‘If Darwinism is true, then we have no capacity for genuine altruism.’ Do you agree? Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection has stood the test of time scientifically and it remains one of the leading scientific explanations on evolution via natural selection. There are different degrees of Darwinism which have emerged since that time, these being the non – materialist (dualist), the blank-paper (standard social science) and the gene machine (evolutionary psychology) Darwinism. To decide whether I agree or disagree with the above conditional, I will need to investigate the implications of each of these three degrees of Darwinism in order to see if any are valid and sound. Offer an explanation of any connection (premises) that bridge the antecedent of the conditional’ if Darwinism is true’ to the consequent ‘we have no capacity for genuine altruism’. This should ascertain whether the term ‘genuine’ can be applied to altruism in the light of all three Darwinists thought. According to non materialist Darwinists (dualists) who accept many of Darwin’s ideas in terms of natural selection (competition between individual organisms or sometimes groups) but who believe that there are two kinds of substance, spirit and matter (natural and super natural). And it was God who created the vital spark, that kicked off evolution in the first place, consequently they would argue that altruism (to feel genuine concern for the interests of other individuals) comes from God (Human Nature after Darwin, J R Richards. p.192) Altruism is a central doctrine adhered to in most religions and it implies that God imbues mankind with the ability to choose to act unselfishly often in the belief that the faithful would receive a much greater reward later (Ibid p.193).
Therefore according to the non materialist Darwinism the premises for the conditional are as follows:-
If dualist Darwinism is true
A divine spark started creation
And God gave us the capacity to act unselfishly
Then we do have a capacity for genuine altruism
When examining the truth of the above Premises, if as dualist Darwinist contend that the capacity for altruism is something given by god, then we have to disagree with their argument, as firstly there is no free will involved thus is not of their own choosing. Secondly, altruism is not really altruism if it's done for some recompense further down the road or to win their gods approval (ibid p.193 p2). Finally, deliberate altruism is a contradiction in terms as it implies that genuine altruism is only possible if it is natural. A natural position which materialist Darwinist’s (standard social science model or a blank-paper view) have no qualms about. Blank paper material Darwinists accept the origin of life without any recourse to skyhooks such as a designer (God) They believe man is now free from his genetic past and can take off both mentally and emotionally in any direction they like, and that culture is the main determinant of mans nature (Ibid p130 p 1). The materialists view on Darwinism with regards to altruism is that they accept the origin of the species and what that means; the competition for resources and the survival of the fittest. This in itself implies that man was required in the past to be selfish to continue the species. Furthermore, that any altruism be more of a product of the environment and it is well disguised selfishness rather than any inherent altruistic tendencies, thus ought to be in theory quickly eliminated by natural selection whenever these tendencies appeared (Ibid p193). Therefore according to the standard social science model (SSSM) of Darwinism the premises for the conditional are as follows:- Premise 1
If Darwinism is true
We arose from natural selection
Competition for resources rewards selfish behaviour Conclusion
Then we have no capacity for genuine altruism
However, there was a problem with this...
Bibliography: Richards, J R. Human Nature after Darwin, Open University Milton Keynes
Barash, D. (1979) Socio-biology: the whispering within, Fontana/Collins.
Dawkins, R. (1976) The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press.
Wright, R. (1994) The Moral Animal, Abacus.
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