RE: [asa] Altruism and ID

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Fri Jun 15 2007 - 13:44:42 EDT

Consider the following definition of altruism, which is the willful sacrifice of one's own interests or well-being for the sake of something that is non-self. Does an animal know what the words or meaning of sacrifice, interest, willful, self are? Can such terms be described by purely physical terms and constructs?



From: on behalf of PvM
Sent: Fri 6/15/2007 12:15 PM
To: Alexanian, Moorad
Cc: Gregory Arago; Christine Smith;
Subject: Re: [asa] Altruism and ID

On 6/14/07, Alexanian, Moorad <> wrote:
> The subject matter of science is the physical aspect of Nature. Humans are both physical and nonphysical. Therefore, you are quite right that concepts like altruism are purely nonphysical and cannot be even conceived as being part of science.

Nonsense. Altruism is a concept that can be quite well studied as
science has shown quite convincingly. The idea that altruism is purely
nonphysical is contradicted by much of the evidence.

> We do observe certain behaviors in animals, but we cannot ascribe that to altruism. Of course, the same behavior in humans can be so ascribed since we ourselves are humans and have the inside story of the reasons for our actions. Not so in animals.

Of course we can describe certain behaviors as altruistic. While we
may not know the full inside story, we have a similar problem for our
own actions, as we may not understand what motivates us or we may
ascribe or motivations to a more worthy 'reason'.

Gregory Arago

> There is of course nothing wrong with physical scientists discussing concepts and meanings
> and their implications. However, altruism simply cannot be reduced to physicality. This should
> be easy to agree upon here at ASA, shouldn't it?

Why not?

> When Pim says, "As a scientist I really do not know how to deal with mystical concepts such as a '> non physical part'," this is revealing. It is important to involve/invite those people who deal with
> non-physical concepts on a daily basis. Pim seems not to want to do that in the name of Science.

Nonsense, you are once again making up things Greg. Just contribute...

>Thanks for your clarifying post. It does indeed put my argument with
Pim into a nutshell by asking
> about a non-physical piece to the altruism puzzle. If the discussion is to take place using only
> physical language (skirting the issue of MN-PN), then as a non-physical scientist (i.e. a
> social-humanitarian ), my voice about altruism is rendered mute. Give the floor to Wilson, Trivers,
> Dawkins and co.

As I stated before, I am not sure what you mean by non physical and
non-physical scientist or a non physical piece to the altruism puzzle.
Is your voice rendered mute? Of course not, as I said before just
contribute. The discussion here however focused on an interest of mine
namely the evolutionary nature of altruistic behaviors. If that
renders your voice mute, then I suggest that is your problem to deal
What's the problem here?

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Received on Fri Jun 15 13:45:41 2007

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