Genetic Selfishness in Evolutionary Psych, by Michael Matthews

(as a pre-cursor, recall that genetic selfishness is the principle that underlies much of evolutionary psychology—the notion that the creature’s innate and strongest desire is to preserve one’s genes for passing on to a future generation and that this desire undergrids much, if not most of the creature’s behavior, including altruistic behaviors)

Dear Evolutionary Psychology,

I see where you’re coming from, but I disagree about genetic selfishness driving altruism for a couple of different reasons.  The argument that genes’ drive to survive doesn’t hold up in at least one example I can think of.  Consider the case of Emily Davison, a woman of the early 20th century who campaigned for the right of women to vote.  If her greatest desire had been her own survival, and her genes motivate her to act in such a way that she will live as long as possible, then how could she have done this?

She wouldn’t have done this if she was driven only by genetic selfishness.  She must have been “driven” by something else, which allowed her to put aside her genetic selfishness.  So there must be something else more fundamental than genes or survival that guided her choices, at least in this instance.  The argument of genetic selfishness may make sense in some cases, but not in all.  So I don’t think it’s sufficient to explain altruistic behavior.

In Greek, the word ‘martyr’ means “witness”.  By becoming a martyr for the cause of women’s rights, Emily Davison also became a witness against genetic selfishness.

  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: