Can Evolution Explain Altruism?

It’s my hobby to interact with people and talk about my Savior, Jesus. He’s the Creator (Col 1:16) and the promised Messiah (Gen 3:15.) Despite my multitude of sins and those of all repentant sinners (John 3:16), He demonstrated his great love (Rom 4:8) by taking on the full wrath of the Father to atone for wickedness (Rom 3:25)

Inevitably in some of those conversations, skeptics bring up evolution as a reason not to repent. The conversation sometimes includes this phrase:

There’s no need for your sky daddy. Evolution explains everything without him

I’m with Greg Bahnsen when he says that evolution can’t explain ANYTHING. But one of the questions I’ve asked God-deniers about evolution’s explanatory power is “How is altruism consistent with evolutionism? How does evolution explain altruistic behavior?”

NOTE: As a blog that uses the presuppositional method to honor God’s revelation and expose the irrational nature of all philosophies that attempt to derive knowledge, logic, morality or anything else without God, you may wonder why I’m asking this evidential question. What follows will be the application of Proverbs 26:5. I will enter into the worldview of the God-denier to show that his OWN explanations are full of unjustified assertions and catastrophic contradictions

This is apparently a question that triggers God-deniers, because when I post that question on social media, there are all kinds of caustic and derogatory remarks about my lack of intelligence, my lack of education, and their desire that I be quiet. Once in a while a skeptic will try to answer. Here’s a recent answer I got to the question “Why do evolutionists think altruism is beneficial (in this case public education)”

Alturism (sp) can improve the survival rate of the herd making it easier for individuals to thrive. Education improves the herd so ensuring a well educated public can improve individual life

What is Altruism?

Wikipedia defines altruism as “Altruism is the principle and moral practice of concern for happiness of other human beings or animals, resulting in a quality of life both material and spiritual.”

Merriam-Webster tells us that altruism is “behavior by an animal that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to itself but that benefits others of its species”

I will reference these definitions later in the post, so prepare to be pointed back here for a reminder of these foundational definitions. We all recognize altruism in humans when people are selfless. Altruism is on display when a person gives money to the homeless and when a person helps at the scene of an accident and when a person helps build houses on a mission trip. In those interactions, there is no benefit and may even be sacrificial on the part of the giver. Sometimes, altruism is seen in ant and bee colonies.

What is evolution?

In 1859 Charles Darwin released one of the most influential books of all time, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection for the Preservation of the Favored Races. In it, he lays out a case for a mechanism known as natural selection, which he says

Natural Selection is the principle by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved

Darwin reveals his biological theory that attempts to explain the origin of the great diversity of life. This theory requires that uncountable sequential individual heritable changes be preserved by natural selection for evolution to have veracity. He said

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

For evolution to have explanatory power, there must be uncountable sequential individual heritable changes that are preserved solely by natural selection. Now Darwin had no idea about DNA or the unimaginable complexity of genetic code that is stored on DNA, but scientists after Darwin discovered the code of DNA which serves as the source of inheritance, the mutation of which supposedly provides for novel traits.

Let’s analyze what is currently being taught as evolution before we go forward. From OpenStax college textbook Biology 2e p. 24

The source of this diversity (tremendous diversity of life on earth) is evolution, the process of gradual change during which new species arise from older species. A Phylogenetic tree can summarize the evolution of various life forms on Earth. It is a diagram showing the evolutionary relationships among biological species based on similarities and differences in genetic or physical traits or both.

Same book, p492

Evolution by natural selection describes a mechanism for how species change over time…Natural Selection, or “survival of the fittest” is the more prolific reproduction of individuals with favorable traits that survive environmental change because of those traits. This leads to evolutionary change…More offspring are produced than are able to survive, so resources for survival and reproduction are limited. The capacity for reproduction in all organisms outstrips the availability of resources to support their numbers. Thus, there is competition for those resources in each generation.

From RationalWiki

All species on Earth originated by the mechanism of evolution, through descent from common ancestors.

To summarize their claims on what evolution is:

  1. Evolution is unguided
  2. Evolution can be verified by showing the gradual process of uncountable sequential individual heritable changes
  3. The mechanisms of evolution are natural selection acting on random mutations
  4. Genetics determines traits, behaviors, and reproduction
  5. Organisms that are the most fit (greatest fitness) in their environment persist to pass their genes to subsequent generations
  6. Fitness is “individual reproductive success and is equal to the average contribution to the gene pool of the next generation that is made by individuals of the specified genotype or phenotype”
  7. Evolution’s sole driver is to reproduce genetic material in the competition for limited resources.

