deploying biomass to be competitive in an ecosystem.
However, I think it ’ s a bit misleading to label this as “ altruism ” since it ’ s simply one more expression of genetic self-interest occupying peaks in fitness space. The evolution toward superorganism functionality is ecological and adaptive, not ethical. One might, for instance, say that the cells in your kidney are altruistic towards the cells in your spleen, since they work tirelessly to help the spleen cells exist, but that ’ s kind of a narrative tautology when applied to the parts of a larger organism. Altruism is a slippery concept. There ’ s reciprocal altruism, in which one is nice to another in hope for favors from the other in return. There ’ s, what I ’ d call, pseudo-altruism, such as being nice to others in hope of reward from authority figures, real or imagined. There is true altruism: caring for others just because it ’ s a good thing to do and a good way to be, totally detached from self-interest. Why is your modern history full of reports of dolphins saving humans from drowning? Why do humpback whales save unrelated species from orca attacks, at risk to themselves? (And why do such behaviors tend to show up in critters with brains as large or larger than those of humans?) Your biblical story of the “ good Samaritan ” was making the point that the Samaritans were a hated outgroup, yet one of their members helped anyway; this was altruism distinct from tribal superorganism self-interest. Earth ’ s ants don ’ t feel compassion for the baby animals they sting and rend. A honeybee won ’ t help a bumblebee, or even a honeybee of the same species from a nearby hive. There ’ s no inherent altruism to be found in eusocial species. From my perspective, true altruism is exclusively a product of consciousness and self-shaped behavioral preference, empathy, and compassion. A quality of sapience. And I recommend it, because it can link you in profound ways to your place in deep time, and to the other species around you, the Earth-siblings with which you share most of your DNA. Altruism, when pursued for its own sake, repudiates the genes ’ cut-throat agenda, and makes a world a far more wonderful place to be. That ’ s commentary, but it ’ s also true, because “ beating other groups ” is baggage a successful species can ultimately do without. The Bottom Line: “ Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary" - D.S. Wilson
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