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January 23, 2006

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The environments in which humans live are too wide and diverse for the parallel to hold perfectly. In their recent evolution, humans have not lived in any one place for tens of thousands of years exclusive of others -- they are extremely migratory.

There is much evidence, incidentally, that since the bulk of human evolution (close to 100,000 years) did take place in one location (the African Savanah) there are specific universal personality traits that were developed there.

To wit: No matter what their environment, when asked to name what they are most afraid of, young children universally list large mammals (lions, tigers, etc.) and snakes. These are the predators of the veldt; even children who grow up in gun-ridden slums and have seen people shot will say they are more afraid of tigers than guns.

Also, there is much evidence that the preferred living arrangement, nearly universally, is to have a centrally located dwelling, with space cleared in all directions (a 'lawn,' say). This represents the look of the veldt, with clear spaces where predators can be seen from far off, and some spare trees.

For the most succinct discussion on much of the research in this field, see Stephen Pinker's "The Blank Slate." The argument he puts forward is often cited in academia as being "conservative" and freqently criticized because it "can lead to eugenics." He counters this by saying the "liberal" alternative "can lead to Maoism" and that no argument should be judged by its implementation by totalitarian extremists.

McHales has closed. I missed it. Makes me regret my support for the free market all of a sudden.

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