What is Evolutionism?

Evolutionism is the belief that evolution is the only explanation for all of biology. Those who practice evolutionism are ruthless in protecting this belief. Practitioners expel, malign, and/or punish anyone who dissents from the common evolutionism narrative.

According to those practicing evolutionism, the theory of evolution cannot, must not, and will not be criticized. Efforts to offer anything other than complete obeisance to the theory are met with swift and unmerciful retribution in an effort to silence critical thinking. In practice, it strongly resembles religious fervor in protection of the dogma. This is generally what happens when someone makes a social media comment that even hints there might be problems with evolution’s ability to explain all of biology

What do Scientists Say About Altruism?

So, scientists have recognized that it is counter-intuitive to assume that altruism fits within the evolutionary explanations, and I’m sure you can see that from the definitions of evolution from above, there is a large plausibility barrier to overcome. In the recent social media encounter that I mentioned above, one of the God-deniers said:

The scientific research would beg to differ. The evolutionary origins of human altruism explained: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&qsp=3&q=evolutionary+origins+human+altruism&qst=ir…

And if you’re not reading science to change your mind, then what are you doing?

Essentially, he told me that science DOES have answers, and I’m ignorant of those answers because I’ve never read them. But I’m an intrepid ApoloJedi and will analyze the writings of scientists who promote evolutionism to see if they can demonstrate altruism to be sufficiently explained by the mechanisms of evolution. I will analyze three sources from the modern academic paradigm (which some will conflate with “science”):

  1. Human Altruism – Proximate Patterns and Evolutionary Origins by Fehr/Fischbacher 2005
  2. Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins
  3. OpenStax Biology 2e 2018 Rice University

Fehr/Fischbacher

The first link in the search result from the post above yields a paper written by Ernst Fehr and Urs Fischbacher for degruyter.com. The paper was written in 2005 and has been cited 82 times.

From page 6

Current gene-based evolutionary theories cannot explain important patterns of human altruism pointing towards the need for theories of cultural evolution and gene-culture coevolution

They clearly recognize the counter-intuitive nature of the claim that evolution can sufficiently account for altruism. The implication is that a NEW theory/mechanism is needed. They call their new mechanism “strong reciprocity”. They define Strong Reciprocity as

Strong reciprocity is a combination of altruistic rewarding—a readiness to reward others in response to fair outcomes or behaviour—and altruistic punishment—a willingness to sanction others for norm violations

Reward? If there is a reward, it’s not altruism. Right from the beginning, they change the definition of altruism from something that is unselfish to appeal to the inherent selfishness. “Fair outcomes”???? Now they have to explain how evolution produced justice so that fair outcomes can be measured. Rather than explaining away the questions, they are multiplying their explanatory deficits. They spend the next 20 pages showing data and charts about how there are social rewards for reciprocity and punishment for selfishness for humans. It’s hardly groundbreaking to show data that when people are nice to others, the others are generally nice back or when someone is ungrateful for altruism, that’s the last time they get free generosity. And it’s definitely not in accord with Merrian-Webster’s definition of altruism from above. The point is that they are not demonstrating that evolution explains altruism. They are NOT demonstrating a gradual process with innumerable slight successive modifications in heritable traits are pushing some mysterious proto-altruistic behavior into fully-developed altruism. Some have done the altruistic test on monkeys showing strong reciprocity, but (as I have been reliably reminded over and over by evolutionists) humans did not evolve from monkeys. At best, these experiments can ONLY assert another rescue device (convergent evolution) proposed by evolutionists to protect their theory from refutation. These experiments do NOT demonstrate the evolution of human altruism.

On page 30, in their section titled “Evolutionary Origins” they introduce the term “Reciprocal altruism” (RA) as a mechanism for producing altruism in evolutionism. But they never get around to explaining how RA gets included into the genetic code. If it is not included in the genetic code, which is the mechanism for heredity, is RA explainable by evolution? RA is described throughout the next 5 pages as being a learned behavior, so unless they are proposing classic Lamarckism, RA can be ignored. In addition to it not being passed on through heredity, it is another way they are redefining altruism. Altruism is selfless, but RA requires reciprocity (if you do something nice, the expectation is that the gifted person reciprocates with something nice), so it is NOT altruism!!!!! Again on Page 30

This does not mean that there may have been considerable obstacles in leaving a relationship; yet, unless the available outside options and individuals’ decisions to stay in or to leave a relationship are modelled explicitly, it is impossible to study their impact on the evolution of altruistic behaviour.

