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Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality

ejop-v14i2-1589-f1Patricia Smith Churchland, professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute, coined “neurophilosophy,” to refer to the application of neuroscientific concepts to traditional philosophical questions. In Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, Churchland asks where values come from, and incorporates biological sciences with philosophy to answer the related moral questions.

In the first chapter, Churchland criticizes current conceptions of morality by asking why there are still unanswered fundamental questions in the field, including questions surrounding the nature of fairness. She believes that contemporary moral philosophy is “in peril of floating on a sea of mere, albeit confident, opinion” (p. 2) and has no relation to the current scientific findings in evolutionary biology and neuroscience. She suggests that we can answer some of the remaining moral questions by combining new findings in neuroscience, evolutionary biology, experimental psychology, and genetics within a philosophical framework. … Read the rest here.


Pazhoohi, F. (2018). Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 14(2), 515-518.  doi:10.5964/ejop.v14i2.1589
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On the Origin of Fairness and Cooperation

In The Origins of Fairness, which reminds us of the title of Darwin’s seminal work, Nicolas Baumard, a research scholar in the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, articulates a compelling and convincing thesis that morality is based on an evolved moral sense, and this innate and universal sense of morality is based on mutualistic logic, “the attempt to make the interaction mutually respectful of the interests of all” (p. 109). In other words, throughout the book Baumard argues that the moral sense, as the impartial consideration of each person’s interest, is produced by selective pressures. Read the rest of review here.

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Pazhoohi, F. (2018). On the Origin of Fairness and Cooperation. Human Ethology Bulletin, 33(1), 49-52https://doi.org/10.22330/heb/331/049-052

How to Live a Life with More Positive Than Negative Feelings?

Decision-making is the cognitive process of choosing a preferred option from among a set of options (Wilson and Keil 2001). Decision-making is present through every aspect of life, and making good decisions for every important occasion during lifetime is a human being’s constant endeavor (Garnham 2016). Historically, religion and philosophy have been the only domains not only acting as gateways for explaining the meaning of life (McGhee 1992) but also acting as guidelines for facilitating and directing human important decisions during lifetime.

Darwinian evolution by natural selection is regarded as another gateway capable of explaining the existence and meaning of life (Dawkins 1986). Menelaos Apostolou, Assistant Professor at the University of Nicosia, in his book, Feeling Good: An Evolutionary Perspective on Life Choices, explores human decision-making from the perspective of Darwinian evolutionary science by addressing the question of how to live a life characterized by more positive than negative feelings.

The book begins by criticizing philosophy’s inability to direct humans toward a happy life, simply because philosophy has had very little knowledge on human nature and mind. Instead, Apostolou acknowledges the work of Darwin and Wallace and the subsequent advancement in understanding human nature done by evolutionary theory. In general, in this book he argues that based on genetic makeup and environmental conditions, individuals should make decisions in their daily life that increase the chance of survival and reproduction.

In the first chapter, Apostolou briefly and in a very simple language explains the origin  and evolution of life and the fundamental evolutionary forces. Then, he summarizes ….

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ResearchBlogging.org Pazhoohi, F., & Arantes, J. (2016). How to Live a Life with More Positive Than Negative Feelings? A Review of Menelaos Apostolou, Feeling Good: An Evolutionary Perspective on Life Choices Evolutionary Psychological Science DOI: 10.1007/s40806-016-0069-1

Does ecology affect human behavior? Book Review

In their book The Parasite-Stress Theory of Values and Sociality, Randy Thornhill, Distinguished Professor at The University of New Mexico, and Corey L. Fincher, Assistant Professor at University of Warwick, present a new interpretation of human values and cultural behaviors, on the basis of ecological variations in parasite-stress prevalence across and within nations.

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Before delineating their theory in upcoming chapters, in the second chapter Thornhill and Fincher discuss their philosophical viewpoints on scientific investigation in general, and evolutionary science in particular. First, the chapter compares philosophical and scientific methods of knowing, concerning exploration of the universe and its function. In particular, in this chapter the authors challenge philosophical aesthetics and argue that pure philosophical reasoning cannot discover causes of nature without scientific testing. The authors further argue that due to personal differences in values (biased common
sense, intuition, and emotional validation of ideas), human pure reasoning, thinking, and deduction are biased, and that aesthetic philosophy cannot empirically falsify or verify hypotheses. They also argue that all areas of science that deal with life and living beings are evolutionary in essence, and that humans are evolved animals and living beings—hence, that all studies of humans are evolutionary and biological studies. … Click here to read the rest.

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ResearchBlogging.org
Pazhoohi, F. (2016). The Parasite-Stress Theory of Values and Sociality, Infectious Disease, History and Human Values Worldwide (Book Review) Canadian Studies in Population, 43 (1-2), 155-157

Cuckoldary is rare in humans!

