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Featured The “naturalist” Problem of Suffering

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by leroy, Jul 28, 2022.

  1. joelr

    joelr Well-Known Member

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    The hominid line was a long progression of increasing intelligence. Survival was about being smarter than the last species.
    We see suffering in most higher animals. Some animals will go through periods of severe depression after loss of a loved one.
    The human brain having all of the abilities it has to understand science, philosophy and such have several theories. One theory is the social brain theory which has evidence. This article is based on this paper:
    The social brain hypothesis and its implications for social evolution - PubMed


    "
    Modern humans like to live and interact in communities of about 150 people. This magic number is found in the population of Stone Age settlements, villages in the Domesday Book (a census of England in A.D. 1085), 18th-century English villages, modern hunter-gatherer societies, Christmas card distribution lists, and even modern Twitter communities—just to name a few examples.

    Groups of 150 are about what we would expect when comparing the size of human brains to those of our relatives. Community size in primates is linked to the size of the neocortex region of the brain, where all social cognitive processing occurs. Other primates, with smaller brains, live in smaller groups. Species, such as the baboon-like mandrill of Central Africa, that do gather in larger numbers only contain females and children in their “horde,” so these are not true mixed-sex social groups. If one extrapolates the relation between brain and group size in other primates, then humans with their very large neocortex extend the graph to a community size of 150.

    This relationship is extremely useful as it means we have a way of estimating group size in our extinct ancestors. Those a few million years ago lived in groups of 50 or so. The big change occurs with Homo erectus at about 2 million years ago, when groups jumped up to nearly 100; then Homo heidelbergensis at 130 and, of course, modern Homo sapiens at 150.

    ....
    For the selection pressure to continue—for brains to keep getting larger—there must have been huge rewards for being smart and having a bigger head. One of those rewards was better social skills. The increased complication of childbirth would require mothers to have help from others; individual females who were more socially adept would get more help, and therefore they and their infants were more likely to survive. This positive feedback loop drove the evolution of larger brains as a means of having greater social influence.

    Underlying this social brain hypothesis is an internal arms race to develop the higher cognitive skills to enable greater social control. Clearly, with the emergence of H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, and eventually H. sapiens, the positives outweighed the negatives. In my latest book, Cradle of Humanity, I discuss how this was driven by rapid environmental changes in East Africa, increased competition for resources within the species as the population expanded, and competition with other species.

    We humans emerged from Africa with an extremely large, flexible, and complex “social brain.” This has allowed us to live relatively peaceful lives around millions of others. This does not, however, mean that we live in harmony with each other; instead, we have swapped physical conflict for social competition. We are constantly strengthening our alliances with friends and partners while working out how to keep up and if possible surpass our peers in terms of social position. And that is why it is so stressful simply being human.
     
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  2. leroy

    leroy Well-Known Member

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    You seem to be saying

    Being smarter = feeling more conscious pain

    I don’t think this should follow, it should be possible (and likely) for evolution to select for “intelligence” and “not conscious pain” without selecting conscious pain , conscious pain seems to be an extra and useless trait
     
  3. joelr

    joelr Well-Known Member

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    No, I'm working off your concept -

    "You don’t need the complex mental experience that we call suffering in order to avoid danger…"

    And it makes sense that animals with higher cognitive function would experience more complex feedback mechanisms.
    We do need suffering and pain. Pain is an immediate feedback that overrides conscious experience which keeps the organism away from harm. The level of pain we experience has also evolved to be the correct amount. Too little or too much won't work. And it does work. It needs to be conscious and painful to create immediate memories of things you should not do. It helps animals manipulate the environment without killing themselves and survive to raise children.
    Our complex neurological system is doing the equivalent of what a clam shell does except we have more consciousness so our pain feedback is naturally going to be a higher order system.


    It's the same reason (except the opposite) of why we feel so good when we eat sugar or find a mate or enjoy doing tasks. The brain releases endorphins and natural opiates to reward us. Sometimes a very intense experience, just like the opposite of extreme pain or suffering. But the system works. Even after sex the body releases prolactin which causes the desire for skin to skin contact which then releases oxytocin a bonding hormone. Nature is manipulating us to fall in love and reproduce.
     
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