Impossible indeed!

Thus, repeated interactions plus the existence of strategies which condition cooperative behaviour on past outcomes (i.e., reciprocal altruism) are unlikely to be an evolutionary explanation for human cooperation in larger groups

Unlikely and Impossible

In the concluding paragraph of their paper, which they title “Open Problems” they say:

There is experimental evidence indicating that repeated interactions, reputation-formation, and strong reciprocity are powerful determinants of human behaviour

I agree with this, but as has been shown, this is NOT evolution. These are post hoc attempts to describe observations to protect a theory from refutation

Although recent evidence (Henrich et al. 2001) suggests that market integration and the potential gains from cooperation are important factors, our knowledge is still extremely limited

much more evidence on how these affect altruistic rewarding and punishment is necessary

At the ultimate level, the evolution and role of altruistic rewarding for cooperation in larger groups remain in the dark

At the level of proximate theories of human motivation, we still lack parsimonious and tractable formal models of reciprocal fairness, which make precise, testable, predictions

to enhance the study of the evolution of altruism, there is a great need for sharp, empirically testable predictions that are rigorously derived from the evolutionary models

Their conclusion admits they cannot even test the evolutionary mechanism in the present, so how can they extrapolate their theories dozens, hundreds, thousands, or millions of years into the past?!?!?? As they said, “the evolution of altruistic rewarding remains in the dark”

Richard Dawkins

In 1976 Biologist Richard Dawkins attempted to explain altruism in his book, The Selfish Gene. Here are some quotes from his book:

My purpose is to examine the biology of selfishness and altruism.

We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes

Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.

Any altruistic system is inherently unstable, because it is open to abuse by selfish individuals, ready to exploit it.

We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism—something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.

Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature.

If there is a human moral to be drawn, it is that we must teach our children altruism, for we cannot expect it to be part of their biological nature.

In the world of the extended phenotype, ask not how an animal’s behaviour benefits its genes; ask instead whose genes it is benefiting.

The genes are not destroyed by crossing-over, they merely change partners and march on. Of course they march on. That is their business. They are the replicators and we are their survival machines. When we have served our purpose we are cast aside. But genes are denizens of geological time: genes are forever.

There exists no objective basis on which to elevate one species above another.

As you can see, Dawkins is unable to sufficiently demonstrate that evolutionary mechanisms can sufficiently account for altruism. Dawkins is deficient at the same points of Fehr/Fischbacher – he is forced to redefine altruism as beneficial to the giver OR prescribe that altruism be TAUGHT since genes are naturally selfish (Learned). At the pinnacle of the book when Dawkins should reveal how evolution explains altruism, he instead tells us that society is the inheritance mechanism for altruistic behavior rather than evolution (“we must teach our children altruism, for we cannot expect it to be part of their biological nature”). This scientist, who some might say knows more about evolution and biology than any man alive and whose book was meant to explain how biology produced altruism, ultimately claims that the heritable mechanism for altruism is NOT evolution but society!!!!

Is there room for critical rebuttal of Dawkin’s claims? Stephen J. Gould had this to say about the ability of Dawkin’s theory to account for altruism:

the fatal flaw (in Dawkins’ selfish gene theory) was that “no matter how much power Dawkins wishes to assign to genes, there is one thing that he cannot give them – direct visibility to natural selection.

With no direct visibility to natural selection, how can genes direct phenotypes to preserve themselves via altruism? Dawkins never explained; he just assumed and crafted another post hoc theory in an failed attempt to stave off refutation. Dawkin’s attempt to explain altruism via evolution is shown to be a failure as well

OpenStax Rice University

On page 1444, the authors of Rice University’s Biology 2e textbook address altruism…or rather, they fail to address it in the subchapter titled “Altruistic Behavior”

There has been much discussion over why altruistic behaviors exist. Do these behaviors lead to overall evolutionary advantages for their species? Do they help the altruistic individual pass on its own genes? In the 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, scientist Richard Dawkins attempted to explain many seemingly altruistic behaviors…Selfish gene theory has been controversial over the years and is still discussed among scientists in related fields…The lowering of individual fitness to enhance the reproductive fitness of a relative and this one’s inclusive fitness evolves through kin selection. However, these behaviors may not be truly defined as altruism in these cases because the actor is actually increasing his own fitness either directly or indirectly.

