In this episode, a question that haunted Charles Darwin: if natural selection boils down to survival of the fittest, how do you explain why one creature might stick its neck out for another?
The standard view of evolution is that living things are shaped by cold-hearted competition. And there is no doubt that today\’s plants and animals carry the genetic legacy of ancestors who fought fiercely to survive and reproduce. But in this hour, we wonder whether there might also be a logic behind sharing, niceness, kindness … or even, self-sacrifice. Is altruism an aberration, or just an elaborate guise for sneaky self-interest? Do we really live in a selfish, dog-eat-dog world? Or has evolution carved out a hidden code that rewards genuine cooperation?
I haven’t listened to this yet, although I’m familiar with the standard views about how altruism arises in evolution. (I do plan to listen to it eventually, but I listen to podcasts on my lunch walks and I have an epic backlog right now.) I’m posting it here now because I think some of you might find it interesting.
Evolution is usually thought to mean survival of the fittest with a fierce struggle between individuals. But we are a social species, whose evolved survival strategy involves working together in groups, in societies. I’ve read anthropological speculation that the development of our large brains might have been intimately tied up in our social awareness skills, out ability to function well within a culture.
The above doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re altruistic because we’re sneakily selfish in a long term strategic manner. What it does mean is that we have evolved pro-social instincts that give us powerful motivations to be altruistic, to help our family, friends, and comrades. (It’s not all good news since it also gives us xenophobic instincts as well.)
Of course, the translation between instinct and moral codes is complex.
h/t Machines Like Us
- Collaboration and Competition (corriganjonesidealab.com)
- God and The Theory of Existentialism (writelikeyoubreathe.wordpress.com)
- Survival of the fittest (prasannawrites.wordpress.com)
- The Other Darwin (theatlantic.com)
- The Weekend Poll: What Do You Think? “Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution” (robertjrgraham.com)
- Charles Darwin (daisy12andrews12.wordpress.com)
- The 6 Ways Altruism Could Have Evolved: Part 2, Commitment & Sex (appliedsentience.com)
- The Selfish Meme (thinkingscifi.wordpress.com)