When altruism fails
People are capable of a high degree of self- sacrifice altruism on behalf of family members, friends, colleges and complete strangers. Yet, we can all point to situations in which altruism was expected but did not materialize. For example child abuse, absent fathers, pedophile priests, false doctors, and the bad Samaritan. The human depravity argument assumes that we are intrinsically drawn to bad actions that harm ourselves and others. On the contrary, evolution has equipped us with the capacity to put the needs of others before our own immediate needs. The mere fact that altruism sometimes fails does not discredit its existence. The biblical parable of the Good Samaritan is a moving account of an act of compassion between two strangers. This relates to three travelers encountering a man lying half-dead on the roadside after he had been robbed and beaten. The story has many nuances. Thus, the person needing help had just been attacked by robbers and beaten mercilessly. In the story the victim is passed by a priest, who averts his eyes and goes on his way, indicating that those who enjoy moral authority among us can be complete hypocrites. The second passerby, the Levite, should help because he is a priest and because he comes from the same region as the victim. Finally, help comes from the most unexpected quarter when the Good Samaritan- a man of lowly social standing from a different province- is moved to act by pure compassion for the sufferings of fellow human. The main point of the story is that even though there are many differences between us, we can be potentially united by acts of kindness that transform strangers into neighbors. My next example is a perfect example of a bad Samaritan. A few years ago there was a case of kitty Genovese, an unfortunate young woman who was murdered in New York even though her cries for help were heard by at least thirty- eight people. The attack, by a knife-wielding assailant, took place at night in a...
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