What brings “altruism” to mind

My eclectic Buddy doesn’t only goad me by sending links like this one today showing that Mitt Romney is ahead of Obama. He recently sent me the email with some serious evidence undermining the human causation of global warming – not mind you global warming itself.

I didn’t read it for a week. I’ve been busy. When he sent it again, presumably because I didn’t reply with a biting critique I promised to give it a look. That resulted in a couple emails. My Buddy has also been fencing with others and he mentioned E.O.Wilson the eminent scientist who pioneered the once heretical science of “sociobiology.”

I wrote my Buddy back explaining that I was aware of Wilson and mentioned that he had studied ants. I also mentioned that he had founded sociobiology much to the “consternation” of other scientists and then recently abandoned much of his thinking. That was a surprise and my Buddy asked about it. I looked at a Wikipedia page which did not seem to mention Wilson’s change of heart then did a more general google search. That brought me to this old Discover Magazine article.

I’m too preoccupied enjoying Florida’s mild weather and the Republican backbiting to give this much thought at the moment but here’s a bit of a toss off on the subject. Wilson’s notion, after spending a lifetime watching ants, has been that nurture not nature is more important in figuring out why we humans are the way we are…….or is it the other way around.

Well, anyway, whichever it is Wilson has been pondering altruism a lot lately. That’s animal behavior where for no good observable, scientific reason one animal does a kindness for some other animal for no apparent material gain to itself. (None of that in the Eleventh Commandment starved GOP these days – Morning headline Romney, Gingrich hurl criticism on eve of Primary)

I’ll hazard a guess and say that Wilson sees altruism as a fly in the ointment to nature. If we were only creatures of a Godless universe there might be no altruism at all. Evolution would proceed along more understandable lines. Only a successful mutation which benefited an organism would pass on from generation to the generation. Altruism seems to buck this notion. The current GOP fight for the nomination is much more in line with the red in tooth and claw world. Stop the Mormons. Stop the socialists. Stop the Catholics. Stop the liberals. Stop the RINO’s. Stop the Establishment. Stop the Tea Party. It looks rather like a battlefield between black and red ants. There is no room for trust, generosity or altruism. Its winner take all.

I know my Buddy holds his nose at all of Obama’s high minded rhetoric. I understand. I felt the same way about all of Duluth’s Dr. Dixon’s pap. There has to be some connection between the words and the deeds. But ideals are hard to turn one’s back on. My hero Abe wrote about the “better angels of our nature” as he sent millions out to fight their brothers in the South. I think he was entirely serious and not cynical. He was so prone to honesty that he had to be dissuaded by his friends from attacking Christianity when he first embarked on a political career. He had become to all intents an atheist.

And yet he could come to the Presidency talking about better angels and pointing out that if God was inclined to take sides with either the North or the South he had no confidence in mankind to divine which side God had selected. That’s humility a virtue I’d rank up there with altruism. I don’t see much of it in today’s GOP. Its hardly necessary when you have all the answers. I just can’t figure which of their answers are right.

A. We must fight the Muslims…………… B. We should Mind our own business
C. Yeah! for No Child Left Behind………. C. We should leave local school districts alone
D. We must electrify a our border fence…. E. Actually I guess they all agree with this
F. Only a Christian should be President…. G. Mormons aren’t Christians
H. We should stay in Iraq……………… I. We should stay in Iraq (OK, not a good example)
J. Obama is a Muslim………………….. K. Actually they all agree with this. See item F.


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