lunes, 15 de julio de 2013

El contrato social y la evolución

Contractual agreement so thoroughly pervades human social behavior, virtually like the air we breathe, that it attracts no special notice—until it goes bad. Yet it deserves focused scientific research for the following reason. All mammals, including humans, form societies based on a conjunction of selfish interests. Unlike the worker castes of ants and other social insects, they resist committing their bodies and services to the common good. Rather, they devote their energies to their own welfare and that of close kin. For mammals, social life is a contrivance to enhance personal survival and reproductive success. As a consequence, societies of nonhuman mammalian species are far less organized than the insect societies. They depend on a combination of dominance hierarchies, rapidly shifting alliances, and blood ties. Human beings have loosened this constraint and improved social organization by extending kinshiplike ties to others through long-term contracts.
Contract formation is more than a cultural universal. It is a human trait as characteristic of our species as language and abstract thought, having been constructed from both instinct and high intelligence. Thanks to ground-breaking experiments by the psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby at the University of California at Santa Barbara, we know that contract formation is not simply the product of a single rational faculty that operates equally across all agreements made among bargaining parties. Instead, one capacity, the detection of cheating, is developed to exceptional levels of sharpness and rapid calculation. Cheater detection stands out in acuity from mere error detection and the assessment of altruistic intent on the part of others. It is furthermore triggered as a computation procedure only when the cost and benefits of a social contract are specified. More than error, more than good deeds, and more even than the margin of profit, the possibility of cheating by others attracts attention. It excites emotion and serves as the principal source of hostile gossip and moralistic aggression by which the integrity of the political economy is maintained...
E. O. Wilson, Consilience

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