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

Wright, James 7929 (
Tue, 29 Apr 97 08:59:00 EDT

Martz wrote:
>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

I did not notice it in the 20th-22nd April messages; I now see how it
might be interpreted from what you wrote. I did not make that
interpretation at the time.
I blew right past it in your message of the 24th. "Goodbye any altruistic
gene they may have carried". I'm not sure I ever explicitly said there
was any possibility of an altruistic GENE until the 25th; I was
considering altruistic memes, and said so then, so if I was unclear I

>>Can you make a case that a gene for altruism cannot exist?[JHW]

>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.<

I can accept "not likely to exist for long", and agree to move on.

>>>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.<

Alright, now it appears we are questioning whether the existing meme of
altruism is "real" in the sense that the motive is genuine or "false" in
the sense that those practicing it are deluding themselves that they are
behaving unselfishly when they are in fact behaving in their own
interest. I do not find this determinable.

>>>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.<[M}
>Oh, I think I see now. The current times of relative surplus (in terms
>survival) are a short-termed phenomenon? [JW]

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

As you wish.