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Old 05-07-2015, 01:00 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Lightbulb re: homeostasis

this is @ ori, a response to this post:

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Originally Posted by Oriphiel View Post
Warning, TL;DR ahead! Continue at your own peril.

I have to pose a question. If we exist purely to survive and make babies, why do people commit suicide? You're right, people (like all animals) do basically exist to survive and reproduce, but it's a bit more complicated then that. Our brains are more developed than most other creatures, and we have a deeper idea of what "survival" is. Basically, we have different tiers of wants and needs, and each tier has the ability to overpower the other.

It's not enough for humans to just survive and make babies, we also have social needs and desires (which is why most of us are posting on this forum). Being social creatures that developed to survive in groups, we have a desire to belong to like-minded factions. And when that "social survival" is threatened, we may even go so far as to take our own lives (which is spitting in the face of the biological imperative, and the drive to survive) to restore our standing (seppuku), end the criticism or shaming (someone does something "bad", and everyone rejects and shames them), or otherwise take the course of action that our complicated brains think are best (in cases where it might just be depression and internal factors over external that convinces us to do it, or a mix of both).

Humans want to survive physically, in the literal and original sense. This is the first tier that humans want to make progress in. Basically, humans want to have basic things like food and shelter, and they generally don't care as much about their social needs until these physical needs are met. And if our social network suddenly gets thrown out of the window (like if the world underwent a near apocalyptic event, and you were trying to survive in the immediate aftermath, scavenging for food and avoiding people, who might have bad intentions), we go back to this first tier.

However, once we have those basic needs, we start to want more. Humans are more likely to survive in a pack, and meeting other people and forming a group also increases our chances of finding a mate. Having the basic tools of survival at our disposal is well and good, but now we want to be distinguished in a faction (or at least follow an archetype of established behavior that makes us beyond social reproach, i.e. wearing clothing we know our friends will like, having a job that isn't considered embarrassing, etc.)

The last tier is reserved for grand ideas and abstractions that creatures without developed brains quite frankly don't give a fuck about. It's social survival and the need to belong, but on a much wider scale. This is where things like legacy and religion come into play, where humans desire to have an impact after their physical forms have deteriorated. Once people have fulfilled their physical and social needs, this is the next step towards giving them satisfaction with their existence. People form and share complicated ideas, usually ones that can't easily observed by an average person (for example, the belief that the universe has a god, the belief that the universe has no god, the belief that the universe is all just a dream in The Batlord's head, etc.). It almost exclusively runs on faith; a congregation believing their pastor, a group of students believing teachers and scientists, and so on.

Basically, everything we do is to attain homeostasis, not reproduce. Even though homeostasis and survival exist to be a foundation from which to reproduce, it's important to remember the distinction, because the drive to attain homeostasis can overpower the need to reproduce (like someone joining a cult that demonizes sex and babies, wishing for human extinction, to fulfill their social needs). And when the needs of one tier start to get fucked around with, they can overpower the others in an attempt to reattain balance, which is usually when people do normally illogical things (like kill others for their religion, kill themselves for a variety of reasons, etc.) to protect their social, religious, and physical ideals. For more information about the general idea of humans having tiered wants and needs, check out Maslow's hierarchy sometime: Maslow's hierarchy of needs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
it seems like you have a basic grasp of how evolution works, so don't think i'm condescending you if i spell out the logic a bit because i can never be sure who understands what and to what extent. for example i wouldn't try to answer you question of why humans commit suicide specifically, not because it's not an interesting question, but because to give a real response to that question i'd have to understand neuroscience and psychology to a greater extent than i currently do. so i'd rather give no specific answer than risk misleading someone in an attempt to come up with a sort of half-assed explanation.

but with regard to what i was saying in the other thread, basically the logic is borrowed more or less directly from the books "the selfish gene" by richard dawkins and "what evolution is" by ernst mayr. they're decent intros to evolutionary logic for anyone who isn't trained formally in biology.

