General Question

squirbel's avatar

Why did we evolve feelings when other organisms supposedly didn't, according to currently accepted explanations?

Asked by squirbel (3975 points ) April 12th, 2011

I’m puzzling over this…

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

Im not sure how you can say other organisms dont have feelings? You dont think a dog, cat or any other animal for that matter can feel happy or sad? Loved or abandoned?

YoBob's avatar

Who says other organisms don’t have feelings?

Anyone who has ever had more than a passing experience with animals knows they are not automatons.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I think you mean “higher intelligence” rather than “feelings.” For example, we think of looking for “intelligent” life in the universe – not just life. If we found a planet with animals on it, we wouldn’t ask them to take us to their leader.

YoBob's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt, who says they don’t have intelligence? Ever see a squirrel reason out how to get into a bird feeder despite your best efforts to make it darned near impossible?

nikipedia's avatar

I also don’t think there’s any evidence that other vertebrates with similar nervous systems don’t have feelings. Quite the opposite.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@nikipedia I would even extend that to some invertebrates.

dabbler's avatar

You should have stopped at “why did we evolve emotions?”

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@YoBob Would you sit down with a squirrel and exchange ideas on engineering and technology? Of course animials have feelings and some are quite smart, but we are talking the kind of intelligence that can send a person to the moon, create satellites and so on.

crisw's avatar

Other organisms certainly have “feelings.” What, exactly, do you feel that they are lacking? We might be able to discuss this better if you clarify.

Qingu's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt, chimps invent and use tools, even complex multipart tools, and pass down customs along distinct cultures.

The difference between our intelligence and chimpanzee intelligence is a matter of degree. It’s also closely tied with our superior vocal chords, which lets us use language. This relatively small difference in degree, however, has given rise to the tremendous amount of culture that humans have produced over and above our humble animal cousins.

ragingloli's avatar

Regarding animal intelligence, I recently saw an episode of Nova Science Now (with Neill Degrasse Tyson) on that topic. Featured were (the most memorable for me) a dog who had about a thousand toys and knew each by name. A test involved Neil giving the dog the command to find a toy of a specific name. The dog had a 100% success rate. Not only that, Neil smuggled a new toy among them (named Darwin) which the dog did not know and told the dog to find Darwin among its toys. The dog took its dear time, but in the end the dog managed to pick the correct toy by inference, e.g. “since none of the toys I know is Darwin, this strange new one must be it”.
The other one was a parrot that could name shapes, colours and even do basic mathematics.
And the last example was a pair of dolphins, that were tasked with coming up of a synchronous performance by themselves. They did. That means not only do they necessarily understand the concept of coming up with a performance by themselves, they also have the language to communicate this concept to each other and to decide together, which specific tricks to perform.
It was really amazing and just confirms that animals and humans are more alike than Man likes to tell himself in his arrogance.

YoBob's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt – Some of our best engineering and technological innovations have come from observation of nature.

Of course, I understand your point about our cognitive abilities. But just food for thought, how many squirrels have you seen fall over dead from a heart attack brought on by self inflicted job and social stress? Perhaps we aren’t so darned smart as we think we are when it comes to the things that really matter.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Even invertabrate such as octopods can use tools

ETpro's avatar

I know my Spoony Cat loves me. She loves me so much that even though she adores my office chair and curls up in it whenever I vacate it leaving it nice and cosy warm, she will get up if I ask her to. I just say, “Spoony, I need my chair back.” and she’s stretch, get up, and switch to the counch. I always go over and nuzzle with her to thank her for being so considerate. And for a cat, that is normally thought of as one of the most self interested of all domesticated pets, that is a true act of love giving up a cherished chair just because I ask her to.

Anyone who followed the story of the dog in Japan rescued after 3 weeks at sea and then the video of the dog reunited with his owner can’t miss the fact that the love betowen pet and master was mutual.

Watch how elephants stand by and mourn for days when a baby elephant dies. THere is an entire ritual they go through. Who can look at that and even suggest thay are without feelings?

