Re: Altruism

Dwight W. Read (dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU)
Sun, 28 Jul 1996 09:45:15 -0700

Cook quotes and then comments:

>"The standard biological definition of altruism is when one organism
>provides fitness benefits to another at some fitness cost to itself."
>I don't see that that clarifies anything. When I eat anything, I am eating
>an organism that is, thereby, providing a "fitness benefit" to me, another
>organism, obviously at some cost to itslef.

The quote left implicit that the organisms to which reference are being made
are from the same species. Further, the word "provides" should be read in
the sense that altruism is when organism A engages in actions which reduce
the fitness of organism A (hence if these actions have a genetic component,
their underlying alleles should be eliminated by selection), and by doing
this action organism A increases the fitness of organism B (with B of the
same species as A). The kin selection model was devised to explicate under
what circumstances alleles responsible for an altruistic behavior, even
though these allelges are selected against from the perspective of the
indiviual who has those alleles, would, nonetheless, increase in frequency
across the species.

D. Read