Altruism among biological individuals can not exist according to the doctrine of evolution.
Bute there are situations when a biological individual could be thought of acting apparently
altruistic, without being in conflict with that doctrine. It holds among others for cases when
somebody gives his life in order to save his relatives. Such a case would be possible, if it was
a question of saving two or more siblings or more than eight cousins. I such cases the genes
concerned have been represented among these relatives to a more than 100 5 extent and the
genes of his have thereby been compensated. From the viewpoint of the genes this is a
“selfish” action, since it increases the amount of the genes of the sacrificing in the following
But for an individual to sacrifice his life at all, is also required a reward. Bettelheim’s
prisoners were in another connection demonstrating that such a reward through its euphoria
that implied a temporary transfer to a higher level. (This case was valid not for genetically
close relatives, instead a temporary fellowship between non-relatives, see Ch. 10). Without a
reward this altruism would not have been realized, the possible knowledge about relatives or
genes of relatives being rescued does of course not suffice.
In the case of these relatives no such reward is being present, even though the genetic
preconditions are present and I have observed that nobody of those that have given an account
of the problem has given any example.
One has neglected that not only genes but individuals are involved on the life process. It is
only individuals that are sacrificing themselves (genes are unable to act) and therefore nothing
can happen provided no reward is present in the perspective. Just the necessity of a reward
points to the decisive role of the individual in situations like this.
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I treat another scenario that can maybe give another perspective and a solution to the problem,
namely a case with a mother and three children. Those have each 50 % of the genes of their
mother. They are assumed to be subject to the same situation as that described above and the mother saves the children by sacrificing her own life. That the mother, contrary to the father
with the cousins in the analogue situation, has succeeded in her rescue situation apparently
depends on her action being followed by a reward.
If the scenario had been to save only one child, the mother would of course have sacrificed
her own life even for that goal that is apparent. The equation does not fit if looking at the case
from a gene point of view.
My hypothesis is that the phenomenon that is effective in the scenario with mother and child
is interconnected with the reproductive force. That is an original, genuine force that is existing
from the very beginning of life and it is the primary property of the original DNA molecule.
The reproductive force belongs to the same category as the phenomena that can appear among
populations is certain connections (ss chapter 10).
The both forces are genuine and have in common that they can enable an individual to act in
excess of her selfish ability.
That I call them genuine can be visualized through a comparison with the altruism that is
assumed to characterize “altruism genes”. That altruism is not assumed to act unconditionally
but instead at certain extent of gene compensation, namely when more genes than those of the
sacrificing own are being saved. A mother on the other hand that is subject to the reproductive
force is reacting even upon smallest possible cause, which in this case is one child.
Hence, it is the reproductive force that is effective in the mother-child case and that is the
explanation why it in that case can be a sacrifice and a reward. Its influence implies a
temporary level rise that is making the sacrifice possible.
That is explaining the reaction of the mother in the above scenario. But the corresponding
effect does not turn up, when only gene compensation is being involved in the process and
that is valid independently of the time the “altruism genes” have been allowed to work.
Why can not these genes make a sacrifice possible? I can here only refer to the definition of
the concept of altruism that is present in R. Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” on p. 4: “An
entity, such as a baboon, is said to be altruistic if it behaves in such a way as to increase
another such entity’s welfare at the expense of its own.”
Here one has chosen to see the phenomenon altruism as a property among others that could be
developed through for example mutations and changes of the environmental pressure but has
not otherwise imagined altruism in any meaningful context. Altruism according to that
definition can not enable sacrifices of the own life, since it has no connection with the genuine
forces that can enable an individual to sacrifice his own life.