but yea, at it's most basic form, evolution just looks like replicating molecules which compete with one another in the endeavor to reproduce successfully. the statistical trends which determine the direction of evolution are based directly on the survival and reproductive prospects of individual genes, rather than individual organisms. organisms manifest as a strategically favorable machine for protecting the interests of individual genes. and different individual genes coexist within a single organism with interests that are sometimes shared and sometimes conflicting. when i say 'interests' i only mean in terms of being more likely to continue to reproduce and pass on that particular genetic lineage. i don't mean to make it sound like genes have minds, which they don't.

it works more on the basis of basic math and statistics. lets say that replicator x is able to on average create 2 new copies of itself before it dies, and replicator y is capable of creating 3 new copies, and both of these replicators are a part of the same population. then the results look something like this:

generation 1: x = 1, y = 1
generation 2: x = 2, y = 3
generation 3: x = 4, y = 9
generation 4: x = 8, y = 27

and so on. you might familiar with this but i just want to present it just in case because i think it's important to remember that the entire enterprise of biological evolution operates on the basis of basic population statistics. so replicator y now has a lot more influence in its population as the generations add up. you can see how the numbers start to diverge more rapidly with each successive generation.

this isn't to give the impression that it's a perpetual effort of a species to increase its population indefinitely... at some point a population reaches a breaking point and can't sustain that many individuals and it can collapse, so there's some math to do there as well but even this is all just an extension of the basic genetic drive of replicator molecules to reproduce and continue their genetic lineage in the most efficient and effective form they can manage with the resources available.

so then everything about us; our muscles, brains, teeth, bones, whatever... all of these are strategic tools which were shaped by the drive that these replicator molecules have to reproduce. this doesn't contradict what you were saying about us having complex needs, wants and desires. but it does mean that said wants and desires are in theory all a sort of byproduct or extension of this basic drive.

so yea, me as an individual, i can decide not to have kids cause i don't feel like it. evolution equipped me with a computer capable of making complex decisions and so i decide i don't want to have kids because my concept of 'me' as an organism is rooted more in my brain and thoughts than it is in my genetic lineage. this is a dead end for that genetic lineage. so statistically that sort of behavior won't dominate a population successfully.

that's not to say i think there's some sort of moral imperative on people to value your genetic lineage, because like you said the genes created complex computers which can override the initial intentions of the genes. but the fact still remains that your existence is basically a byproduct of this drive to continue a number of different genetic lineages.
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Old 05-07-2015, 05:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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but the fact still remains that your existence is basically a byproduct of this drive to continue a number of different genetic lineages.
Yes, you're right. Our existences are a byproduct of the drive to survive and replicate. But when a human actively survives, they're usually not thinking of the entirety of the complex idea of survival; they're just satisfying their hunger, thirst, desire for safe shelter, etc. And when someone is sexually attracted to someone, even though that attraction initially began to exist in their species so that they would be driven to reproduce, they're usually not rubbing their hands together deviously while saying "Ha ha ha, yes, it is time for me to replicate my genes!"; they just want to have sex, regardless of the implications, and may even take precautions to prevent a child from being conceived (which is supposed to be the whole point of sex).

Humans live according to this "drive", but don't necessarily care about where it is leading them. Life is a joyride; the pursuit of homeostasis, which is just another way of referring to following this "drive" and fulfilling our wants and needs, is our fancy car. The road we are on is a symbol of the path set down for us by the evolution of our species; humans have sets of traits and behavior handed down to us to help us to continue our species, and we follow them. The road also has some branching paths that depart from social norms and some of the behavior that will lead to us fulfilling our biological imperative, and many of us may take a branching path instead of the main one, simply because we feel like it (maybe we want to see how the car handles turning rather than just going in a straight line, or maybe the car starts to malfunction and we veer off the road). Lastly, the destination at the end, which the main road leads to but some of the branching paths don't, is the biological imperative. Most of us are heading towards it, speeding along in our cars along the main path, but it's a joy ride; we're not thinking about where we're going, only how we get there. It's all about us and our shiny homeostasis-mobiles.

