General Question

robmandu's avatar

Why haven't we, as individuals, evolved (by education, if nothing else) to a higher "starting point" emotionally and socially?

Asked by robmandu (21293points) October 9th, 2008

Technologically, we’re on an ever-increasing rate of evolution. Fire > Wheel > Vacuum Tube > iPhone.

Culturally (i.e. as groups of people), it can be argued that we’ve seen vast improvements over the course of human history. (Yes, it’s uneven. Yes, sometimes we step back. Yes, it’s slower in some places than we’d like.) Slavery, for example, isn’t nearly as widespread as in the past.

But as individuals, why do we keep hitting the same problems over & again? Short tempers. Cheating spouses. Raising children. Poor communication. Lack of self discipline.

For example, the Bible (citing a historical reference) mentions adultery from x thousands of years ago. Today, we all agree, I think, that adultery is still a Bad Thing. So why does it go on? Why haven’t we as individual evolved past those kinds of shortcomings that have been quantified for thousands of years? Why do we keep repeating those known & documented mistakes of the past?

I’m not talking about passing judgment on people. It’s not about heaven & hell. Just curious why we continue to make the same mistakes as our predecessors. At the very minimum, humans have had thousands of years to work out the nuance on these things. And yet many of us still fail daily at problems that plagued man long, long ago… billions of times over.

I get that religion is a tool to help address this stuff. But look, we’re still using the same texts today that have existed unchanged for millennia. Why haven’t we moved on to substantively different problems? Or eliminated the old ones altogether?

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10 Answers

Hobbes's avatar

Because those human flaws are hardwired into our brains, and we haven’t developed the technology to change them (yet).

kevbo's avatar

Why haven’t we evolved by embracing our biology or our animal instincts? For example, rather than calling adultery a “bad thing,” why don’t we recognize and embrace that we are not monogamous creatures?

Is religion a tool for evolution or suppression? And what’s that saying about doing the same thing and expecting different results?

Good question, rob.

squirbel's avatar

I’m pretty sure I am a very monogamous creature.

I’m not male, so that might have something to do with it. Males are whores.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Look at it this way.. humans and humanoids have been around for a really, really long time. Over the past 150 years, we have made incredible leaps and bounds in terms of technology and knowledge. 150 years is practically a blip on the grand time scale of human existence. Unfortunately, evolution doesn’t usually work that quickly and it hasn’t had time to catch up.

150 years of technology vs. thousands of years of hardwiring. It’s going to take a while longer.

Additionally, people with lower IQs have more children than people with higher IQs, so essentially, through this and the fact that we’re diluting the gene pool through our medical advances, we’re becoming a weaker species.

Nimis's avatar

I think it’s easier to improve on things outside of ourselves.
Their continued improvement can be built upon generation to generation.

Even with centuries of philosophy, religion, psychology, anthropology, etc.
we still only have a lifetime of experience to sort all of this shit out for ourselves.
There are things that you can learn in theory. But learning in practice is a different matter.

gailcalled's avatar

Homo sapiens’ brain is still the same complicated design, including the snake brain. It coils and strikes if our inhibitions or controls aren’t sufficiently in place.

Critter38's avatar

I’m a little confused regarding your use of the word evolution. If you mean in a biological sense then you have to think about what the selection pressure is in our society (very different in those areas of the third world where there may be times with very harsh selection pressure).

Most of us breed, some more than others. The majority of individuals get to pass on their genes to future generations. As such, although the relative frequency of genes in the population is almost inevitably changing, the selection pressure does not appear to be strong due to the very low levels of mortality in humans prior to reproduction. Furthermore, our constant mixing of genes between different populations reduces the potential for strong directional selection pressure. Does that make sense.

Anyways, the end result is that you seem to be using the word evolution as if it was a ladder of moral advancement or a ladder of improvement, when in fact that would only be the case if those with the highest and consistent morals (as if we could agree who they were) were more successful at breeding.

I think this will put adultury in perspective. Most species (even those that we think form life long pairs) have what we biologists call extra pair copulations. In other words they cheat. This helps pass on their genes (also because it means their own genes have mixed with a variety of partners which increases the chance that at least some of their offspring are adapted to future environments) and therefore help to ensure their survival in the genome of future populations. We are no different.

The other way to look at it is to consider that just 3–5% max of mammals form monogamous pairs, and I believe all the evidence suggests that even in these situations partners cheat.

In fact, some scientists have comapred the testile size in primates to see if you can use them to predict the mating system. For instance, monogamous gorillas have tiny testicles and control their females through dominance. Chimpanzees have massive testicles for their size and ensure their paternity through passing on massive amounts of sperm to as many females as possible. Humans are in between in testicle size, because although females and males are faithful some of the time, sufficient cheat to have selected for larger testicle size in males.

Sperm speed also points to this. Our sperm speed is closer to Gorillas than Chimps, but still not as slow as Gorillas. This points to monogamy but with some cheating. Which, once again, is exactly what you often find in humans.

The other way to look at the evidence for this is to look at the shape of the human penis. It is built to remove sperm. Hence the perculiar head shape. This is not something needed in a monogamous faithful species.

Also remember that amongst humans some cultures consider multiple wives, or even multiple husbands the normal thing to do(sometimes found in the Himalayas for instance). So what you may think of as immoral (adultery), may or may not be. But it is certainly something that has been favoured biologically for millions of years.

As such, some of the “immoral” acts you discuss, which have to do with reproduction, may in part continue in populations due to the strong evolutionary pressures that form our biology.

BUT this does not mean that it doesn’t hurt, nor is this an “What is, is ought” fallacy. If two people expect honesty and faithfulness, then we can’t use our biology as an excuse, as we are thinking beings who control our behaviour. Also remember that most species have multiple strategies for ensuring offspring survival which can differ between individuals. Some favour not cheating with high parental investment. Some cheat. Some do both. All systems work if they produce offspring.

Hope that helps. SOrry I was in a rush when I wrote this…

gailcalled's avatar

@Critter; You do know the old joke? Mark Twain said a more elegant version; “If I had had more time, I would have made it shorter.

Critter38's avatar

Sorry, I tend to rattle on and then edit, but I didn’t get a chance on that one…not that that gives me any excuse for my previous rants….must try harder.

bmollineaux's avatar

Alena right on- small evolutional breakthroughs happen over millions of years. Really humans created “civility” at the dawn of agriculture where we began to explode our populations. This explosion increases our time to focus on less important subjects that do not a have direct relationships with our instincts to survive and procreate. This pondering of sorts is by no means expressed as evolution of the mind but rather the elevation and increased expression of the senses.

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