Re: Lamarckian?

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Thu Jan 10 2002 - 17:13:43 GMT

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    This seemed to disappear en route, but it may well now turn up twice...

    Grant Callaghan wrote:

    > .. No
    >> examples of altruism exist in biology.
    > Chris, have you read The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley? He gives a
    > good discussion of the subject. I'm wondering, though, how you define
    > altruism. I saw a story in the paper yesterday about a lion in Africa
    > that adopted and nurtured a (I think) gazell, protecting it from other
    > preditors. They had a nice relationship until anoter lion came along
    > while the protector was absent and ate it. I, myself, have seen a dog
    > adopt a cat and nurse it when its mother died. If you define altruism
    > as giving without receiving anything in return, that's hard to prove.
    > The giver must get some satisfaction or the behavior wouldn't exist.
    > But the world is full of examples of giving with no obvious reward.
    > Just look at all the totally useless animals humans adopt and devote
    > time and money to caring for. What's their motivtion?

    I think to uncover the motivation for pets you have to examine how
    people feel, and what they miss, when their pet dies. People like their
    pets to like them unequivocally (dog always happy to see you), or they
    are amused by their behaviour (one of my cats plays a good game of
    fetch, parrots parrot and so on), or they just love them cos they're
    'cute' (very heavily culturally dependent partially subconscious learned
    stuff) or interesting etc etc. It's about the human's needs though. The
    cross-species 'altruism' such as you mention does occur but is usually
    just a misdirected parental response (learned or otherwise) - cuckoos
    make a living this way.

    I haven't read Matt Ridley (although I've heard him on the radio a
    couple of times, and he talks a lot of rubbish about human behaviour
    along with the rest of his evo-psych fellow travellers like Pinker and
    Cronin) but I would restate that I've yet to see an unequivocal example
    of pure altruism (nothing in return) in humans or anywhere else; almost
    always the 'altruism' is just reciprocal altruism with stranger
    exclusion, or cultural conditioning to feel good about doing stuff (the
    kind of Big Brotherish thing where God will reward you, or something
    similar but less well defined to do with our self image compared to
    societal norms).

       Chris Taylor ( »people»chris

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