Is Altruism a Programmed Response?

A study by Swiss researchers earlier this year revealed what, at first glance, appears to be an astounding phenomenon: Altruistic robots.

What does this tell us about ourselves?


  1. #1 by ann farmer on June 22, 2011 - 3:46 pm

    The emphasis of evolutionists on altruism gives the impression that altruism is the exception rather than the rule, reinforcing the view that actually aggression is innate to Man and by inference, that people who are not aggressive are somehow lacking as human beings – which fits with the ‘survival of the fittest’ belief – as G. K. Chesterton called it, the survival of the fiercest. Paradoxically (as he would say) the emphasis on altruism as a problem to be solved makes people self-conscious about being ‘altruistic’, encouraging people to see selfishness as the norm, and to adopt a more aggressive approach. The only problem with altruism is that there is not enough of it; but to evolutionists it is a problem simply because it appears to separate us from ‘other’ animals. I would suggest that the very fact that we worry – or even think about – altruism marks us out from the animals. It is both innate in humans but as you suggest, like a plant it must be cultivated or it will wither.

  2. #2 by torahideals on June 27, 2011 - 2:14 pm

    Here follows an exchange of emails with a reader who identifies himself only as “Feral Cat”:

    [You wrote:] “It is the part of us that is divine; it is the part we call the soul”

    This is most absurd. If true the many human beings do not have a soul at all and most only have a partial soul (I wonder what that would look like) and some non-human animals (Dolphins, Apes …) do have a soul.

    “The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning.” – Albert Einstein, letter of February 5, 1921

    “I do not believe in freedom of will. Schopenhauer’s words, ‘Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants’, accompany me in all life situations and console me in my dealings with people, even those that are really painful to me. This recognition of the unfreedom of the will protects me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and judging individuals and losing good humour.”
    (Albert Einstein in Mein Glaubensbekenntnis, August 1932)

    Goldson responds:

    I always find it remarkable how people pick and choose sources and arguments to support their preconceived notions. Maimonides wrote that the greatest intellect of all time was Aristotle, whose confirmed atheism and rigid view of the universe influenced scientists and philosophers for centuries. How did Maimonides reconcile his own belief in a Creator with the atheism of the “smartest man who ever lived”? Because once Aristotle invested himself in his rejection of G-d, he bent his intellect to support that conclusion with every iota of his intellectual capacity.

    Similarly, the honored British scientist Frederick Hoyle estimated the odds of organic life arising through random combinations of enzymes as approximate to throwing 50,000 sixes in a row with a single die. What did he conclude? That aliens had seeded the galaxy with organic matter. Having posited that there is no G-d yet faced with irrefutable scientific evidence against evolution, the only answer available to him was aliens (although he fails to explain how they evolved).

    Quoting Einstein as proof against the existence of the human soul is like quoting Helen Keller to establish the artistic contributions of Picasso. Einstein was an empiricist, only concerned with what could be demonstrated through scientific method. And although he may not have been impressed by the reasoning of Joseph Butler, the majority of the philosophical community accepts Butler’s argument, which recognizes free will as what places human beings in a position to follow or ignore the promptings of the conscience, or soul. Glib references to dolphins and apes are neither relevant nor clever. They are the smoke and mirrors of a cynic who prefers to avoid dealing rationally with the critical issue of personal responsibility.

    Feral Cat replies:

    I find it unremarkable how people pick and choose sources and arguments to support their preconceived notions and find it more and more unremarkable all the time, like right now upon reading what you just said.

    I estimate the odds of a all powerful G-d arising through random combinations of enzymes as less than throwing 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 sixes in a row with a single die and the odds of an all powerful G-d “always being here” as about infinitely less than that..

    “They are the smoke and mirrors of a cynic who prefers to avoid dealing rationally with the critical issue of personal responsibility.”

    I think you have just given a pretty good description of this G-d of yours that you have constructed.

    “If I were to construct a G-d I would furnish Him with some way and qualities and characteristics which the Present lacks. He would not stoop to ask for any man’s compliments, praises, flatteries; and He would be far above exacting them. I would have Him as self-respecting as the better sort of man in these regards.
    “He would not be a merchant, a trader. He would not buy these things. He would not sell, or offer to sell, temporary benefits of the joys of eternity for the product called worship. I would have Him as dignified as the better sort of man in this regard.
    “He would value no love but the love born of kindnesses conferred; not that born of benevolences contracted for. Repentance in a man’s heart for a wrong done would cancel and annul that sin; and no verbal prayers for forgiveness be required or desired or expected of that man.
    “In His Bible there would be no Unforgiveable Sin. He would recognize in Himself the Author and Inventor of Sin and Author and Inventor of the Vehicle and Appliances for its commission; and would place the whole responsibility where it would of right belong: upon Himself, the only Sinner.
    “He would not be a jealous G-d – a trait so small that even men despise it in each other.
    “He would not boast.
    “He would keep private His admirations of Himself; He would regard self-praise as unbecoming the dignity of his position.
    “He would not have the spirit of vengeance in His heart. Then it would not issue from His lips.
    “There would not be any hell — except the one we live in from the cradle to the grave.
    “There would not be any heaven — the kind described in the world’s Bibles.
    “He would spend some of His eternities in trying to forgive Himself for making man unhappy when he could have made him happy with the same effort and he would spend the rest of them in studying astronomy.” – Mark Twain

    Goldson tries again:

    You “estimate the odds”? Please, let me hear about your research, your studies, and the educational background that entitles you to make such estimates.

    On the other hand, if all you want to do is trade quotes, here’s one for you: “Nothing is more irrelevant than the answer to a question that was never asked?” — Rabbi Noach Weinberg

    It’s not hard to understand Twain’s bitterness. By the end of his life he had watched his wife and children predecease him and had lost all his money. His final story, “The Mysterious Stranger,” is a testimony to the bleakness of his life.

    Nevertheless, all the implied questions in his quote have rational answers. The problem is that for most people, the questions are not questions since they don’t want answers at all; they’re too invested in their questions, for they find the prospect of facing the responsibility implied by the existence of a Creator much too frightening to contemplate. So they seek refuge in the belief that science will one day answer all its unanswered questions, hanging on to that hope with a faith far stronger than that of the most pious saints.

    Good luck to you…

    Feral Cat gets the last word:

    “You “estimate the odds”? Please, let me hear about your research, your studies, and the educational background that entitles you to make such estimates”.

    I didn’t think my point would go over your head, but apparently I was mistaken.

    “for they find the prospect of facing the responsibility implied by the existence of a Creator much too frightening to contemplate.”

    Now frankly I must say that this is really totally absurd (I do not believe in this “Creator” of yours that you try to scare people with and so am less frightened of it than of a ‘boogeyman under my bed’ – and btw, where is your research, your studies, and the educational background AND your degree and board certification in Psychiatry that entitles you to make such a diagnosis, I might ask?) and a slander (you don’t even know me and about the last thing on earth that anyone who does know me, or ever has, would call me is irresponsible. Maybe some other things, but not irresponsible). You must be a very bitter man. Good luck to you.

  3. #3 by Steven Edward Aanes on July 19, 2011 - 6:03 am

    What a shame.

    The Feral Cat is seeking G_d desperately and cannot even admit it to himself.

    He cannot even ask for help.

  4. #4 by Mar on August 9, 2011 - 4:03 pm

    Interesting to say the very least. I too see the desperation, and the blindness together. And you are right, it is a shame. 😦

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