TINBERGEN’S FOUR QUESTIONS, BIOLOGICALLY USELESS BEHAVIOR AND HUMANISTIC ETHOLOGY

Miloslav Kršiak
Department of Pharmacology, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University of Prague, Prague, Czech Republic

Korespondenční autor: Miloslav Kršiak (miloslav.krsiak@lf3.cuni.cz)

ISSN 1804-7181 (On-line)

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Submitted:24. 10. 2011
Published online: 28. 6. 2012

Summary

The Tinbergen’s four basic ethological questions (regarding the function of a behavior in survival or reproduction, what stimuli elicit it, its ontogeny and evolutionary history) when applied to man solely from biological point of view seem to be often inappropriate. For example, what is the survival function of behaviors that have emerged in modern man such as burial, artwork, and religious behavior? These behaviors seem not to be essential for survival or the spreading one’s own genes; instead they seem to be biologically useless. It could be revealing to employ Tinbergen’s four questions to man with respect to biological uselessness, especially to humanistic phenomena (e.g. non-biological needs, such as close personal relationships without clear biological or economic value, and behaviors linked to self-realization, freedom, and dignity), which seem to be as natural as biological ones, but are specifically human. This application might stimulate interest for example in the role of spontaneous internal non-biological stimuli in man, in ontogeny as well as phylogeny of positive interpersonal relationships, in humanistic aspects of non-biological evolution, its selection mechanism. Biologically useless phenomena are sometimes demeaned as by-products of biological evolution, like spandrels forming the spaces above arches, but they may be crucial in non-biological evolution of man. Combining ethological concepts with humanistic perspectives could help to rescue human ethology from its current stalemate. Such ethology of man could be called “Humanistic ethology” to put in on par with the already well-established discipline of “Humanistic psychology”.

Keywords: ethology; human ethology; evolution; origin of man; humanistic ethology; biologically useless behavior; Tinbergen’s four questions; humanistic evolution

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