Does True Altruism Exist Among Humans

Topics: Altruism, Evolutionary psychology, Evolution / Pages: 10 (2405 words) / Published: Apr 25th, 2013
Does true altruism exist among humans? Critically discuss with reference to theories of group selection, kin selection and reciprocal altruism.

Altruism has proven over the years to not only be an extremely hard characteristic to explain but to also define. Whether it is from a biological view, which was constantly challenged from Darwin to the present day, or from a psychological stance where we consider peoples’ motives for such behaviour. Either way it remains an elusive topic where evolutionists have tried desperately to fill all holes that might challenge their theory even though there are countless examples of human behaviour that fail to match up with the latest explanations of why this selfless trait still exists. Firstly we will discuss the development of theories followed by the effectiveness it has at integrating into modern day altruistic behaviour.

Group Selection
Wilson and Wilson (2007) define group selection as ‘the evolution of traits based on the differential survival and reproduction of groups’. For altruism to evolve it must contribute positively towards natural selection. Group selection theory came about to resolve the issues that lied with the inconsistency with traditional evolutionary theory - ‘Natural selection in its simplest form favours selfish individual behaviours over altruistic ones: Individuals who invest the most effort into their own reproduction and survival...have the greatest success of passing on their genes’ Price (2011). How then can we explain altruistic behaviour in nature if the trait should have died out a long time ago? Darwin began to answer this in his book Descent of Man ‘A tribe including many members, who...were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection’ Darwin (1871). This led to further debate, surely the altruists within a group would be exploited by those more selfish leading to the



References: Darwin C (1871) The Descent of Man Dawkins R (1979) Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection Hamilton W (1964) The genetical evolution of social behaviour. I. J. Theor. Biol. 7: 1–16. Israel S, Weisel O, Ebstein R, Bornstein G (2012) Oxytocin, but not vasopressin, increases both parochial and universal altruism. Psychoneuroendocrinology 37:1341-1344 Mauss, M (1967) The Gift Moore J (1984). The evolution of reciprocal sharing. Ethol. Sociobiol. 5: 5-14. Pinker S (2012) The False Allure of Group Selection. Retrieved June 18, 2012 from http://edge.org/conversation/the-false-allure-of-group-selection Price M (2011) Trivers R (1971) The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Q. Rev. Biol. 46:35-57 Wilson D, Wilson E (2007) Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology

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