Unrelated individuals may also act altruistically to each other, and this seems to defy the selfish gene explanation. An example of this observed in many monkey species where a monkey will present its back to an unrelated monkey to have that individual pick the parasites from its fur. After a certain amount of time, the roles are reversed and the first monkey now grooms the second monkey. Thus, there is reciprocity in the behavior…This behavior (Reciprocity Altruism) is not necessarily altruism.

Evolutionary game theory, a modification of classical game theory in mathematics, has shown that many of these so-called “altruistic behaviors” are not altruistic at all. The definition of pure altruism, based on human behavior, is an action that benefits another without any direct benefit to one’s self. Most of the behaviors described above do not seem to satisfy this definition.

You can see from their explanations that there is no mechanism for generating altruistic behavior, and as this section gets deeper into the deficit of actual explanations, even the concept of altruism is wiped away as if it never really exists (from above – “Most of the behaviors described above do not seem to satisfy this definition (altruism)”.) We see altruistic behavior in humans. We’ve all done it ourselves. We know it exists, but it’s mechanism, purpose, and history are all BLIND to science. In their first paragraph they invoke a sciency-sounding phrase, kin selection, as if merely naming an observation actually explains it. Kin selection like convergent evolution like strong reciprocity are terms that hide the explanation under the guise of science. People hear “kin selection” and assume, “well, it’s got a fancy name, so someone must have demonstrated that evolution is the only explanation for it.”

Although I have been unreliably told that evolution can account for altruistic behavior, the writings of science publications are devoid of sufficient explanations for it. Notice the concluding sentences of this section:

What is clear, though, is that heritable behaviors that improve the chances of passing on one’s genes or a portion of one’s genes are favored by natural selection and will be retained in future generations as long as those behaviors convey a fitness advantage.

Essentially, they are saying “despite a lack of evidence of altruism at all or a mechanism for developing proto-altruism to fully functional altruism, it’s true. Just believe that evolution has the power to do it! We KNOW it because natural selection ALWAYS conveys a fitness advantage…even if we can’t demonstrate it. Trust us, we’re scientists!”

Well, trust has to be earned and after reviewing the best that evolutionism has to offer for explaining the natural forces of survival-of-the-fittest producing behaviors that lower fitness, their writings are woefully deficient of demonstrations.

Can Evolution Account For Altruism?

No. Those who believe in evolution recognize that altruism exists, and in an effort to create post hoc theories for its existence, they must either redefine altruism, revive classic Lamarckism, disregard their own definitions of what evolution means or some chimera Frankenstein fantasy combination of all three distractions.

Many of you know that this is a blog dedicated to the truth of God’s eternal revelation. As a recovering evidentialist and aspiring presuppositionalist, it is my intent to always revere Christ Jesus as the authority in all matters and not put the God-denier in the judge’s seat as if he/she can correctly judge evidence in accordance with a perfect perception of reality. Only God has a perfect perception of all of reality, but God, who is the source of all knowledge, has revealed some of his knowledge so that we can know those things with certainty (Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge). So, without humble submission to the Eternal Monarch, justified true beliefs are not possible for the God-denier. This article could have been very short: Does a mechanism which purportedly replaces God (evolution) sufficiently account for behaviors that God commands (altruism)? No – evolution cannot account for altruism. So, evolutionists are wrong about altruism being consistent with evolution not only because of the Christian worldview…

  1. God’s Revelation in creation and scripture are true
  2. Evolutionism is discordant with God’s Revelation

…but evolutionists are ALSO wrong about altruism because of the inherent contradictions contained within their own worldview

  1. Altruism is selfless
  2. Evolutionary biologists propose that genes are selfish
  3. Genes are unchanged by learned behaviors
  4. Altruism is a learned behavior
  5. Natural selection is survival of the fittest
  6. Altruism is artificial intrusion that prevents the least fit from succumbing to natural selection

This article entered into the worldview of the God-denier and using their own assumptions, their own research, and their own conclusions to show that they cannot account for altruistic behaviors as a result of evolutionary processes. To be clear, they cannot account for ANYTHING without humble submission to the LORD of glory, who is worthy of all praise

29 thoughts on “Can Evolution Explain Altruism?

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  2. Reblogged this on sixdaysblog and commented:
    Here’s an excellent post by my fellow blogger, ApoloJedi, as he discusses the topic of altruism, and if evolution can explain it. It’s pretty thorough for a single article, exploring evolutionary explanations and analyzing their merit. Enjoy the read!

