Re: virus: Altruism, Empathy, the Superorganism, and the Priso ner's Dillema

Martz (
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 00:12:53 +0100

On Mon, 21 Apr 1997, "Wright, James 7929" <> wrote:
>Martz wrote:
><Snip list of "selfless persons">
>>Unfortunately I think the burden of proof rests on the position that an
>>unselfishness exists. For every apparently unselfish act I can give you
>>a possibly selfish motivation. The documentation you refer to above
>>wouldn't prove my case, nor does its absence prove yours, and
>>presumption doesn't follow. It can be shown that the *appearance* of
>>altruism may confer a survival advantage, can you show me how true
>>unselfishness would convey any better an advantage? In fact I'm not
>>convinced that it wouldn't convey a pronounced *disadvantage*.<

>I find an underlying assumption below your post above; please see if I
>have surmised correctly, or if I have misconstrued your position.
>You appear to hold that all behavior is necessarily survival-based;

Not 'necessarily'. I just find it to be the simplest solution and
therefore it is the one I choose to accept in the absence of evidence to
the contrary. Can you answer the question I asked? If you can convince
me that true altruism doesn't undermine survival I'll be more inclined
to accept that it *may* have evolved.

>I do
>not agree that this is the case. There is no demonstrable case I am aware
>of that art is survival-based, that the creation of art or music or
>literature (fiction) is necessary to preserve life.

It pays the bills. It satisfies something in the artist (or am I bowing
to stereotype?). The urge to create, perhaps? Surely a selfish
motivation? ;)

>That being so, there
>is at least one category of action that is not survival-based.

I'm prepared to accept it as a possibility but that's as far as it goes
at the moment. As I've said in another post; this can't be proved one
way or the other as it all comes down to motivation and we can never
know another's motives (hell, we sometimes have a hard job knowing our

>Given the
>existence of at least one category of action that is not survival-based,
>which transcends the need of a survival motive for action, why shouldn't
>there be a number of such categories? Why shouldn't there be selfless

No reason, unless they are disadvantageous to survival. If so, then they
will be a short-lived phenomena should they ever arrive (which I accept
we may be in the midst of at the moment - in which case people taking my
stance are essential to the survival of the species 8). Woohoo, a reson
for being at last).

>Of course, if you can demonstrate a survival base for art, I'll have to
>go find another example....

I've got no problem with specifics evolving which don't convey an
advantage but which equally convey no disadvantage so it's a moot point
(I'm tempted to try but a) I haven't got the time and b) I have just
invoked the Reed principle on myself).


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