Joker, selflessness

If we define selflessness for the sake of this thread as non-personal concern which leads to sacrafice of organism A to benefit organism B, without organism A doing it for personal benefit of their organism-self.

  • Richard Dawkins

For example, your brothers and sisters contain a lot of your genetic material, when people sacrafice say a small portion that can help someone who shares half your genes, its beneficial to genetic propagation of your genes (or genes that happen to reside in your body) but its not selfish, the person doesn’t have a concern for their own body, they have a concern for doing what they can to protect another body, which has a large portion of your genes.

It might be unconsciously ‘selfish’ (selfish is a word to elucidate, theres no awareness for selfishness to play into here, and its not about the individual organism) because its propagating your own genes through selfless sacrafice, but its still not oriented around the individual organism and their own life/greed/ambitions (past genetic ambitions about other ORGANISMS)

Does this highlight the issue at all? theres rodents or whatever that will squeal when a predator comes around, putting itself at risk, to warn its family, not because it couldn’t escape, but because its near-by family is a huge resource of shared genes.

People who had the capability to show selfless sacrafice to some extent, to other organisms which shared half their genes, would pass on their genes more often then others who didn’t, depending on circumstance. When someone needs a sandwhich and you don’t, giving it to them may preserve another body with 50% of your genes, and put you back almost nothing.

Or jumping into save a brother or sister in a lake, its not always about being a hero or making it so they owe you forever, its also about saving an organism that has half your genes because thats a huge step towards propagating them. (whether people consciously realize it or not)

that bears cost to organism A to help organism B, so that genes in which they are both made up of can prosper.

Individuals don’t exist to promote their own interests, they exist to promote the interest of their genes, which they just happen to have 100% of, however, that doesn’t mean organisms shouldn’t and don’t evolve towards protecting the genes in the bodies all around them which they share. As the dawkin quote points out, organisms are here to propagate genes, not for our benefit, we exist for their benefit. Their* not our own.

Thats not a group selection theory either, just somtimes organisms survive better by working that way, the selection is on the genetic(gene) level not the group level.

I agree. Although I think some of the proponents of the “selfish” theory might argue a case from the psychological level - that is, we canstantly do what we want to do… for our own sense of gratification. You can sacrifice everything you own, even your life, for your offspring, but ultimately you do it because you want to - you want to. On the other hand, this makes the whole “selfish” theory seem kind of trivial - of course everything we do is selfish in that sense - and this is where my qualms lay. I say this line of argument defeats the whole purpose of what most “selfish” theory advocates want to get across - which is that ultimately we can’t trust one another. But as you said, if the life of my child is in danger, then my genes are in danger of not carrying on, and so I’ll be willing to sacrifice my own life for that of my child. Thus, my child can surely trust in me - even though I may be doing this purely for “selfish” reasons (i.e. because I want to).


Aren’t genes apart of ourselves? Don’t mind me interrupting your casual conversation here.

Maybe selfishness is a form of behavior that helps guarantee the survival and propagation of genes.

Selflessness is.

What are you saying exactly?

Selfishness is good for an organism in a bunch of situations.

What i’m saying is that if organism A shares 50% of the genes with organism B, we can expect that in some situations organism A will or at least can, be self sacraficing for totally nonselfish reasons (for reasons totally unrelated to the success or failure of his/her body or social success).

I use the word ‘selfish’ to refer to genes, genes of course can’t be selfish because they can’t be conscious, what i mean is that the genes best at surviving and propagate do exactly that. So when a parent or brother attempts to save a child or sibling at cost to themselves its not selfish in the way that as far as their body is concerned it will never repay them.

You might be able to call it selfish as in its a tactic to help spread your genes, but most of those tactics are unconscious.

Basically i’m using the word in two ways.

  1. Selfish or self-less, as in, just sacraficing or selfish.
  2. the second way i use the word is only to elucidate or explain, as in, qualities which propagate the best/survive the best are the ones which get passed on.

as in saying the mother is selflessly feeding the child at cost to herself, but its ‘selfish’ in the way that she’s promoting genetic propagation.

but genetic propagation isn’t selfish in the way we usually talk about the word, as in a brain producing an emotion, its just a term for explanation, an analogy that serves to explain somthing

Well, selflessness to a certain extent, as you say, “helps guarantee the survival and propagation of genes”. By doing a selfless act you encourage a society in which selfless acts are done, which means that more people do selfless acts to you, which in most situations results in more survival-benefit over time than the selfish choice would have.

