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Author Topic:   Evolution of Altruism
subbie
Member (Idle past 1338 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 16 of 103 (585741)
10-09-2010 2:35 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 2:33 PM


I think our tendency to sometimes overcome this fear to help others with no obvious benefit to ourselves requires an explanation.
No argument here. The question is why you think the explanation must come from the ToE.

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. -- Thomas Jefferson
We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat
It has always struck me as odd that fundies devote so much time and effort into trying to find a naturalistic explanation for their mythical flood, while looking for magical explanations for things that actually happened. -- Dr. Adequate
...creationists have a great way to detect fraud and it doesn't take 8 or 40 years or even a scientific degree to spot the fraud--'if it disagrees with the bible then it is wrong'.... -- archaeologist

This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 2:33 PM Stephen Push has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 23 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:32 PM subbie has replied

  
Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 4943 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 17 of 103 (585742)
10-09-2010 2:48 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by subbie
10-09-2010 2:10 PM


You failed to actually address the point that several people here raised, that altruism may be a result of social evolution, rather than biological evolution. As such, there's really no point in looking for a ToE explanation. In fact, if altruism is maladaptive, it seems highly counter intuitive to look for an adaptive explanation.
The ToE would have very little explanatory power if, every time apparently maladaptive behavior was observed, it was written off as "social evolution." Do you believe that the ToE can be used to explain the social behavior of non-human animals but cannot be used to explain human social behavior?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by subbie, posted 10-09-2010 2:10 PM subbie has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by subbie, posted 10-09-2010 2:55 PM Stephen Push has not replied
 Message 22 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-09-2010 3:30 PM Stephen Push has replied

  
subbie
Member (Idle past 1338 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 18 of 103 (585744)
10-09-2010 2:55 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 2:48 PM


The ToE would have very little explanatory power if, every time apparently maladaptive behavior was observed, it was written off as "social evolution." Do you believe that the ToE can be used to explain the social behavior of non-human animals but cannot be used to explain human social behavior?
So far, I haven't seen anyone write anything off as social evolution. The question, instead, has been why you seem to insist that the ToE must be able to explain it.
I believe the ToE can be used to explain some human social behavior. But to suggest that it's a problem for the ToE if it can't explain one particular aspect of human behavior is simply wrong.

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. -- Thomas Jefferson
We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat
It has always struck me as odd that fundies devote so much time and effort into trying to find a naturalistic explanation for their mythical flood, while looking for magical explanations for things that actually happened. -- Dr. Adequate
...creationists have a great way to detect fraud and it doesn't take 8 or 40 years or even a scientific degree to spot the fraud--'if it disagrees with the bible then it is wrong'.... -- archaeologist

This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 2:48 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
Omnivorous
Member
Posts: 4001
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005
Member Rating: 5.1


Message 19 of 103 (585746)
10-09-2010 3:06 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 1:59 PM


Stephen Push writes:
Wow, my message really generated a lot of replies.
It's speculative fun to discuss altruism because the science is still murky, without even agreement that the phenomenon exists.
That's also why many creationists like to claim there are no evolutionary explanations, when, in fact, the problem is that there are too many evolutionary explanations. Time will sort that out.
Is war a good model? Perhaps not. But I can think of instances of self-sacrificing behavior other than war. Firefighters and police officers put themselves in mortal danger to protect people they don't know. Yes, it's their job. But when faced with a life-threatening situation, why don't most firefighters and police officers say, "Take this job and shove it!"
You have moved from one self-selected, highly trained and adrenalized population to another. I think the same objections to the military model of altruism apply.
Does the ToE have to explain everything? No. But when a portion of the population engages in behavior that, on the face of it, appears to be highly maladaptive, it is reasonable to expect the ToE to give a satisfactory explanation.
It is unreasonable to expect the theory of evolution to explain every individually maladaptive instance of human behavior.
Suicide? Serial killers? Psychosis? Do you think the theory of evolution must explain these as well? We do have a pretty good proposed evolutionary explanation for religion, if that helps.
In our past, wasn't everybody in the tribe pretty much kin. This is a factual claim that requires evidence.
That seems fairly self-evident, especially when you keep in mind that during our evolutionary history, a tribe was a relatively small breeding and foraging unit. Still, I'm sure we can find some genetic evidence for you.
While I work on that, could you provide some evidence for your factual claim of altruism? You haven't, yet. I think that would at minimum require an event with no other plausible explanation.
Even if it is true, an unspoken assumption is that, in the last 10,000 years, we haven't adapted to our new social environment, in which many of our daily contacts are not close relatives.
I don't see your point. Are you proposing that the theory of evolution requires that biological evolution must keep pace with social change? That is absurd on its face; we are not Lamarckites.
This claim also seems to be contradicted by research suggesting that we can recognize kin, even to the point that identical twins help nieces and nephews more than fraternal twins do.
Again, I don't see what your point is. Are you claiming I can recognize my third cousin twice removed? Accurate identification of close kin doesn't mean we can identify all kin.
As to the twins studies, could you cite or link the studies so that we can examine them for ourselves? It is notoriously difficult to sort out genetic and environmental differences when studying the behaviors of both identical and fraternal twins.
One last note: generally speaking, theories are overturned by better theories, not by nibbling at the edges. Biological evolution is supported by mountains of physical evidence; speculative critiques based on nonscientific presumptive explanations of current human behavior will just bounce off.
As mentioned above, I'd like to see your evidence for altruism, as well as your theory of altruism and what that theory predicts.

