Sex, Power, and Partisanship: How Evolutionary Science Makes Sense of Our Political Divide - Hector A. Garcia 2019
On Blind Tribes and Becoming Sighted
A critical understanding of our political orientations requires that we envision an existence that predates our own. Our distant ancestors made their living directly from a hostile and uncertain natural environment. As relatively small, slow, weak, naked apes, with limited technology, their survival was far more at the mercy of nature than ours today. The basic necessities of life were often scarce, and between-group competition for resources was savage, in ways that most of us can only imagine. Because of their greater size, strength, and aggression, men were often tasked with securing scarce resources for the tribe, which they regularly won through the instrumental violence of male coalitions. Above and beyond any risk of starvation or attack, evolution's pitiless algorithms have imparted males with fitness incentives to massacre men from the rival group, capture their women, and commandeer their territory. This was the game of living in the days of our predecessors. And the pressures of living this way gave the rest of the clan fitness incentives to promote the tribe's interests and to support the groupish, aggressive males at its ruddy spearhead. Clearly it is better to be on the giving than the receiving end of intergroup raids, and in such a treacherous environment, a psychological bias favoring the in-group would have its advantages. Such were the dynamics that gave modern humans our ancient tribalistic psychology and its contemporary expression through political parties.
While today most of us aren't presented daily with the life-or-death reality of needing one another, the urgency to turn inward to the group has been so essential that today our in-group biases can be irrational, sometimes taking primacy over our stated ideologies, our self-interest, or even our deepest moral principles. It is of great concern that our in-group biases blind us to corrective information and present barriers to rationally examining our political choices, for at their worst those blinders can turn a functioning society against itself.