evolutionary significance of emotions !!

Steve Palmer spalmer at mdanderson.org
Thu Feb 17 09:45:43 EST 2000

>> If you know you won't feel bad if your child dies, then you won't go
>as far
>> to protect your child as you otherwise would.  Then you might end up
>with no
>> one to pass on your genes.

> well your example is a serious one indeed but then this again can be
>explained by instinct and logic rather than emotion. it is obvous that
>i have to pass on my genes so i will 'not' let my child die,

    Obvious to YOU and ME, perhaps.  But obvious to our primitive ancestors?
They didn't even know where babies came from, let alone anything about the
importance of passing on ones genes.

>i will not
>have time to feel emotions then because saving my child is instinct
>which i believe is not connected with emotions as it is given a higher

    Emotions are instinctual.  If you've ever read Ekman's work on emotional
facial expressions, you know that he found several expressions -- those of
joy, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust -- to be universal across
cultures.  Furthermore, you can't seriously tell me that, for example,
pulling your child out from in front of a speeding bus is an emotionally
neutral experience.  You would feel (a) terrified that your kid almost got
squashed, and would thus be motivated to prevent that situation from
occurring again in the future, and (b) relieved that you had saved your
child in time, reinforcing you to continue protecting your child.

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