Re: [asa] Altruism

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Wed Jun 13 2007 - 19:12:45 EDT

Hi, Merv,

I'm quite enjoying being devil's advocate! :-)

> While there may be some biological roots involved, the flavor of altruism
> modeled by Christ would surely throw a wrench into the mix. Heartless
> (but
> perhaps biologically favorable) evolution would have us sacrifice for the
> good
> of the whole -- the herd benefits even if the individual doesn't survive
> his
> sacrifice. But we aren't asked to sacrifice for those who are the
> physically
> and reproductively excellent representatives of our species.

No, we're not ... but as a hopeless, Sad, "Trekkie", I can't help remember
the words of Spock at the end of the second movie when he gives up his life
to save the Enterprise, and says (quite logically) that "the needs of the
many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)". Given the many there
might be someone who is going to be of enormous benefit for the future, and
if there are loads of no-hopers amongst the many it doesn't really matter
out of "the many" there is more likely to come the prospect of a benefit
than out of the few.

On a more serious note. It is an immense honour and privilege to me to hear
what people who are contemplating actively ending their own lives have to
say about death and what it means to them to be dead. If such a person,
through being able to express those feelings when at their lowest point,
without fear of being judged, finds a reason to carry on, their experience,
and the understanding of those feelings that led them so close to
self-destruction, may be an inspiration to others - may help us all to
understand death a bit better.

That doesn't feel like a "sacrifice" to me to be a part of it. And if
evolution is part of God's plan, then this, it seems is where it leads.

BTW I'm not entirely convinced of the above, but sometimes it's good to be a
bit controversial :-)


 We are asked to
> pay special attention to the poor, powerless, downtrodden, etc. The
> biblical
> parallel nearly leaps out: "For a good man someone might dare to die ...
> but
> God shows his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ gave
> his
> life for us." (Romans somewhere, I think -- not having a Bible at the
> moment) Anyway, one can imagine euthanasia, & encouraged rather than
> discouraged suicide, turning the elderly and crippled out since all these
> probably "drag the herd down". These are obviously opposite pulls. So
> Iain,
> your work may still be explainable in terms of long benefits to the group,
> but
> it would be a challenge to do so, let alone in purely evolutionary
> terms. And
> to attempt it is (Christianly speaking) to seek "payment" in this world,
> which
> Christ discourages.
> Sacrifice of one's self for the benefit of all, though, is of course very
> Biblical -- and parallel evolutionary benefit is easy to imagine on that
> one.
> (Despite this, I don't support suicide, though -- please don't take it
> that
> way.)
> --Merv

After the game, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.
- Italian Proverb
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Received on Wed Jun 13 19:13:20 2007

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