The call of the savannah

We are more animal and more ancient than we admit.

Our higher selves wrestle with the great philosophical challenges of the day. Why is there no wi-fi? Why do the cleaners over-stuff the paper towel dispenser? Do I really want to have a smart meter? And, will the Russians hack it if I do?

Meanwhile, deep within, our brains arrange things the way that – based on two million years of evolution – they always have been.

New research finds that people living in the US set their home heating thermostats to mimic the climate of the African Savannah:

modern humans are setting their thermostats to give them roughly the same climate they were exposed to during the period when they had no control over the weather. It is apparently the climate in which we are still most comfortable.

That sounds a lot like the Savannah Hypothesis, which suggests that people (regardless of culture) have an innate preference for landscapes that resemble our evolutionary homeland. As Matt Ridley says:

Our antecedents spent two million years hunting and gathering in such a habitat, compared with just 40,000 in the damp, dark forests of the north, less than 10,000 in fields of corn and a few hundred in streets. It is our natural habitat as a species and it would almost be odd if, somewhere deep in our natures, there were not an evolved tendency to feel at home in it, as monkeys do in trees and fish in water.

What other preferences and behaviours lurk unnoticed deep within our minds?

The climate research, reported by Phys.Org. is here.

Matt Ridley’s blog post, from 2016 marking the 300th birthday of Capability Brown, is here.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

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