Wednesday, January 30, 2013

452: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 17

We already discussed extensively the assumption that our ability to moral behavior has its roots in the animal kingdom, in other words, in evolution.

The belief that the homo sapiens is some exception in nature, the idea that he is more than just a part of nature, of evolution, is a misconception.

We have moral instincts, which are very old, probably even older than our language and culture. With respect to these views the bio philosophers are in agreement with each other.

The second issue: "Is our moral behavior the consequence of selfish calculating genes?" is a more complicated question.

To quote from an article (1985) of Richard Alexander:
"(..) the interests of an individual human (i.e., the directions of its striving) are expected to be toward ensuring the indefinite survival of its genes and their copies, whether these are resident in the individual, its descendants, or its collateral relatives. 

In today's novelty-filled environments, human activities may often be directed in ways that do not in fact lead to increased success in reproduction or the perpetuation of one's own genes. 

Moreover, people aware of their background in evolution may be able to use conscious reflection and deliberate decisions to live their lives contrary to, or irrespective of, whatever their evolutionary background has prepared them to be. 

Neither of these possibilities, however, affects the essential certainty that humans have evolved to maximize survival of their genes through reproduction. "
-end quote-

Scientists like William Hamilton, Matt Ridley and Robert Wright come to the same conclusion: Our psyche is controlled by calculations of genetic advantage even when we are not aware of it.

Although we are apparently such calculating animals, we are often surprisingly nice to each other. And you hardly can ignore the enormous potential for cooperation.

How to explain that within this selfish gene context? And why does cooperation make sense evolutionary? 
Their solution: theorize the biological advantage of cooperation out without leaving just a spark of goodness in the human nature.

Keep in mind that we are dealing here with the 1980s. The victory of neoliberalism, Randism and individualism. The era of the grand concerto of selfishness.

It is really remarkable to see how in so many fields this paradigm is adopted. This all is in concerto with Sociobiology, 

a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context and made popular again by E.O. Wilson in 1975 with is book "Sociobiology: The New Synthesis".

Sociobiologists believe that human behavior, as well as nonhuman animal behavior, can be partly explained as the outcome of natural selection. 

They contend that in order to fully understand behavior, it must be analyzed in terms of evolutionary considerations.

Foundations of this approach to human nature were laid by Robert L. Trivers (1943 - …), an American evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist, who is a Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, New Jersey USA.

He incorporated in a scientific theory something we all know, and yet don't feel 100% comfortable with: "I only help you, if you will help me too", or to say it in a more academic way:

"In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness 

while increasing another organism's fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time." (Wiki)

As Trivers says: "Altruism is an investment in a capital which is called trust, and later pays nice dividends in the form of other people's generosity . 

Therefore, the cooperative human is anything but truly altruistic, he only has in mind more emphatically  long-term self-interest than on the short-term."

This leaves us with the question: Are we really all Egoists, where we could call the long-term "altruists" the smart group, which not easily will be exposed as cheaters. (See diagram)

