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Author Topic:   Kin Selection & Altruism
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 121 of 136 (271823)
12-22-2005 7:30 PM
Reply to: Message 120 by FliesOnly
12-19-2005 3:30 PM


Re: life is a game
You are the one that seems to be of the notion that we should simply change the definition of Altruism so that behaviors we observe will fit. I say do not to change the definition.

Not quite. What I am saying is that the definition is useless as written. That a particular definition was based {x happening} when in fact it was not {x happening} is a false definition. That is what I get from the "zoological" definition and the history. A derived definition based on a false {precept\concept}. Consider it a theory that has been falsified. Move on to theory B.

RAZD writes:

It can be seen in animals, when parents work hard and expose themselves to danger to feed their own children.

Please: that is a quote from a referenced article (and outside the zoological def too), not my words:
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=altruism

I quoted the whole, that you picked part out of. What I see from it is "an action which is costly to the actor, but beneficial to the recipient." period.

It is for that reason that I do not want to water down the definition to the point of meaninglessness.

What is watering down? You have one definition for humans and a different one for other species that is useless.

To me the definitions for any other species should also default to the one used for humans or it has unneccessary additional requirements that have nothing to do with the behavior, but with artificial preconceptions of basis for behavior that may be totally invalid.

I see no reason to make special conditions for other species that don't apply to humans acting altruistically as that is loading it with conditions that don't apply and rather mean that the definition can never be applied.

Saying that it must have a reproductive advantage for another species is as valid as saying that altruism only applies to humans that are aliens. It's artificial. This also presumes that there must be an evolved mechanism specific to the behavior in order for it to exist.

As I see it altruism -- selfless behavior of one organism towards another -- does not need to be an evolved behavior nor have a separate evolutionary mechanism to explain it: it is a result of cooperative behavior, that does have a basis, and would spontaneously appear in any cooperative social organisms behavior as a result.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 120 by FliesOnly, posted 12-19-2005 3:30 PM FliesOnly has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 122 by FliesOnly, posted 01-03-2006 9:43 AM RAZD has responded

  
FliesOnly
Member (Idle past 2220 days)
Posts: 797
From: Michigan
Joined: 12-01-2003


Message 122 of 136 (275282)
01-03-2006 9:43 AM
Reply to: Message 121 by RAZD
12-22-2005 7:30 PM


Re: life is a game
RAZD writes:

Not quite. What I am saying is that the definition is useless as written. That a particular definition was based {x happening} when in fact it was not {x happening} is a false definition. That is what I get from the "zoological" definition and the history. A derived definition based on a false {precept\concept}. Consider it a theory that has been falsified. Move on to theory B.

Mmmmmm...good point. However, the way I see it is that you are not so much interested in changing the definition, per say, but rather you want to change what is meant by "cost". In the definition I prefer, the cost is specifically spelled out to represent reproductive successes.

RAZD writes:

Please: that is a quote from a referenced article (and outside the zoological def too), not my words:
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=altruism

I quoted the whole, that you picked part out of. What I see from it is "an action which is costly to the actor, but beneficial to the recipient." period.

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that the entire quote were your words...only the last line in response to the linked article. And it is here that we disagree. As stated above, if we fail to define “cost”, then anything applies.

RAZD writes:

What is watering down? You have one definition for humans and a different one for other species that is useless.

Not true. I do not have a definition for humans that differs from that of other species...you do. I have one definition and thus far I have only seen it "fulfilled" in humans. That's not to say that we will never see it in other animals, but thus far, each time "altruism" has been invoked, other definitions have better explained the behaviors.

RAZD writes:

To me the definitions for any other species should also default to the one used for humans or it has unnecessary additional requirements that have nothing to do with the behavior, but with artificial preconceptions of basis for behavior that may be totally invalid.

And I disagree. While I do agree that we should apply to same definition to all organisms, I think the one defined by Hamilton should be the one that is used. When we see a behavior in non-humans that is classified as altruistic, I most often feel that other, already described (defined) behaviors better explain those behaviors. When we see it in humans (as defined by Hamilton), then I see a tough nut to crack. When we see it applied as you wish, then I see a useless explanation that is applicable in virtually any interaction.

