The Instigator
Paradigm_Lost
Pro (for)
Losing
30 Points
The Contender
pmagyar
Con (against)
Winning
33 Points

Does philanthropy contradict natural selection?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/12/2008 Category: Science
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,234 times Debate No: 3600
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (18)
Votes (21)

 

Paradigm_Lost

Pro

The longer I ponder on the meaning and purpose of charity and morals, the more at odds it appears with natural selection. Philanthropy appears to fit absolutely nowhere in a Darwinian sense, as the Darwinian concept of natural selection is all about competition. Taking care of people and ensuring their survival with no incentive is entirely philanthropic.

Helping your competitors appears to be the very opposite of Darwinian natural selection, and in fact, appears to completely undermine it. If this is the case, is natural selection a separate phenomenon from the prevailing evolutionary paradigm? Is it an antiquated relic that needs revision?

Its worth mentioning that I am not calling in to question either the evolutionary paradigm or natural selection, as it were. What I am calling in to question is whether or not philanthropy can be explained solely by naturalistic philosophy, or if the mind reaches to something more laudable to explain it.
pmagyar

Con

At first it might appear that any type of altruism is in contradiction with natural selection, yet that is not in fact the case at all. Altruistic behavior actually fits very well with natural selection. At its very basic, natural selection is the process by which favorable heritable traits become more common in successive generations. The trait must be favorable in terms of producing more viable offspring, otherwise the trait would not become more common and be passed on.

In nature, altruistic behavior is relatively common. For example, In many bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from other birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to raise the baby birds. Without this help, the breeding pair would be more vulnerable to attack and losing their offspring. So while it may seem that 2 pairs of birds breeding would produce more viable offspring, in many cases both pairs would be vulnerable to attack and there may be no offspring between them. However, if one pair breeds and the other pair defends, more viable offspring will be produced. Most often when animals put themselves at risk to help other animals there is a family relationship, in which they are helping their specific pack or even their siblings, young, etc.

The debate seems to be aimed more at human altruism, given the use of the word philanthropy referring more to humans than animals. There is a very simple explanation for why that would be a favorable trait to have, it makes an individual more likely to find a good mate. Most people want to meet and have children with a nice person; someone who volunteers and gives to charity, fits that description very well.

Another possible explanation is that people who give to charity are happier, and live a longer life, as well as care more for their children, making it more likely that their genes will be passed on to future generations.
Debate Round No. 1
Paradigm_Lost

Pro

I want to thank pmagyar for accepting the debate. I am looking forward to it.

CON states, "In nature, altruistic behavior is relatively common. For example, In many bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from other birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to raise the baby birds. Without this help, the breeding pair would be more vulnerable to attack and losing their offspring."

I certainly agree that in the animal kingdom there are many instances where reciprocal behavior is exhibited. But this should not be confused with what philanthropy is. Philanthropy is unmerited kindness without the expectation of receiving any benefit for it. What animals exhibit is reciprocity, which is a mutual exchange. Animals that herd have a better chance of survival by banding together. Each individual has a greater chance for survival within a population, and so it is in its best interest to reciprocate. This has nothing to do with goodwill, indeed, I doubt highly that animal could even conceive of such a thing. Its purely instinctual for them.

CON states, "The debate seems to be aimed more at human altruism, given the use of the word philanthropy referring more to humans than animals. There is a very simple explanation for why that would be a favorable trait to have, it makes an individual more likely to find a good mate. Most people want to meet and have children with a nice person; someone who volunteers and gives to charity, fits that description very well."

Indeed the argument is geared more towards human altruism, but certainly feel free to draw parallels within the animal kingdom if you believe that it will elucidate your point. With that, if natural selection is the procurement of advantageous traits ultimately leading towards self-preservation, how is helping a man in a coma going to affect your likelihood of survival?

What compels a (wo)man to work in a community riddled with infectious diseases, knowing full well they can contract the deadly disease in a Darwinian sense?

Recently a Navy Seal was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for sacrificing his life in exchange so that others may live. The man selflessly jumped on to a live grenade to mitigate the blast and shrapnel, thus absorbing the brunt of the grenades punishment.

Can a purely naturalistic philosophy really explain that in Darwinian terms?

