Speculative Evopsych, Ep. 1

by Optimization Process1 min read22nd Nov 20189 comments


ReligionEvolutionary PsychologyFiction

(cw death, religion, suicide, evolutionary psychology, shameless tongue-in-cheek meta-contrarianism)

I have a passing interest in biology, so I recently bought some fruit flies to run experiments on. I did two things to them. First, I bred them for intelligence. The details are kinda boring, so let’s fast-forward: after a few tens of millions of generations, they were respectably intelligent, with language and culture and technology so on.

In parallel with that, and more interestingly, whenever a fly was about to die of injury, I immediately plucked it out of the box, healed it, and put it in a different box (“Box Two”), a magnificent paradise where it blissfully lived out the rest of its days. Evolutionarily, of course, relocation was equivalent to death, and so the flies evolved to treat them the same: you could still make somebody stop affecting your world by stabbing them, and their kin would still grieve and seek revenge – the only difference was the lack of a corpse.

It didn’t really matter that the two boxes were separated only by a pane of glass, and that the flies in Box One could clearly see their “deceased” fellows living fantastic lives in Box Two. They “knew” on an abstract, intellectual level that getting “fatally” wounded wouldn’t actually make them stop having conscious experiences like death would. But evolution doesn’t care about that distinction; so it doesn’t select for organisms that care about that distinction; so the flies generally disregarded Box Two.

A small subculture in Box One claimed that “if anybody actually believed in Box Two and all its wonders, they’d stab themself through the heart in order to get there faster. Everybody’s literally-mortal fear of relocation proves that they don’t truly believe in Box Two, they only – at best – believe they believe.”

Strangely, nobody found this argument convincing.