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Interesting piece: there’s a lot to unpack here, and unfortunately there are several flaws (both in particulars and in your broader analysis), including overgeneralizations, misrepresentations, conflating disparate arguments, etc. Still, it’s enlightening to comb through the various arguments so here are a few of the particulars I’ve noticed, starting near the end of your piece:

    1. “Evolutionary biologists propose that genes are selfish.”
    Some certainly do, but others don’t, and it’s wrong to say that evolutionary biologists as a whole propose this or agree on the theory. Many say that genes are neither selfish nor non-selfish, and some like Gould note that selection can and does work on more than a single level.

    2. “Genes are unchanged by learned behaviors.”
    That depends on what you mean by change. Yes, learned behaviors don’t change an individual’s genes, but learned behavior absolutely can affect survival and whether those genes get passed to subsequent generations, which then changes the genetic makeup of a population — which is what we’re considering when we talk about evolution.

    3. “Natural selection is survival of the fittest” and “altruism prevents the least fit from succumbing to natural selection.”
    This rests on improperly narrow definitions of natural selection and fitness as strictly individual mechanisms. Natural selection is anything that affects the odds of a certain trait being passed to offspring, and evolution is the outcome of that process: the gradual change in the characteristics of a population over multiple generations. One characteristic of humans and various other species is that they’re genetically predisposed to be social because society confers certain survival benefits, with members of a cooperative group tending to be more likely to survive and pass their genes on to descendants than would an uncooperative or selfish loner (even if the selfish loner might be more *individually* suited for survival than a single member of the collective). That discrepancy produces evolutionary change and can positively select for social or altruistic traits. To say, then, that altruism prevents the least fit from succumbing to natural selection ignores this by assuming that social behavior has no impact on an individual’s fitness, or on their likelihood of survival — and that’s demonstrably false.

    This leads us to some broader problems, such as your conflation of two different questions: Can genes alone explain altruism? and Can evolution explain altruism? These aren’t identical questions, and while there might be a case to be made that the answer to the former is no (though I’d say yes based on the above), it seems pretty clear that the answer to the second is indeed also yes.

    For instance, I must assume we agree that natural selection is driven by more than just the genes that influence *individual* or selfish survival given that there are survival benefits to social structure and behavior, and so would also agree that the evolution of a population as a whole is not strictly a matter of the direct influence of individual survival genes but of social forces as well. Remember that when you use the umbrella term “evolution” (as in, “Can Evolution Explain Altruism?”), it doesn’t only mean genetic evolution but also includes social evolution (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B0080430767031077)

    The social environment that our genes predispose us to create influences the practical benefit of certain traits, the likelihood of those traits being passed on, and the evolution of the species. Essentially, evolution can and does explain social behavior since we’re genetically predisposed to social behavior and social behavior influences selection. And since altruism is a basic social behavior present in nearly all societies (both among humans and social animals), it too is explained by evolution, even though it’s not necessarily or specifically attributable to what you’re referring to as selfish genes.

    I have thoughts too about how you’re addressing the concept of altruism, but that’s probably more than enough feedback for a first round. 🙂

    Like

    • 1. I didn’t critique all of mankind or all of biologists. The biologists I critiqued proposed a solution for how evolution can account for altruism, and I showed their proposal to be contradictory
      2. Exactly as I said, learned behaviors do not get passed on genetically, so evolution cannot account for learned behaviors
      3. Natural selection is descriptive – not prescriptive.
      3a. HB: “One characteristic of humans and various other species is that they’re genetically predisposed…”
      You are assuming what you need to prove
      3b HB: “uncooperative or selfish loner”
      Genghis Khan was probably the most selfish loner of all time, but he is the definition of the most evolutionarily fit human
      3c HB: “that’s demonstrably false”
      How would you demonstrate this is true considering that evolution is taught as “red in tooth & claw”, “survival of the fittest” & “only what produces greater ability to reproduce successfully is preserved by natural selection”? You have to ignore all of the teachings of evolution theory to propose that evolution also produces altruism in an effort to help the unfit

      HB: “it seems pretty clear that the answer to the second is indeed also yes”
      All you did was critique what I’ve written. What case do you make that evolution can account for altruism?

