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

Martz (
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 21:42:08 +0100

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, "Wright, James 7929" <> wrote:

>>So you accept that genetic altruism does not exist, except perhaps as
>>the occasional blip? I'll deal with your points about an altruistic meme
>>when I hear your answer.<
>I don't remember genetic altruism being part of the discussion before;
>but OK, if you wish...

Beginning on 20th or 22nd April (depending on how you interpret my
terminology) I have made numerous allusions to it. It was verbalised as
'altruistic gene' in message <fe9nXAAH+6XzEwv$> on

>if there were a genetic basis for altruism, it would show up in some
>gene, not as a hard-wired function, but as a coding for cells that could
>express altruistic behavior, presumably in the brain. Since genes are
>selfish, once such a gene evolved, it would continue to replicate through
>the descendants of the organism that first evolved such a gene, and
>encourage altruistic behavior as a basis for continued survival among
>those organisms that held it.
>Does such a gene exist, now or has it ever? I don't know. There's still a
>lot of unexplained territory in the human genome, and whether or not
>there's a gene that expresses altruistic behavior in the organisms that
>have it I can't say. No enough information, for me, to decide one way or
>the other. Yet another item in the vast territory of things I'm too
>ignorant about to have an informed opinion about one way or the other.
>Can you make a case that a gene for altruism cannot exist?

I have *repeatedly* made the case that it is not likely to exist for
long should it ever evolve. The case is fairly loose because nobody has
directly assailed it.

>>>that the altruistic MEME exists and continues (people have supported
>>>Salvation Army and similar organizations for a few hundred years
>>>is difficult to disprove.
>>>Selfish people in times of common difficulty may well be in worse
>>>than the altruistic; the meme for gratitude also exists.
>>Re-read some of my posts. In the scenario you outline the *appearance*
>>of altruism would have served just as well as any truly altruistic
>I thought we agreed a while back that motive was unprovable?

We did. You've missed the point of that last sentence. Regardless of his
motivation, the actor receives the benefits of acting in an apparently
altruistic manner.

>>>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
>>>a significant number of people remain selfish.<[M]
>>Read the sentence. 'Short-lived' is the bit to watch out for.<
>Oh, I think I see now. The current times of relative surplus (in terms of
>survival) are a short-termed phenomenon?

No, I'm afraid you don't see yet and I don't have time to go over the
ground again.


For my public key, <> with 'Send public key' as subject an automated reply will follow.

No more random quotes.