Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is the evolutionary advantage of PSI?

It has always struck me weird that if PSI abilities are part of our brains and are biology related, then they would be exposed to the natural selection process. If that is the case, it seems like they would be SO beneficial that they would quickly spread throughout the population. But that does not seem to be the case, at least a conscious use of PSI seems to remain very elusive. I have heard lots of explanations, none very convincing. So it got me wondering…so I did some reading on the limits of natural selection. At that point I stumbled upon a related question, "What is the evolutionary advantage of mortality?" If passing on your genes is the goal, then intuitively you'd think the members of a group who could live longer would do better at that, just as a person with ESP would be expected to do much better at passing on their genes as someone without that trait. Regarding aging and mortality, gene research shows that mortality and the aging process is built into the system, it is genetically hardwired. How and why would such a thing evolve? The answer to that question is the same as for the one regarding the lack of conscious ESP traits in the species, too.

In nature, it’s a given that a population will expand to use the resources available. There is no "natural selection" pressure without limited resources. Without resource limits, the organism has more reproductive success if it simply reproduces more than the rest of the population. If that occurs, then the limits of available resources is reached as the population explodes. At that point, the adaptation to procreate unchecked is a pretty damning one and selected out. Given that it is more likely that resource availability varies, the natural selection process would make unchecked procreation rare.

So resource limitation is a given. That being the case, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages in two populations, one that has members that age and die, and the other that has members that do not age and die. If there is a limited amount of resources, then there is a limited population that can be sustained. Once the immortal group has reached the limit of its population, since there is no turnover, there is no further mutation. But in the group that ages and dies, there is continued mutation/adaptation/selection over time. As changes in resources occur, either good or bad, the group that has aging and death can adapt from a wider variety of options, whereas the immortal group is stuck with a limited variety of adaptability.

If this is the case, then natural selection seems to reward variability and not just reproduction. The fuel of natural selection is variability, and it must produce this fuel to sustain the process. The process of natural selection seems to value the ability to adapt over the ability to reproduce as part of its mechanics. Any static trait simply becomes future resources to be exploited once a more adaptable trait evolves to consume it. One of the continuing points of great debate in the field of evolutionary biology is whether the process of evolution occurs with the individual or within the population. If we see variability as the life-blood of natural selection, then we see that evolution as a process occurs in the individual only as part of a population. Especially in the human population, interpersonal relationships promote variability.

I have found it curious that if PSI ability is working through our biology, which research suggests it is, and because the reproductive advantage of PSI is so overpowering, then why aren't psychic powers universal in human beings and any other animal that needs to compete for resources? What could possibly be more advantageous, if the lifeblood of natural selection is adaptability, than the ability to foresee environmental changes that need to be adapted to? If my PSI skills tell me where the best food is, where the tigers are that want to eat me are, and when the next drought will occur, then I certainly am more likely to pass that PSI trait along to the next generation than the poor souls without PSI skills. I have never heard a counter-argument that makes any sense, though if you have one I'd like to hear it, email me at or post it in the comments.

Using the earlier understanding of why death is built into our biology, you can see why readily accessible psychic skills are going to be selected out of the population. While the conscious ego is designed by nature to protect and prolong life, if PSI skills were part of its toolkit then the variability would quickly be reduced in the population's gene pool. Even though the individuals could foresee future needs to adapt, that doesn't actually create new variability in the gene-pool, it reduces it by keeping the animals alive that have that certain gene for PSI and selecting out others. Curiously, the tipping point where the PSI ability would allow for increased adaptability comes when PSI information can be used to adapt, and the ability to do such logical planning and strategizing with information is relatively recent evolution-wise in humans. Looking at our present situation in the world with environmental and political crises all around us, its debatable if we've even reached that point yet. Bottom line, PSI skills can exist but not as conscious tools, so they show up as capricious events, usually to support interpersonal relationships, and then seem to disappear when most people actively try to utilize them. Given current environmental constraints, the process of natural selection is no friend of PSI ability.” -- Benton Bogle


Mack said...

I am sorry Mr. Bogle, but the analogy that PSI 'trait' is limited because of it's certain similarity to immortality is not a very convincing one. In a certain population, a trait's 'over-abundance' is more likely to stop it's own propagation if it is present in really nasty amounts. How many populations have u seen where there were so many psychics that they had a population explosion because of their survival ? And even if it is so, natural death surely keeps it under check. It appears more to be like a vestigial trait because it has been succeeded by the other higher mental functions of primates, which currently have a greater share in the survival of man.

Benton said...

Mack, thank-you so much for your comment. I am no expert in biology or natural selection, so I am always happy to be corrected and better educated on this topic that interests me so. Perhaps I did not make myself clear, but I meant to make the point that you emphasize in your comment, that an extremely beneficial trait that allows for unchecked propagation ( such as psychic skills or immortality) will prove self-limiting as it uses up all the resources in the environment, and severely limits the gene-pool. I cannot agree with your final point though, simply because I cannot think of any higher mental function or biological adaptation that would be more beneficial than PSI abilities. If I can use ESP, I will know where the best food is, where the most fertile mates are, and where all the predators are. I don't care how smart, big or fast my competitors are, I will out-reproduce them.

I think the meager amounts of PSI we see in the world, and the fact that it is rarely a conscious skill, is because any more than that would lead to the "nasty amounts" you mentioned.

Mack said...

You are truly convincing Mr. Bogle, I think that further research should be carried out in this aspect of PSI. For a beginning, if it is an evolutionary trait at all.. Is it inheritable ? We should do more study to find out whether the family tree of a confirmed psychic shows a greater tendency towards displaying such abilities or not.