Re: Altruism

Dwight W. Read (dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU)
Thu, 8 Aug 1996 04:36:18 -0700

Benke replies:

>It may also be, that it is an advantage for a group to develop a way of
>producing some proportion of individuals with different given behavioral
>ranges, thus insuring that the group cuts a 'wide swath' in terms of
>possible ways of surviving. Besides every individual being omnivarous, for
>example, it might be advantagous if individuals had different preferences,
>thus spreading the stress on the environment.
However, it is not so easy to translate "advantage for a group" into
individual fitness; e.g., the "tragedy of the commons."

>So I conjecture that if human behavior is compared to the behavior of
>primates it will exhibit the maximum level of generality with respect to
>nearly any conceivable behavioral index. This generality will range over
>the range of behaviors of several other primate species tending toward
>encompassing the entire spectrum of primate possibilities.
I think what you are suggesting is that, for whatever reason, homo sapiens
entereed into an evolutionary pathway in which generality of behavior led to
greater fitness. The tricky part is to identify the conditions under which
this would be true. To put it another way, if generalized behavior is good
absolutely, then generalized behavior should characterize many primates.
Since the latter is true, then either generalized behavior is not all that
good (i.e., only good under certain circumstances) or it cannot occur
withour a level of brain development not matched by other primtes (i.e., it
may be a good strategy in general, but can't be realized by other primates).

D. Read