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malice

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libertygrl
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Posted 05/22/10 - 12:51 AM:
Subject: malice
is there a biological imperative for it? if not, why is it around?

any thoughts?

lib
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Posted 05/22/10 - 9:14 AM:

Its an interesting question. But yes, I do agree there is a biological imperative to malice.

Biological survival presents itself in many forms and I would say that malice is more of a selfish fallback when altruism is absent. I'd say malice is present for individual and among-group survival. Not in within-group survival.

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Nihil Loc
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Posted 05/22/10 - 2:01 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
is there a biological imperative for it? if not, why is it around?

any thoughts?


There probably is a bio imperative for malice (desire to hurt others and cause pain).

Though we need to look at particular cases, social contexts which help us to understand what generated the malice and why.

Since I don't have a lot of friends I tend to be a bit jealous about my own friendships. Recently I've felt a lot of spite because I tend to feel excluded from social events on the basis of how "fun my friends think I am." In a nutshell, one friend always wants to hang around with my other friend, rather than me. I'm lower on the pecking order. At times it makes me feel unwanted or used as a person.

This malice has made me avoid them all together and makes me even less of a friend, puts me even lower on pecking order.

As to a bio imperative... (let me think).

Having friends is an advantage because it widens social networking opportunities and access to some kinds of resources (help that doesn't involve monetary exchange).

My spite is associated with a critical outlook on my friends' poor choices on the ways they spend their time. They drink and smoke excessively.

hmmm bio imperative...

Malice must often come from being (un)fairly or fairly excluded. I think of the Columbine incident and the pressures of social acceptance, also the under developed oil rich countries of the middle east who look at American greed through the spectacles of radical Islam.



libertygrl
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Posted 05/24/10 - 7:14 PM:

cripes wrote:
Its an interesting question. But yes, I do agree there is a biological imperative to malice.

Biological survival presents itself in many forms and I would say that malice is more of a selfish fallback when altruism is absent. I'd say malice is present for individual and among-group survival. Not in within-group survival.

It's nice to have you back.

hi cripes, thanks smiling face

could you elaborate on the idea of "selfish fallback when altruism is absent"? i'm not sure if i follow.

nihil, i think my idea on this topic is in alignment with what you describe. i think in many cases, malice represents an emotional response to a more or less difficult existential situation. why are we here? why should we care? if fitting into the social context is not all that important to a person, there's no imperative really to avoid malice. maybe malice serves to distance others in the now, in order to protect one's self from getting hurt in the long run.
Nihil Loc
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Posted 05/25/10 - 12:59 AM:

lib wrote:
maybe malice serves to distance others in the now, in order to protect one's self from getting hurt in the long run.


I believe the above to be one way and reason for why we experience malice (spite, resentment, hate). I'm not absolutely sure what we mean by malice as distinct from these other feelings.

I think you're right though. It is easier to avoid attachment than to suffer the inevitable hurt that is often a consequence of attachment.

LOL, though they say, "Better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all."
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Posted 05/25/10 - 6:47 AM:

Everything about us is gene driven. Every organ in the human body, including the brain, has been determined by our genes. Its how we're designed, if you will. Our capacity to either practice malicious acts as well as altruistic acts is present, and depending on our circumstances, or at least our perception of those circumstances, we may practice either one. Its a choice, and whether or not that choice is made emotionally or through cognitive consideration, it will be based on one thing - survival, regardless of how one wants to define 'survival'.

If there were only two people on the planet, they would have the choice of existing independently or cooperatively. If one has made the decision that survival will best be achieved through the practice of malice, that individual will behave that way. If the two agree survival will best be achieved acting in concert then malice may not be practiced among the two, however, those two may practice it in competing against another species, or group for procurement of limited necessary resources.
libertygrl
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Posted 05/25/10 - 12:34 PM:

cripes wrote:
Everything about us is gene driven. Every organ in the human body, including the brain, has been determined by our genes. Its how we're designed, if you will. Our capacity to either practice malicious acts as well as altruistic acts is present, and depending on our circumstances, or at least our perception of those circumstances, we may practice either one. Its a choice, and whether or not that choice is made emotionally or through cognitive consideration, it will be based on one thing - survival, regardless of how one wants to define 'survival'.

