Re: Chimps may lack altruism

From: Benjamin Nathaniel Goertzel (
Date: Mon Nov 07 2005 - 07:38:00 MST

Phil ...

Take note that Jeff lives in the Washington DC area :-)


-----Original Message-----

From: "Philip Sutton" <>
Subj: Re: Chimps may lack altruism
Date: Mon Nov 7, 2005 9:20 am
Size: 3K

   Hi Jeff,
  Since when do humans behave altruistically?
 ???? You must live with a sad group of people if you've never seen non- reciprocal atruism in operation. Most of the people I've associated with over the last 30 years or so have been active non-reciprocal altruists - helping with over seas aid or species protection or nearer at home social welfare projects.
 And I reckon there might even be a few non-reciprocal altruists lurking on this list!
 It's not just me who's noticed this tendency of humans. Have a read of:
 Not by genes alone: how culture transformed human evolution by Peter J Richerson and Robert Boyd University of Chicago Press 2005. Their thesis is that the creation of language and complex culture (other species have culture too ie. socially transmitted behaviours) by humans created a setting in which new evolutionary pressures could be set in motion, resulting in biological evolutionary changes in humans that support altruism beyond reciprocal altruism that benfits kin.
  Non-reciprocal altruism is so uncommon in humans as to be more easily
  categorized as a disorder (!!!??) than some sort of higher, grand trait of
  humanity that puts us on a moral pedestal above the non-human animals.
 A bit of evidence about rarity would be good. And why on earth classify it as a disorder??? Do you think the world would be a better place without non- reciprocal altruism? You're thesis is not even very well framed. Rarity of behaviours is not a good indicator of the fitness of the behaviour. Life is complex and mixes common patterns with rarer environmental circumstances. Survival through an array of circumstances favours behaviours that might be exercised with varying degrees of frequency but which get people through extended periods of time.
 Cheers, Philip

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