Why? Well because as I see it, you want to look at "costs" as anything. What, to you, is not a cost? Literally everything we do outside of absorbing nutrients would be a cost...so what behavior is NOT altruistic?

RAZD writes:

I see no reason to make special conditions for other species that don't apply to humans acting altruistically as that is loading it with conditions that don't apply and rather mean that the definition can never be applied.

I'm not making special conditions, nor loading the definition with anything. It's simple...the cost is defined as a drop in direct fitness. It is your idea the loads the definition with a plethora of behaviors defined as "costs"…in that anything applies.

Look, we have plenty of behavioral definitions that apply to all possible interaction between two individuals. While I obviously cannot state which of these behavioral definitions apply to all of your examples, I do believe that I have suggested valid alternatives (in most cases) to your use of "altruism". Many can be explained by using mutualism, commensalism, or amensalism. Why do you feel the need to use altruism? Now, I agree, that if we look at any friggen thing an animal does as a "cost", then altruism fits. But everything should NOT be considered a cost. If so, the we can simply ignore all the other descriptive explanations. Amensalism...Bull shit, it altruism. Commensalism... bull shit, it's altruism. Mutualism...nope, sorry, that's bull shit too, it's actually altruism. Predation, nope again...altruism.

RAZD writes:

As I see it altruism -- selfless behavior of one organism towards another -- does not need to be an evolved behavior nor have a separate evolutionary mechanism to explain it: it is a result of cooperative behavior, that does have a basis, and would spontaneously appear in any cooperative social organisms behavior as a result.

So, you then see any behavioral interaction between two or more organisms as altruistic?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 121 by RAZD, posted 12-22-2005 7:30 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 124 by RAZD, posted 03-12-2006 3:31 PM FliesOnly has responded

  
Speel-yi
Inactive Member


Message 123 of 136 (283871)
02-04-2006 11:34 AM


Looks like a dead thread...

Hamilton's Kin Selection predicts sharing behavior based upon the relatedness of individuals in a population. It can be simply stated by c< b*r where c=cost, b=benefit and r=relatedness

Ultimately the cost of death could be considered to be equal to 1. Thus if a eusocial insect such as a bee dies in the defense of more than one of its sisters, the benefits in this case outweigh the cost since relatedness in bees is 0.75 and the benefit is 2 (1<2*0.75). So a bee would die to protect 2 or more of its sisters. This assures the passage of the original bees genes onto the next generation. (The genes are thus "selfish" in this case. They do not actually care for the individual bee's wellbeing as the bee is nothing more than a vehicle to carry on the particular gene in question.)

For species such as humans where the relatedness of siblings is 0.5, you would then predict that the action of dying to save your siblings would be expressed by 1<3*0.5...so a human could be predicted to give up his/her life to save 3 or more siblings. The process gets a little more muddied in small scale where siblings are generally related by more than 0.5 since the parents are likely to be cousins with relatedness of (on average) 0.125. In this case you can see that the full siblings are related to each other genewise by about .51 and thus when you apply Hamilton's Rule, you get 1<2*0.51 and thus in small scale societies, you would predict that people would be more altruistic towards each other.

Next, there's Triver's Reciprocal Altruism which can be stated by c< b*w where w=the perceived probablility of a payback. In this case you would most often have the costs be somewhat smaller, as in trusting a stranger to hold something of value for you while you go do something else.

So consider the constraints on altruism in real life, as in the scenario where an icecream truck is burning and instead of just one 12 year old...you have 2 and one of them is your nephew...which one to you save first? Hamilton's Rule predicts that you will first grab your nephew and then go back for the other child. It sounds heartless, but in many instances this is exactly the type of thing that happens. People will prefer to act in altruistic fashion with closely related individuals.

This message has been edited by Speel-yi, 02-04-2006 11:38 AM


  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 124 of 136 (294564)
03-12-2006 3:31 PM
Reply to: Message 122 by FliesOnly
01-03-2006 9:43 AM


Re: life is a game
Long time getting back to this ...

... but rather you want to change what is meant by "cost".

As stated above, if we fail to define "cost", then anything applies.

When we see a behavior in non-humans that is classified as altruistic, I most often feel that other, already described (defined) behaviors better explain those behaviors. When we see it in humans (as defined by Hamilton), then I see a tough nut to crack. When we see it applied as you wish, then I see a useless explanation that is applicable in virtually any interaction.

