Re: [asa] Altruism and ID

From: PvM <pvm.pandas@gmail.com>
Date: Sun Jun 10 2007 - 14:12:58 EDT

While direct altruism is easier to comprehend from an evolutionary
perspective, indirect/reciprocal altruism may not be that far behind.
Mayr considers that the good samaritan kind of altruism can only
evolve culturally not via natural selection. But he did accept the
concept of group selection.

<quote> EDGE: How can the evolution of human ethics be reconciled with
Darwinism? Doesn't natural selection always favor selfishness?

MAYR: If the individual were the only target of selection, this would
indeed be an inevitable conclusion. However, small social groups that
compete with each other, such as the groups of hunter-gatherers in our
human ancestry, were as groups also targets of selection. Groups,
the members of which actively cooperated with each other and showed
much reciprocal helpfulness, had a higher chance for survival than
groups that did not benefit from such cooperation and altruism. Any
genetic tendency for altruism would therefore be selected in a species
consisting of social groups. In a social group, altruism may add the
to fitness. The founders of religions and philosophies erected their
ethical system on this basis. </quote>

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/mayr/mayr_index.html
For instance Nowak et al provide a good overview of game theory and reciprocity

Martin A. Nowak and Karl Sigmund, Evolution of indirect reciprocity,
Nature 437, 1291-1298 (27 October 2005)

Abstract

Natural selection is conventionally assumed to favour the strong and
selfish who maximize their own resources at the expense of others. But
many biological systems, and especially human societies, are organized
around altruistic, cooperative interactions. How can natural selection
promote unselfish behaviour? Various mechanisms have been proposed,
and a rich analysis of indirect reciprocity has recently emerged: I
help you and somebody else helps me. The evolution of cooperation by
indirect reciprocity leads to reputation building, morality judgement
and complex social interactions with ever-increasing cognitive demands

See also the work by Harbaugh http://harbaugh.uoregon.edu/indexmain.htm

<quote>Harbaugh, Mayr and Burghart (2007) use fMRI to show that
neural activation in the ventral striatum is very similar when money
goes to the subject and when it goes to a charity, and that the
relative activations actually predict who will give.</quote>

Which takes us back to

Altruism is associated with an increased neural response to agency
Nature Neuroscience - 10, 150 - 151 (2007)

<quote>Although the neural mechanisms underlying altruism remain
unknown, empathy and its component abilities, such as the perception
of the actions and intentions of others, have been proposed as key
contributors. Tasks requiring the perception of agency activate the
posterior superior temporal cortex (pSTC), particularly in the right
hemisphere. Here, we demonstrate that differential activation of the
human pSTC during action perception versus action performance predicts
self-reported altruism.
</quote>
See also http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/brain/function/agency_pstc_temporal_2007.html
how agency and our detection of such comes into play.

Cool stuff
On 6/10/07, George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com> wrote:
>
>
> I haven't been following this thread & don't know just what's being debated
> by whom, but thought that the following by Ernst Mayr (generally thought to
> know a bit about evolution) in his 2001 book What Evolution Is (p.259) might
> be of interest. After discussing such forms of altruism as that between kin
> and among members of the same social group which, he argues, can be
> understood in terms of natural selection, he comes to "behavior toward
> outsiders." About this he says, inter alia:
>
> "How could such altruism toward outsiders have become established in the
> human species? Could natural selection be invoked? This has often been
> tried, but not very successfully. It is difficult to construct a scenario
> in which benevolent behavior toward competitors and enemies could be
> rewarded by natural selection. It is interesting in this connection to read
> the Old Testament and see how consistently a difference is made between
> behavior toward one's own group and behavior to any outsiders. This is in
> total contrast to the ethics promoted in the New Testament. Jesus's parable
> of the altruism of the Good Samaritan was a striking departure from custom.
> Altruism toward strangers is a behavior not supported by natural selection."
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/

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Received on Sun Jun 10 14:13:49 2007

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