Con states, "Another possible explanation is that people who give to charity are happier, and live a longer life, as well as care more for their children, making it more likely that their genes will be passed on to future generations."

While I don't deny that, you are omitting the biggest element in the question. Firstly, it does nothing to explain why a man would jump on a grenade if survival is the ultimate goal in life. And indeed, in a purely secular world, that is the ultimate goal. Secondly, going back to the omission, the greater question is WHY it would make people happier. What about self-sacrifice makes people feel good? Your question begs a greater answer. But think of it this way:

"All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead; but the darker secret of why he is alive." -GK Chesterton

Natural selection in humans from a pragmatic point of view would be more likely to say the opposite of altruism as being the most advantageous trait. Ruthlessness should reign supreme in a totally secular mindset. Why is this not the case?
pmagyar

Con

PRO states "Philanthropy is unmerited kindness without the expectation of receiving any benefit for it."

This seems to be an incorrect and unfair definition of the term, and not supported by other definitions of philanthropy I have found. The American Heritage dictionary defines it as "The effort or inclination to increase the well-being of humankind, as by charitable aid or donations" Or as "Something, such as an activity or institution, intended to promote human welfare." Wordnet defines it as "voluntary promotion of human welfare" None of those definitions supports the claim that there is no benefit received or that it is unmerited. Voluntary in the last definition only supports that the promotion of human welfare is not coerced, not that the person promoting human welfare receives nothing in return.

PRO states "how is helping a man in a coma going to affect your likelihood of survival?"

Depends on the situation, but I think you misunderstand what natural selection is about, because survival isn't it. As I stated last time, "At its very basic, natural selection is the process by which favorable heritable traits become more common in successive generations. The trait must be favorable in terms of producing more viable offspring, otherwise the trait would not become more common and be passed on." That means that natural selection is not about survival, its about the increase of favorable heritable traits. It is not specific to certain individuals, it refers to populations as a whole. Showing a few examples of a person who did something that complies with philanthropy but makes them less evolutionarily successful does not negate the theory as a whole. Counter-examples could also be given of individuals who never or rarely engaged in philanthropy and were also not evolutionarily successful. Neither of those would prove anything, since natural selection is about the increase of traits in the population as a whole.

Another important point is that the traits must be heritable. There is psychological evidence both ways as to the impact of genetics versus environment. If the traits are at best partially influenced by genetics then natural selection will have less of an effect on the behavior of individuals because there are so many other factors that effect it. An individual who's genes make them more likely to be selfish may grow up in a very loving environment and grow up to be a very kind and caring individual, and pass along what may be considered bad genes because of reasons that have nothing to do with genetics. This does not contradict natural selection because natural selection does not deal with that.

PRO states "Firstly, it does nothing to explain why a man would jump on a grenade if survival is the ultimate goal in life. And indeed, in a purely secular world, that is the ultimate goal."

I don't see why that is necessarily the ultimate goal. Im not advocating any religious goals, but there are many people who would take the shorter life that is more fulfilling than living longer and less happily. Survival is certainly important, but that doesn't make it the ultimate goal of life, or what natural selection deals with.

PRO states "Secondly, going back to the omission, the greater question is WHY it would make people happier. What about self-sacrifice makes people feel good?"

That likely depends on the individual, and to truly answer it would require psychological knowledge I personally do not possess. But that doesn't counter the fact that many people cite feeling good about helping humanity out as a reason for why they engage in dangerous behavior to benefit humanity.

PRO states "Your question begs a greater answer. But think of it this way:
"All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead; but the darker secret of why he is alive." -GK Chesterton"

Im not sure what this quote is meant to argue for or illuminate, so I will wait for you to clarify before I respond to it.

Finally, PRO states, "Natural selection in humans from a pragmatic point of view would be more likely to say the opposite of altruism as being the most advantageous trait. Ruthlessness should reign supreme in a totally secular mindset. Why is this not the case?"

I would say the fact that it hasn't prevailed shows that it is not the most advantageous trait, and that is why it has not prevailed. Also, a society where all individuals are ruthless in their pursuit of everything would seem likely to lead to a society in constant outright conflict, and would be similar to say gangsters fighting for control of a city during prohibition, except with even more groups fighting. This does not seem like a society that is likely to succeed.

