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Thread: Hello, I'm new here and I have a question

  1. #1 Hello, I'm new here and I have a question 
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    Hello, I'm new here, and I love science. Iíll be the first to say that, though I find science very fascinating, I know very little about it. Iím not a scientist and I don't claim to know more than one regarding the properties of the universe, biology, and so forth. However, what I have learned about different fields interests me quite a bit. Let me say firstly that I do not ignorantly dispute fact, but I have a question or two, about something I don't quite understand. Evolution makes perfect since to me, and if I am correct, evolution is life's adapted change over time for survival. For instance, a giraffe has a long neck maybe because, at one time, it couldn't compete with land predators for food. Now it has the ability to reach its own food far from their reach. There is a fundamental purpose for this change. However, Since intelligence is unnecessary to create life and since intelligence is unnecessary for life to sustain itself, why then should it be necessary to conclude that it has evolved at all? I'm not asserting that it hasn't, but intelligence seems to have no biological purpose in light of say... Bacteria which have no intelligence, yet bacteria get along just fine without it and has done so for eons. Also, supposing evolution is the cause of intelligence, why is human behavior (generally speaking) still so primitive regarding things like hatred when human intelligence is so sophisticated in comparison? Why has human behavior failed to evolve in correlation with human intelligence, or am I just wrong somehow altogether?


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    Utterly fascinating questions, seriously! Thanks.

    If you physically compare humans to, let's say, chimps, you'd find that humans are woefully inadequate to survive in the wild. Humans don't have fur to keep warm, have much less strength to fend for themselves, don't do well digesting raw meats and vegetables, etc. Intelligence seems to substitute for those deficiencies ó make clothes and shelters, produce and use weapons, cook food, etc. I question which came first, and I would say intelligence, and intelligence allowed individuals to survive who had less fur, less strength, poorer digestion, etc, but more importantly, it allowed them to live and thrive in just about every location on Earth.

    Most certainly, allowing us to be physically deficient sounds like a lousy excuse for intelligence to evolve. You mentioned that various species survive pretty much as well as one another. However, off the top of my head, I see an important difference ó survivors versus maximum life span. (See graph below.) I would say that intelligence allows humans to live close to their maximum lifespans. I also see: Longevity + Intelligence = Civilization + History + Wisdom.

    People ask about the purpose of life; it's an age old question. I see it as the advancement of wisdom. I think people draw a blank about the purpose of life because they ask it of themselves ... What is the purpose of my life to me? Of course, their life benefits them in a relatively small sense and then it ends, whereas (I think), if viewed on a larger scale, their life benefits civilization, history and wisdom.



    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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    Giraffes have long necks because they cant stand the smell of their own feet!
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsmitts View Post
    However, Since intelligence is unnecessary to create life and since intelligence is unnecessary for life to sustain itself, why then should it be necessary to conclude that it has evolved at all?
    Many features have evolved which are not necessary. The ridiculous tail feathers of peacocks for example.

    However, intelligence has practical benefits. All higher animals (those with a nervous system) have some level of intelligence and this can benefit them in various ways. For example, corvids can solve problems and create tools to get at food. That clearly gives them a survival advantage over birds who are not so smart. But, of course, other species will forego intelligence in favour of speed or strength or ...

    Why has human behavior failed to evolve in correlation with human intelligence, or am I just wrong somehow altogether?
    There is an entire field of evolutionary psychology which studies these sort of questions. Something like anger has not been completely selected against and must therefore have some benefit (or be completely neutral); for example, it may help the individual defend themselves or their family from attack by overcoming fear.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Why has human behavior failed to evolve in correlation with human intelligence, or am I just wrong somehow altogether?
    But it has for if you recall that 500 years ago people were killing each other for land and food. Today we work together in trying to stop wars from happening. So the past behavior was much different, and worse, than we have today.
    When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.
    Jimi Hendrix
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    All very good replies. It helps me make more sense of it, and for the most part, it does. I guess what I mean when I break it all down to its core is that I do see how aggression, under circumstances, can be beneficial for complex species. However, humans (and perhaps other species too) do not always use this in defense, and that is the behavior I'm referring to. You might call it "senseless aggression." Maybe one explanation is that the kinks haven't been worked out yet.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    A lot of features are just side effects of other (more beneficial) features. For example, sickle cell anaemia and other blood disorders that survive because they also provide some protection against malaria.

    We have emotions because they have some benefits but we don't always use them in the ideal way. However, the negative uses are probably limited by evolution.
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    It helps me make more sense of it, and for the most part, it does. I guess what I mean when I break it all down to its core is that I do see how aggression, under circumstances, can be beneficial for complex species.
    It's the same with almost all of our attributes. Organisation, cleanliness and tidiness all make for better, safer, healthier living and household and work environments.

