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Chimpanzee mourns death of infant... or just corpse fascination?

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Hermes
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« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2011, 13:40:21 PM »

That humans and insects require different behavioural patterns for survival is self-evident.

Mr. & Mrs. Goody have three children and nurture them very carefully until all of them reach adulthood and become parents in turn.  Mr. & Mrs. Bady have eight children, five of whom die in a challenging survival contest and three reach adulthood and become parents in turn.  The population growth rate would be the same in both cases, but would the Goodies not be precluding evolution and the Badies enhancing it?

The salient question is not whether caring for the weak and the ill saves the species from extinction, but whether it stymies evolution.  If it does, should we ignore it or reconsider our morals?
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2011, 13:52:53 PM »

You seem to think evolution has a certain direction it wishes to take us if we'd just stop getting in the way.

I think that not nurturing our children (who are weak and incompetent at birth) will lead to a 100% mortality rate, driving our species to extinction. That is really bad for our evolution.
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Hermes
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2011, 14:27:39 PM »

You seem to think evolution has a certain direction it wishes to take us if we'd just stop getting in the way.
I certainly don't believe that evolution pursues a predestined course, if that is what you imply.  What I propose is that a life form that has lost its ability to adapt to a changing environment can in fact become vulnerable to extinction, as has happened to numerous species that previously existed.
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I think that not nurturing our children (who are weak and incompetent at birth) will lead to a 100% mortality rate, driving our species to extinction. That is really bad for our evolution.
Agreed.
Should our objective be the long term welfare of the species (and I phrase that as a hypothesis) the matter becomes one of the extent to which we nurture.  With no nurture whatsoever, no baby would survive.  But Mr. & Mrs. Bady were not quite that cruel.  Three of their kids made it.

I want to emphasize that I am conducting this debate purely from an academic viewpoint - I am proposing no course of action.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 15:19:03 PM by Hermes » Logged
BoogieMonster
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« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2011, 16:51:04 PM »

You are, though, setting up a false dichotomy.... What about Couple Goody has 5 kids, nurtures all of them, and they all survive, vs Couple Bady that also have 5 kids, but only 2 survive.

Evolution picks whoever can procreate the best... Couple Goody wins?
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Mefiante
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« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2011, 19:06:38 PM »

In a broad sense, a species’ “morality” can be viewed as the collection of its usual social behaviours.  When contemplating the evolutionary aspects of morality, one must be careful to separate a genetic (and hence heritable) propensity for learning and/or carrying forward group behaviours from the specifics of such behaviours.  Put simply, one must distinguish the gene from the meme (even though it may not be easy to do so).

The gene may be beneficial while the meme may not.  In herding and grouping organisms, including humans, the gene, in tight collaboration with the memes it facilitates, has clearly had evolutionary benefits else it would not have become so prevalent and influential.  On the other hand, the memes that exploit the gene could at a stroke turn from being beneficial to being detrimental by a simple change of circumstances or environment.  If such a change should happen, individuals who are less inclined to follow group behaviours could begin to be favoured, which may result in the reduction of the gene’s frequency or even its disappearance altogether.

There thus appears to be a strong interdependence between the genetic and memetic aspects of species morality, and losing sight of this can only lead to a muddying of the issues.

'Luthon64
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Hermes
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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2011, 14:16:02 PM »

You are, though, setting up a false dichotomy.... What about Couple Goody has 5 kids, nurtures all of them, and they all survive, vs Couple Bady that also have 5 kids, but only 2 survive.

Evolution picks whoever can procreate the best... Couple Goody wins?
There is no false (or any) dichotomy - extent of nurture clearly implies a continuum on which the couples I used as examples are singular points with many intermediaries on the nurture and survival scales.  In the short term your example suggests that the couple with five surviving kids is evolutionarily superior, but that ignores long term survival.  The kids from the family where only two survived, have probably shown superior genetic survival qualities.  In the extreme where life forms have a 100% survival rate, and all become parents in turn, they would no longer be subject to the forces of natural selection - there would be no picking.  Such a hypothetical extreme would not matter in a constant environment, but in a changing one the gradual adaptation required over thousands or millions of years would be lacking.  This would then leave such a life form increasingly vulnerable.  As one moves away from the 100% survival extreme, adaptability increases.  One would of course reach a point where the survival rate falls below sustainable levels.
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st0nes
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« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2011, 07:12:32 AM »

How important is adaptability to a species that adapts its environment to its needs rather than vice versa?
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