Altruism vs. selfishness

mikmik (in response to the question, “How do you know it’s not the selfish genes that are promoting altruism?”
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Posted March 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

You’re question doesn’t make sense. Every adaptive trait any organism has, is encoded genetically.
Seems to me if genes are so selfish, they sacrifice themselves bravely by metamorphing into different genes which kills themselves 99% of the time, and even when a mutation is adaptive, the result is a slightly different molecule/gene, so it really isn’t preserved selfishly, is it?

In fact, every gene is altruistic in the deepest sense in that they offer themselves up so a new gene can carry on more successfully, which then offers itself up as a sacrifice in order to give yet a new combination of amino acids a chance at a more fruitful existence. It even clones itself as much as possible just so more of them can die in the noble pursuit of self sacrifice for a new gene yet again, to continue.

It seems to me that genes act altruistically and co-operatively at the group level, don’t you think? I mean, Dawkins gives only a very few examples of genes successfully inserting extra copies of itself into the genome in a selfish bid to proliferate. The vast majority of the time, the rogue ingrate gene extinguishes itself and every other gene in the co-operative group known as the genome.

I mean(my favoriye phrase!), isn’t this just a bit more futile than arguing whether or not we have free will?

Actually, I think an argument can easily be made that evolution is driven by co-operation and group cohesion. The rogue, selfish individual is poisonous to any genome, cell, organism, tribe, group, government, corporation, etc. Obviously, our survival as a species depends upon a much higher degree of support and understanding between groups and individuals inside of groups, for starvation and spread of disease and nuclear war and mass extinction events don’t bode well for any gene, anywhere, no matter how selfishly it tries to hog resources, ya think?

Sooner or later the group majority realizes that power is unequally distributed into the hands of the few ruthlessly selfish minority, and either revolts and wipes out the offenders, or achieves an even greater level of co-operation in order to peacefully assert altruistic behavior back into the dominant role in group dynamics.

It’s almost like altruism is the check and balance against selfishness, ain’t it?

Thus, a moral law.

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