Dost thou prate, rogue?
-Cassio
Real things always push back.
-William James

This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 1:59 PM Stephen Push has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 26 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:52 PM Omnivorous has replied

  
Omnivorous
Member
Posts: 4001
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005
Member Rating: 5.1


Message 20 of 103 (585747)
10-09-2010 3:12 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by subbie
10-09-2010 9:40 AM


subbie writes:
What's the evolutionary explanation for the popularity of Paris Hilton?
Bonobos.

Dost thou prate, rogue?
-Cassio
Real things always push back.
-William James

This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by subbie, posted 10-09-2010 9:40 AM subbie has seen this message but not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 368 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 21 of 103 (585748)
10-09-2010 3:21 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 9:09 AM


The Selfish Altruistic Gene?
Kin selection doesn't explain such behavior, because non-kin are often the beneficiaries.
But consider the "gene for altruism" (to simplify what is probably more complex) as a selfish gene. It doesn't care whether it sacrifices my life for the benefit of my alleles for blue eyes or lobeless ears or if my death benefits the lobate and brown-eyed instead. As far as it is concerned, my other genes can sink or swim. It would sacrifice my life for the benefit of people who also have copies of the gene for altruism. And it would seem that most people do. To that extent, they are kin enough for its purposes.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 9:09 AM Stephen Push has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 368 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


(1)
Message 22 of 103 (585749)
10-09-2010 3:30 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 2:48 PM


The ToE would have very little explanatory power if, every time apparently maladaptive behavior was observed, it was written off as "social evolution." Do you believe that the ToE can be used to explain the social behavior of non-human animals but cannot be used to explain human social behavior?
To the extent that our big thinky brains can over-ride our instincts, this must be the case.
For example, if you pointed me to any other group of mammals that got up at night and went to bed in the morning, I should say that they were by instinct nocturnal. If it was a bunch of humans, I would say that those particular humans work nightshifts, and that although humans are by instinct (i.e. by evolution) diurnal, they have over-ridden that instinct because they needed the money. Would you have any objection to such an explanation?
Of course, it was evolution that endowed us with these clever brains of ours ... but this does mean that our behavior often cannot be explained with reference to evolved instincts.
Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 2:48 PM Stephen Push has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 43 by Stephen Push, posted 10-10-2010 10:53 AM Dr Adequate has not replied

  
Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 4943 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 23 of 103 (585750)
10-09-2010 3:32 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by subbie
10-09-2010 2:35 PM


No argument here. The question is why you think the explanation must come from the ToE.
As a general rule the ToE, as I understand it, predicts that animals behave in their own genetic self-interest. On the face of it, self-sacrificing behavior would seem to falsify the TOE. Some instances of self-sacrificing behavior (e.g., by parents or siblings) have been explained in a manner consistent with the ToE. Other instances, I propose, have not been adequately explained. Perhaps good explanations will be found (or already exist). But to dismiss the evidence and say it needs no explanation strikes me as an unscientific position.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by subbie, posted 10-09-2010 2:35 PM subbie has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 24 by subbie, posted 10-09-2010 3:44 PM Stephen Push has not replied
 Message 25 by Dr Adequate, posted 10-09-2010 3:49 PM Stephen Push has not replied
 Message 27 by Omnivorous, posted 10-09-2010 3:55 PM Stephen Push has not replied
 Message 30 by jar, posted 10-09-2010 5:01 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
subbie
Member (Idle past 1338 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 24 of 103 (585752)
10-09-2010 3:44 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 3:32 PM