Coloma's avatar

Affectionate bonds of all kinds are built on emotion.
Of course… animals, birds, feel emotion, if they didn’t there would be no bonding between their own kind, or, with humans.

mattbrowne's avatar

The limbic brain seems to have emerged in the first mammals. I think there are two evolutionary reasons for that

1) Improved memory including emotions
2) Complex social behavior to deal with environmental pressure

Learning capabilities of reptiles, amphibians and fish are very limited. Humans learn best when strong emotions are present (good example is 911, lots of details went straight into long-term memory).

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Okay, I give up trying to convey my belief that humans are more intelligent than animals. We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one, because I stand by my belief. At least there is one difference we can agree on – we are the only animals that know we are naked!

Coloma's avatar

When my 13 year old chinese gander lost his mate of 10 years the vet put him on anti-depressants while I searched for a suitable new wife for him.

Geese are one species that can die of grief when experiencing the loss of a longtime mate/companion.

Qingu's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt, I don’t think anyone here is disagreeing that humans are more intelligent than animals. We’re just saying it’s a difference of degree, not a fundamental difference.

(Though I would definitely say that this difference in degree has led to fundamental differences in how humans have singularly reshaped the planet).

bolwerk's avatar

The animals don’t have feelings idea is popular with narcissists and sociopaths. It lets them not worry too much when they mistreat or neglect creatures around them, including helpless pets.

YoBob's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt – “we are the only animals that know we are naked!”

Or perhaps it’s just that we are the only animals who care.

ETpro's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Of course we are more intelligent than the other animals found on Earth. It is just that this fact doesn’t diminish the truth that many higher animals are intelligent as well, and that they form emotional attachments and experience feelings.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@ETpro I have never doubted that. My question would be more on the line of, why did humans evolve this deep intellect when no other species did. You would think there would at least be one other species that would be able to compete with us. What comes to mind is the gorilla population on Planet of the Apes. Why didn’t some other bi-ped develop speech so that we could learn each other’s language.

YoBob's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt There were the Neanderthals. In fact, as I understand it some evidence suggests that they were actually smarter that we modern humans. However, in spite of their superior intelligence they failed to survive.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@YoBob We were just talking about this in my biolab yesterday. My teacher said they weren’t necessarily smarter, but had the potential due to larger brain cavity size to surpass us. I forget the exact reason she said they failed to survive but I feel like it had to do with environment, and homo-sapiens branching out into many different ones where the neanderthals did not. I could be completely wrong there.

YoBob's avatar

@uberbatman I think there is sufficient archeological evidence to suggest that Neanderthals were smarter than modern humans. Aside from the larger brain capacity they developed more advanced stone tools and were the first to bury their dead, which would seem to indicate they were more advanced from both technological and social perspectives.

Of course nobody knows why they failed to survive. There are several theories. One of these is absorption. This theory basically holds that they simply became a part of the modern human genome through inter breeding. Genetic evidence supports this in that around 4% of the DNA of some populations is Neanderthal.

Another interesting theory is that although they were smarter, because of the construction of their larynx they had less capacity to vocalize, which limited their linguistic capability. You can make up for the fact that you can utter fewer sounds by developing richer syntactic rules. However, expression of complex ideas becomes a much lengthier proposition.The language theory holds that they died out because they were less able to share information even though they were smarter.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@YoBob interesting. Thanks for the info :)

ETpro's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Evolution is strange stuff. There are lots of wildly different approaches to adapting well to the environment at hand, and managing to survive as it changes. Brains are just one way to survive. If we use our intellect to perfect nuclear weapons and end up with a nuclear holocaust for the effort, the roach may well prove to be a far superior design for long-term survival than the brainy human. The story is still being written.

mattbrowne's avatar

@YoBob – There is NOT sufficient archeological evidence to suggest that Neanderthals were smarter than modern humans. And so far comparative genomics hasn’t reached this conclusion either. There is a lot of evidence that in terms of tool making homo sapiens were not smater than Neanderthals.

