Re: [asa] Altruism and ID

From: Jack <>
Date: Sat Jun 09 2007 - 20:28:25 EDT

You really are missing the point.

Altruism has evolved through biological evolution. That is to say through random variation and natural selection. What you don't understand is that yes, the gene is the focus of evolution. If a gene improves survivability it gets passed on. New genes come about randomly through various processes, and sometimes those genes produce a change in behavior. Of course the entities that exhibit this behavior do not call it altruism, only we humans call it that. Nevertheless the behavior fits our definition of altruism.

How does a behavior appear? Let me make a simple illustration. Say there is a species of bears that abandon their young at birth. They did fine until a new predator arrived that had a fondness for bear cubs. But before the bear species becomes extinct, there is a random mutation in one of the females. And this causes her to protect her cubs when there is a sign of danger. So now the mother is putting herself at risk for the sake of the cubs. But the cubs, at least some of them, have this gene too, and they protect their cubs. Eventually the only bears that remain are those that have this gene for protecting the cubs. That is how altruism appears. I don't see where you are having trouble with this.

You can call it whatever you want, a new concept, a new strategy, a change in behavior, but it is a biological entity, it can be attributed to a mutation in a specific gene, or a series of mutations in several genes.

Of course it is more complex than that. I was trying to make a simple illustration, but there are many examples of altruistic behavior in the animal kingdom. At some point during the history of the planet this "concept" appeared, and it was secondary to a biological change.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: Jack ; PvM
  Cc: Don Nield ; asa
  Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2007 3:43 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Altruism and ID

  It's next to impossible to 'restrict' evolution to just 'that specific form,' due to the fact that evolution is one of the most interdisciplinary concepts at use in the academy today. I am quite willing to accept the 'expertise' of biological scientists in their respective fields of interest (noting that biological sciences are not monolithic, i.e. that there are variations across the field in terms of research methods, instruments, sites, and even conclusions, computer simulations being one example that doesn't even always involve biological objects). But neglecting the philosophical importance of evolutionary theory, or for that matter, process philosophy (i.e. the basis for evolutionary theory), is to do an injustice to the topic and would result in an incomprehensive view.

  I am reluctant to approach this ground again at ASA. Not much resulted in previous attempts. Let me just address one statement from your post.

  "Complex behaviors have been connected to single genes. So it is not unreasonable to suppose that something like altruism could not appear after a single or a simple series of mutations." - Jack

  What does it mean 'appear' (or for that matter, to 'emerge,' which was used last time)? I'll ask the same question asked to Pim, with a twist: is this a gene-centric view of reality that reduces non-physical things to mere manifestations fo physicality? If you prefer not to apply a gene-centric view, then would you be willing to reach for a kind of balance where philosophical and theological language, including language of spiritual things and material things, can be entertained in the same conversation with scientific language? I am not asking for a scientific theology here or for a theological science. Just room to breathe and for natural scientists to show respect and dialogue space when necessary.

  My point is here: concepts are not 'biological things.' They therefore do not 'evolve' as biological things. Concepts certainly do change, but 'change' is not synonymous with 'evolve.'


  Jack <> wrote:
    People use the word in evolution in different ways. But the evolution of biological species through random variation and natural selection, and the the transmission of these variations through genes, is specific to biological evolution. For the sake or argument lets restrict evolution for a moment to that specific form of evolution, even though people talk about societies evolving, etc.

    But even in the strict biological sense, altruism, could in fact be something that evolves. If there is a gene that makes an animal cooperate, and if by doing so in a certain situation this improves the animals ability to survive, then it will be passed on.

    Complex behaviors have been connected to single genes. So it is not unreasonable to suppose that something like altruism could not appear after a single or a simple series of mutations.

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Received on Sat Jun 9 20:29:34 2007

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