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Thinking in terms of evolution

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Thinking in terms of evolution

Postby NathanCroftonBond » Sun Oct 27, 2013 7:29 pm

Recently my thoughts have been with evolution. I have been trying to analyse all human behaviour in terms of evolutionary advantage/purpose. This includes depression, love, pleasure, etc. I find I am become too scientific about everything, but is there such a thing? I guess I feel it's taking some pleasure out of life, but then again the only purpose in such pleasure is to aid my survival and reproductive success.

I suffer from OCD, so I have a hard time getting these thoughts out of my mind. I am interested in evolution and biology - I intend to study neuroscience next year. But am I thinking too much into things by looking for evolutionary purpose in everything?
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Postby Darby » Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:57 am

Don't try to reduce every feature to advantages - species, especially social ones, are packages, and it's not certain what the driving details might be...
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Postby JackBean » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:47 am

Of course we can only try to explain the reasons behind our behaviour and it will be always only guesses, but just yesterday I found a book about the evolutionary reasoning behind human sex-related behaviour. I don't remember the author's name or the book's title, I'll look it up next time I'll be there.
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Postby Luxorien » Sat Nov 16, 2013 7:14 pm

Think of it this way:

Taking care of our children ensures that our genes get passed on and so is advantageous. It serves an evolutionary purpose.

But is that why we take of our children?

He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God, God never spoke.


Darwin is relevant here also, I think:

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil. Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.
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Postby JackBean » Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:34 pm

@Luxorien: although you're right, you cannot compare modern (at least as modern as in Darwinian times) society with humans at the dawn of our history, i.e. in the times when we yet had to fight for our survival. Those customs did not evolve in the last centure. They are here for few thousands of years.
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