In a BBC documentary I watched recently, some researchers suggested that it was superior social intelligence of homo sapiens (despite the fact that Neanderthals had developed this too with ritual burials etc). There are artefacts of homo sapiens with purely symbolical meanings to give groups a common identity (I forgot the name of one early piece of art that was found all over Europe).

YoBob's avatar

@mattbrowne, you believe that the extra gray matter in the Neanderthals as evidenced by a larger cranial cavity was not at all used by the species? What of the more sophisticated tools?

As for homo sapien artifacts carrying purely symbolic meaning, that kind of runs parallel to the theory that a contributing factor to the relative success of modern humans vs. the Neanderthals might be tied to communications. In Neanderthals, less ability to vocalize might have resulted in a less rich vocabulary, which in turn might have been a barrier to a fuller realization of symbolic communication in general.

ragingloli's avatar

@YoBob
Larger brain =/= more intelligent.
The largest brain in nature belongs to the sperm whale with about 7kg. I have not seen those build any space ships, have you?
And about the more spophisticated tools: when white people invaded america, their victims did not have firearms. That does not mean that the natives were less intelligent, just that the invaders had a head start.

YoBob's avatar

@ragingloli Sperm whales also have a bit larger body to deal with. It’s more about brain size relative to overall body size than absolute brain size.

In any case, I’m not saying that it is a proven fact that Neanderthals were more intelligent that Homo Spaiens. However, I do believe that there is sufficient reason to entertain it as a possibility.

mattbrowne's avatar

In humans brain size correlates with body height. This is why on average female brains are a bit smaller. But a taller female has a larger than than a shorter man. There is no evidence that body height correlates with intelligence. Here’s an interesting article:

http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-early-humans-won-neandertals.html

New research has compared the performance of the heels of modern-day distance runners to the heels of Neandertals and ancient Homo sapiens. The results show the Neandertals’ heels were taller than those of modern humans and Homo sapiens, and more adapted to walking than running over long distances, while those of Homo sapiens were more adapted to endurance running.

dabbler's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt introduces an interesting line of thought ref Neanderthals and larger brains. There is some evidence that they were more intelligent than homosapiens in many ways including developing peaceful social structures. That made them ill-equipped to defend themselves against the little brained homosapiens who killed them off. It’s a peculiar consequence of darwinian succession that the one that survives is fittest on the most primitive levels but not necessarily the ‘best’ or most desirable if you could pick one. ...like VHS vs Beta. Beta format was a superior format in many ways esp picture quality.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@dabbler I didn’t realize that Neanderthals had larger brains than ours. How interesting. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t their foreheads slope back quite a bit? I thought scientists deducted that their frontal lobes were smaller – and isn’t that where creative thought takes place? Do you think we killed them off, or did we just interbreed and become hybrids of the two races.

ragingloli's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt
As a matter of fact, people of European descent do have a certain amount of neanderthal DNA, about 4%. It means they interbred, which means they were actually the same species, because only members of the same species can produce fertile offspring. Is that not amazing?

YoBob's avatar

@ragingloli The ability to share DNA does not mean they are the same species, only that they are geneticall compatible. You can, for example, cross breed Mules and Horses. Not the same species, but genetically compatible. Same goes for dogs, you can cross breed a Labrador and a Poodle and get a Labradoodle. Different species, but still from the same family and genetically close enough to be able to cross breed.

ragingloli's avatar

@YoBob
It’s donkeys and horses. Mules are the result, and they are infertile.
And labradors and poodles are the same species (Canis lupus familiaris).

crisw's avatar

@YoBob

edited because @raginigloli said exactly what I was typing at the same time!

YoBob's avatar

Ok, so I slipped up on the details. The point is that cross species inter breeding is quite possible.

Cross Species Animal Hybrid Chart

and

An article from Science Daily indicating that cross species mating might be evolutionarily important

Regarding Canines, wolves and dogs can breed .

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