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  1. #1
    Theta Male Julius_Van_Der_Beak's Avatar
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    Default Evolutionary role of anger.

    Why do we still have anger? It seems pretty destructive, and a hindrance, so what purpose does it serve? It seems to me that if it were totally useless, whatever genes responsible for it would have died out, especially given how much injury it causes, both to the self and others. So why do we have it still? What's the point of it?
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  2. #2

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    My opinion is that anger is most useful when protecting someone or something you love. @SpankyMcFly may have a story he wants to relate here. Although, I think in his case it was more instinctual than emotional, I feel like it comes from the same place.

    I do agree that in a modern, highly connected world, where real threats are more accidental and structural in nature rather than intentional things coming from individuals (though there are still plenty of cases). The impulses of anger can be misplaced.

    The times I have felt anger to be most useful is when I have had to defend my friends, or myself. It has been a long time since I have needed to use it in physical confrontation.

    One other use, I think, is as a marker for ourselves. I believe, the things we get angry at are things we feel threaten what is important to us.

    I have recently had a string of times when I have gotten angry in ways that surprised myself. Although, the results of me not controlling my temper were not good, I did find out a little bit more about what I valued and wanted to protect.

    Edit: I definitely seem to get consistently irate when I perceive people are being picked on. My perceptions can be wrong, and I have a bit of a hair trigger on this. But it comes from someplace that is deeply ingrained in my experiences.

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  3. #3
    eye of the storm magpie's Avatar
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    I don't know what the purpose of anger is from an evolutionary perspective and I don't much care. But in the modern world I think the point of anger lies in its expression, like any emotion. Anger doesn't have to be destructive. The appropriate expression of emotions is cathartic and necessary. Not feeling anger would be unnatural and a death.
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    Theta Male Julius_Van_Der_Beak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    One other use, I think, is as a marker for ourselves. I believe, the things we get angry at are things we feel threaten what is important to us.
    This is one thing I've arrived at. And that can't be bad, can it?
    [Trump's] rhetoric is not an abuse of power. In the same way that it's also not against the law to do a backflip off of the roof of your house onto your concrete driveway. It's just mind-numbingly stupid and, to say the least, counterproductive. - Bush did 9-11


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  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    This is one thing I've arrived at. And that can't be bad, can it?
    I think knowing what is important to us is beyond good and bad. It is the framework on which we judge good vs. bad.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  6. #6
    girl with a pretty smile Honor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msg_v2 View Post
    This is one thing I've arrived at. And that can't be bad, can it?
    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I think knowing what is important to us is beyond good and bad. It is the framework on which we judge good vs. bad.
    The question, though, is whether discerning what is a threat to us is evolutionary advantageous enough to preserve anger. Obviously, when someone steals something from your anger, you experience anger, and that's evolutionarily advantageous because locking down one's house or finding/harming the thief will prevent repeated instances of it. But what about experiencing anger at other things like social slights or when the train doesn't arrive on time?
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  7. #7
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    How recently do you think it became useless? If it only became useless with civilization, then perhaps it remains vestigially even though it is useless.
    Let's compare this to the narrower topic of revenge, which I think is more obviously useless than anger in general. There is a compelling case that back when people were confined to stone aged of no more than 50 people and very rarely that, the threat of revenge was actually a functional deterrent that helped to maintain some social order. In the world today, revenge just isn't useful, but our current situation has arrived so fast that we have no fundamentally changed and the drive is still there.

    But I also question whether anger is useless or not. It is a motivator, and can certainly still be angry for a good cause, and it is a signal to other people which may still get people to react accordingly. That's about all you can hope for from an emotion. If that isn't useful, then I think we'd have ask if any of the emotions are useful and why we have not become robots that simply execute rational ethics.
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  8. #8
    eye of the storm magpie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    But I also question whether anger is useless or not. It is a motivator, and can certainly still be angry for a good cause, and it is a signal to other people which may still get people to react accordingly. That's about all you can hope for from an emotion. If that isn't useful, then I think we'd have ask if any of the emotions are useful and why we have not become robots that simply execute rational ethics.
    That's because it's not useless. Obviously we experience it and therefore we must experience it. Feelings aren't traits, either. A species wouldn't evolve out of a feeling. I really don't think it works that way, genetically.
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  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Honor View Post
    The question, though, is whether discerning what is a threat to us is evolutionary advantageous enough to preserve anger. Obviously, when someone steals something from your anger, you experience anger, and that's evolutionarily advantageous because locking down one's house or finding/harming the thief will prevent repeated instances of it. But what about experiencing anger at other things like social slights or when the train doesn't arrive on time?
    Well, in the cases you mentioned, I think it means the person getting angry valued whatever was perceived to be slighted, or whatever was perceived to be lost waiting for the train.

    However, perceiving something doesn't mean it's real. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn't. Also, feeling angry doesn't necessarily mean yelling and shouting, or even fuming, but could lead instead to doing things that lead to consequences we want.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
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    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  10. #10
    Senior Member TheCheeseBurgerKing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I believe, the things we get angry at are things we feel threaten what is important to us.
    Exactly, anger allows us to focus on/protect the things that are important to us.

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