If there were only two people on the planet, they would have the choice of existing independently or cooperatively. If one has made the decision that survival will best be achieved through the practice of malice, that individual will behave that way. If the two agree survival will best be achieved acting in concert then malice may not be practiced among the two, however, those two may practice it in competing against another species, or group for procurement of limited necessary resources.

i don't think i agree here. i don't believe every choice is driven by a desire for survival. how does suicide, for example, fit into that paradigm? also, i don't believe that all our choices are gene-driven. are you familiar with the science of epigenetics?


Edited by libertygrl on 05/25/10 - 12:39 PM
libertygrl
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Posted 05/25/10 - 12:37 PM:

Nihil Loc wrote:
I believe the above to be one way and reason for why we experience malice (spite, resentment, hate). I'm not absolutely sure what we mean by malice as distinct from these other feelings.

hm, it's an interesting question, hadn't thought about it in that light. how about a context of sociopathy, as food for thought? does the sociopath experience spite, resentment and hate? my understanding of the phenomenon is that there is a certain absence of emotional affect, but perhaps it's merely the appearance of such.
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Posted 05/25/10 - 3:08 PM:

libertygrl wrote:

i don't think i agree here. i don't believe every choice is driven by a desire for survival. how does suicide, for example, fit into that paradigm? also, i don't believe that all our choices are gene-driven. are you familiar with the science of epigenetics?
I watched this Nova video about Epigenetics. What I get from it is scientists are learning how to switch genes on and off. But I don't think it conflicts with anything I've said. Epigenetics seems to reinforce healthy habits and is able to illustrate the effects of it within the gene. For example, (if you've watched the video) the female twins of which one has a higher cancer risk rate. Differences in lifestyle could account for that. As we now know, cancer looks to be the effects of vitamin d deficiency. So one twin may have spent more time outdoors and drinking more d fortified milk than the other. We also know that when cancer is diagnosed early enough, supplementing with vitamin d3 can arrest the cancer. http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=16454

As for suicide and evolution. I remember watching a news report years ago (I can't cite it) of certain fish that were found to be intentionally swimming head first into rock in what looked like suicide attempts. It could be that there was some sort of copying error of the fish genetically or it could have been from something the fish ate. These two are definite possibilities with humans even as epigenetics points out, we may be simply switching a gene on or off by poisoning it in some cases. But I would also add that as many adults experience the adaptation of depression in a society that considers it a disorder, may decide they would better serve loved ones if they were no longer around. That is species survival by an individual that sacrifices him or herself for the good of the group (family). They may not see it that way due to the fact that they probably don't understand whats happening to them because they don't understand evolution. They may see it simply as "its just a lost cause. I'll never be normal anyway."


Nihil Loc
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Posted 05/25/10 - 3:08 PM:

Cripes wrote:
If one has made the decision that survival will best be achieved through the practice of malice, that individual will behave that way.


I think you've a valid point, Cripes, and this is relevant to what lib has just added about the possibility of malice without an emotional affect underlying it.

This happens when we treat others as merely objects or means to our own selfish ends. Surely both altruism and its opposite (with malice) could be the consequence of biological or genetic determinism. We need to eat and so eat animals but we don't exhibit malice toward these animals.

Think of ants fighting over territory. We exclude the possibility of ants as having a capacity for feeling (sentience) yet they can harm their own species out of the inherent prerogative to survive.
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Posted 05/27/10 - 1:01 AM:

cripes, here are some quotes from the wikipedia article on epigenetics. i've added bold print to pertinent points:

"In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of inherited changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, hence the name epi- (Greek: επί- over, above) -genetics. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell's life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism's genes to behave (or "express themselves") differently."

