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Darwinian Altruism 4

(Text as at 20/08/2007 16:55:12)

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Why do I risk my own life to save a drowning child when the risk/reward is apparently so poor?

This is complicated. I’m not sure, personally-speaking, whether I’d attempt this act of heroism as I’m a weak swimmer, and we’d both likely drown; best to leave the task to someone competent. However, even though this would be the rational approach, this wouldn’t stop me feeling like a cowardly weasel. So, the question is, why, from an evolutionary perspective, would I have this feeling? If I were a certain sort of female, no doubt I’d feel some emotional rush that would make me want to save the child, rather than simply feel I ought to. Again, the question, from an evolutionary perspective, is why should I feel this way, if this child is not one of mine?

I dare say that our emotions are so tuned by evolution that they work in the likely hunter-gatherer scenario, which would be that if a child is drowning near you, it’s likely to be yours or that of one of your kin, so go for it and preserve your genes. After all, this is an emergency, and it might be hard to determine patrimony in the rolling deep (not that there are any rolling deeps on the savannah – so substitute “murky water-hole”). That would explain the emotional rush, and then the weasel-feeling when the emotion is not discharged by action.

But I admit that this is a bit of a just-so story (but then so is the whole field of evolutionary psychology).

Previous Version of this Note:

Date Length Title
16/08/2007 14:44:10 24 Darwinian Altruism 4

Note last updated Reference for this Topic Parent Topic
20/08/2007 16:55:12 529 (Darwinian Altruism 4) Simon - T1S1

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