks of cancer, the ‘six organizing principles’: an altered form of metabolism and a kind of immune or defense system.

  • Sustaining proliferative signaling
  • Evading growth suppressors (insensitivity to anti-growth signals)
  • Activating invasion and metastasis
  • Enabling replicative immortality (limitless replicative potential)
  • Inducing angiogenesis (blood vessel growth)
  • Resisting apoptosis (cell death)
  • NEW: reprogramming of energy metabolism
  • NEW: evading immune destruction (resistance immune system)

Both are typical properties of systems, sub-systems for self-maintenance and self-protection. Will the (evolutionary) system approach be helpful in our attempt to understand cancer? Can evolutionary theory help us to understand the essential aspects of cancer? I think no theory or idea is too weird or too odd if it it helps to fight this terrible disease. At least we should follow every path, even if it turns out to be a blind alley in the end.

Literature

American Scientist articles:

Guardian articles by Paul Davies:

(the Image of the p53 Tumor Suppression protein is from Wikipedia)

11 Nov 2012

As far as thought can reach

Posted by jofr. No Comments

As far as thought can reach is a play in the book Back to Methuselah from the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). It plays in the year 31,920 AD and imagines a world where short-lived people are a mere footnote in ancient history.

How will life in the future look like, when organisms are no longer short-lived? What is the burden of eternal life? Maybe eternal life would be boring, since “everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough”, as Shaw argues. Or maybe quite the contrary, life would be infinitely interesting: “If you should turn out to be a person of infinite capacity, you will no doubt find life infinitely interesting”.

Maybe such long-lived life-forms will try to seek perfection in art and science. They would scan all available webpages and books and absorb the contained knowledge. Maybe they will have a curious, playful attitude and play with artificial worlds and artificial life-forms just as our children are playing with dolls. Shaw argues “ever since men existed, children have played with dolls”. Wait – a playful entity that crawls all webpages and scans all books – we have got that already, do we?

In Shaw’s play, the characters finally create artificial men in a laboratory, who soon kill their creator. What do you think, if we create real artificial intelligence and synthetic life-forms one day, would it be like Skynet trying to kill us? Would it be bored like Marvin, the paranoid android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Or would it find life infinitely interesting?

H.G. Wells said in his article “The discovery of the future” (Nature 65, 326–331, 1902) that the question what comes after man would be “the most fascinating and the most insoluble question in the whole world”..

“This fact that man is not final is the great unmanageable, disturbing fact that arises upon us in the scientific discovery of the future, and to my mind, at any rate, the question what is to come after man is the most persistently fascinating and the most insoluble question in the whole world.”

..and he continues to say that the best is yet to come and humans as we know them are only the beginning of a beginning:

“It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all that the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening. We cannot see, there is no need for us to see, what this world will be like when the day has fully come. We are creatures of the twilight. But it is out of our race and lineage that minds will spring, that will reach back to us in our littleness to know us better than we know ourselves, and that will reach forward fearlessly to comprehend this future that defeats our eyes.”

(Picture of the Stanford Torus is from Wikipedia)

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27 Oct 2012

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

Posted by jofr. No Comments

The October edition of Scientific American has an article named The Wisdom of Psychopaths from Kevin Dutton [1], which is an adapted excerpt from his book of the same name [2]. Prof. Kevin Dutton is a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK.

The article and the book argue that traits that are common among psychopathic serial killers – an exaggerated sense of self-worth, persuasiveness, superficial charm, ruthlessness, lack of empathy and remorse and the skilled manipulation of others – are also shared by many successful business leaders. Are psychopathic attributes like amoral behavior and zero degrees of empathy indeed helpful to be successful in business, sports and politics?

The story of Lance Armstrong comes to mind: he denied any claims of doping for years and continued to say that he is innocent, and yet used one of the most systematic forms of doping ever. He lied, cheated and doped repeatedly, for years. Although he used doping in the most sophisticated, systematic and professionalized way that sport has ever seen – the official USADA doping report talks of a systemic, sustained and highly professionalized team-run doping conspiracy – he even sued others that accused him of doping. And won. And yet after the truth was finally unearthed and the world recognized what really happened, he showed no sign of remorse or guilt, as it is common among psychopaths.

His German competitor Jan Ullrich is not better, he has done the same things: intensive doping, repeated lies and law suits against people who accused him of doping. He broke the rules to win (he cheated and doped continuously), and to hide the cheating he broke even more rules (he betrayed and lied). It looks like it was not possible to win without cheating. As we argued earlier, fraud, cheating and betrayal can be seen as an adapation to certain situations: fraud is an adaptation to domains where it is impossible to achieve a goal with honesty and truth. They happen in science as well, although honesty and truth are among the highest values here.

