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Selfish or Selfless?

Cremisi's picture

 I think it's important to discuss the issue of the "selfish gene". The term "selfishness" has a very bad connotation in our culture. When we think of selfishness, that is, the trait of being concerned for one's own self more than others, we tend to acquate it with a malicious intention, cold-heartedness, lonesomeness, and anger. The phrase "selfish gene" very much throws off Dawkins original intent--altruism between closely related members of a species. Selfish makes it seem as though the gene has a mind of its own. In actuality, Dawkins was trying to say that closely related members of a species often display altruistic tendencies toward closely related organisms to protect their own gene line. In other words, though an organism may seem as though they are doing something noble and giving its own life for that of another closely related organism, it is actually selfish deep down because it wants to protect its own gene line. I suppose this does make sense..but....though I would consider myself a "science" person, I don't like everything to be reduced to a logical, analytical, and orderly explanation. I'd like to think that maybe there is something more to humans than can simply be explained by a series of chemical equations and graphs and charts. It reminds me of the Dead Poets Society when the teacher has the students rip out the first page of the book that uses a graph to indicate how "useful" or "good" a poem is according to certain criteria. I want to think that humans are poetry..and though it may seem like we are just organisms responding to external stimuli, we simply cannot be reduced to a chart plastered in the front of a textbook. I agree there are constraints on us as people that change the amount of choices we are able to make, but can we just let go of the idea that it has to be selfish? Can it be a selfless act, with an underlying tone of biology?


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