So yeah, I think we're both right. If you look at us broadly, we exist to reproduce, but if you look at us closely, we exist to do what feels right to us at any given moment, whether or not it necessarily leads to us reproducing.
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Old 05-07-2015, 05:57 AM   #3 (permalink)
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i guess that depends on how you mean "we exist to..", imo

cause we literally exist to reproduce

but maybe you could come up with a more poetic alternative that makes sense figuratively

like if im really into eating a sandwhich atm, then i might feel like i exist just to eat this sandwhich right now

but speaking strictly objectively... that's not actually true
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Old 05-07-2015, 06:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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i guess that depends on how you mean "we exist to..", imo

cause we literally exist to reproduce

but maybe you could come up with a more poetic alternative that makes sense figuratively

like if im really into eating a sandwhich atm, then i might feel like i exist just to eat this sandwhich right now

but speaking strictly objectively... that's not actually true
That depends on your point of view. To the person taking the joyride, it's all about doing whatever they want and having fun. But if someone in a large tower was watching them as they drove along, not knowing that they were just mindlessly driving without a destination in mind, but could see a bunch of possible destinations in the distance that they were getting closer to, then they're likely to think that the driver was specifically trying to get to one of those destinations.

So which person is right? Technically, they both are. The driver is just doing whatever they want, but they also are heading towards a destination.

It's kind of like a painting; if you stand very close to it, all you can see are blurry smudges. If you back up too far away from it, you can't make out the details. In both scenarios, even though the painting remains the same, it has changed exponentially purely because of how close or far the observer is. If you back away from life, it seems like it exists purely to replicate itself. If you get right up to it, it seems like life is all about following desires, and fulfilling wants and needs. But if you stand at a reasonable distance, the two come together, and in that balance you can see the whole picture, while also catching it's details. You and I are both critiquing the same painting based on our points of view; I am right up close, examining it's details, while you're far back, examining the big picture. If we both just adjusted ourselves, we'd see that we're both looking at and describing the same thing, just from different distances, and that neither of us is right or wrong.
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Old 05-07-2015, 10:31 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It's kind of like a painting; if you stand very close to it, all you can see are blurry smudges. If you back up too far away from it, you can't make out the details. In both scenarios, even though the painting remains the same, it has changed exponentially purely because of how close or far the observer is. If you back away from life, it seems like it exists purely to replicate itself. If you get right up to it, it seems like life is all about following desires, and fulfilling wants and needs. But if you stand at a reasonable distance, the two come together, and in that balance you can see the whole picture, while also catching it's details. You and I are both critiquing the same painting based on our points of view; I am right up close, examining it's details, while you're far back, examining the big picture. If we both just adjusted ourselves, we'd see that we're both looking at and describing the same thing, just from different distances, and that neither of us is right or wrong.
Nice analogy dude!
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Old 05-07-2015, 11:00 AM   #6 (permalink)
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^ Thanks! But it's a fairly famous analogy (how you can't really understand a painting unless you're standing at the proper distance), and it pops up in quotes and books all over the place, so don't think that I coined it or anything.

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Old 05-07-2015, 11:03 AM   #7 (permalink)
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^ Thanks! But it's a fairly famous analogy (how you can't really understand a painting unless you're standing at the proper distance), and it pops up in quotes and books all over the place, so don't think that I coined it or anything.
Nah, but you used it in great context to the subject matter.
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Old 05-07-2015, 11:08 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I can just imagine a grand statue with one of my quotes inscribed across the base...

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Well, that all sounds fairly normal. Everyone gets sensitive now and then, sometimes from friction or compression, and yes it can sometimes cause just one to become sore/tender but not the other, or affect only the bottom or sides. Honestly, the best thing to do might just be to bring it up with your doctor the next time you go in for a check-up, but only you can make that call.
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Old 05-07-2015, 11:31 AM   #9 (permalink)
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yea thats all good ori i agree that it all depends on your pov, and my original post about people literally existing to reproduce was from an objective, scientific pov
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Old 05-07-2015, 11:34 AM   #10 (permalink)
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yea thats all good ori i agree that it all depends on your pov, and my original post about people literally existing to reproduce was from an objective, scientific pov
Groovy! Then I guess our discussion has come to a close... or has it?!?!?!?!

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