So what can psychopaths teach us about success? They tell us that honesty, selflessness and friendliness are not helpful if you want to be successful in business or sports. If you really want to win then psychopathic qualities can be useful and advance your career. As Dutton argues, psychopaths have a certain set of mental attributes and personality traits that gives them a crucial advantage, including complete ruthlessness, fearlessness, and shamelessness, as well as massive egocentricity, superficial charm, and surprising persuasiveness, combined with a total lack of conscience, remorse and empathy. Together with physical aggression, violence and impulsivity this leads to law-breaking criminal behavior on the one hand, together with intelligence to success in business and sports on the other hand. In the end, the truth may be unearthed, though.

So it seems like business leaders, world champions and serial killers share a mindset. If you meet someone who is spectacularly self-centered and repeatedly caught lying over and over again, then you might have encountered a successful business man, a world champion – or a serial killer.

References

[1] Kevin Dutton, What Psychopaths Teach Us about How to Succeed, Scientific American, October 2012

[2] Kevin Dutton, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

( The Flickr Photo is from Victor1558 )

1 Aug 2012

Zero Degrees of Empathy

Posted by jofr. 1 Comment

A few weeks ago we examined the relation between the mysterious (the hard problem of subjective experience) and the obvious (the core of show business is the creation of exactly these subjective experiences). Unlike philosophers in academic ivory towers, people are usually able to imagine what it is like to be someone or something.

The process is named empathy: empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. But there are exceptions. People who are not moved at all by the short film above are rare, but they certainly exist. There are also people which are unable to feel any degree of empathy at all: people who struggle with autism or have an antisocial personal disorder. Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at Cambridge University, argued in his book ‘Zero Degrees of Empathy‘ (Penguin, 2011) that autistic people have difficulty with cognitive empathy, while sociopaths, extremely selfish people and other people with antisocial personal disorders have difficulty with experiencing affective empathy.

The difference between cognitive and affective empathy is as follows: Cognitive empathy means a person is able think others’ thoughts, to imagine how another person might be thinking in a certain situation, and how the inner thoughts of the person might look like. It is possible by perceiving a situation from another person’s perspective, thereby replicating another’s mental states. Affective empathy adds an emotional component, it means a person is able to feel others’ feelings, to imagine how another person might feel in a certain situation, how the inner emotional world of the person might look like, and how to respond with an appropriate emotion.

Maybe this empathy approach is a way to understand human cruelty. According to Baron-Cohen, autistic people struggle to understand other people’s thinking and find others confusing, but rarely hurt them. On the contrary, psychopaths and people with antisocial personality disorders understand and manipulate others, but often hurt them. These people may never experience true empathy, and the subjective experience of others will remain partly a mystery for them – either because they can not understand others, or because they do not want to. The rest of us can continue to enjoy good books and movies – for instance the ones from Pixar.

References
Zero Degrees of Empathy: A new theory of human cruelty
Simon Baron-Cohen
Penguin Books Limited, 2011

28 Jul 2012

Friendliness as adaptation

Posted by jofr. No Comments

If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need – go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help – the only ones.
~ John Steinbeck

According to John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the great American writer, helpfulness is a phenomenon that naturally accompanies or follows poverty. You may have experienced this yourself, people in poor countries, areas and environments are often much friendlier than those in rich ones. Why is that so?

Maybe one reason is that poor people and have-nots have nothing to lose, contrary to rich ones. Rich people fear that they may lose their wealth, their social position, or other material benefits. They do not tend to give it away for free, and want to keep it for themselves. This selfish behavior is of course the opposite of the Christian virtues such as kindness and friendliness. In the bible there is the metaphor of the “eye of the needle” in Matthew 19:24: “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Poor people are different, they are not in situation where they can lose much. Quite the contrary, bad behavior can only make their situation worse. But good behavior, for instance kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, and helpfulness, can improve their situation by improving relations to other people, which may return the favor sooner or later, either directly (themselves) or indirectly (by others they know). Kindness and friendliness tighten the bonds in a social network. Already Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together”.

It is the opposite phenomenon of arrogance among rich people, which we mentioned earlier. Friendliness, kindness and helpfulness can be seen as adaptation to poverty, poorness and unfortunate conditions. They can draw the attention of the unconcerned environment to oneself and compensate the lack of resources by direct or indirect reciprocity.

Bad conditions may produce bad or even criminal behavior, but more often they do not. It is quite remarkable that bad conditions apparently produce sometimes good behavior. As Steinbeck observed, the things we perceive as good – success, prosperity and richness – are often accompanied by bad behavior, while the things we perceive as bad – failure, poverty, and poorness – are followed by behavior which we consider as good.

It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.
~ John Steinbeck

( The Flickr image which symbolizes help is from user zilverbat )

12 Jul 2012

Cats With Captions

Posted by jofr. No Comments

Cats are smarter than you think. They can calculate..

funny cat pictures - Lolcats: My budget needs an increase NOW.

..and read..


what do ya think this article about tuna looks interesting

..and they know what they want: bottles of milk and cans of tuna. Cats love milk and tuna. If it is good for them is another question.

if you want a term paper  it'll cost you ten cans of tuna

They like care and attention..

funny cat pictures - Lolcats: Hey, Human!

They also know that they do not want: dogs and other unpleasant fellows..


Nope. No matter how I figures it, you can't afford a dog.

see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

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