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Boris comments on Evolutionary Psychology - Less Wrong

41 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 11 November 2007 08:41PM

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Comment author: Boris 11 November 2007 10:26:19PM 16 points [-]

You say "the neural circuitry of anger is a reproductive organ as surely as your liver" and "the evolutionary purpose of anger is to increase inclusive genetic fitness."

I don't believe you have enough evidence to assert these statements. All you know is that "angry ancestors had more kids" but you DON'T know that it's as a result of the anger. It could have happened that, say, the same ancestors that could run faster also happened to have the capacity for anger. As a result of their faster running, they reproduced/survived, and so did anger.

I liken this to classic studies on the effects of divorce on children. Of course, kids end up worse off with parents that divorce, but all else equal, divorce may very well be GOOD for the kid. Similarly, although here angry ancestors did have more kids, anger may very well be BAD for reproduction/survival. I'm sure there's also a good cynical example, too, like that the reason the dollar was the dominant currency through the 20th century was because it was green.

Comment author: pnrjulius 05 May 2012 09:43:53PM 7 points [-]

It's possible that anger was a byproduct of something else which is adaptive (certainly such evolutionary byproducts exist)... but it seems pretty unlikely in this case. Anger is a rather complicated thing that seems to have its own modular brain systems; it doesn't seem to be a byproduct of anything else.

Comment author: Technoguyrob 22 September 2013 08:20:54PM 1 point [-]

The possibility of an "adaptation" being in fact an exaptatation or even a spandrel is yet another reason to be incredibly careful about purposing teleology into a discussion about evolutionarily-derived mechanisms.