As a general rule the ToE, as I understand it, predicts that animals behave in their own genetic self-interest.
The key, of course, is the first 4 words of that sentence. Since it is in fact a general rule, there are exceptions. One obvious area where one might expect to find exceptions would be in an intelligent organism with the ability to reason beyond their instincts. Does that description remind you of any organism in particular?
On the face of it, self-sacrificing behavior would seem to falsify the TOE.
Only if the ToE absolutely required that all organisms always act in their own self interests. If you can find one single biologist who claims that the ToE requires that, I'd be amazed and question the intelligence and/or sanity of that person.
But to dismiss the evidence and say it needs no explanation strikes me as an unscientific position.
It certainly would. Please point to one person who has done that and I'll set them right. On the other hand, it's also quite unscientific to assume that the ToE requires something that it doesn't, then point to the absence of that thing that the ToE doesn't require and claim that it falsifies the ToE. I've run into someone who actually does say that and I'm trying to set them right.

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. -- Thomas Jefferson
We see monsters where science shows us windmills. -- Phat
It has always struck me as odd that fundies devote so much time and effort into trying to find a naturalistic explanation for their mythical flood, while looking for magical explanations for things that actually happened. -- Dr. Adequate
...creationists have a great way to detect fraud and it doesn't take 8 or 40 years or even a scientific degree to spot the fraud--'if it disagrees with the bible then it is wrong'.... -- archaeologist

This message is a reply to:
 Message 23 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:32 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
Dr Adequate
Member (Idle past 368 days)
Posts: 16113
Joined: 07-20-2006


Message 25 of 103 (585755)
10-09-2010 3:49 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 3:32 PM


As a general rule the ToE, as I understand it, predicts that animals behave in their own genetic self-interest.
But this is not clear --- see my message #21.
The ToE predicts that genes will make animals behave in their (the genes) genetic (short-term) self-interest. Often this makes no difference, but sometimes it is crucial.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 23 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:32 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
Stephen Push
Member (Idle past 4943 days)
Posts: 140
From: Virginia, USA
Joined: 10-08-2010


Message 26 of 103 (585756)
10-09-2010 3:52 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by Omnivorous
10-09-2010 3:06 PM


It's speculative fun to discuss altruism because the science is still murky, without even agreement that the phenomenon exists.
I've got to run. I'll come back to your other points later. But I'd like to reply to one point immediately, as it is so basic to the dicussion:
There is no scientific controversy about the existence of altruistic behavior. It is defined as any behavior that reduces the individual's fitness while increasing the fitness of another individual.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 19 by Omnivorous, posted 10-09-2010 3:06 PM Omnivorous has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 29 by Omnivorous, posted 10-09-2010 4:17 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
Omnivorous
Member
Posts: 4001
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005
Member Rating: 5.1


Message 27 of 103 (585757)
10-09-2010 3:55 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 3:32 PM


Stephen Push writes:
But to dismiss the evidence and say it needs no explanation strikes me as an unscientific position.
What evidence are you presenting that is being dismissed?
For example, you note that kin selection (carefully couched in the case of parents and siblings) is consistent with the theory of evolution. Multiple posters have pointed out that the concept of kinship is expansive.
How is that a dismissal?

