Thread: meaning of life
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Old 11-15-2000, 05:44 AM   #14
ian
 
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Dojo: University of Ulster, Coleriane
Location: Northern Ireland
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,654
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As far as consideration of other people go (on a serious note), as a biologist this puzzles me.

If we consider ourselves as just vessels for our selfish genes we come across a dilemma:
1. according to game theory, if we do not have more to gain (reproductively) from our altruistic actions, our genes will die out.
2. this is why kin selection occurs (e.g. gulls will only feed those young which they know to be their own, and therefore have adapted methods to identify their young. If there are infiltrators, they will affect the success of the gulls which help them, producing evolutionary pressure to identify and discriminate against individuals which do not have the same genes as you).

From human behaviour and human genetics this suggests 2 things:
1. we don't have to operate at the level of our 'selfish genes'* and can overcome such desires through the knowledge that, in the end, everyone will be dead and competition to reach a final goal is irrelevant.
2. humans are genetically so similar that we have a vested interest in protecting all members of the human race (you never know whether the most physically and mentally disabled person may have the genes which could save the rest of mankind from a fatal disease).

Currently this leaves me with the following belief:
3. as we do in aikido, be altruistic, but never let anyone take the advantage.


* I hate the phrase 'selfish gene' which is one of the biggest misnomers of modern science. Evolution is a process without desires as we think of them. Just as a chemical reaction would occur. If it wasn't for the fact that genes were 'generous' enough to die out, we would not have 'selfish' genes. (really gives you a taste of the yin and yang of evolution)


Apologies for the long e-mail,

Ian
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