Re: Altruism

Jesse S. Cook III (jcook@AWOD.COM)
Sun, 28 Jul 1996 13:40:44 -0400

On July 28 1996, Dwight W. Read wrote:

>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 itself.
>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).

Thanks for an explanation of what should have been obvious, and no doubt
was, to any knowledgeable reader. I was merely calling attention to the
inadequacy of the definition as given. I'm not sure that your explanation
would not confuse the unknowledgeable reader. Larry's definition was clear
as far as it went.

>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

If you had said "among the kin" instead of "across the species", what you
said would have made more sense.

Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
Post Office Box 40984 or
Charleston, SC 29485 USA

"Our attitude toward others is not determined by who *they* are;
it is determined by who *we* are."