Darwin-L Message Log 2:32 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<2:32>From mahaffy@dordt.edu  Thu Oct  7 16:37:40 1993

Subject: Why altruism?
To: Address Darwin list <Darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu>
Date: Thu, 7 Oct 1993 16:41:54 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Prof. James Mahaffy" <mahaffy@dordt.edu>

   I am reading a paper by a philosopher that deals with altruism
and wasn't sure he got it quite right.  So I decided to unlurk and
ask a couple of questions.  The questions really center around the
selective pressure from an evolutionary perspective that would
result in altruistic behavior.  My area is Carboniferous
paleoecolgy so I am a bit out of my area of expertise and would
appreciate some feed back from some of you that know more about
this than me.

1. I gather it is not an easy question since it often clearly works
 against the survivability of the person with altruistic behavior
 [depending on the nature of that behavior]. Although I have not
 had time to more than glance at them, some of the threads I have
 seen on Darwin-l seem to question the degree to which you can
 see biological selection as a direct causative agent for at
 least some of human's cultural differentiation.

2. My recollection and gut biological instinct is that the answer
 (of someone that would like to find selective pressure for this
 behavior) is that although altruism could be detrimental to the
 parent it could increase the survivability of their offspring or
 others of the race and hence selecting for a genetic component
 in the race that favors altruism.

 These are a couple of the questions I have, but any general
light on altruism would be appreciated.
James F. Mahaffy       e-mail: mahaffy@dordt.edu
Biology Department       phone: 712 722-6279
Dordt College        FAX 712 722-1198
Sioux Center, Iowa 51250

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