Why? Well because as I see it, you want to look at "costs" as anything.

The problem is not what the cost is or how it is defined. What makes a behavior altruistic is that there is a cost and no benefit. Any behavior that has a direct benefit cannot be altruistic, and this is the basis on which most animal behavior is classified as non-altruistic (your "other definitions have better explained the behaviors").

Does it matter if {behavior} is large scale altruistic or that it just passes the bar? (What do you call the person who graduates last in his class from medical school?)

So, you then see any behavioral interaction between two or more organisms as altruistic?

Such as a lioness killing a gazelle to relieve it of the tedium of living? LOL. Need to keep an eye on benefits eh? Here the benefits outweigh the costs, as it allows the lions to keep living.

I have one definition and thus far I have only seen it "fulfilled" in humans. That's not to say that we will never see it in other animals, but thus far, each time "altruism" has been invoked, other definitions have better explained the behaviors.

Let me know what you think of this:
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/wireStory?id=1681473&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312

Toddlers Try to Help out Adults, Study Shows

Study Suggests That the Capacity for Altruism Emerges As Early As 18 Months of Age

Oops, the scientist dropped his clothespin. Not to worry a wobbly toddler raced to help, eagerly handing it back. The simple experiment shows the capacity for altruism emerges as early as 18 months of age.

Toddlers' endearing desire to help out actually signals fairly sophisticated brain development, and is a trait of interest to anthropologists trying to tease out the evolutionary roots of altruism and cooperation.

Psychology researcher Felix Warneken performed a series of ordinary tasks in front of toddlers, such as hanging towels with clothespins or stacking books. Sometimes he "struggled" with the tasks; sometimes he deliberately messed up.

Over and over, whether Warneken dropped clothespins or knocked over his books, each of 24 toddlers offered help within seconds but only if he appeared to need it.

Warneken never asked for the help and didn't even say "thank you," so as not to taint the research by training youngsters to expect praise if they helped. After all, altruism means helping with no expectation of anything in return.

And this is key the toddlers didn't bother to offer help when he deliberately pulled a book off the stack or threw a pin to the floor, Warneken, of Germany's Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, reports Thursday in the journal Science.

Other animals are skilled at cooperating, too, but most often do so for a goal, such as banding together to chase down food or protect against predators. But primate specialists offer numerous examples of apes, in particular, displaying more humanlike helpfulness, such as the gorilla who rescued a 3-year-old boy who fell into her zoo enclosure.

Would 3- and 4-year-old chimpanzees find and hand over objects that a familiar human "lost"? The chimps frequently did help out if all that was required was reaching for a dropped object but not nearly as readily as the toddlers had helped, and not if the aid was more complicated, such as if it required reaching inside a box.

Same behavior, different species ...

Enjoy.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 122 by FliesOnly, posted 01-03-2006 9:43 AM FliesOnly has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 125 by nwr, posted 03-12-2006 4:29 PM RAZD has responded
 Message 132 by FliesOnly, posted 03-17-2006 2:23 PM RAZD has responded

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 125 of 136 (294583)
03-12-2006 4:29 PM
Reply to: Message 124 by RAZD
03-12-2006 3:31 PM


Re: life is a game
RAZD writes:

Toddlers Try to Help out Adults, Study Shows


How do you distinguish between altruism and enlightened self interest?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 124 by RAZD, posted 03-12-2006 3:31 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 126 of 136 (294646)
03-12-2006 7:02 PM
Reply to: Message 125 by nwr
03-12-2006 4:29 PM


Re: life is a game
Enlightened self interest serves a purpose for the person, there is a benefit. Or do you have a more enlightened application in mind?


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we are limited in our ability to understand
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RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 125 by nwr, posted 03-12-2006 4:29 PM nwr has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 127 by nwr, posted 03-12-2006 8:46 PM RAZD has responded

  
nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 127 of 136 (294672)
03-12-2006 8:46 PM
Reply to: Message 126 by RAZD
03-12-2006 7:02 PM


Re: life is a game
Enlightened self interest serves a purpose for the person, there is a benefit. Or do you have a more enlightened application in mind?

I just mailed of the check for my insurance premium. Since I'm not expecting to benefit, I guess that make me an altruist.