Or it is possible that you are right, and ruthlessness would be the most likely successful trait, but it is because we are a non-secular world where religion has a lot of control, that is why it is not prevalent. That would still not prove that natural selection contradicts reality, because that would show that it is because of non-heritable influences that the most successful trait is not passed on. That is not a contradiction, because natural selection does not deal with non-heritable influences on behavior.
Debate Round No. 2
Paradigm_Lost

Pro

You know, this website is horribly prone to bias. People seem to vote on pre-conditioned responses rather than judging them on the merits of their stengths. I suppose this is to be expected to some degree when the average age on here is all of 16 years.

Because this is the case, I've grown totally disenchanted with this site. I see no point in spending time on something when its evident that it doesn't much matter.

So I'm forfeiting all of my debates from hereon out and going somewhere else where I can find equity. Thanks for the debate, and sorry for not finishing it.
pmagyar

Con

It is unfortunate you would not finish the debate, i was looking forward to your response, this was intellectually stimulating.

As none of my arguments were responded to in the last round, extend them through, and vote CON.
Debate Round No. 3
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Im_always_right 8 years ago
Im_always_right
It is true, which is why I am voting against him...plus the other oerson made better arguements.
Posted by pmagyar 8 years ago
pmagyar
This debate itself gives validity to paradigm lost's point about bias, considering that he's winning the debate even though he forfeit the debate. If someone forfeits something, they lose.
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
Atheists can hope, I meant to write.
Posted by beem0r 8 years ago
beem0r
Ironduke, I hope you realize that most of the statements you made there make no sense.

Atheists can hoe. There is reason for being good besides hope. Everything is relative whether there is good or not. No absolutes does not mean anarchy. Anarchy does not equal death.

Riddled with lies, such comments are nigh meaningless.
Posted by Ironduke 8 years ago
Ironduke
We will mis you Paradigm Lost, we need people like you in places like this.

God be with you.
Posted by Ironduke 8 years ago
Ironduke
One has to accept, in an atheistic society, there is no hope.

Without hope, there is no reason for being good.

Without good, everything is relative

If everything is relative, there are no absolutes

If there are no absolutes, then there is anarchy

Anarchy equals death

death equals end

Nietzsche realized this and accepted his fate for what it was. Others hope...
Posted by brian_eggleston 8 years ago
brian_eggleston
This argument holds water, at least in the UK, where physically fragile people receive the free health care they require to survive, where they would otherwise have perished. For example, the physicist Steven Hawking would never have made any of his significant contributions to human development if he lived in Ethiopia rather than England.

At the same time, natural selection continues unabated in the third world where the physically strong survive and at the expense of the weak and countless brilliant minds are lost to famine and disease.
Posted by Bitz 8 years ago
Bitz
Paradigm_Lost,

If it makes any difference, or counts for anything, I have enjoyed your debates. It may be that there is a bias in the voters, but who cares?

You say "I see no point in spending time on something when its evident that it doesn't much matter."

Let me ask you: Would any of this matter if there was no voting bias? Of course not! the only difference is a silly number next to your picture that changes color from red/green as the ratio goes up.

The point of Debates are meant to keep the mind sharp, as well as increasing ones knowledge on subjects vie interacting with people who disagree with you. Not to put a meaningless number in one's profile picture. The fact of the matter is, voting can be done by ANYONE as many times as anyone wants. One person can simply make multiple accounts and vote as many times as they want. Win/Loss ratio doesn't count for anything.

If it makes any difference, I ask you to reconsider, and if you do leave, I ask you not to leave based on this reason.
10 Seconds Ago
Posted by Rob1Billion 8 years ago
Rob1Billion
well I didn't expect someone else to point out those facts but yes, I am the instigator/pro in the vast majority of the debates i've been involved in. I am also usually arguing some crazy idea against the status quo that is difficult to prove. I usually challenge the best debaters as well (and lose), but I consider myself a winner (how special) because I'm getting good feedback on my ideas.
Posted by Spiral 8 years ago
Spiral
Disenchanted with losing, more than this site, I would guess.
21 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
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