By Warren Kuhlman | April 4, 2022
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Evolutionary Psychology is an attempt to look at human behavior from an evolutionary perspective. Not only what people do, but how people think has been shaped by their evolutionary history. The impact of evolution on human behavior, in consciousness and self-awareness.
Photo Credit: UAlbany Faculty Website
Former UAlbany Evolutionary Psychology Professor Gordon Gallup wrote a paper titled "Extraterrestrial Intelligence: A Cognitive Evolutionary Perspective" to address the thought of the evolution of life and consciousness on other planets, in other solar systems, and maybe even in other galaxies.
There have been attempts to assess the presence of life elsewhere in the universe, suggesting that there might be intelligent life elsewhere. But all of those are inferences, they're not facts.
Humans attempted to communicate with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe including monitoring radio signals from across the universe. And in spite of all these attempts, little verifiable evidence has been found of intelligent life.
The only empirical, reproducible evidence anyone has for life, is life on planet Earth.
Gallup proposed that there are two determiners for defining intelligent life. One is the idea that intelligent life only comes of age on a planet when it attempts to work out the reasons for its own existence, self-awareness, and reflection.
Of the 2 billion years that life has been on earth, humans are the only ones that have come up with a coherent scientific account of the existence of life on planet Earth.
The other proposed idea of defining intelligence is essentially empathy. Because humans share the same receptors, sense organs, and are members of the same species, we can use our experience to make inferences about experiences. Even though no two people ever have exactly the same experience.
Despite or maybe because of these factors, humans are also the only creatures where knowledge can be dangerous.
It occurred to Professor Gallup and co-author of "Extraterrestrial Intelligence: A Cognitive Evolutionary Perspective" Hesper E. Faliveno (UAlbany Alumni) that maybe humans have not interacted with intelligent life because they found us and decided that we're far too dangerous.
Dangerous in a number of different ways. Gallup cited gun violence, wars, hate crimes, and domestic violence as just a few examples of inter-human conflict.
Pointing to evidence of this with the CDC's statistics of there being more firearms-related deaths in America than there were Motor vehicle traffic deaths for all of 2020. During this same period, the FBI reported that attacks on Asian and Black Americans increased. Which is a common trend for humans in times of stress; see the attacks on Muslims after 9/11.
For examples of war, no one needs to look further than the vicious war in Ukraine.
As for domestic violence, it's estimated that more women are killed by their husbands than all other forms of violence.
"There have been many attempts to deal with domestic violence and mass shootings and trying to restrict guns and eliminate attacks on minority groups but the prognosis has not been particularly good," said Gallup.
We are dangerous in the sense that the pollution and habitat destruction that has been wrought by humans on planet Earth along with changes in climate may pose a risk to not only ourselves but to all other life forms on the planet.
There's evidence that there have been five major extinctions on planet Earth. Extinctions were due to ice ages, asteroid impacts, and so on and so forth. And some astrobiologists believe that we're on the brink of the sixth, major extinction on planet Earth.
And that major extinction will be unique relative to all the rest, because that major extinction may be perpetrated by a single species, namely, human beings.
When it comes to climate change, there are steps that could be taken to reduce greenhouse gasses and other things that are causing the world to heat up. In spite of knowing what can be done to prevent it, we nonetheless find ourselves on the cusp of having sufficient pollution. So we may have passed by what some people think of as the point of last resort.
Even if we were to eliminate combustion, based on petroleum and so on and so forth, it may be too late.