Saturday, June 9, 2012

What is Love? (Baby, Don't Hurt Me)

If you are friends with me on Facebook (and if you aren't, why not?), you probably know I like to debate.  Sometimes the questions are good enough that I should probably post them here for my own reference if nothing else.  Here's the first of this series.

A friend of a friend asked me this when I told him that I require evidence to believe anything.
So do you believe that love exists? Can it be proved matching the criteria outlined above? If not, then what is it that exists between a parent and a child, spouses, best friends, etc?

My response:

The problem is that "love" is an abstract concept. It's a term we use to describe a set of feelings and actions, not a thing unto itself. With that in mind, no, I cannot prove love exists. I can describe how I determine what love is and what criteria I require to meet it. You may not agree with what my criteria is, and I may not agree with yours.

I feel my wife loves me, and I love her in return because of two things. The first is the biological imperative that has evolved in humans and most other mammalian species to mate and develop family units to survive. We are driven to mate, and chemical reactions in our brains make it pleasing to stay that way (this also conflicts with male imperative to impregnate as many females as possible. One of a number of reason I don't believe in intelligent design. Evolution didn't design us very intelligently).

The second is that we selected each other because of mutual interests beyond initial physical attraction. These and other personality traits helped us develop a bond and empathetic concern for each other that, coupled with trust built up over the course of our initial interactions, I consider love. Your criteria may different, and if so, then that doesn't make yours less correct than mine.

Friendships are similarly built, minus the imperative to mate (probably).

Love for your children is by far the most evidently an evolutionary trait for survival of the species. It's the one that's the least rational. Anyone who has ever had a teenager will attest that there are times it makes absolutely no sense to continue to love them, yet we still do. If we're lucky, we also develop bonds of mutual interests with our kids, but sadly that's not always the case. Of course, there is a school of thought that conjectures that is also an evolutionary trait as it spurs offspring to leave the nest and continue to help the species proliferate.

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