You don’t encourge a society into selfless acts, you encourge it in individuals whom you interact with, because so many of us are pre-programmed to work in such ways, you can see aspects of it in society at large. Same thing I guess, I just like being specific.

Not sure what you’re saying about the pre-programming, but I think that if you do a selfless act like returning a wallet or something, you encourage the person you did the act (subconsciously?) to to do a similar act, which does the same thing to someone else, so that in the end the whole society is a little more selfless. I’m not sure, are we in agreement here?

yes, but I was commenting as to the reason why thats the case.

Sorry if this is unhelpful (I’ll give some more less emotional input after), but I just have to rant a little here. That quote is a great example of why Dawkin’s just looks like a crazy old man to me; a rambling, preaching fundamentalist who tries to stick his mind to “science” in order to be “logical”/“rational”/"“objective” or whatever, while displaying the same behavior as the crazy christian zealot, for example, who believes in a “Spaghetti monster”.

Dawkins talks about DNA as if it were God. That “living organisms” exist for the benefit of DNA? Is the problem english, and it is inherently ignorant when dealing with the way it looks at “nouns” and situations? Does he just have to write that message that way? You would think a person who actually thinks according to the scientific would say something more along the lives of “The functioning of biological life relies on DNA patterns that consisting keep it surviving.” But to say that it happens FOR the benefit of DNA makes it sound like DNA needs something, or oughtta attain something, out of it.

Science is a WHAT person and he should stick to such, when it comes to his WHY explanations he sounds like a lunatic covering himself up with an impressive proper english lexicon and a glow of authority as he insults religious beliefs with arguments of “It’s ridiculous because it’s ridiculous!”

Okay, I’ve vented enough.

I think selflessness is impossible. One problem with it, I think, is that it relies on the delusion of self. If you are having an empathetic experience, in which you imagine being in another’s shoes, that is what you are. You’re imagining their experience has resulted in a physiological change, so you can say that, at that moment, THEY (your perception of an other) are more associated with your body than you are. Self just suggests the most common form of consciousness, than one associating itself with the generally-looking-the-same body that you always, in some sense, feel.

I don’t think selfish is a bad word then… but then again it would be more difficult to insult someone by saying “You infringe on the rights of others when you yourself attain nothing constructive from it”, so the def. will probably be around, as delusional as it is.

You see someone who is about to be in trouble, do you really “make a choice” with some kind of free-will before you try to help him? If you’re mind has been programmed to (at least think you should) help them, then you will. It’s not that you’re not “selfish”, it’s just that your impulse is to do it, and it would be very uncomfortable to go against that belief.

  • Richard Dawkins

DNA and the host organism(s) have a symbiotic relationship, each benefits from the other, just as individual humans benefit from participating in a social structure. In fact, it appears to be the seminal example of symbiosis. Selflessness is on a two way street with selfishness. An imbalance makes for less survivability or for chaos and reduced survivability of those in your vicinity–or both. The desired balance is enlightened self-interest.

We should recognize that the more of us that lead our own lives with character, the more we increase the pressure on others by providing an example for others to do the same—which is to the benefit of all. Such is the nature of enlightened self-interest. It’s the reason people get annoyed at someone who “rocks the boat” by doing the right thing—because it magnifies their guilt. Such is the nature of the ebb and flow of true social pressure. Behavior that is considerate of others benefits us all and is much more effective by its example than negative pressure based on gossip, judgement by double standard or any number of laws, police and courts.

The symbiotic relationship is even stronger in humans because we are aware of our DNA and all struggle to balance selflessness with selfishness. Thus, for humans, we can’t “define selflessness for the sake of this thread as non-personal concern which leads to sacrafice of organism A to benefit organism B, without organism A doing it for personal benefit of their organism-self.” For us, there is no such think as non-personal concern.

