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    • #196

      Self-sacrifice of one’s fitiness of for the fitiness of another.

      I push you out of the way of a car and die myself.

      In nature, we are taught this always has a biological benefit. I have 50% of my brother’s genes. So, saving 3 of my brothers would be beneficial for me because it would save 150% of my genes, instead of just 100% by saving myself. On the other hand, I should let one brother die instead of sacrificing myself because only 50% of my genes would move on in the gene pool, and I should not do this.

      So, “altruism” in nature has benefit for one’s self, even if it’s not readily apparent. However, TRUE altruism would not benefit an individual at all (me dying for one brother). Humans are said to be the only organisms capable of true altruism.

      At first glance, I thought that true altruism is a really stupid thing. Then, I got to thinking…humans are the only creatures capable of true altruism…AND they are the most dominant species on the planet. So…does this have any relevance? Is this a behavior that benefits the entire species, or just a coincidence?

      What is everyone’s thoughts?

    • #18648

      If I may just say, I wouldn’t think about saving my brother in order to preserve my genes. I would save my brother out of love for him. The same with my sister. I would save someone out of love for him/her. Whether I know him/her or not. If I could save someone, and it would endanger my life, I still would do it. That’s why I would do it. Not to preserve my genes!

    • #18649

      Exactly! Even according to YOUR OWN WORDS iit is a weakness for humans. The entire point of life from the biological point of view (which I remind you is what we are here to discuss) is to live to propogate as many of your genes as possible. If you save your brother, only half of your genes become propogated. If you let your brother die, and you reproduce, ALL of your genes are passed on.

      Cold or not, that is the way it is in the biological world. Put aside your ideals aside for science. They have no place. Listen to this with an open mind because it is an essential principle for biology taken STRAIGHT from Darwin:

      The purpose of life on this planet is to survive. The strongest survive. If the weak survive in any species, the species is weakened overall because the weaker genes are passed onto the gene pool.

    • #18687

      The religious part of this argument has been deleted…that was an argument that was unproductive for this forum, and not what we are here to do.

    • #19406

      Altruism helps humanity as a species succeed. This is one of the factors that lead to our success. Here’s an example:

      Suppose you were rich, and I were starving to death. You might give me food out of the goodness of your heart. I would remember this, and my sense of honor would encourage me to support you in some way. For example, if you were to fall on hard times, and I were to get rich, I could return the favor. Now, if neither of us were willing to help the other person, then the rich person’s excess food would just go to waste, and we’d both end up dying, as there would be no one to look out for us when we were starving.

    • #19408

      Natural selection only selects for the BEST genes. Without altruism, both “temporarily poor” people would “die” in your example. Natural Selection would only select for those that are “rich” all the time.

      With altruism saving the “lives” of the “temporarily poor” incividuals, genes are passed on potentially allowing offspring to become “poor.” If natural selection were allowed to run unimpeded of altruism, all “poor” individuals would fail to reproduce, and the “poor” gene would be bred out.

    • #19413

      I think altruism develops out of civilized thought. I think this question is very akin to social darwinism. Why should the “inferior people” live? Disregarding the moral factor, there seems to be no reason for inferior people to live. But I think that we as humans have evolved beyond simply short term thinking. The thing that prevents us or should prevent us from not helping is because we don’t know enough. Appearances are deceiving and many times we do not know what potential a person holds. There’s retarded people who look like a million bucks(supermodels :-D). Then there’s paralyzed people who turn out to be smart(Steve Hawkins). Humans understand that maybe we are alone in the world and our ultimate goal is survival. And to survive, we need every advantage we can get. So to answer your question, we sacrifice ourselves in order that the whole might become better.

    • #19426

      Biostudent84 –

      There is no “poor” gene in the sense you describe. Everyone falls on hard times occasionally. There’s no gene that makes you get hit by an avalanche, generally – are you suggesting that without altruism humans would evolve some kind of anti-avalanche gene? Maybe; but then scientific genius might not tend to get passed down as easily, as such people might evolve before the anti-avalanche gene and get killed in an avalanche.

      Who is poor all the time? Who is strong all the time, who is healthy all the time, who is emotionally together all the time? What person would survive if everyone was out only for themselves all the time? Who is awake all the time?

      If you want to protect yourself from thieves, you can buy a gun and guard your house all the time, or you can make arrangements with your neighbors to look out for one another and take vengeance together if either one gets robbed. Extrapolate from that and you get the current justice system which is far more powerful at protecting me from thieves than if I were to have to defend myself all the time from roving gangs. The altruistic concept of Justice allows such systems to develop more easily. It makes such systems almost specieswide by instinct, thought not to any great degree. It’s just a tendency to develop such systems; to protect another when he is weak. Most people are the beneficiaries of altruism at some point.

