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    • #977
      Argumentative Atheist
      Points: 100,928

      Here is a note on the subject of Darwinian evolution of morality that I wrote some time ago. While not as polished as something I’d write today it’s still pretty accurate.

      The first type of altruism that is easily explained via Darwinism is what Richard Dawkins calls the “selfish gene”. It means that if a gene programs an organism to act in a manner that will favour copies of itself, then that gene is more likely to become prevalent in the gene pool.

      A gene that programs Individual organisms to favour their own kin is statistically likely to benefit copies of itself. Any gene (of that type) that becomes common enough will make altruism to kin a normal everyday thing. Being good to your own children is the obvious example. By being good to your own children and making sure they have better opportunities than other children you guarantee that the gene that makes you act in that manner gets a better chance at making more copies of itself.

      The next possible way for natural selection to select specifically for altruism is very much in a way that benefits yourself. One example is if for example there is a crock of gold underneath a rock that is too heavy for one person to lift, two or more people may co-operate to get at it even if it means they have to share, because otherwise they would not get any gold at all.

      Another example would be trade. Say you are very good at making particularly sharp rocks, but you are completely dismal at binding them to a stick.

      However another member of your tribe is very good at lashing rocks to sticks, but is hopeless at cracking them in the right way to make a good sharp and straight edge.

      An extremely simple act of co-operation between the two of you, means that you both have excellent axes compared to everybody else in your tribe, and therefore a excellent advantage in many things like chopping wood (which takes a lot of energy, thereby using resources) which suddenly becomes much easier (therefore less resources e.g., food, are used)

      To extend the example a bit, suppose that you and your new friend go into business with your tribe and instead of going hunting yourself, you send your tribe out to get food and other resources (like firewood) for you and pay them with better tools and weapons than they could make on their own.

      All of a sudden your entire tribe has a massive advantage over any other tribe that doesn’t have people co-operating on the same scale as you and your friend, and all the other members of your tribe.

      People who argue against this say that “but then a freeloader would have an easy ride and would propagate more” yes they would have an easy ride, and the tribe as a whole would be weakened, so tribes that evolve socially to ostracise those that-in my own words-take the fucking piss, will benefit over those that do not, therefore yet again gaining the advantage.

      That would be a Darwinian start to altruism, but it can be taken much further, now take into account the arrival of language, and the new ability to tell others if somebody can be trusted or not. Do not you think that those who (it appears) can be trusted will be more likely to get a mate?

      If you garner a reputation for always returning favours, then others will have no qualms about doing you a favour in the first place, but if instead you always cheat those that help you, others are much more likely to let you die in a ditch rather than waste their precious resources on a hopeless cause.

      There is another possibility in that by being able to give large gifts (i.e., wealthy enough in resources to be able to give some away) you are able to show dominance over others, which does deserve a more in depth look, but I think I have written enough for today.

      To recap you have now got four possible reasons for Darwinian natural selection to favour altruism:

      Genetic kinship.

      Reciprocation, or the repayment of favours.

      Reputation and garnering the ability to ask for favours without others worrying that you will not pay them back.

      Giving gifts in order to appear more dominant.

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