I get that humans feel pain to know when problems occur, but why do we feel pain to the point of passing out, isn’t that detrimental?

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I get that humans feel pain to know when problems occur, but why do we feel pain to the point of passing out, isn’t that detrimental?

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Nature isn’t perfect. People like to throw around the words “evolution” and “natural selection” as if nature is some mastermind looking at every possible scenario and trying to create the best response for it. It’s not. Those processes involve nature randomly trying thousands of mutations and assuming “this guy had offspring” means “that trait is good”. Nothing in that process stops nature from trying the same bad idea millions of times over again. Nothing stops people who developed “good” traits from having offspring with slightly worse traits. Nothing stops people with “bad” traits from having a lot of children if they’re lucky enough to not be in the situation where they will die.

So like, what pain is for is when you do something stupid like touch something hot you can’t see. It hurts, you stop touching it, and that minimizes burns. This has a clear line between how people with the trait are better at survival and how people without it are more likely to die: people who don’t feel pain can get injuries without noticing and that makes them more likely to have severe injuries or develop infections.

The kind of pain that makes you pass out is usually associated with MAJOR trauma, like having your leg torn off by a tiger. That is your body going into shock. This is a very different kind of response. It’s SO worried you are about to die it’s more interested in the prospect of preventing anything that interferes with blood flow to the brain and that means shutting down a ton of your conscious systems. Over millions of years of people dying in absolutely horrible ways, it turns out that if you get hurt THAT bad staying conscious doesn’t really make people any more likely to survive. If the tiger bit your leg and severed the artery, you weren’t going to run away. But maybe someone else can distract or kill the tiger, then they manage to stop your bleeding, there’s SOME chance that if your body focused on the brain and stopped you from running like a fool thus bleeding more you would be more likely to survive.

That’s why shock exists and why extreme pain can make you lose consciousness. The body is in a bad spot, and maybe 99% of people in that situation die anyway. But the 1% who survived maybe went on to have kids and the response spread to other people. (Also the people who didn’t get into situations where tigers bite their legs survived better too, so its’ unclear if they’d go into shock as well!)

It’s not a perfect response or always the best response. But the body is a *machine*, not a computer. If it gets too damaged, it uses ancient mechanisms to try and deal with that. Part of the advantage we have as a species is we’re supposed to be able to use our computer-like brains to predict and mitigate danger. When we don’t’ use that advantage we have to rely on slow, dumb evolution.

Think about that next time people say “let Darwin sort it out”. Sometimes what “Darwin” refers to here means “a species goes extinct”.

brain say, you hurt? i protect you from feeling that, take nap.