Human behavioral scientists argue that extra-pair copulation is adaptive in human females, as through extra-pair copulation, women can acquire good genes from other potential mates. This is suggested because it is found that women experience greater sexual attraction to particular extra-pair men, but not their own partners, during their highest peak of fertility (Gangestad & Thornhil, 2008).

However, recent genetic evidences cast doubt on such arguments and suggest that the rate of cuckoldry is very low in humans (around 1 percent). To achieve historical records on cuckoldry, scientists compare family specific Y chromosomal variation between men that based on genealogical evidence, are patrilineally related. “The surprising result of these new studies is that human extra-pair paternity rates have stayed near-constant at around 1% across several human societies over the past several hundred years” (Larmuseau et al., 2016). Greeff and Erasmus (2015) also showed that genetic analysis in Afrikaner families in South Africa shows 0.9% rate of cuckoldry and argued that given the current data on historical populations we have to conclude that, at least for Western human populations, cuckoldry rate is probably in the range of 1%”.

So what does it mean? Does the rarity of cuckoldry in human historical records mean that women do not look for potential mates with good genes, or it simply means that human men are good in mate retention and anti-cuckoldry tactics? That’s the question that should be considered now.

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ResearchBlogging.org Gangestad, S., & Thornhill, R. (2008). Human oestrus Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275 (1638), 991-1000 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1425

Greeff, J., & Erasmus, J. (2015). Three hundred years of low non-paternity in a human population Heredity, 115 (5), 396-404 DOI: 10.1038/hdy.2015.36

Larmuseau MH, Matthijs K, & Wenseleers T (2016). Cuckolded Fathers Rare in Human Populations. Trends in ecology & evolution, 31 (5), 327-9 PMID: 27107336

Mate Retention Tactics Decline with Age of Men

Physical attractiveness influences mate selection across cultures, and youthfulness of women is associated with their future reproductive value and fertility. Men attribute importance to youthful features in females such as large eyes, small nose, higher pitched voice, and full lips and perceive these neotenous features as attractive. More feminine women report more frequently being guarded by their partners than less feminine and less attractive women; (Mate retention or mate guarding tactics are behaviors that men and women use to reduce the likelihood of their partner’s infidelity. For example, vigilance, monopolization of mate’s time, emotional manipulation, and derogation of competitors are just to name a few).

Additionally, men undergo hormonal (i.e. testosterone) age-related changes which are associated with decreased ability to attract mates, compete with rival men, decreased sexual motivation, energy availability, and a compromised ability to acquire resources. Men over 45 years report decreased sexual desire, sexual arousal, and activity.

In their recent paper, Pazhoohi, Jahromi, and Doyle (2016) showed that as men age, mate retention tactic use declines. Considering age-dependent testosterone decrease and the association of testosterone with the intensity of mate retention, they showed that men show a lesser degree of mate retention behaviors as they age.

However, one limitation of their study has been that they have not measured testosterone, as they state “The major limitation of the current study is the lack of direct measures of testosterone from male participants. Further investigations would be appropriate to test circulating or salivary testosterone levels and their relationship to mate retention behavior performed by men and at what age.”

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ResearchBlogging.orgPazhoohi, F., Jahromi, A., & Doyle, J. (2016). Mate Retention Tactics Decline with Age of Iranian Men Evolutionary Psychological Science DOI: 10.1007/s40806-016-0046-8

How the brain got language: The mirror system hypothesis

Language is a unique feature of human beings. In addition to having the ability to use language, humans can conjecture about language consciously and even create realistic constructed languages from scratch. In How the brain got language, Michael A. Arbib, whose work has been influential in shaping the field of computational neuroscience, addresses the title question by exploring the multimodality of language and the Mirror System Hypothesis.

Arbib, a pioneering scientist who links computer science and neuroscience, argues in this volume that an interdisciplinary approach is needed to solve the problem of language evolution as it is “a puzzle of many pieces” (p. 4). He proposes an approach to the question of language evolution that differs from that of other linguists. He hypothesizes that language perception and production emerged from brain mechanisms that evolved to mediate practical non-communicative actions. This stands in contrast to the “speech-only” view of language evolution held by many scholars who consider the evolution from monkey vocalizations to human speech to be “purely in the vocal-auditory domain, without any role for gesture” (p. 179). He specifically argues for the importance of manual gestures for the evolution of the language-ready brain; these processes equipped early Homo Sapiens with the brain mechanisms that allow modern humans to learn languages.

Click here to read more.

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ResearchBlogging.org
Farid Pazhoohi (2014). How the brain got language: The mirror system hypothesis (review) The Canadian Journal of Linguistics / La revue canadienne de linguistique , 59 (3)