We wouldn't agree with that, of course. I made a rational decision to purchase insurance, aware of the cost and the possible (or unlikely) benefits.

I'm suggesting that society itself is a kind of informal insurance pool for a social species. The good deeds we do are the premiums we pay, and the good deeds others do for us are the benefits we receive.

The idea is that altruistic behavior is learned. The young child gets a lot of benefits from this social insurance system, and quickly learns that paying his/her premiums makes him more respected in the society, and thus better able to collect benefits when needed. This isn't done in some sort of crass calculation. But the suggestion is that children already learn to recognize the extent to which they are respected by the system, and thus in some sense to judge the size of the potential insurance benefits, should they need them.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 126 by RAZD, posted 03-12-2006 7:02 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 128 of 136 (294815)
03-13-2006 7:39 AM
Reply to: Message 127 by nwr
03-12-2006 8:46 PM


Re: life is a game
We wouldn't agree with that, of course. I made a rational decision to purchase insurance, aware of the cost and the possible (or unlikely) benefits.

No, that's a gamble, that you will get more benefit than you pay for. Those that don't buy insurance gamble that they would get less than they would have paid for.

The young child gets a lot of benefits from this social insurance system, and quickly learns that paying his/her premiums makes him more respected in the society ...

At 18 months?

and how does this explain the chimps helping?

The idea is that altruistic behavior is learned.

Personally I believe it is a by-product of a social species behavior.


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we are limited in our ability to understand
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RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 127 by nwr, posted 03-12-2006 8:46 PM nwr has responded

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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 129 of 136 (294822)
03-13-2006 8:30 AM
Reply to: Message 128 by RAZD
03-13-2006 7:39 AM


Re: life is a game
No, that's a gamble, that you will get more benefit than you pay for. Those that don't buy insurance gamble that they would get less than they would have paid for.

You are not buying insurance as a gamble, but as protection against ruin (sometimes called "gambler's ruin"). You typically know that it is a bad gamble, but still of value for its protection against ruin.

I guess that comment was off-topic.

At 18 months?

Obviously the insurance model I gave is a simplification. But sure, by 18 months the child has already learnt about social relations, at least within the family, and already knows the benefit of doing things that please his parents.

and how does this explain the chimps helping?

I'm not an expert in chimps. But they are a social species, albeit not nearly as social as humans.

Personally I believe it is a by-product of a social species behavior.

I agree. But that doesn't contradict it being learned behavior.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 128 by RAZD, posted 03-13-2006 7:39 AM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 130 of 136 (295024)
03-13-2006 9:13 PM
Reply to: Message 129 by nwr
03-13-2006 8:30 AM


Re: life is a gamble
You are not buying insurance as a gamble, but as protection against ruin ...

But "ruin" is not a 'sure thing' so you are gambling that it will happen when you buy life insurance and gambling that it won't when you don't buy it. I gamble that I won't win the lottery every day I don't buy tickets. Gambling is making any choice with consequences when the outcome is uncertain eh?

Offtopic? darn.

But sure, by 18 months the child has already learnt about social relations, at least within the family, and already knows the benefit of doing things that please his parents.

They aren't pleasing a parent but a total stranger that is doing weird things. Now when I was that age I wanted to take the clothes pins apart and see how they worked (or was that my "terrible twos"?)

I agree. But that doesn't contradict it being learned behavior.

Ah, but the species must have the (evolved?) capacity to {learn\aquire\develop\grok} the behavior. Could a totally a-social species learn it?

This leans in the direction that the discussion on morals being derived from first principles (with holmes and ben) was heading for me: our morals are pretty well predicated on our being a social animal, and a moral system for an a-social species {could\would\should} be different - if it is needed at all eh?

Part of being a social species is the inate {willingness\ability\need} to do things for others that are "like" you (or near enough to be recognized as an "us" versus a "them").

This is where I think altruism is just a by-product of general cooperative (social) behavior where everyone benefits from combined effort to the point where helpful behavior becomes 'natural' without need of benefit.

Genetically\physioligically speaking, perhaps a little endorphin is released when action is done for someone else: it feels good to help others.

I get high with a little help for my friends?


