Wednesday, 2 November 2016
Curtiosity about altruism and evolution
More unused epigraphs...will they never end?
I do not see that any good can come from killing our relations in battle.
— Bhagavad Gita, 1:31, in the translation of Eknath Easwaran, Arkana Books, 1985.
I'd lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.
— J. B. S. Haldane (1892 - 1964), showing a mathematical geneticist's view of altruism.
As man advances in civilization and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instinct and sympathies to all members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.
— Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871), as quoted by Ashley Montagu, On Being Human, pp 23-24.
After much consideration, it is my mature conclusion, contrary to Herbert Spencer, that the co-operative forces are biologically the more important and vital. The balance between the co-operative and altruistic tendencies and those which are disoperative and egoistic is relatively close. Under many conditions the co-operative forces lose. In the long run, however, the group centered, more altruistic drives are slightly stronger. If co-operation had not been the stronger force, the more complicated animals, whether arthropods or vertebrates, could not have evolved from simpler ones, and there would have been no men to worry each other with their distressing and biologically foolish wars. While I know of no laboratory experiments that make a direct test of this problem, I have come to this conclusion by studying the implications of many experiments which bear on both sides of the problem and from considering the trends of organic evolution in nature.
— Warder C. Allee, 'Where Angels Fear to Tread', Science, 97, 1943: 521, quoted by Ashley Montagu, On Being Human, pp 41-42.