Date: Thu, Aug 22, 2003
From: "Phil Roberts, Jr." 
Subject: Re: [evol-psych] Kin Selection vs. Group Selection?

Herbert Gintis wrote:

 > At the level of the gene: a gene (or gene complex) that
 > sacrifices fitness on behalf of other genes cannot evolve. In this
 > sense, there cannot be "altruism" at the level of the gene. So why
 > waste a good word (altruism) for something that cannot exist.

Because it affords us with a convenient and thought provoking way of
referring to features of nature that challenge our thinking on natural
selection (e.g., Greenpeacers who ride in little rubber dingies between
the whales and a pissed off whaler with his finger on the trigger of
a harpoon gun) precisely because they appear to offer evidence of
altruism at the genetic level:

     Human and baboon have evolved by natural selection.  If you look at
     the way natural selection works, it seems to follow that anything
     that has evolved by natural selction should be selfish.  Therefore 
     we must expect when we go and look at the behavior of baboons, 
     humans, and all other living creatures, we will find it to be 
     selfish.  If we find that our expectation is wrong, if we observe 
     that human behavior is truly altruistic, then we will be faced with 
     something puzzling, SOMETHING THAT NEEDS EXPLAINING. 
     [my emphasis].  (Dawkins)

Of course, as you have pointed out, there is indeeed a potential for
confusion here, in that most cases of altruism are motivated by an
emotional payoff.  For this reason, I believe it would be prudent to
draw a distinction between physical selfishness and emotional
selfishness, with Mother Teresa construed as altruistic in the
physical biologically enigmatic sense of the term, albeit in all
likelihood motivated by an emotonal reward (emotionally selfish).
Of course, this only postpones the inevitable accounting.  But I
think it at least gets us one step closer to asking the right sort
of question, e.g., 'Why is their a species of natually selected
organism in which many of its members seem to require A REASON to
live in order to be properly motivated to do so?

 > phenotypic level, altruism is behavior that reduces payoffs to the
 > altruist, while increasing payoffs to others with whom the altruist
 > associates. This is the "behavioral" or "phenotypic" use of the
 > word. As you say, we know it exists, and the problem is to explain 
 > why.  There are now many interesting models doing just that.

Which model would you propose to account for the "altruistic" behavior
of the 9/11 terrorists?

 >  The current usage of the term "behavioral" is not the same as
 > the use in psychology in the early to mid-Twentieth century (Watson,
 > Skinner, et al.). Rather, it refers to an experimental approach to
 > modeling choice and behavior through experimental games.

And I think its the same old behaviorist bullshit gussied up just
enough to keep folks from noticing that its actually a metaphysics
(materialism) masquerading as an epistemology.

      "The scientific method, to the exent there is any such
       thing, is simply doing one's damnedest with one's mind,
       no holds barred". (P. W. Bridgman).

 > It does not
 > reject introspection, but it requires that propositions derived from
 > introspection be validated in the laboratory or by other scientific
 > means.

The proof is in the puddin'.  Perhaps you can explain to me why I can't
find a single reference to 'feelings of worthlessness', 'self-worth',
'self-esteem', etc. in Cosmides and Toolby, the current Bible according
to evolutionary psychology.  I don't know what mind you think these guys
are trying to understand, Herb, but its obviously not the HUMAN mind,
not unless I'm some sort of alien transplant.

     One of the characteristics of the majority of modern psychological
     theories, aside from the arbitrariness of so many of their claims,
     is their frequently ponderous _irrelevance_.  The cause, both of
     the irrelevance and of the arbitrariness, is the evident belief of
     their exponents that one can have a science of human nature while
     consistently ignoring man's most significant and distinctive
     attributes.  (Nathaniel Branden).

     Psychology is unique insofar as its institutionalization preceded
     its content and its methods preceded its problem's....
     From its earliest days of the experimental pioneers, man's
     stipulation that psychology be adequate to science has outweighed
     his commitment that it be adequate to man" (Sigmund Koch).


                    Phil Roberts, Jr.

              Rehabilitating Introspection
  A Procedure for a First Person Psychical Science