The Selfish Gene
(1976) by Richard Dawkins, Evolutionary biologist.
Philosopher Thomas Hobbes's
Leviathan in 1651 commented thus, "Humans are fundamentally and universally
selfish, and governments must control them so that they don't destroy one
another in the shortsighted pursuit of self-interest."
But of late, the belief in the rationality of human
selfishness is beginning to lose its charm as many are beginning to understand
the need to be unselfish.
What could be the
The Unselfish Man
mathematical biologist Martin Nowak declared, in Science magazine, "Perhaps the
most remarkable aspect of evolution is its ability to generate cooperation in a
competitive world. Thus, we might add 'natural cooperation' as a third
fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and natural
The discipline of
economics has come up with a classic example. In 2009, Elinor Ostrom was
awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for demonstrating how Commons maintained
well, and still continue to remarkably function for centuries.
An amazing example is
that which occurred in Spain, where thousands of farmers have common access
to water and have been managing the same with success.
Another example is
that of community policing among some population of the United States.
This has managed to reduce crime and has helped to bring about better
understanding between the police and the local community.
Today there is a sense
of co-operation and generosity among people at large. We see people
collaborating in all aspects, caring about their team and overall reciprocating
kindness with kindness.
It is seen that co-operative systems are more
effective, sustainable and stable when compared to incentive (read selfish)
Research has revealed
that across the world several different people are demonstrating selfless
behavior as opposed to the selfishness that they were thought to possess.
biologists and psychologists have found neural, and possibly genetic evidence,
to support the fact that humans have an inherent disposition to cooperate,
leading to the belief that mankind is not as selfish as it is believed to be.
We tend to create
efficient systems by enhancing our positive traits rather than learning to cope
with the worst.
It is precisely for
this reason that a large majority of human beings are increasingly being more
cooperative, trustworthy, and generous than what was previously assumed.
Gene, Culture and Evolution
Richerson and Robert Boyd worked on the gene and culture co-evolution.
They argue that
cultures originate not only through copied practices but also by changes in genetic
development brought about by cultural practices.
The most common
example is adult lactose tolerance, which is commonly seen among
descendents of European people who consume milk. This trait, however, is
missing in those who made it a practice to break down lactose to create milk
products, like yogurt and cheese.
Lactose tolerance is a
genetic trait, which came about due to a cultural practice—drinking milk--
rather than eating yogurt or cheese. The latter practice has been about for a
lesser period of time.
Studies conducted by
James Fowler et al revealed that decision to vote has a strong genetic
component. What has voting to do with collaboration or co-operation, one may
Deciding to vote
reflects conscientiousness, which might have been a rewarding trait in a
particular culture long time ago. This trait would have thrived in every given
sense and gradually conscientiousnessbecame a part of the genetic make
up of the population.
revealed that a reward circuit in our brain is triggered when we
cooperate with each other and, this is turn generates a 'feel good'.
All these factors put
together help us to understand that our "much
- talked- about" inherent selfishness is slowly giving way to cooperation,
collaboration and an increase in empathy.
At last mankind has begun to understand the true
meaning of the adage "no man is an