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Author Topic:   Evolution of Altruism
Granny Magda
Member
Posts: 2380
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 91 of 103 (586844)
10-15-2010 4:30 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Bolder-dash
10-15-2010 3:42 AM


Hi Bolders,

If we are going to assume that altruism is a result of Darwinian evolution, there is no reason to assume it only began in the human lineage.

I agree with you here. There is reason to suppose that it was already largely in place way before humans arose. Other apes display altruism after all.

Hunter-gathering is just one of the phases of man's lifestyle. The fact that it was probably the first phase doesn't really mean it would be more important evolutionarily than the 2nd phase or third phase, etc.

No, but that fact that agriculture has only been around for about 10 000 years, as compared to at least 160 000 years for Homo sapiens, would tend to argue for a strong hunter-gatherer influence on our inherited characteristics. Of course other members of the Homo group would have been hunter-gatherers, as would their hominim ancestors... The history of human settlement and agriculture are a drop in the ocean in comparison.

I don't put a lot of stock in things like the Granny Magda models...

Does this mean you don't love me any more? Heartbreaker.

...of well, it just arose independently a number of times in history...

I ask you again; do you have any other suggestion as to how altruism could be displayed in both dogs and humans?

...and I guess stuck around because it was selected for.

Can you point out to me where I said that Bolders? Oh, you can't, because I didn't. Lying certainly does come naturally to you.

Not ubiquitous, and also not so rare.

Oh look, more feeble misrepresentation. Which part of "I would say that it is very uncommon." translated into Bolder-dash-speak as "not so rare"?

Frankly, you are making a fool of yourself here. Your only input to this thread has been to jeer at any evolutionary speculation. That seems rather pointless in a thread which is explicitly devoted to speculation about evolution.

If you refuse to entertain the possibility of evolution, even as a hypothetical consideration, you have no reason to post on this thread.

Mutate and Survive


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Wounded King
Member (Idle past 2167 days)
Posts: 4149
From: Edinburgh, Scotland
Joined: 04-09-2003


Message 92 of 103 (586846)
10-15-2010 4:50 AM
Reply to: Message 83 by Phage0070
10-15-2010 3:21 AM


Were you going to argue that humans are much more usual when compared to other animals?

Absolutely, humans are much more usual in terms of reproductive genetics and consequently of genetic distance amongst groups.

Are you suggesting that the bees understand that they are not going to have offspring and thus decide to die for the greater good? And to have suicide stingers?

Clearly not, but there is a considerably better kin selection trade off for an organism with a higher relatedness between worker siblings. Humans may show individual acts of self sacrificing altruism but the vast majority of individuals in a eusocial Bee colony are acting altruistically in terms of working for the reproductive benefit of the queen rather than themselves.

It seems to me that if a species can develop self-sacrificing behaviors as beneficial to a group, then why not others?

I agree, my point was that bees are an extreme example because they benefit genetically much more from group centred behaviour than in normal diploid reproducing organisms.

TTFN,

WK


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 177 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 93 of 103 (586847)
10-15-2010 5:04 AM
Reply to: Message 82 by Bolder-dash
10-15-2010 3:16 AM


I hope that your intention in writing on a scientific forum is to do more than word play.

Yes, which is why when a poster suggests that kin selection is not up to the task of explaining a certain phenomenon it might be more than word play to discuss how kin selection might be employed to explain the certain phenomenon.

I don't think there is anything clear at all about what you want to say-that seems to be your intention.

I was intending to communicate with a person that understands the issues of altruism and kin selection. You misunderstood my post as being an argument for the origin of altruistic behaviour, which is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Do you feel Darwinian evolution accounts for altruism or doesn't it?

Neo-Darwinian evolution? Yes, I think it does.

If you feel it does, can you explain in any clear fashion how you see that happening.

I would do, but I'm not entirely persuaded you have a suitable background in the subject to make it straightforward. I can't tell you what happened, but I can describe the kinds of things that might be involved. I've already described some of the kinds of things.
But if I start a long discussion with you about altruistic evolution am I going to get a response challenging me to show that animal behaviour can be influenced by genetic changes? I'd like reassurances that we are accepting as given certain concepts (even if you don't accept them as true).

All you seem willing to do is just obfuscate the question with semantic silliness. Hello Kitty is also cute to some people I suppose, but equally void of meaning.

If you think my response to Stephen Push is meaningless you should explain why. It isn't meaningless that I answered a different question to the one you wanted me to be answering when I answered a different person who raised a different question.


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caffeine
Member
Posts: 1600
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 94 of 103 (586863)
10-15-2010 8:27 AM
Reply to: Message 84 by Bolder-dash
10-15-2010 3:42 AM


I understood your point. If we are going to assume that altruism is a result of Darwinian evolution, there is no reason to assume it only began in the human lineage. Hunter-gathering is just one of the phases of man's lifestyle. The fact that it was probably the first phase doesn't really mean it would be more important evolutionarily than the 2nd phase or third phase, etc. But every time someone comes up with a human personality trait that they want to explain through evolution-you can guarantee the first thing they will say is..."well, but when we were hunter gatherers, it would have been an advantage to have the middle finger be slightly longer than the ring finger, because the middle finger was used for dislodging seeds from the Savannah grasslands..." Hunter-gathering is the magic explanation for everything.

To clarify graphically why people focus on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as opposed to the other stages of human existence, look at the time line below. This covers the approximately 6 million years since our ancestors split from the ancestors of chimpanzees. The yellow portion is the time we spent as foragers or hunter-gatherers. The red portion is everything that's happened since the invention of agriculture.


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jar
Member
Posts: 30934
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004


Message 95 of 103 (586875)
10-15-2010 10:51 AM
Reply to: Message 92 by Wounded King
10-15-2010 4:50 AM


Humans may show individual acts of self sacrificing altruism but the vast majority of individuals in a eusocial Bee colony are acting altruistically in terms of working for the reproductive benefit of the queen rather than themselves.

The question I have regarding some of the examples like bees, is one that I at least think important.

In many animals such as bees, the response does appear genetic. The worker bees cannot do other than follow the "altruism" gene.

But at some point we also start seeing a social and intellectual component. Some humans can override genetic components. They can choose to be altruistic or not be altruistic. The bees die to defend THEIR hive, but some of the worker bees can't decide not to defend the hive.

As we look at other species, mostly mammals that I am familiar with, we increasing see expanded choices. Young are taught behaviors. For most it still revolves around group, family, kin, tribe, but we find that there are individuals that decide NOT to participate.

When we get to humans we see an even greater set of possible reactions, for example alliances between groups, concern for others that may not even be known personally and even what looks like altruistic treatment of unrelated species.

I don't doubt that there is a genetic component but there are also intellectual and societal inputs.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 177 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 96 of 103 (586885)
10-15-2010 11:20 AM
Reply to: Message 95 by jar
10-15-2010 10:51 AM


Hi jar,

But at some point we also start seeing a social and intellectual component. Some humans can override genetic components. They can choose to be altruistic or not be altruistic. The bees die to defend THEIR hive, but some of the worker bees can't decide not to defend the hive.

Bees can decide not to defend the hive..and this may in fact happen. Assuming that even a single worker bee not defending the hive has net negative consequences then we can say:

Any queen that creates workers that don't defend the hive even 1% of the time an opportunity arises will face negative selection pressure and that lineage is more likely to go extinct. As such - we tend to see a lot of suicidal worker defence going on. But there might be positive selection towards not having ALL workers kill themselves in defence...there is a deterrent effect in swarming, so 'fly away in a swarm (with the queen)' while others die to delay the attackers, might be feasible.

As we look at other species, mostly mammals that I am familiar with, we increasing see expanded choices. Young are taught behaviors. For most it still revolves around group, family, kin, tribe, but we find that there are individuals that decide NOT to participate.

Yup - some of that may be genetic again - only because of the way genetic reproduction works here - there is more emphasis on the individual than with bees.

An individual that leeches of society may be successful, but generally the communal punishments make it difficult. So a mixed strategy might work. A strategy of where you think you might get away with it, break the rules if it is to your advantage. Or maybe doing so some percentage of the time etc.

When we get to humans we see an even greater set of possible reactions, for example alliances between groups, concern for others that may not even be known personally and even what looks like altruistic treatment of unrelated species.

I don't doubt that there is a genetic component but there are also intellectual and societal inputs.

Absolutely. It would be basically impossible for the genome to tell me whether to put arsenic in your coffee or sugar. But a genetic instruction to 'not kill allies' and 'allies are people that aren't trying to kill you' should suffice. Let the brain figure out who is and is not trying to kill you based on experience and other evolved danger alerts.

So if we learn that dog is a man's best friend, we might run into a burning house to save the dog. It might make genetic sense if it was a human best friend.

We haven't been caring for animals for very long - and maybe there is selection pressure on creating cross-species caring in humans: It may certainly have helped with the agricultural revolution.

On the other hand - if we learn that cats are evil or otherwise not worthy of consideration we might set fire to them instead.

Either way - there is almost certainly a genetic component to developing a brain that is good at learning relevant social customs quickly and adapting to changing local developments. In crude terms: where hosting a cat-burning might have got me laid once, it probably won't now, and this probably isn't because we've genetically become more 'altruistic'.


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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1040 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


(1)
Message 97 of 103 (586887)
10-15-2010 11:29 AM
Reply to: Message 95 by jar
10-15-2010 10:51 AM


Mirror neurons
jar writes:

As we look at other species, mostly mammals that I am familiar with, we increasing see expanded choices. Young are taught behaviors. For most it still revolves around group, family, kin, tribe, but we find that there are individuals that decide NOT to participate.