      HB: “social evolution”
      Social evolution, were we to get our cues from the natural world would include killing of other male’s offspring, might-makes-right, actual survival of the fittest. There’s no room for altruism in a world like that. But since we do observe actual altruism in our world, evolution must be questioned. The better explanation is that humans are created in the image of the Almighty. And while animals were not created in God’s image, they are part of his creation, so there’s reason to expect altruism to be prevalent throughout creation. Christianity also explains the broken (fallen) state of nature as well. Rebellion against the Creator has produced serious evil. But were naturalism true, neither good (altruism) nor evil would be recognized. Everything would just BE. It would be amoral as Richard Dawkins once declared. But we all recognize good/evil. It’s built into us

      HB: “evolution can and does explain social behavior since we’re genetically predisposed to social behavior”
      Again, this is assuming what is trying to be proven. It’s a post hoc proposal not an explanatory one

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      • • 3A: “You are assuming what you need to prove.”
        I don’t need to prove what science already has: humans are innately and inherently social beings. The literature on this is quite extensive, but I can direct you to abundant reliable resources on this if you’re unconvinced.
        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2527715/#:~:text=Humans%20are%20inherently%20social.&text=Examples%20are%20autism%2C%20social%20anxiety,control%20social%20behaviour%20is%20limited.

        • 3B: “Genghis Khan was probably the most selfish loner of all time, but he is the definition of the most evolutionarily fit human.”
        Genghis Khan is also an extreme outlier. Can you produce evidence showing that in most cases it’s evolutionarily advantageous for individuals in a social culture to be a selfish loners rather than cooperative and altruistic?

        • 3C: “How would you demonstrate this is true considering that evolution is taught as…only what produces greater ability to reproduce successfully is preserved by natural selection”?
        Because in social species an individual’s ability to reproduce successfully is improved by social behaviors, and altruism is one such behavior. Abundant, real-world evidence should make this obvious; if altruism actually was the liability to reproductive fitness that you claim then long ago any tendency toward altruism would have been weeded out of all species through natural selection… but it hasn’t and instead is readily apparent in a range of species, from ants all the way up to humans. Again, if you wish to fly in the face of this then the burden is on you to demonstrate the validity of your point (and not merely assert it).

        • Re social evolution, I think you’re missing the “evolution” part. You’re quite right that humans did originally get their cues from the natural world since the natural world is our origin, but I’m happy to inform you that society has evolved considerably since humanity first emerged. We’re the fortunate inheritors of thousands of years of social growth and certainly have room for altruism.

        • “The better explanation is that humans are created in the image of the Almighty.”
        No, a supernatural explanation isn’t better than the natural one; in fact just invoking a deity to explain away some phenomenon pretty much brings useful or logical debate to an end since such an explanation rests ultimately on unprovable faith. The result is a fallacy of circular reasoning wherein you must already accept the conclusion to accept the premises. I could just as easily claim that the best explanation for altruism is that it’s gifted by leprechauns, and it would be no less logical or factual — but it certainly wouldn’t be helpful.

        To end on a positive note, though, I’ll say that I totally agree with you when you say that “we all recognize good/evil. It’s built into us.” That’s true. Humans naturally possess empathy and the ability to distinguish kindness from harm, and positive behaviors from negative ones, and don’t have to have that knowledge gifted from an external source.

        Like

      • 3a HB: “I don’t need to prove what science already has”
        That was the point of the blog. Someone else presented a link very similar to yours and I took the 1st article by Fehr/Fischbacher…and took it apart.
        Secondly, “science” is not a club/entity as you have asserted. Science is a method. The scientific method has NOT repeated in a lab the emergence of altruism in creatures that previously exhibited no altruism. As was clearly demonstrated in my article, people who use the scientific method have assumed and redefined words in an attempt to explain today’s observations from within a framework that apriori excludes possible/likely causes

        3b: Why would I present evidence for the “evolutionary advantageous” of anything? I’m critiquing evolution because its only “proof” is in assumptions and artwork

        3c: Again, you’ve inadvertently assumed the very thing that’s needing explanation – “if altruism actually was the liability to reproductive fitness that you claim then long ago any tendency toward altruism would have been weeded out of all species through natural selection”
        in other words
        “Since we observe it, evolution must have done it or else evolution would have gotten rid of it”
        It’s called a post hoc fallacy and is a bigtime no-no

        HB: “We’re the fortunate inheritors of thousands of years of social growth and certainly have room for altruism”
        There it is again: post hoc fallacy

        HB: “don’t have to have that knowledge gifted from an external source”
        It had to come from an external Source. If naturalism were true, we would not be able to distinguish good/evil right/wrong. Everything would just be part of the cycle of life: birth->eat->reproduce->die
        No purpose, no beauty, no morals, no justice, no reasoning – just blind, pitiless indifference. Thank God that this nihilistic nightmare is NOT true.