What are you talking about? A host is his/her DNA, he doesn’t ‘host’ it like you’d host a parasite or symbiotic creature. Though some of our DNA is like that, for example, mitochondria used to be bacteria, there was a former symbiosis with bacteria and other organisms which eventually lead to the evolution of mitochondria, but thats not what you’re talking about.

we don’t have a symbiotic relationship with DNA, we are DNA. We have a symbiotic relationship with some stuff in our bodies, (because we’re evolutionary patchwork and that stuff is made of DNA) but the stuff that makes a human, human, the stuff that makes you, you, is DNA.

We don’t ‘host’ dna in the way that you mean. We are it.

a handful of sand doesn’t ‘host’ sandgrains. It just is that.

All Dawkin’s means is that we exist for the benefit of DNA, all he means is that organisms aren’t born with DNA for the benefit of organisms, organisms evolved, all of us (not just humans) to propagate DNA, all things evolved from DNA. Exactly what dawkins says in that sentence is true in any biological organism is just a brief house for codes that last much much much longer. Selfishness isn’t meant to mean ‘selfish’ its only meant to mean, the genes which are best at surviving do.

What dawkins says is technically correct (organisms are only bodies for codes that last for thousands of years, the only reason we exist is to propagate those codes) in whichever way. (besides the personal meaning we all create for ourselves).

A lot of dawkins rhetoric is misunderstood, he clearly explains what he means in the paragraphs in which he’s explaining them.

The only time Dawkins is crazy is when he’s talking about memetics.

Like he clearly describes that dna codes or whatever can’t ‘benefit’ in the way that we do, he’s talking about in a biological sense of success or failure of promoting that aforementioned code.

He clearly explains that dna is unconsciousness, has no mind, no goals, no forsight etc. To even suggest that what dawkins says, sounds like he’s talking about god, is to ignore pages and pages and pages of Dawkins going out of his way to explain that he means to use it as an analogy or metaphor only; highly successful metaphors which do not confuse in context.

Dawkins is world famous for his ability to elucidate complex subjects to make it easy for the layperson to understand, people take some of his quotes, wildly out of context, and say it seems like he’s talking about somthing conscious with goal directed behavior, or X, Z or Y. It just doesn’t make any sense in context though.

Well I may have misinterpretted him by his use of “‘living organisms’ exist for the benefit of DNA”, but I think it’s because he isn’t careful with his rhetoric, then. What does it exist for? Is an existential question, not a scientific description. I think his mind still thinka in the religious terms he so despises, his beliefs are just based on “scientific” ideas.

But I do agree with you, that he is RIDICULOUS when it comes to memetics. This is what I mean about him trying to take his talents outside his field. He needs to just limit himself to describing biology and leave the “ought” and “ought nots” to actual thinkers. What does he think he is doing with memes? Yeah, a kind of culture exists because it hasn’t been changed. Ohhhh, “Memetics”, well that sounds really scientific, I better listen to what that guy is saying, he’s speaking the gospel of scientific self-security!

I seriously don’t understand what the deal is with Dawkins. Is he some madman that wants to create some kind of athiest cult for the new world order? We will all be brights, and for the good of brighthood we will destroy all those that harm the memes of scientific certainty! It’s like he’s realllyyy trying to show he hates religion, to a point where you want to just tell him to get it over with. We und you, Richard, you don’t like religion, it’s ollogical right, yes I remember your argument about believing in God, just because it could be true, is like believing in the flying spaghetti monster, because that also sort of could be true. But they are both ridiculous, huh? I mean, seven days for creation? You guys know that is wrong!

He uses his rhetoric very very very carefully its just hard to tell outside of the context in which he said it. (like an entire chapter). The big dedal with him is that he’s a amazing biologist that can make complex ideas easy to understand, he’s gifted, as a writer, very very very gifted.

That being said he’s super rational, logical and educated when it comes to dozens of issues with biology.

When it comes to memes and religion he’s not applying rigerous scientific standards, though thats aside frfom the conclusions on religion. For example, he doesn’t understand that its a byproduct of adaptations (well he does) but not speccifically the adaptations envolved and how people are religious.

his theories about religion are mindblind theories, as in they don’t take into account the rich structure of the human brain when suggesting why people are religious. (he’s right that its a byproduct but his explanations envoking memetics is largely nonsensical).

Memetics could mean somthing, if you applied a bunch of other contextual shit, but it’d no longer be memetics then.