"Robin Holliday defined epigenetics as "the study of the mechanisms of temporal and spatial control of gene activity during the development of complex organisms." Thus epigenetic can be used to describe anything other than DNA sequence that influences the development of an organism."

a few weeks ago, i attended a neuroscience lecture on the topic of neuroplasticity. the lecturer, an MD whose name i've now forgotten (i have the flyer around here somewhere), pointed out that the human genome only has 3 billion base pairs. yet the human brain has over 100 billion unique neurons. what this means is that it is literally impossible for our DNA to determine every decision we make. the DNA lays out a blueprint for general brain function, and along the way, the brain takes over its own development and creates billions of new neurons whose function are strictly determined by environmental input. there are many studies which can be cited to illustrate this phenomenon, but another simple example is the fact that thousands of mice being used in scientific labs may all share the exact same genome, and demonstrate radically different behavior, along with radically different brain structure in accordance with differences in environmental input.

my general thoughts are that not everything in existence comes to be so as a result of evolutionary pressure. i think some behaviors may spontaneously appear, and may continue to hang around, simply because circumstantially, there's not enough opposing force to extinguish them.
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Posted 05/27/10 - 1:21 AM:

Nihil Loc wrote:
Think of ants fighting over territory. We exclude the possibility of ants as having a capacity for feeling (sentience) yet they can harm their own species out of the inherent prerogative to survive.

hm, that's an interesting thought. i think of malice as having the component of wanting to cause pain. so i think in order to be capable of malice, a species must not only be sentient enough to feel emotional pain, but also sentient enough to be aware of the pain in other sentient beings. does anyone know any examples of non-human species exhibiting malice? of course, as you mentioned nihil, we typically exclude ants (and other critters) from the realm of sentient beings, but when there appears to be a survival motive absent, what other explanations remain for what seems to be malicious behavior? how about wasps, for example, some of which are known to sting without provocation (even though doing so will often cost their lives)?
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Posted 05/27/10 - 9:09 AM:

libertygrl wrote:

hm, that's an interesting thought. i think of malice as having the component of wanting to cause pain. so i think in order to be capable of malice, a species must not only be sentient enough to feel emotional pain, but also sentient enough to be aware of the pain in other sentient beings. does anyone know any examples of non-human species exhibiting malice? of course, as you mentioned nihil, we typically exclude ants (and other critters) from the realm of sentient beings, but when there appears to be a survival motive absent, what other explanations remain for what seems to be malicious behavior? how about wasps, for example, some of which are known to sting without provocation (even though doing so will often cost their lives)?

This is exactly what occurs in multi-level group selection. Look at war as an example. The purpose of invading a country such as in say WW2 was to absorb other countries (groups) with the threat of pain if resisted. Individual governments work the same way, essentially. Even in good old 'free-market' America, if one refuses to play the game as its designed, the threat is poverty, which is painful. Tough love is what conservatives call it.
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Posted 05/27/10 - 9:29 AM:

libertygrl wrote:
cripes, here are some quotes from the wikipedia article on epigenetics. i've added bold print to pertinent points:

"In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of inherited changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence, hence the name epi- (Greek: επί- over, above) -genetics. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell's life and may also last for multiple generations. However, there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; instead, non-genetic factors cause the organism's genes to behave (or "express themselves") differently."

"Robin Holliday defined epigenetics as "the study of the mechanisms of temporal and spatial control of gene activity during the development of complex organisms." Thus epigenetic can be used to describe anything other than DNA sequence that influences the development of an organism."

a few weeks ago, i attended a neuroscience lecture on the topic of neuroplasticity. the lecturer, an MD whose name i've now forgotten (i have the flyer around here somewhere), pointed out that the human genome only has 3 billion base pairs. yet the human brain has over 100 billion unique neurons. what this means is that it is literally impossible for our DNA to determine every decision we make. the DNA lays out a blueprint for general brain function, and along the way, the brain takes over its own development and creates billions of new neurons whose function are strictly determined by environmental input. there are many studies which can be cited to illustrate this phenomenon, but another simple example is the fact that thousands of mice being used in scientific labs may all share the exact same genome, and demonstrate radically different behavior, along with radically different brain structure in accordance with differences in environmental input.

my general thoughts are that not everything in existence comes to be so as a result of evolutionary pressure. i think some behaviors may spontaneously appear, and may continue to hang around, simply because circumstantially, there's not enough opposing force to extinguish them.
Yes! I read the wikipedia piece the other day as well. I seriously don't see the conflict unless your saying the brain is a sort of run away organ that is becoming its own individual species growing out of the human species. Genes are the designer of organs, as I see it and, functions of a designed organ cannot operate outside its intended purpose. For whatever reason, genes have given the brain the ability to have 100 billion unique neurons.

