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

Martz (
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 20:07:51 +0100

On Wed, 23 Apr 1997, "Wright, James 7929" <> wrote:

>>I would say that the giver in this example *is* disadvantaged by his
>>act. He could have sold the food or found some other way of storing it's
>>value against future needs.<
>Surplus by my definition is surplus, he doesn't need it now and will not
>need it in the future. Storing value beyond foreseeable need is logically
>difficult to me; Bill Gates could just as well retire today, as far as I
>can tell, and spend the rest of his life in philantropy. There are other
>examples of philantropic capitalists like Carnegie that he could follow.

Mr Gates is an unusually wealthy man. When dealing with phenomena on the
evolutionary scale an isolated individual here or there is unnoticable.
Most people have times of lean and times of plenty. For them, setting
aside some surplus for a rainy day is merely prudence. I think
'forseeable need' is fairly meaningless in this context as it matters
not whether the farmer sees a drought coming; if he hasn't prepared for
it he's fucked. Goddbye one farming family, goodbye any altruistic gene
they may have carried. This is what I meant when I said altruism would
be a short-lived blip were it to ever evolve; altruistic people will
give away things they might need, selfish people won't. Who then has the
survival advantage when disaster strikes?

>>I never said survival was essential to anything, I said the attitude
>>was essential to survival.<
>Ah, you're right, I missed the direction of your post; but then again,
>how is the attitude essential to survival? Exactly which attitude are we
>discussing, that altruism is impossible or that selfishness is essential
>to survival?

I was saying that if we happen to be in the middle of the short-lived,
altruistic blip then it is essential to the survival of the species that
a significant number of people remain selfish.

>I don't watch Simpson's,

YOU DON'T WATCH THE SIMPSONS?????? You poor deprived man. It is social
commentary at its most entertaining.


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