The evolution of cognition is the story of an ever accelerating fitness optimization process. A short introduction can be found in my paper on friendly AI theory and a longer explanation is provided in
- movement controls position
- simple reflex controls movement
- complex reflex controls simple reflexes
- associated learning controls complex reflexes
- imagination controls associated learning
- conscious thought controls imagination
- beliefs control conscious thoughts
- charisma and science control beliefs
The roots of our animal urges – such as cravings for cheeseburger with fries – have probably evolved on the level of the complex reflex in a scarce caloric reality. So what is keeping (some of) us from constantly overindulging and satisfying this and other animal urges? It is of cause our realization that overeating – once necessary to prevent starvation should the next harvest not go so well – will not be worth the negative side effects in our post caloric scarcity society.
Our beliefs such as ‘overeating is bad for me’ are controlling our lower level complex reflexs such as ‘must eat good food’ and so we diet and exercise. That’s how evolution has put mind over matter – easy as pie.