    • #19437


      Look at what you are talking about! I was continuing your analogy of wealth. Now you are making an impossible leap by making the story of your analogy into a real story…impossible.

      Yes, I am saying that those who are “poor” (and by poor I mean when the enviornment conflicts with any said gene in the organism) should be selected against. While an organism is “rich” most of the time, it is still better to breed more of the said organisms that are “rich” all of the time!

      This is the basis for ALL natural selection.[/u]

    • #19462

      Biuostudent84 –

      My analogy was meant to show why altruism is an advantage. You seem to be suggesting altruism is a disadvantage, which it is not. Am I correct? I don’t understand why you think my second example is inappropriate; it’s an example of why altruism is an advantage.

      Natural Selection would only select for those that are “rich” all the time.

      If you’re going to generalize the analogy by using “wealth” as a metaphor, then again, no organism is “rich” all the time. Altruism saves organisms that otherwise have excellent genes yet by chance fall into a specific danger that they cannot survive alone. Without altruism, a bacterium that spontaneously develops antibiotic resistance might die off by being coughed out into bleach or boiling water or something, thus denying the population of the benefit of antibiotic resistance. Humans have altruism, so if a potential genius or person resistant to HIV or the flu falls into boiling water and can’t get out, someone will throw them a rope and that gene will be saved. Do you understand my point?

    • #19468


      I will continue this coversation with you when you learn the difference between an analogy and an example.

    • #19481

      Umm. Ok. Whatever makes you happy!

    • #19969

      Dear all,

      the human race, though displaying many traits which may be seen as altruistic are not as selfless as you may think. Experiments by Jeffrey R. Stevens and Marc D. Hauser (Department of Psychology and Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA) and by ERNST FEHR AND URS FISCHBACHER (University of Zürich, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, Blümlisalpstrasse 10, CH-8006 Zürich, Switzerland) clearly show, that if given the oppurtunity to act selfishly with no detriment to ourselves, humans will act selfishly.

      Take for example the following experiment:

      The ultimatum game nicely illustrates that a sizeable number of people from a wide variety of cultures even when facing high monetary stakes are willing to punish others at a cost to themselves to prevent unfair outcomes or to sanction unfair behaviour. In this game, two subjects have to agree on the division of a fixed sum of money. Person A, the proposer, can make exactly one proposal of how to divide the money. Then person B, the responder, can accept or reject the proposed division. In the case of rejection, both receive nothing, whereas in the case of acceptance, the proposal is implemented. A robust result in this experiment is that proposals giving the responder shares below 25% of the available money are rejected with a very high probability. This shows that responders do not behave to maximize self-interest, because a selfish responder would accept any positive share. In general, the motive indicated for the rejection of positive, yet ‘low’, offers is that responders view them as unfair. Most proposers seem to understand that low offers will be rejected. Therefore, the equal split is often the modal offer in the ultimatum game. (taken from Nature 425, 785 – 791 (23 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature02043 )

      Only parent-child interactions can ever be said to be truely selfless but there are even arguements against this:

      Richard Dawkins, in his excellent and highly acclaimed book, “the selfish gene” uses the genes of an individual as the basic unit of life, not, as most others do, the body. This is very useful as it shows that it is the genes that continue, not the individual, so it must be the survival of our genes that we strive for. If this is the case, then a parent will be likely to save its child at personal risk to itself as the child shares 50% of its genes. The further the familyties between the two parties are, the less likely one is to save the other.

      Lets face it, we all like to think that we would throw ourselves infront of a bus to save a child (who is not our own offspring) but no sane person would. There are too many uncertainties and the only way for you to achieve immortality is to perpetuate your genes. They are your legacy and everyone wants to leave some impact on the planet which they spent all their days.

      An act such as saving the life of your girlfriend is not so black and white, but when explained, is as simple as the rest to understand: if you save the life of your girlfriend at personal risk to yourself, you may both survive. If she survives, she may carry your child in a few years and so you are protecting your genes again. If the chances of saving her are too slim, logic dictates that you shouldnt attempt to save her.

      We all know, however, that this is not always the case. Love is brought into the equation: Love is a combination of chemicals. You know that feeling when you are really in love (or even to a certain extent when you are in lust)? It feels good doesnt it? Well, i am afraid to say that this is just a concoction of chemicals rushing round in your blood. You feel good because being in love and stayiong with a partner has been evolutionarily successful.

      If you think about what makes you love someone rationally you will find something like this:

      attractive (good genes)
      makes you laugh (compatible thus more likely to stay together)
      makes you feel safe (obvious)
      rich (can provide for you) – sorry but it is true – look at the rich like Snoop Dogg – not exactly good looking is he? What about Simon from American Idol? Rich but not nice. He has a lovely looking partner.

      Anyway i have said enough.

      Let me know what you think – and read the referenced articles first too.

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