Lets not forget that some mutations and adaptations lead to species extinction. Thats evolution too.

Epigenetics is not surprising to me. It merely illustrates the flexibility of evolutionary design and process.
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Posted 06/02/10 - 12:09 AM:

cripes wrote:
Yes! I read the wikipedia piece the other day as well. I seriously don't see the conflict unless your saying the brain is a sort of run away organ that is becoming its own individual species growing out of the human species. Genes are the designer of organs, as I see it and, functions of a designed organ cannot operate outside its intended purpose. For whatever reason, genes have given the brain the ability to have 100 billion unique neurons.

i guess i'm not really clear on what relation you are suggesting between genes and the choices we make. is that you feel that all of our decisions are gene-driven?

i certainly don't think of our genes as one species and our brains as another, but if we're talking about agency and which parts of our biology are connected to our behaviors, i'd say genes determine behaviors only to a small extent. to make an analogy, parents give birth to children, raise them, give them guidance, influence them through their own behavior and examples, but children themselves have a certain degree of agency without needing to be considered a different species. likewise, genes may be the predecessor of brains, as it were, but brains are making the decisions on a daily basis, and in large part, in response to external input. so we have genes working in tandem with the brain, and in tandem with external stimuli, to determine a course of action.

i guess we could break this question down to speculate in which level of agency the inspiration for malice is rooted: is it a genetic matter? or is it epigenetic?
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Posted 06/04/10 - 9:08 PM:

hmm

Well, having observed a 7 and 2 year old, malice is a response to having been hurt by the other, even in the absence of reasonable justification. The 7 year old can't always see that he is truly at fault, that his antics are source of his own pain, so he easily projects fault upon the 2 year old and so retorts (in a physically malicious way).

The root of malice must be in the tendency to lash out in self defense and or power (and this would belong in to the class of instinct, the fight in the fight or flight response). I don't know why meaningless pain would naturally lead to anger/frustration, but such a transition seems common. I remember hitting my toe on doors and going into a rage (wanting to break the thing that hurt me).



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Posted 06/04/10 - 9:48 PM:

Nihil Loc wrote:
hmm

Well, having observed a 7 and 2 year old, malice is a response to having been hurt by the other, even in the absence of reasonable justification. The 7 year old can't always see that he is truly at fault, that his antics are source of his own pain, so he easily projects fault upon the 2 year old and so retorts (in a physically malicious way).

The root of malice must be in the tendency to lash out in self defense and or power (and this would belong in to the class of instinct, the fight in the fight or flight response). I don't know why meaningless pain would naturally lead to anger/frustration, but such a transition seems common. I remember hitting my toe on doors and going into a rage (wanting to break the thing that hurt me).
Or, perhaps, anticipating hurt or pain - feeling threatened of survival.
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Posted 06/05/10 - 1:54 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
is there a biological imperative for it? if not, why is it around?

any thoughts?

lib


Meriam Webster online suggests following meanings:

Malice

1 : desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another
2 : intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse.


The first one seems to be appropriate for this thread. The evil intent is not necessarily the biological imperative only. As with many other things in humans, the evil intent has taken a dysfunctional mode. By dysfunctional mode I suggest something which is not necessarily conducive or helpful to the survial(or does not seem to be helpful to the survival directly). Sadism is extreme of this. While malice may mean that you just have an idea or a bundle of ideas borne out of the desire to hurt others, on which, you may start to take some action(s), which later on become habit, your character; the sadism suggests a state where you have started to derive pleasure by doing this.

Like any other thing, on the surface, desire is the root cause of all evil. You may say that it is Karma but then there is so called good and bad karma. Malice may be called bad karma because you are assuming a role where you can hurt others and in turn you are creating a habit and then this reverberates.


Thanks,

Thinker13
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Posted 07/05/10 - 10:33 PM:

I think that, in cases where emotional survival is at stake, and there is a choice between dangerous loss of power and self esteem on the one hand, and malice on the other, the person will often choose malice, as the best of two bad options.


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Posted 07/07/10 - 7:58 AM:

Zum wrote:
I think that, in cases where emotional survival is at stake, and there is a choice between dangerous loss of power and self esteem on the one hand, and malice on the other, the person will often choose malice, as the best of two bad options.





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