Aristotle, in the most classic description of man, called him the rational animal. It’s a double-edged sword; for, rationality necessarily implies the ability to be irrational as well. Taken together, we’re beings of free will — of volition. Where other animals simply operate according to a very simple set of “values” that are contingent upon their environment, man can freely possess whole realms of complex (even contradictory) values, or eschew values other men might posses.
For purposes of this post, I’m going to use rational value to mean those values that generally promote individual well being, and irrational values to mean those values that are generally harmful to the individual. Then there are values — lots of them — that have no clear impact one way or the other, and so are simply matters of preference.
What’s unique about man is that we can change our environment when it suits us. Other animals have no choice but to move elsewhere, i.e., to “greener pastures,” or die; and the only way to get there is by whatever means the species has for moving around. Man, on the other hand, can employ reason (essentially: the ability to identify reality in objective, non-contradictory terms) to produce, thereby putting reason to work in solving the problem of survival. He can build shelter, fashion clothing, generate heat and other forms of energy, transport himself great distances rapidly, and even modify the environment to better suit his survival, such as building bridges and dams.
He can also invent or cultivate foods that 3.5 million years of evolution never adapted our genes to handle, or to handle in concentrations available today. When you look around and witness the increasing and alarming levels of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, it becomes increasingly difficult to buy the notion that it’s simply a matter of cheap food, sloth, and eating too much (thrifty gene; I’ll be writing about it a lot). And then there’s the “low fat” hype. We’re around 20 years into that, people have replaced fat calories with sugar calories (that includes bread, pasta, rice, etc), and the results have been an unmitigated disaster.
This is just a very brief overview of the operating principles, precepts, manifesto, or whatever you care to call it. I will be developing all this further in a series of posts over time. In the meantime, the guy who really stated it all for me, Art de Vany — and I’m glad his name begins with an ‘A’ so it’s at the top of the acknowledgements — has a must-read interview that covers the principles of “evolutionary fitness” very nicely.
It’s by Chris Shugart at T-Nation. Do take the 10 minutes or so to read it, but here’s a relevant excerpt to motivate you.
All this means you should live more like an animal, a human one whose long existence on Earth was spent as a hunter-gatherer. Train, eat, and play, but do it in an intermittent and unpatterned way, just as wild animals do.