Dost thou prate, rogue?
-Cassio
Real things always push back.
-William James

This message is a reply to:
 Message 23 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:32 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
dwise1
Member
Posts: 5973
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 4.3


(2)
Message 28 of 103 (585759)
10-09-2010 4:03 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 9:09 AM


So many "challenges to evolution" we see presented suffer from a common flaw: they assume the modern form under modern conditions.
Picture this. You are running a modern car race for high-tech race cars -- "Formula 1", I think they're called, but with Model T's. No, still too high-tech ... with Cugnot steam wagons (1771 technology). Similarly, we are running modern warfare -- at a massive scale and at a high tempo and with several high tech weapons, sensor, and communications systems -- with soldiers based on "wetware tech" that developed at least 100,000 years ago, though more likely much earlier than that.
What were the conditions under which and for which our soldiers' "wetware" developed? Most likely under that same conditions that we have directly observed in hunter-gatherer societies -- though the basis for that wetware had been developing way back in the hominid stage and even before that, but for this discussion we should only need to go back to the hunter-gatherer tribal stage.
In such a tribe, many members would be related to each other (one of the reasons to obtain/abduct brides from other tribes). Now, kinship is not just confined to immediate families; one's nieces, nephews, and cousins will also carry one's genes, so enhancing those relatives' ability to pass those genes along will also pass on one's own genes. We also have men serving together in hunting parties, many of whom should be related to each other in some way. So not only would acting to protect them, even at the expense of one's own life, fall under kin selection, but the tribe and its collection of your genes are also depending on the success of that hunt -- though we observe that most of the food in a hunter-gatherer tribe's diet tend to come from the gatherers' efforts. Plus, if something does happen to one of the members of the tribe, then, again though kinship within the tribe, that member's family would be cared for within that extended family (as opposed to the "every family entirely on its own" view of Reagan's so-called "traditional nuclear family"). Likewise, in tribal warfare, you'd be fighting alongside your own kin and defending your other kin in the tribe.
In the matter of "nature vs nurture", I see that not as an either-or view of an entire person, but rather as a continuum for examining individual behaviors. I do believe that there is such a thing as "human nature", the collection of emotional and psychological reactions, tendencies, and behavioral inclinations -- and, yes, even what we could call "instincts", though most use the word "drives" -- which is innate; ie, human nature is something that we inherit, which means that it must be passed on genetically, which means that it can evolve.
OK, that's the "nature" part, on top of which we place "nurture", what we're taught. In my view, every human behavior we observe is a combination of both "nature" and "nurture", on a continuum ranging from near-pure "nature" to near-pure "nurture", though the near-pure cases are the rare ones. IOW, virtually every human behavior we observe has been learned, but for that behavior to have been learned there needs to be something in human nature to facilitate that learning -- we see this used in training performing animals through behavior modeling wherein the trainer exploits the animal's pre-existing behavior.
At first, human nature and human society "co-evolved", such that as our earliest ancestors had to form more efficiently functional tribes (using earlier loose tribes, which were possibly mainly extended families, as their basis), human nature had to evolve in individuals to enable them to function more effectively within those more efficient tribes. We reached a point where the tribal culture had developed behavioral standards and mechanisms for promoting social cohesion all based on the needs and proclivities of human nature, and human nature had developed to the point where tribal members felt inclined, even driven, to adhere to the tribal norms.
But then society started to change rapidly, developing into ever larger super-societies that encompass not only not-kin, but even ethically very diverse populations. Societies and culture can change rapidly, within a few generations and even within only one generation, whereas biological evolution requires many generations. Human nature just cannot keep up with the rates at which society and culture change. Back to the opening analogy, we find ourselves running in a modern high-tech race but using ancient technology.
We make up for it the only way we know how, but learning new behaviors and attitudes. However, since we cannot learn a behavior or attitude that is not supported by human nature (except for extreme cases, but then I'm talking about learning a behavior so that it becomes a "natural" part of us), those new behaviors and attitudes must co-opt an existing inclination. So while we still have kin to apply our kinship instincts to, society has co-opted that instinct so that our sense of "kinship" is extended towards other members of society, now called a "nation", even though they are not related to us; that is then called "patriotism", which is beneficial to society up to a point. This worked OK as long as most members of the earlier nations tended to be of the same basic genetic stock and sharing a common culture, but then those nations grew into even larger nations which encompassed populations of "others" who were of a different basic genetic stock and who had a different culture -- along with instincts about kin, we also developed instincts about "the others", those non-kin who very likely posed a threat to us and our kin. Regionalism developed in which an individual share multiple societal identities and loyalties, both to his local region and to his nation, and again it was an extension and modification of his sense and instincts about kinship that were employed and the national sense of kinship could abate the regional sense about "others". Now our nations have become both very diverse and very intermingled, such that they include people of many different genetic stocks and many different cultures who now live and work right next to and with each other. Racism is an expression of that sense of "others" who must be mistrusted, while at the same time the maintanence of social cohesion requires that we extend our sense of kinship to those perceived "others"; that is an on-going tension which we are trying to resolve and which we must resolve. On top of all that, our sense of kinship is now being extended to cover vast super-national regions, even to emcompass the entire human population of this planet. And as some have noted, it's being extended by some to other species. And we're trying to handle all this with 100,000-year-old wetware!
Militaries do need to train their recruits and they do a good job of it; they've had centuries to develop and perfect their techniques. And yet they are still restricted by that same 100,000-year-old wetware "tech", so their training techniques must (and do) exploit that wetware, not work against it -- and they also need to deal with what the recruits had already learned in society. For example, the vast majority of recruits come in having learned to not kill another person, something reinforced by extended feelings of kinship. So one of the training techniques employed is to dehumanize "the enemy", such that their training becomes learning how to kill "the enemy" before "the enemy" can kill you and yours; soldiers and marines have described the shock of the first time they came face-to-face with "the enemy" and saw another scared kid, just like them. Their military trainers were exploiting their sense of kinship and "others", but it is a necessary and necessary technique.
Another kinship "instinct" that militaries exploit in their training takes us back to that ancient hunting party which our human nature had adapted us to. Getting the members to bond with the others in their unit -- actually, all you need to do is to form up the unit and have them work on common goals; the bonding happens naturally. Then place them in combat situations where everybody's survival depends on everybody else and you've set up the conditions for one guy diving onto a live grenade to save the rest of the unit. Having gone through basic training in a service that sends its officers out to combat (USAF), I cannot say with certaintude that the other services do not explicitly teach its recruits to dive onto live grenades, but I feel certain that they do not. I am sure that such scenarios may get discussed and I'm sure that it is impressed on them that they may need to lay down their lives and that their fellow unit-members are depending on them, but I do not believe that there's any actual training for diving onto live grenades ... at least not in our own military.
Doing something like diving onto a live grenade is not something that you objectively deliberate on, weighing all the pro's and con's relating to your ability to pass your genes on to future generations, but rather it is something that you just do. It's a gut-level reaction, something that you feel you must do. On PBS, Joseph Campbell related a case of a police officer having saved a suicide jumper by grabbing him just as he jumped, such that it was almost by accident that he didn't go down with the jumper and die himself -- all indications to the officer was that that was what would happen. When asked why he did it, he answered that he would have died if he hadn't acted. It is certainly part of those professions' training, knowing that when action is called for, you must act; I've been in that situation myself and there's no hesitation involved.
But for that "instinct to act" to have been placed there by training, there has to be a basis for it in our innate human nature. And kinship selection is the best explanation we seem to have for how that basis would have evolved.
Mind you, I'm not a professional, so it would be interesting to see how scientists have approached the question.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 9:09 AM Stephen Push has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 37 by Stephen Push, posted 10-10-2010 8:49 AM dwise1 has not replied