The Discussion

[13:33] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:34] herman Bergson: Take your time to think it over....
[13:34] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): There were a couple of things I didn't completely agree with in that
[13:34] herman Bergson: That is how it should be Merlin ^_^
[13:35] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): But I am not sure I can express myself clearly just now
[13:35] herman Bergson: just give it a try
[13:35] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i also think this is not a constant way of thinking ... i think it changes
[13:35] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Mainly the conclusion of that long quote. I thought the interpretation of it was wrong somehow
[13:35] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): different ages
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): different circumstances
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): My question: If survival of the fittest is happening now (evolution) how come there are such massive threats to our species existence? eg Nuclear bombs, and over consumption?
[13:36] herman Bergson: the basic idea here is that were are basically selfish caused by our genes
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): which require huge cooperation?
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie...that is what I already said in the previous lecture...
[13:37] herman Bergson: if our genes are so selfish to fight for their survival...
[13:37] herman Bergson: why do we smoke and drink alcohol and love to be a couch potato..:-)
[13:38] Debbie Dee (framdor): Our genes don't understand maybe ;)
[13:38] herman Bergson: and ok..those bombs as nice extras to survival :-)
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:38] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Genes don't really care what happens to us after we have reproduced (if)
[13:38] herman Bergson: the quintessential question here is...What is human nature?
[13:39] Debbie Dee (framdor): Maybe "amplified reality" (greed and free market) is causing us to fail slowly...
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: seems we make all we can to kill each other instead at least in many parts of the world
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): good thought merlin
[13:39] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): ty :)
[13:39] herman Bergson: True Merlin....
[13:40] herman Bergson: Question is only ...are those sociobiologist right....
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: but some smoke and drink before reproducing
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes and while pregnant they don't smoke and drink at all ^_^
[13:40] herman Bergson: for 9 months :-))
[13:40] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): most dont
[13:41] Debbie Dee (framdor): Having more stuff seems more important than survival - the greedy selfish gene.
[13:41] Lizzy Pleides: and many do it despite of knowing that it is unhealthy
[13:42] herman Bergson: what makes me feel uncomfortable is this biological view
[13:42] herman Bergson: I mena....
[13:42] herman Bergson: you always are right when you say that genes control you even 
 when you are not aware of it...
[13:43] herman Bergson: SUch an approach brings up many questions...
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): Oh wait I know the answer.... the planet is just too small.... we will die back like successful hungry bacteria in a petri dish
[13:43] herman Bergson: do we have free will or are we jus tour genes?
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): and then the fittest survive
[13:43] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i agree with merlin
[13:43] herman Bergson: If it is just our genes...can there be ethics?
[13:43] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): until we are born
[13:43] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and physical problems
[13:44] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): maybe mental
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:44] herman Bergson: I begin to wonder what the mental is gemma...if it is the genes that control my real life apparently
[13:45] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:45] Debbie Dee (framdor): Can we help our genes to make kinder selections? Teach them to reason....
[13:45] herman Bergson: I htink the big question is....
[13:45] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well that is if we believe that only our brain is it
[13:45] herman Bergson: as homo sapiens we are part of nature...yes...ok....
[13:46] herman Bergson: but..isn't there really nothing that makes us unique in relation to nature?
[13:46] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Well Debbie, teaching genes is what happens when we breed certain animals, selectively
[13:46] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): then the environment comes in and who brings us up in life
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: well only we have a spoken language and can build and use machines to help ourselves for ex
[13:47] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): extra furry cats etc
[13:47] Debbie Dee (framdor): Yes merlin...
[13:47] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): we are aware of ourselves..that's what makes us unique
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: no other species make use of machinery in any way
[13:47] herman Bergson: Got a point there Beertje....
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: of
[13:47] Debbie Dee (framdor): All animals seem to be aware of themselves
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: seems logical
[13:47] herman Bergson: and then those genes...what or who controls them...and their changes…
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: my intuition says that about 80 - 90 % of our decisions are dominated by the genes and the rest it free will probably
[13:48] herman Bergson: no Debbie there you are mistaken
[13:48] Debbie Dee (framdor): Most of our decisions in the first world are made by commerce for us.
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: well many animals handle only but instinct
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: hard programmed unchanged behaviour
[13:48] herman Bergson: indeed Bejiita
[13:48] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I think we should be careful to underestimate other animals
[13:49] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Some people say they cannot feel pain etc
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: for example all salmons and fish in general follow exactly the same life cycle
[13:49] Debbie Dee (framdor): Awareness of humans, recognition of a friend, love - my cat does that
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: programmed into them from birth
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: so no frree will
[13:49] Debbie Dee (framdor): my cat talks, asks for attention,
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: and same with bees and flies
[13:49] Debbie Dee (framdor): Plays with its prey
[13:50] herman Bergson: We love to think that Debbie.....that is what pets are for...
[13:50] Debbie Dee (framdor): I think we are deluded to think we are the only self aware creatures.
[13:50] herman Bergson: but from a behavioral point of view their behavior is 100% predicatble...
[13:50] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Yes I agree with you on this Debbie
[13:50] Debbie Dee (framdor): The elephants talk to each other, and have huge brains.
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: memory like an elephant u use to say
[13:51] herman Bergson: hold on....!!!!
[13:51] Debbie Dee (framdor): And what about whales and dolphins?
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: guess thats why the Evernote software use an elephant as logotype
[13:51] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): lol
[13:51] Debbie Dee (framdor): whales have the biggest brains on the planet.
[13:51] herman Bergson: Self awareness is not a specific characteristic of the homo sapiens only....
[13:51] Debbie Dee (framdor): yes herman ;)
[13:51] herman Bergson: some primates have self awareness...and dolphins and elephants...
[13:51] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): For some reason the ratio of brain size to body size is regarded as important, but I am not sure why
[13:52] herman Bergson: no is the shape of the brain....
[13:52] Debbie Dee (framdor): agreed herman
[13:52] herman Bergson: I guess 90% of our brain is identical to that of other primates...
[13:53] herman Bergson: they only lack the prefrontal lobes...
[13:53] herman Bergson: and exactly there is where our personality, identity resides
[13:53] herman Bergson: or to say it in an other way....
[13:54] herman Bergson: 90% of our behavior can be compared with general primate behavior...
[13:54] herman Bergson: fear, joy, rage...etc...
[13:54] Debbie Dee (framdor): using tools
[13:55] herman Bergson: because these emotions reside in the limbic system...
[13:55] herman Bergson: a part of the brain we share with amy other organisms
[13:55] herman Bergson: But the question is...are we such egoists....?
[13:56] herman Bergson: I'll get to that next Tuesday then ^_^
[13:56] Lizzy Pleides: can't wait :-)
[13:56] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i have to go...thank you Herman:)
[13:57] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation again....^_^
[13:57] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: nice one again
[13:57] Bejiita Imako:  \o/
[13:57] Bejiita Imako:    ||   Hoooo!
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman!
[13:57] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-))
[13:57] Vadaman: Thank you Herman.
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: cu all soon
[13:57] Bejiita Imako:
[13:57] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): maybe i will be able to make it tuesday
[13:57] Debbie Dee (framdor): Thanks sir.... lots of food for thought.
[13:57] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): will see
[13:57] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:57] Debbie Dee (framdor): bye friends...
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: Good night everybody!
[13:57] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye   
[13:57] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): for now
[13:57] Debbie Dee (framdor): and bye Herman...
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: why did u said that, im hungry as well i remember now
[13:58] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Bye everyone
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: well been out throwing bowling balls before so
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: cu
[13:58] herman Bergson: bye all

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