When we get to humans we see an even greater set of possible reactions, for example alliances between groups, concern for others that may not even be known personally and even what looks like altruistic treatment of unrelated species.

I don't doubt that there is a genetic component but there are also intellectual and societal inputs.

I agree. Looking solely for explanations in a evolutionary calculus of relatedness can amount to a brand of biological determinism.

I don't think we have to look further than mirror neurons to find a biological mechanism for both empathy and altruism. The mirror neurons were discovered serendipitously, when a researcher studying moneky brain function noted that a monkey's neurons fired as they fire when the monkey picked up a raisin--when the monkey saw a researcher pick up a raisin. Subsequent studies revealed that the mirror neuron system in humans is considerably more robust than in monkeys, so much so that our mirror neurons fire even when we merely hear or read a description of an action.

The evolution of mirror neurons in a social animal makes considerable evolutionary sense for both learning and bonding. A good case can be made for mirror neurons as the sine qua non of empathy, with studies suggesting the robustness of the mirror neuron system in the individual correlating with both impairment (autism) and personality traits of human warmth and coolness.

We really do feel each other's pain--and distress, and disgust, and much else. What actions that empathy prompts probably depends on the baseline state of the individual's mirror neuron system--as well as social and intellectual states. I'd readily agree that religious beliefs can play a role here.

Mirror neurons provide both a good candidate to explain our deeply social nature, our empathy for our own and other species, and the expression of that empathy in action as altruism. The question then shifts away from the adequacy of kin selection to account for altruism: empathy evolved as part of our social package, and, perhaps, only as a secondary matter laid the groundwork for altruism.

Edited by Omnivorous, : No reason given.


Dost thou prate, rogue?
-Cassio

Real things always push back.
-William James


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barbara
Member (Idle past 2875 days)
Posts: 167
Joined: 07-19-2010


Message 98 of 103 (586922)
10-15-2010 2:50 PM
Reply to: Message 97 by Omnivorous
10-15-2010 11:29 AM


Re: Mirror neurons
Altruism is a spectrum of behavior that steps outside of genetic programming. The T.O.E.'s primary principle that life is an undirected process is not a good candidate to explain altruism.

Some humans will sacrifice their lives to save another life is a directed choice process. We have a spectrum of choices regarding behavior and this has less to do with genetic programming and more to do with interacting with our environment.

In nature, predator/prey mechanism must allow decision making in directing its own action to survive another day or end up on the menu if it made the wrong choice.

Evolution that primarily deals with large amounts of time to support their theory conflicts with altruism because it deals with present time interactions with the environment.
How we survived in the past with behavior choices is entirely different than what is exhibited today. It has nothing to do with evolution.


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Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 2932 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 99 of 103 (586932)
10-15-2010 3:42 PM
Reply to: Message 97 by Omnivorous
10-15-2010 11:29 AM


Mirror neurons
Good post, Omnivorous.

If genes for motor neurons and empathy provide essential advantages such as social bonding and language acquisition, perhaps a certain amount of self-sacrifice comes with the package, even if self-sacrifice itself is not being selected.


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Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 2932 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 100 of 103 (586936)
10-15-2010 3:57 PM
Reply to: Message 98 by barbara
10-15-2010 2:50 PM


Re: Mirror neurons
Hi, barbara.

It has nothing to do with evolution.

Even though moral decisions are made in the present, our capacity for moral behavior must have evolved.

In fact, I think we also evolved certain drives and biases that push us toward selecting some choices rather than others. For example, most people say they would throw a switch that kills one innocent person to save five, but they wouldn't push one person off a bridge to obtain the same result. That suggests an innate disinclination to enage in up-close-and-personal violence.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16085
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


(1)
Message 101 of 103 (586937)
10-15-2010 4:06 PM
Reply to: Message 99 by Stephen Push
10-15-2010 3:42 PM


Re: Mirror neurons
Just what I was thinking. In that case, sympathy could be a mere epiphenomenon of empathy. Maybe the ability to know someone else's feelings carries with it the necessity of caring about them, and the fact that we do the latter is no more adaptive of itself than sympathetic yawning.

On the other hand, sociopaths exist. Such people are acutely empathetic, but feel no sympathy. But I do not think that this is a serious objection to an evolutionary account of sympathy such as is suggested by this hypothesis. By the time the first sociopath arose, altruism could already have become an evolutionarily stable strategy.


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16085
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 10.0


Message 102 of 103 (586938)
10-15-2010 4:07 PM
Reply to: Message 98 by barbara
10-15-2010 2:50 PM


Re: Mirror neurons
Altruism is a spectrum of behavior that steps outside of genetic programming.

And your demonstration of this is ... ?


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New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


Message 103 of 103 (649572)
01-24-2012 12:43 PM


just a neat video
Nothing too profound, but I enjoyed it and thought it was worth sharing:

http://youtu.be/RK8rKKp-vP0


  
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