    Take it too far and you have "farmers" levelling "their" land with lasers to make water flow and plants grow in ways that the environment can't really handle on a long-term basis and some individuals whose lives are made a misery because of their repetitive, sometimes dangerous, actions dictated by obsessions and compulsions. Go too far the other way, and people can become careless, even feckless, and their households and the lands they occupy are squalid, overrun by wastes and the associated vermin and unwelcoming to anyone with a nose to smell the wafting aromas.
    And everything in between.

    Same for aggression. Some people have a hair-trigger temper, others actively seek "reasons" to get angry, others have been trained by their upbringing or their social conditions to respond angrily to trivial or non-existent stimuli. Others are placid beyond all reason and seem to be impervious to the grossest insults or greatest provocations, others patiently ignore or control whatever angry feelings they have. Most of us are somewhere between.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    I believe intelligence, although a necessary capability for us can be harmful as well as beneficial. I for one, support the progress of scientific discovery. Science has, after all, greatly improved our quality of life with modern medicine, engineering, and so forth. However, I am strongly against certain scientific endeavors which include producing atoms which do not exist in the universe naturally. There might be good reason that they don't, and in my humble opinion, I don't think that it's such a good idea for us to go fiddling with nature. Perhaps we aren't quite as intelligent as we think we are.
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    I imagine fire when it was first discovered. I picture cavemen running away from it in terror. From a distance, they all began to stare at this magical process. Later, I picture them huddled around it having a great time laughing at each other for being so afraid. Maybe the same could be said of the artificial light bulb when it first came on the scene. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know what is risky and what isn't. But, I do think we have limits. I'm not going to jump out of flying plane to test my sociability with birds simply because I know gravity works every time, and it can't make itself impossible for me. No, at that point, the impossibility would be me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsmitts View Post
    However, I am strongly against certain scientific endeavors which include producing atoms which do not exist in the universe naturally.
    The only reason those elements don't exist on Earth is because they have very short lifetimes. So not long after we create them, they have disappeared. They may well be created in nature (e.g. supernovae).
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    As usual, XKCD has the answers...
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    I would like to use a comparison between science and philosophy. imagine matter and anti-matter, matter representing benefit, and anti-matter representing detriment.

    Intelligence equals all of the below:
    A. unnecessary) B. Beneficial) C. Detrimental

    Evidence for intelligence being unnecessary: Bacteria
    Evidence for intelligence being beneficial: Engineering
    Evidence for intelligence being detrimental: Automatic Weapons

    B and C, like matter/anti-matter should cancel each other out deeming intelligence simply (A. Unnecessary.

    Now, I'm well aware that non intelligent life can be detrimental too. Bacterial infection was virtually a death sentence in earlier times. Thanks to intelligence, we now know how to combat this. But I would much rather leave a chimp a chimp with his little wooden club and a tree to live in than I had give him a bigger brain, engineering and an automatic weapon. I'm not saying that everyone behaves badly. Indeed, many do not. The problem is it doesn't take many, and nature seems to have missed this. Don't get me wrong though. I'm glad we have intelligence and the benefits that brings, but well you see what I mean.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsmitts View Post
    I'm not saying that everyone behaves badly. Indeed, many do not. The problem is it doesn't take many, and nature seems to have missed this.
    You also say this:

    There is a fundamental purpose for this change. However, Since intelligence is unnecessary to create life and since intelligence is unnecessary for life to sustain itself, why then should it be necessary to conclude that it has evolved at all? I'm not asserting that it hasn't, but intelligence seems to have no biological purpose in light of say........
    In these quotations there is an underlying suggestion that evolution has some sort of goal. This is a concept that has long been officially abandoned, but can be difficult to eliminate entirely from our thinking.

    Bacterial infection was virtually a death sentence in earlier times.
    I dislike your anthropocentric approach. Bacterial infection is pretty damn good news for the bacteria.

    B and C, like matter/anti-matter should cancel each other out deeming intelligence simply (A. Unnecessary.
    This is illogical, since it requires that the benefits exactly match the detriments. I doubt that, on reflection, you would believe this.
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    Hatred and intelligence are not polar opposites. The unfortunate thing about human thinking is that categorisation is needed in order for understanding and in categorisation things are defined by what they are and what they are not. i.e. Catholics define themselves by their own rituals as much as they define themselves by not practising Protestant rituals. This exposes the differences between people and promotes comparisons which underlies much of the hatred between different groups. Agreed it is not especially rational to hate someone just because they dont belong to your group but then humans are not naturally rational thinkers - that has to be taught. Thoughts are normally led by emotions rather than rationality.
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  17. #16  
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    Benefit and detriment are opposites?

    Poison is in all things, and no thing is without poison.
    The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.

    ó Paracelsus (1493Ė1541)

    Woman dies from drinking too much water

    Water "intoxication"
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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