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we are limited in our ability to understand
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RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 129 by nwr, posted 03-13-2006 8:30 AM nwr has responded

Replies to this message:
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 131 of 136 (295246)
03-14-2006 2:00 PM
Reply to: Message 130 by RAZD
03-13-2006 9:13 PM


Re: life is a gamble
Ah, but the species must have the (evolved?) capacity to {learn\aquire\develop\grok} the behavior. Could a totally a-social species learn it?

I expect that the basic principles of learning are the same for all mammalian species, though some are better at it than others. But learning is driven by necessity. Humans need help from others, so are more motivated to join in the social game. Being born relatively immature, and lacking the fur of other apes, is likely part of what provides the dependence on others that is part of this need.

This is where I think altruism is just a by-product of general cooperative (social) behavior where everyone benefits from combined effort to the point where helpful behavior becomes 'natural' without need of benefit.

Agreed.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 130 by RAZD, posted 03-13-2006 9:13 PM RAZD has not yet responded

  
FliesOnly
Member (Idle past 2220 days)
Posts: 797
From: Michigan
Joined: 12-01-2003


Message 132 of 136 (296294)
03-17-2006 2:23 PM
Reply to: Message 124 by RAZD
03-12-2006 3:31 PM


Re: life is a game
Hi again:

RAZD writes:

The problem is not what the cost is or how it is defined. What makes a behavior altruistic is that there is a cost and no benefit. Any behavior that has a direct benefit cannot be altruistic, and this is the basis on which most animal behavior is classified as non-altruistic (your "other definitions have better explained the behaviors").

Of course I agree that a behavior that results in a benefit is not altruistic, and have never stated otherwise. But you're wrong when you say that the cost is unimportant (see your lioness/gazelle example below for an explanation of why).

RAZD writes:

Such as a lioness killing a gazelle to relieve it of the tedium of living? LOL. Need to keep an eye on benefits eh? Here the benefits outweigh the costs, as it allows the lions to keep living.

But you're arguing this from the wrong point of view. Using your loose definition of altruism it is the gazelle that would be behaving as such...not the lioness.

RAZD writes:

Let me know what you think of this:
http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/wireStory?id=1681473&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312

I think it's a pretty interesting study. Personally, as I understand it, it shows commensalism, but not altruism...sorry.

Look, it's not my fault that certain groups want to use the term 'altruism" for human studies. But as I have said repeatedly, altruism has a definition that deals specifically with reproductive success and cost. I see no reason to change that so researches can get a warm fuzzy about their study.

(Edited to remove some extra words.)

This message has been edited by FliesOnly, 03-17-2006 04:02 PM


This message is a reply to:
 Message 124 by RAZD, posted 03-12-2006 3:31 PM RAZD has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 133 by RAZD, posted 03-17-2006 9:20 PM FliesOnly has responded

  
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19756
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 133 of 136 (296389)
03-17-2006 9:20 PM
Reply to: Message 132 by FliesOnly
03-17-2006 2:23 PM


Re: life is a game
But you're arguing this from the wrong point of view. Using your loose definition of altruism it is the gazelle that would be behaving as such...not the lioness.

Lol. Wondered if you were going to go there ...

Not only does the gazelle expend great cost in this act of generosity - actually, the ultimate cost eh? - (which deflates your argument about it being just any little old inconsequential cost), but it does improve it's species in the process by eliminating the weak, infected and elderly from being a burden on the flock and improving the genetic pool.

Looks like it fits your definition better?

Personally, as I understand it, it shows commensalism,...

Again, why do the young chimps help the curious doctor (I don't think he was wearing a yellow hat)? How is this a symbiotic (not simbiotic) relationship? Chimps don't normally go out of their way to help people, so it is not a defining trait of the species eh?


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we are limited in our ability to understand
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RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 132 by FliesOnly, posted 03-17-2006 2:23 PM FliesOnly has responded

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FliesOnly
Member (Idle past 2220 days)
Posts: 797
From: Michigan
Joined: 12-01-2003


Message 134 of 136 (297077)
03-21-2006 1:16 PM
Reply to: Message 133 by RAZD
03-17-2006 9:20 PM


Re: ...but gettng eaten is not
RAZD writes:

Not only does the gazelle expend great cost in this act of generosity - actually, the ultimate cost eh? - (which deflates your argument about it being just any little old inconsequential cost)...

