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spresto's avatar

How did natural selection develop human awareness and emotions?

Asked by spresto (903points) May 1st, 2009
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14 Answers

chucklmiller's avatar

I don’t think natural selection had anything to do with it. We were created with human awareness and emotions.

spresto's avatar

A valuable argument, but that is an opinion from one side of the fence. I wanted to know what somebody who believes in natural selection thought. Thank you all the same.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

Man created god in his own image.

spresto's avatar

Lets not be rude, please. I am not looking for theological debate. I ask a genuine question.

wundayatta's avatar

Human awareness (whatever that is) and emotions have survival value. That’s how natural selection works. It’s fairly easy to see how emotions help us respond effectively to various situations. And, making an assumption about what you mean by awareness, it’s also pretty easy to see how being able to evaluate a situation and make a choice that maximizes your good is helpful.

iquanyin's avatar

um, you really think someone has the answer to this?

3or4monsters's avatar

Awareness is linked to the brainstem and cerebellum, at least as far as a human being’s orientation as it relates to the world around them. Not certain that’s what you’re getting at, but not sure exactly what you mean by awareness. Do you mean self-awareness, in a more abstract sense?

Emotions evolved because we are pack animals, and it is in our best interest to look out for our fellow man in order for the species to survive. We care about others because we thrive and survive in numbers, and if we did not care for one another, we would not ensure the group survival. Of course, it comes second to personal survival, which is fueled by selfishness. But on a subconcious, instinctual level, we understand that we cannot survive individually without supporting the pack.

This simplified, cliff-notes version of my opinion has a lot of loopholes (“How does that explain hate, war, murder, stealing, etc?”) but I’ve got an explanation that includes that as well.. unfortunately, I have to leave for work. I hope I can flesh out this viewpoint during my lunchbreak. :/

spresto's avatar

@iquanyin Hey, I just wanted to engage thought. Nothing more.

mattbrowne's avatar

A great question. Conscious processing of information in our neocortex is narrow and slow. We have to focus and neurobiologists believe we can only handle between 30 and 100 bit per second and there’s a 0.25 second delay. Total input into the brain however is around 50 million bits per second (some filtering is already done by our sensory organs).

Emotions on the other hand are created almost instantly and there are elaborate mechanism to filter out what really matters and this works almost instantly. Without conscious focus the relevant parts of the 50 million bits per second are handled automatically. A hazard database is consulted and action can be swift if needed. Fear is one of the primary emotions and has been a recipe of success for the evolution of mammals and humans in particular. Natural selection favored humans with well-functioning limbic brains. Fear (and all other emotions) can be interpreted after a delay and sometimes the neocortex signals a veto. Oh, it was just a twig looking like a poisonous snake!

cwilbur's avatar

Awareness and emotions are evolutionary advantages, because they give humans the incentive and the reward for working together in groups. Humans with these traits are more likely to work together to fight off predators, to hunt, and to gather plants and fruits, and so that gives them an advantage over humans without those traits.

delirium's avatar

I’m going to quote something I previously said…

There’s a great book on this, if you want to check it out. Its called “The science of good and evil”.... “Why people Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and FOllow the Golden Rule” by Michael Shermer.
“A century and a half after Darwin first proposed an “evolutionary ethics”, science has begun to tackle the roots of morality. Just as evolutionary biologists study why we are hungry (to motivate us to eat) or why sex is enjoyable (to motivate us to procreate), they are now searching for the very nature of humanity.
In the science of good and evil, psychologist and science historian Michael Shermer explores how humans evolved from social primates into moral primates, how and why morality motivates the human animal, and how the foundation of moral principles can be built upon empirical evidence. Along the way he explains the implications of scientific findings for fate and free will, the existence of pure good and pure evil, andt he development of early moral sentimants among the first humans. As he closes the divide between science and morality, Shermer draws on stories from the Yanamamo, infamously known as the ‘fierce people’ of the tropical rain forest, so the stanford studies on jailers’ behavior in prisons. The sicnece of good and evil is ultimately a profound look at hte moral animal, belief, and the scientific pursuit of truth. ”

**Delirium walks to bookshelf to obtain another to list…**
Moral Minds: The nature of right and wrong BY Marc D. Hauser

Not as good of a read. More wordy than the first one listed.. but still ultimately a good book. (it has a cuter cover too, if you’re the type to judge.)

delirium's avatar

What are you defining, by the way, as “human” awareness?

3or4monsters's avatar

Continuing where I left off: “ If we evolved with emotions to ensure survival of the species, how does that explain hate, war, murder, stealing, etc?”

In simplest terms, we developed to look out for our own people, to empathize and love our families and their families and their families—- the close network—to survive. At the bare bones of it, stealing, murder, war, and hate evolved from self-preservation combined with the competition with other clans/families/small communities (or hell, other packs of animals) for resources.

Land, hunting animals, natural supplies, food, shelter. If we empathize too much with our competitor, we cannot get ahead. It all boils down to making sure OUR genes pass on.

We continue to evolve, and the more demanding and intricate our requirements for survival (money, housing, job proficiency), the more convoluted.. .complex?... our emotional layering becomes.

iquanyin's avatar

@spresto ok, i’m a newbie. didn’t realize there is sometimes a philosophical element : )

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