Essay talk:Michael Egnor's failed attempt at dualism

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Interesting. By chance I've read two stories about animal altruism recently. Here are the links if you're interested:

Altruistic chimps here:

Altruistic rats on this one: I suppose that animal altruism damages their case?--Bob_M (talk) 11:05, 13 July 2007 (CDT)

I think there are plenty of other things that damage their case, regardless. Thunderkatz 11:07, 13 July 2007 (CDT)

There problem is really determining whether or not altruism exists, which is a topic for philosophy not science. It can be argued that all altruistic actions come from an innate selfishness. That if a person did not gain some form of gratification from the "altruistic" act they would never have undertaken it.the_anti-drug(elk murder) 11:12, 13 July 2007 (CDT)

One can certainly argue that. I could make the example of my sending money to help some flood victims in the third world - there is no obvious way in which I would expect any form of return from my donation. So it looks like altruism. The reply would probably be that I have gained some form of emotional satisfaction form my act. OK - but from whence comes this emotional satisfaction? Here, I guess, we are left with evolutionary psychology to go for an answer.--Bob_M (talk) 11:19, 13 July 2007 (CDT)
The emotional satisfaction could come from one of an infinite number of possibilities. From being able to convince oneself one is a good person or to a simple power play by displaying to oneself how they are in a better position and that another needs their help. Of course, there is an entire spectrum of answers, those are only a couple of examples. the_anti-drug(elk murder) 11:23, 13 July 2007 (CDT)


Yay altruism! I get way to excited about this subject so feel free to skip over this if I get too pedantic. While certain aspects of altruism may exist only in “philosophy” I would say that science can certainly have something to say. The main thing one needs is a good definition of altruism. The classic one in evolutionary biology and animal behavior is that the absolute cost to you is greater than any benefit you receive (c>b). With that in mind biologist have been looking for altruism for the last 60 years. And so far they have not found any examples of it. But there are tons of interesting “false altruisms” out there.

  • Nepotism-This is helping family out, and it relates around Hamilton's equation where he said that altruism to relatives could evolve if the absolute cost the altruist is less than the benefit to the receiver times some proportion of relatedness. This is the famous c<rb equation where r is the co-efficient of relatedness. Classic “gene level” view of evolution. Your siblings are related .5 your parents .5 your children .5, grandchildren .25 nephews/nieces .25 cousins 0.0625, ect. This has created all kinds of awesome hypotheses, like all the parent-offspring conflict stuff from Robert Trivers. My favirot animal example of this is the prairie dog. Prairie dogs will sound an alarm if they see a predator, and this alerts the others allowing them to escape, but the one that sounds the alarm is more likely to be eaten. Females always stay in related packs and will always sound the alarms. Males that are still in their mothers packs will sound the alarm, but then when the male goes to a new colony where he is no longer related he stops doing alarm calls, but after the breeding season if he has successfully mated he will do the alarm calls again, and when he moves another time he repeats the pattern. This is “false” altruism because the benefit is to your “genes” which is pretty much the same as you.
  • Reciprocal altruism- This is sort of what you guys were talking about, this is like the “I scratch your back today, you scratch mine tomorrow” kind of thing. Humans are probably the most clear cut example of this. Cosmidies and Tooby and hypothesized a large number of psychological adaptations they have been looking at in people that evolved to aid in reciprocal altruism. Usually there are two kinds, the direct reciprocity where I bring in my Giraffe today, share it with you and then next week you share your Giraffe with me. This is classic economics too, both parties are better off in this transaction, particularly because you there were no refrigerators, so in a sense you are “banking” the extra meat that would go rotten by giving it to neighbors and friends. Then there is indirect reciprocity, where the person you help does not pay you back in anyway but you can other things like status and reputation. In evolutionary psychology in humans status and reputation is the currency you can pay for mating! Regardless reciprocal altruism is clearly “false altruism” because c<r in the end.
  • Trickery- This is pretty interesting, though only a few people have ever tried to argue it as altruism. This is where one animal tricks another into an altruistic act. A famous animal example of this is the cuckoo bird who is a brood parasite. The cuckoo enters another species nest, tosses out all its eggs and lays its own. The host parents will then raise the cuckoo birds child as its own, this is clearly c<r, but due to the “trickery” aspect of it, can you really say its altruism?

I could go on and on...but I am going to stop now :). tmtoulouse annoy 12:05, 13 July 2007 (CDT)