I would hardly consider being eaten an act of generosity (see below for an expansion on this concept). And I have never stated that a reproductive cost is of "little" or "inconsequential" value. Quite the contrary. I believe that reproductive success is of such a high value that I don't want to change or water down the definition of Altruism so other "things" apply equally as well.

Now...about the gazelle. Altruism is a behavior that results in a decrease in reproductive success. And sacrificing your life is probably the ultimate behavior one can perform. However, did this gazelle actually sacrifice its life (and hence it's reproductive success) for the good of the lion (and by the same token then, enhance its reproductive success)? I think not. The gazelle was caught, killed, and then eaten by the lion, but I somehow doubt that it went willingly. I'd wager that the gazelle put up a valiant effort (that ultimately failed), in its desire to remain alive. Being eaten is in no way an act of altruism because animals do not just go out and give themselves up for the good of the species, all the while increasing the fitness of their primary predator.

RAZD writes:

Looks like it fits your definition better?

Not at all. Being killed and eaten is no way a part of my definition of Altruism (nor anyone else’s that I know of).

RAZD writes:

Again, why do the young chimps help the curious doctor (I don't think he was wearing a yellow hat)? How is this a symbiotic (not simbiotic) relationship? Chimps don't normally go out of their way to help people, so it is not a defining trait of the species eh?

Honestly, I don't know enough about it one way or the other to fully answer your question.
My experience however, (which I will admit is limited to my Grad school days and the reading of papers) is that by-and-large, these types of studies often have what I would consider poor experimental design, and then they over state their conclusions. Getting into the head of another animal can be extremely difficult to do. Obviously, we really have no idea what the animal was thinking when it did something, so for that reason I think one needs to be extremely careful when interpreting and stating their results. Who knows, maybe the chimps like seeing the object fall, so giving it back to the experimenter was a way to simply see it fall again. Again though, seeing as how they sacrificed nothing (reproductively speaking) the behavior was quite obviously not altruistic.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 133 by RAZD, posted 03-17-2006 9:20 PM RAZD has not yet responded

  
gregor
Inactive Member


Message 135 of 136 (305140)
04-19-2006 4:08 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 9:35 AM


Is egoism a law of nature?
I don't think so. Dawkins: the selfish gene, follows the same track as the "fundamental theorem of biology" due to Fisher (1930). Here the increase of mean fitness is calculated over the set of genes under the assumption that a gene may have a fitness of its own. According to Maynard Smith the theorem states that; “the rate of increase of mean fitness of any organism at any time is equal to its genetic variance at that time” (but there is no doubt that evolution maximises mean fitness, see my contribution Intelligent Design/ A proof against ID and creationism/Evolution as intelligent design).

But a population may reach a state of selective equilibrium, in which case the increase of mean fitness is equal to zero, but not necessarily the genetic variance. So the fundamental theorem can hardly be a fundamental truth. Of course, the calculations of Fisher are certainly correct. But the result is wrong, because a necessary condition for evolution to be able to select a gene is that it has a fitness of its own, and this is not possible for all genes.

The same way of thinking appears in the definition of fitness according to Maynard Smith: “Fitness is a property, not of an individual, but of a class of individuals – for example homozygous for allele A at a particular locus.” This definition is certainly useful in breeding programs. But unfortunately, a theory based on this is completely useless as a basis of a model of an evolution selecting individuals.

Dawkins metaphor concerning “the selfish gene” is an example where selfish genes are supposed to be units of selection. These may even cause individuals to become selfish. With respect to the observation that not even the “fundamental theorem” is correct, it seems dangerous to draw such far reaching conclusions from this way of thinking.

An additional example is the evolution of helper behavior, which is explained in terms of egoism as kin-selection (Hamilton). But there is no need for any egoism to explain the phenomenon. If the individuals of some primitive species do not help their offspring to survive, then mean fitness may increase of some helper behavior evolves and – vice versa – an increase of mean fitness may cause a helper behavior to evolve. Further, if this behavior is extended to include relatives or even any individual independent of “race” or religion, then the mean fitness may increase even more.


gkm
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Dr Jack, posted 11-07-2005 9:35 AM Dr Jack has not yet responded

  
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