True Altruism: Is There a Species That Demonstrates It?

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In summary: A gene that increases the fitness of an individual of its own species is not going to increase the fitness of an individual of a different species, no more than a gene that increases the fitness of a cuckoo is going to increase the fitness of a wasp. If genes are truly selfish, they should not care what their consequences are."In summary, Dawkins argues that genes are not necessarily selfish and that some genes may have an "extended phenotype" which means they may have an effect on other species.
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True Altruism is a waste strategy for life. I know there are numerous examples of individual cases of altruistic behavior but I don't know if there are documented species that show true altruism. If there are any, can you please post them here as well as the studies behind the conclusions?

I cannot think of any and am wondering if there is an anomaly species out there.
 
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Please explain the difference between "true altruism" and individuals showing "altruistic behaviour".
 
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True altruism is a net negative of energy consumption of the giver to benefit a receiver that has no ways of increasing the fitness of the givers life or genetic future. I am wondering if true altruism is even possible at a species level.

We have heard stories of individuals in a species that seem to be altruistic such as pig mom raising a stray kitten.
 
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neen said:
True altruism is a net negative of energy consumption of the giver to benefit a receiver that has no ways of increasing the fitness of the givers life or genetic future. I am wondering if true altruism is even possible at a species level.

We have heard stories of individuals in a species that seem to be altruistic such as pig mom raising a stray kitten.

In terms of gene selection, this makes sense.
Natural selection can take place on the level of an individual body or a gene. I suggest that gene selection may be the key here. I suggest that this is an example of the "green beard mechanism" working on a genetic level.
The pig and the kitten share genes. Some of the genes make babies who are shaped a certain way. The have big heads, round eyes, and other features common to all juvenile chordates. In mammals, there are also genes for the maternal instinct. The mothers love other organisms with big heads, round eyes, and other features common to all juvenile chordates.
The genes for big heads, round eyes and other juvenile features are favored when the mother takes care of children of whatever species of chordate. Furthermore, juveniles with these features most probably have the genes for maternal instinct, since the two basically evolve together. So these genes are favors when the mother takes care of the children of whatever species of chordate.
Human beings decide on species mostly based on the appearance of the adult. However, genes don't know what a species is. Each gene effectively "favors" copies of itself in other individuals, regardless of what species the individual is in. Many of these genes originated in the common ancestor of these animals.
The genes that control the adult appearance are not necessarily favored by the maternal instinct. The genes for square dry nose are not favored when the pig takes care of the kitten. However, these genes probably came into existence much later than the genes that control juvenile appearance.
Dawkins in one of his books called such a theory the "green beard hypothesis". The appearance of a baby chordate can be thought of as like a green beard. The genes for the maternal instinct may be like attraction toward men with green beards. So the instincts for green beards and attraction toward green beards have a type of synergy. They favor each other in the competition for fitness of genes. They may even statistically work against other genes in the body, such as a gene for brown beards. However, the competition is between genes not species.
I deliver the standard moral caveat. Explanations of natural selection can never be rationalizations for ethical standards. Explanations of natural selection, even when correct scientifically, are merely a type of pattern recognition for diversity. A pattern in itself can never be an ethical standard.
However ethics originated, they now have their own existence independent of natural selection. Therefore, one deviates from ethics at ones own risk.
It doesn't really matter, on an aesthetic or ethical level, why the pig mother takes care of the kitten. Discussions of whether the pig mother is being "cheated" are meaningless. And anyway, maybe it is genetically favorable for the pig mother to take care of kittens. Maybe the farmer who owns her is less likely to use her for pork, once he sees her take care of a kitten. So in the long run, "species altruism" may work to her genetic advantage!

The "green beard effect" is described in:
"The Extended Phenotype" by Richard Dawkins (Oxford, 1982) pp 143-155.
Page 144: "Note, by the way, the ineptness of notions of individual fitness, or even inclusive fitness as ordinarily understood, at dealing with situations like this. The normal calculation of inclusive fitness makes use of a coefficient of relationship which is some measure of the probability that a pair of relatives will share a particular gene, identical by descent. This is a good approximation provided the genes concerned have no better way of 'recognizing' copies of themselves in other individuals."
 
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I understand your curiosity about true altruism and its potential existence in other species. While there is ongoing debate and research on this topic, it is important to note that altruism is a complex behavior and can be difficult to study in non-human species.

There are some examples of altruistic behavior in certain species, such as vampire bats regurgitating blood to feed hungry colony members or dolphins helping injured or sick members of their pod. However, it is difficult to determine the true motivation behind these actions and whether they are truly altruistic.

In terms of documented studies, there is research on the evolution of altruism in various animal species, including insects and primates. However, the concept of true altruism, where an individual sacrifices their own well-being for the benefit of others without any expectation of reward, is still a topic of debate and further investigation.

It is also important to consider that altruism may not be a beneficial strategy for survival and reproduction in all species. In some cases, it may even be disadvantageous. Therefore, it is possible that true altruism may not be present in any species as it may not have evolved as a successful strategy for life.

In conclusion, while there are some examples of altruistic behavior in certain species, the concept of true altruism and its existence in other species remains a topic of ongoing research and debate. As scientists, it is important for us to continue studying and understanding the complexities of altruistic behavior in different species.
 

1. What is true altruism?

True altruism is defined as selfless behavior or actions that benefit others without any expectation of personal gain or reward. It is characterized by the genuine desire to help others, even at a cost to oneself.

2. Is true altruism possible in the animal kingdom?

There is ongoing debate among scientists about whether true altruism exists in the animal kingdom. While some argue that animals are capable of selfless behavior, others believe that all animal behavior is ultimately driven by self-preservation and survival.

3. Are there any species that demonstrate true altruism?

There have been several studies that suggest certain animal species, such as vampire bats, dolphins, and primates, exhibit behaviors that could be considered as altruistic. However, these behaviors are often subject to different interpretations and may also have underlying selfish motives.

4. What evidence supports the existence of true altruism in animals?

One line of evidence comes from observations of animals helping unrelated individuals, even at a cost to themselves. For example, vampire bats will share food with other bats in their colony, even if they themselves have not eaten. Another evidence is from studies that show animals exhibiting empathy and caring for sick or injured individuals in their group.

5. Why is it important to study true altruism in animals?

Studying true altruism in animals can provide insights into the evolutionary origins of altruistic behavior in humans. It can also help us better understand the complex social dynamics and relationships within animal groups, and shed light on the potential for cooperation and collaboration among different species.

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