        Like

  8. 3a HB: “I took it apart”

    I don’t see that you did. Again, if you’re attempting to disprove the extremely well documented fact that humans have a natural tendency to be social, then you’ve got a pretty high bar to reach, and you’re nowhere near it.

    3b: “Why would I present evidence for the evolutionary advantageous of anything?”

    Because a) the question your essay poses is whether evolution can explain a certain phenomenon, and b) natural selection (which produces evolution) is all about the advantages or disadvantages that individuals have relative to their competitors that make them more likely to pass on their traits to descendants. In short: it’s relevant. You assert that an altruistic tendency is a survival disadvantage, but the very fact that altruistic behavior persists in a wide range of successful social species suggests that it’s not the survival disadvantage you claim.

    3c: “It’s called a post hoc fallacy”

    Nope, you’re just misunderstanding. Here it is again in a simpler form:

    You’ve stated (and I agree) that natural selection tends to remove traits that are disadvantageous to survival, and vice versa. Altruism is a trait that persists in many successful social species. Therefor, altruism is not a disadvantageous trait. And if you’re asserting that it is, you need to *show* that it is, not merely *assert* that it is.

    Basically it’s not a post hoc fallacy because I’m not assuming any premises that we don’t both accept. We agree how natural selection works, yes? And we agree that altruism is observed in a range of social species? If so, the burden is on you to show where the fault lies… but so far you’ve been dodging that by making erroneous claims of logical fallacies. You need to back up your claims.

    “If naturalism were true, we would not be able to distinguish good/evil right/wrong.”

    Why? There’s no evidence for that claim, and abundant evidence to the contrary. Humans clearly *do* have the capacity to distinguish right from wrong — we do it all the time, and we do it without the need of a governing deity.

    How do we know this? Because if the moral knowledge of right and wrong was only accessible through belief in the Christian god, then we would expect secular and non-Christian cultures (and secular and non-Christian individuals) to show “blind, pitiless indifference” to others; we would expect them to be completely inconsistent on things like (say) whether murder is right or wrong.

    But they’re not.

    Therefor, we can safely assume that the knowledge that murder is bad is not actually limited to adherents of Christianity but instead is something that humans can understand on their own without need of commands from one particular deity. And that’s a very good thing, because if the only source of moral knowledge *was* the Christian god (whom even Christians agree perpetrates crimes up to and including genocide) then we would indeed be in a terrible state.

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    • 3a HB: “humans have a natural tendency to be social”
      That’s moving the goalpost. The argument is evolution claims to be able to explain altruism, and I am critiquing those claims as wildly insufficient.

      3b HB: “question your essay poses is whether evolution can explain a certain phenomenon”
      Yes, I took 3 of the most popular “explanations” from the naturalistic paradigm (which some think is the club called science) and analyzed whether those peer reviewed authoritative sources could do what they claimed. And each one fell far short of explaining how evolution can produce altruism
      Fehr – had to redefine altruism to mean something else in order to accommodate evolutionary theory – FAIL
      Dawkins – points out the overwhelming problem without resolution – FAIL
      Biology 2e (college textbook) – In their conclusion about altruism surrender with “Most of the behaviors described above do not seem to satisfy this definition” hoping that some future naturalist will uncover an evolutionary solution for explaining. – FAIL

      So, you seem to think that I need to generate some evolutionary explanation, and that’s not the case. I already know that evolution cannot. Using their own words/papers/books I’m exposing the fact that those, who CLAIM to be able to explain altruism via evolutionary mechanisms, have utterly failed

      3c HB: “Altruism is a trait that persists”
      There it is again. Yes, we agree altruism exists. We can see it. When I how how did evolution produce it, you say “because it is advantageous”. But that doesn’t tell me how evolution produced altruism in creature X, where before proto-creature X did not exhibit altruism. I’m showing that although evolutionists claim to be able to EXPLAIN it, they are really only assuming it and then saying “Look what evolution did in preserving something advantageous”. It’s not an explanation. It’s just an assumption

      HB: “Humans clearly *do* have the capacity to distinguish right from wrong”
      Yes, therefore naturalism is false. Remember, your assumption is that humans are simply an accidental aggregation of particles. How do particles determine right/wrong? How do they know? What is the transcendental standard that defines rightness and wrongness? How did the cosmos produce these entities of rightness/wrongness? Can rightness change? If there are disagreements, whose rightness is the ACTUAL rightness?

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      • * “That’s moving the goalpost.”

