John H. John at
Thu Jul 18 11:57:16 EST 2002

Do you really think that this bland atavistic reductionism is sufficient to
explain the panorama of human behaviour? This is akin to believing that
evolution, the most complex known process, can be seen through a cliche:
survival of the fittest. Sure, evolution explains everything, I like to see
it explain the bombardier beetle but anyway back to altruism ... .

I have no idea why the evolutionary principle of self preservation excludes
once and for all the possibility of altruism. Yes, it does suggest we act
primarily for our own good and the survival of the species but why
specifically does that exclude the possibility of altruism?
Eg. If you prove that evolution, by simple extrapolation, can determine all
possible human behaviours then I might be inclined to believe you . There is
no warrant in the argument:- evolution is about survival of the
species-therefore altruism cannot exist.

Evidence of altruistic behaviour is usually dismissed on the grounds of
psychobabble. ie, one imputes that the person performed altruistically for
some hidden motive, some 'real' reason for their actions. That may well be
true but until such time that such hidden motives can be unequivocally
demonstrated there is no argument, merely the possibility. The whole
approach reminds me of that dreadful psycho history, interpreting human
behaviour in terms of Freudian analysis, now its evolutionary psychology,
and in between, Adler, Jung, Watson, Skinner, Maslow, Wilbur, ... . They
were all wrong in their extrapolations but I am now expected to believe that
evolutionary psychology has got the psychobabble right. The fun part of this
is watching someone with their precious all-embracing theory of human nature
go into any number of conceptual contortions to prove their daft argument.
We see that a bit round here.

My neighbour, wealthily retired, spends her time saving injured animals that
she knows are doomed in this neighbourhood anyway. She keeps trying to save
other species, no group selection principle there. Evolutionary theory
suggests she should spend her time caring for her grandchildren, making more
money to secure their future, but she wastes her time and money saving
animals rather than obeying her genes. (As Pinker notes in "How the Mind
Works": I decided long ago I didn't want children and if my genes don't like
that too bad.) She does it because she likes animals. Before I start
imputing other motives to her, I just have to remember all those other
models of human behaviour that claimed to be able to explain everything.
(eg. you really just want to fuck your mother) Evolution is real but there
are plenty of things it still cannot explain, altruism included. Dammit last
I heard they were still arguing about Group or phenotype or genotype as the
loci of selection.

I have never been able to understand why so many people have helped me, and
I can assure you they were well aware there was no kickback and I aint got
kids either nor do I contribute so where's the evolutionary argument there,
wasting their resources on an essentially no return investment? Gee, maybe
its because people can be kind, no other reason than that. Look around,
you'll see that everyday. If you can't then that's something very sad about
your culture.

John H.

<johnkusch at> wrote in message
news:ujc4m7pketf611 at
> > "Our study shows, for the first time, that social cooperation is
> > intrinsically rewarding to the human brain, even in the face of
> > pressures to the contrary," said Gregory S. Berns, M.D., Ph.D.,
> > co-investigator and associate professor of psychiatry in the Emory
> > University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and
> > Behavioral Sciences and member of the CBN. "It suggests that the
> > altruistic drive to cooperate is biologically embedded-- either
> > genetically programmed or acquired through socialization during
> > childhood and adolescence."
> This statement is made from the common, flawed perspective that altruism
> exists and that cooperation is not in the individual's best interest.
> fascinating to see that, in humans, cooperation is rewarding on a
> physiologic basis, but this does not prove that true altruism even exists.
> Survival of the species is in the interest of the individual.

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