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Altruism?

Debate and discussion of any biological questions not pertaining to a particular topic.

Moderator: BioTeam

Is Altruism a benefit or weakness to Homo Sapien

Benefit
4
40%
Weakness
2
20%
Both (explain)
3
30%
Neither (explain)
1
10%
 
Total votes : 10

Postby geddiknight » Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:47 pm

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.
geddiknight
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