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

Wright, James 7929 (
Tue, 22 Apr 97 08:31:00 EDT

Martz wrote:
>>You appear to hold that all behavior is necessarily survival-based;[JW]

>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. <

It seemed to me, initially, that you had ruled out any possibility of the

>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.<

Actually, no; from your point of view, motive is a factor in all
behavior; survival-motive is the "simplest and therefore the one I choose
to accept....". But motive is unprovable; your question appears to
become, "Show me that something I do not accept conveys an advantage,
even though a basic part of its definition is that no advantage accrues
to the practicioner and the motive involved cannot be proven
To even try, I would start that there is a possibility of surplus
(unneeded) property (be it food, shelter, etc.). If an individual has
more property than needed, then some can be given away without harm to
the giver. If this is done anonymously (through third parties) then
neither the giver nor the recipient need even know each other.
Giving used clothing to the Salvation Army makes a case for this;
typically, the giver is willing to part with their surplus, the S.A.
tells neither who the other is, and the transfer harms neither.

>I do not agree that this is the case. There is no demonstrable case I am
>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? ;)<<

Emily Dickinson, a recluse, paid no bills from her art and published not
one poem during her lifetime. The rest of the discussion depends on
motive, again unprovable.

>>That being so, there is at least one category of action that is not

>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

Agreed as unprovable.

>>Given the existence of at least one category of action that is not
>>which transcends the need of a survival motive for action, why
>>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).<<

Hope this doesn't burst your bubble; survival of ANY species is not
essential, except to that species. Your search for a reason for being,
external to yourself, is interesting: why do you need such?

>>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).<

Very well, I will not expect an answer to any of the above. I do admire
your general consistency of approach, however.


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