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DISCRIMINATING ALTRUISMS

Authors


  • His address is 399 Arboleda Road, Santa Barbara, California 93110. He presented this paper at a symposium on “Private Interests, Public Good, and the Future of the Environment” Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, March 19-21, 1981, which was sponsored by Rollins College and funded in part by the Florida Endowment for the Humanities. The paper was prepared while he was with the Environmental Fund, Washington, D.C., and earlier versions were presented at a symposium on “Humanity's Place in Nature” in honor of Ralph Wendell Burhoe, sponsored by the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Toronto, Canada on January 4, 1981, and at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas on January 15, 1981.

Abstract.

Reliable Darwinian theory shows that pure altruism cannot persist and expand over time. All higher organisms show inheritable patterns of caring and discrimination. The principal forms of discriminating altruisms among human beings are individualism (different from egoism), familialism, cronyism, tribalism, and patriotism. The promiscuous altruism called “universalism” cannot endure in the face of inescapable competition. Information can be promiscuously shared, but not so matter and energy without evoking the tragedy of the commons. Universalism is not recommendable even as an ideal. Survival now requires the creation of an intellectual base for a new patriotism.

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