        Not at all: it’s fundamental to the argument. Altruism is a social behavior observed in a range of social species, and abundant scientific evidence affirms that humans are indeed one such species. (You have failed to refute this.) Social behaviors including altruism can convey a survival advantage as research affirms, which is consistent with the evidence that altruism does indeed persist in many successful social species. Your burden then is to show why — *despite the evidence* — it doesn’t. And so far you haven’t.

        * “That doesn’t tell me how evolution produced altruism in creature X, where before proto-creature X did not exhibit altruism.”

        Sure it does. All traits are just like that: they don’t exist until they do. One creature may not have been able to breathe on land, but a descendant could because evolution is a process of gradual change and growth. Variations naturally occur and natural selection determines if those variations are more or less likely to persist. Not to sound dismissive, but if you don’t understand this most fundamental aspect of evolution then you shouldn’t be attempting to write essays about it.

        * “Therefore naturalism is false.”

        Nope, it simply points to a natural explanation for our capacity to distinguish right from wrong — and the evidence backs this up. As I’ve explained many times (though you consistently avoid it), societies the world over understand that something like murder is bad, and these include societies that do not base their moral understanding on the commands of the Christian god. If moral knowledge is only accessible through the Christian god, then we’d logically expect those who don’t follow him to be all over the board when it comes to the question of whether murder is good or bad… but we don’t. So: it’s baseless to insist that God is the source.

        * “Remember, your assumption is that humans are simply an accidental aggregation of particles.”

        No, I never assumed this at all. Arguing against positions that I haven’t taken (and don’t believe) is a strawman fallacy… and definitely a “FAIL”.

        “How do particles determine right/wrong?”

        They don’t, and I never said they did. (Again a strawman FAIL.) Particles don’t determine right or wrong, humans do.

        “What is the transcendental standard that defines rightness and wrongness?”

        Who says that a standard must be transcendental? Abundant evidence shows that humans can consistently ascertain rightness and wrongness on their own through the entirely non-supernatural mechanisms of reason, empathy, evidence, and experience… and it’s evidence that you have yet to address.

        “How did the cosmos produce these entities of rightness/wrongness?”

        If you’re asking how the cosmos produced beings like us who are capable of distinguishing right and wrong, then the answer is evolution.

        “If there are disagreements, whose rightness is the ACTUAL rightness?”

        In any moral system (including both humanism and Christianity) there will always be some disagreements on certain particulars, and people of good will can usually resolve these through investigation, observation, and honest debate. Disagreements on the fundamentals, however, are rare: for instance, humanists wouldn’t argue that torture is good because it’s clearly and demonstrably harmful and the basis of humanist morality is seeking to limit harm. This approach allows for morality to be rooted in something that’s actually capable of being observed and studied, rather than in the purported commands of an absent god that filter down to us through scattered Bronze Age texts.

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      • As I’ve already mentioned, you’re conflating social behaviors with altruism as if explaining social behaviors (which neither Dawkins, Fehr, nor Biology 2e was able to do) explains altruism. If there is an article that you think explains altruism, feel free to post it because the most popular “explanations” have utterly failed

        HB: “One creature may not”
        HB: “a descendant could”
        May not? Could? I thought the science was all about evidence. Don’t tell me about some hypothetical *could* or *may*. Show me the evidence. Show me the creature that didn’t have altruism and it’s immediate descendent exhibiting altruistic behavior. THAT’s what’s missing (missing link). All you are saying is:

        HB: (paraphrased) “We see altruism today, so it evolved, see?” It’s absurd, but thanks for playing. I’m telling you there’s no evidence, and you’re saying “there could be”.

        HB: “it simply points to a natural explanation”
        What is the natural explanation to distinguish right/wrong? What is the standard of determining right/wrong?

        HB: “only accessible through the Christian god”
        As I’ve explained, Moral knowledge is possible because of the Christian God, not because people have accepted the Christian God. Like gravity, even people who reject gravity (a-gravity-ists) benefit from the existence of gravity. In the same way, even people who reject the Christian God, still benefit from the principles that He has built into his creation.

        HB: “Particles don’t determine right or wrong, humans do”
        Besides stardust (particles), of what are humans made?

        HB: “the answer is evolution” “honest debate”
        IF evolution produced creatures that can distinguish right/wrong, how does natural selection preserve wrong behavior? If wrong behavior brings evolutionary fitness, how does right behavior get preserved? If there are competing right/wrong definitions – which is ultimately right? How do you know? You tried to answer with honest debate, but to have debate, there must be some transcendent standard on which to argue, lest it devolve into someone’s subjective opinion

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  9. Pingback: The Altruism Exchange 1 | ApoloJedi

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