Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Looks like all those anarchist thinkers were onto something

  1. Mar 7, 2006 #1

    well so much for the capitalist theory that humans are naturally competitive & are motivated by material wealth (as enron's old ceo believed, for example). if that were the case i would say that the baby would try to hide the clothespins.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2006 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The article does not say that humans are only - or even predominantly motivated by altruism. Nor does capitalism require that humans be motivated only by competitiveness (predominantly, maybe).
  4. Mar 7, 2006 #3
    Altruistic behavior an evolutionary adaptation? Not endowed by God onto man? I say! Science Is truly squeezing God more and more out of the picture.
  5. Mar 8, 2006 #4
    Competition is not inevitable but is largely influenced by culture and environment. State-level cultures are very hierarchial and authoritarian, which is not the case among non-statist cultures.

  6. Mar 8, 2006 #5
    lol that thing about the clothespins probably doesn't make any sense :blushing: i read an article about this study that said one of the experiments invloved an adult hanging clothes on a clothesline & dropped a clothespin & couldn't find it. the baby could tell what the adult was doing, what the clothespin was for, could tell that the adult needed it & readily picked it up & offered it to the adult. sounds like a pretty strong instinct to help others rather than to only look out for themselves.
  7. Mar 10, 2006 #6
    I don't even know where to start with this, it seems so obvious. What kind of study was this anyway? Oh look, a child helps people! Wow, there's something no one could have figured out on their own! Wow, a child helps people, so anarchists are right!

    You seem to be of the opinion that we are either all or nothing. Either we are entirely selfish, or you are entirely altruistic. No one ever said that, nor do I believe has anyone ever claimed that. There are charities in capitalist countries, lots of charities. You can be a capitalist and be altruistic. They aren't opposed to each other. This seems like such an obivous fact that I don't even know why I need to point it out.
  8. Mar 10, 2006 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Maybe you're not aware of the context? Disciplines like sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have a hard time accounting for altruism on a genetic basis. Genes would not evolve to trade their own extinction for the survival of some others.

    Twenty years ago they thought they had an explanation in kin selection; the "selfish" genes would be selected to promote their own spreading and that could happen if an individual sacrificed herself to enable two siblings, or four first cousins, or (powers of two) more distant relations to breed and leave descendents, since that would spread an equal number of those very genes to further generations as the sacrificing individual would have.

    This could account for the sacrifice of the sterile workers in bees and ants. But whether or not it worked in mammals, or in us, was unknown.

    Hence this experiment which is trying to see if unforced, untrained, unenvironmental (and hence presumably genetic) altruism exists in higher animals, including us.
  9. Mar 10, 2006 #8
    And not to forget Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, which was set aside for many decades, the idea being that certain altruistic traits were selected for their attractive appeal, much like the peacocks tail.
  10. Mar 11, 2006 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I just read the article in Science. Yes it was about the puzzle of non-kin-selection altruism in humans and chimpanzees. I am a little unhappy with some of their methodology with the human babies; They showed instances of babies gladly helping another baby with such tasks as stacking books with "no reward" and interpreted that as altruism. No reward visible to adults maybe, but anyone who's been around toddlers knows that they LIKE stacking things, and so the task could have been its own reward.
  11. Mar 11, 2006 #10
    I wonder if this could be similar to something I saw on one of those wildlife programs? There was a chick who had been taken away from its mother or perhaps it was killed. The features of the mother bird were something like a long beak with a red spot (If I recall correctly) so the experimenters set about using a whole range of different instruments which ended up having no resemblance to the mothers beak whatsoever, but always kept one feature which was the red spot. Turns out the babies brains are hardwired to discriminate only for red spots. And its not only babies brains which are hardwired. Another bird (Another program) they placed a billiard ball next to the nest and the bird happily pushed it into the nest, same as a light bulb and a whole range of similar smooth looking objects. All this however has nothing to do with altruistic behavior, unless it has implications that the brain is hardwired to act altruistically?
  12. Mar 15, 2006 #11
    That's called reciprocal altruism, and is actually an adaptive strategy. This includes alliances, and is distinct from friendship (though this can help your chances of survival by increasing happiness and potentially gaining help from friends).
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2006
  13. Mar 15, 2006 #12
    Thus the field of anthropology is born:biggrin: I'm sure they'll be employed for a long while:wink:
  14. Mar 21, 2006 #13
    It is, because it's human nature.

    Looking out for ourselves, putting "me" ahead of "you", doing what's best for ourselves - it's what we do.

    Competition for money, for food, for power, for whatever it is we want if there isn't enough of it for everyone.

    We don't need Confucius or Buddah to tell us to be more selfish, competitive and powerhungry, we need them to tell us to be less selfish.

    We're born that way - from your coworker who wants a promotion quicker than you to that drunk, middle-aged guy playing in a 40 year-old and up baseball league, we're all competitive.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2006
  15. Mar 30, 2006 #14
    There is no really such thing as invariant human nature. It depends on environmental, geographical and cultural/social factors. Hunter-gatherer cultures were much more egalitarian. Modern capitalist economy is however, very competitive.

    Last edited: Mar 30, 2006
  16. Apr 7, 2006 #15
    Altruism is more useful than violence and war for territory and food which only a powerful minority survives. In war the powerful wins but all the rest lose.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2006
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: Looks like all those anarchist thinkers were onto something
  1. Airkix looks like fun (Replies: 6)