  
Omnivorous
Member
Posts: 4001
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005
Member Rating: 5.1


Message 29 of 103 (585761)
10-09-2010 4:17 PM
Reply to: Message 26 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 3:52 PM


Stephen Push writes:
There is no scientific controversy about the existence of altruistic behavior. It is defined as any behavior that reduces the individual's fitness while increasing the fitness of another individual.
That's an extraordinary claim: google "biological altruism critics" for another impression.

Dost thou prate, rogue?
-Cassio
Real things always push back.
-William James

This message is a reply to:
 Message 26 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:52 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
jar
Member
Posts: 34058
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 30 of 103 (585770)
10-09-2010 5:01 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Stephen Push
10-09-2010 3:32 PM


As a general rule the ToE, as I understand it, predicts that animals behave in their own genetic self-interest.
I'm not so sure of that at all.
There is nothing in the Theory of Evolution that I know of that involves self interest.
No genes want to survive, or want pizza for that matter.
Evolution is only visible in hind sight. There is no direction involved. What survived survived and it is those that survived long enough to pass on their genes that will be represented in future gene pools.
What you have used as examples so far, soldiers, firefighters, police, are all examples where behavior is societal and evolved over the lifetime of the individual through training and personal experience.

Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 23 by Stephen Push, posted 10-09-2010 3:32 PM Stephen Push has not replied

  
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