Selfish or Selfless?
One of the hottest scientific debates since the mid-seventies has been on altruism. Why do we want to do things for others even if we don’t benefit ourselves immediately?
The traditional vision of socio-biologists is that altruism in the end is just another strategy in the survival of the fittest. We aid persons that are related to us so that our genes stand a better chance of existence. Think of the endless generosity of parents to their children…
Socio-biologists compare human behaviour to patterns in nature. For example, the survival strategy of ants who work themselves to death for one queen, and birds who risk their lives to warn other birds when a bird of prey or other predator is near.
Recently one of the founders of socio-biology radically changed his theory. In the famous magazine, Nature, he stated that altruism was not an individual reaction provoked by the necessity for survival of genes. Instead, altruism is a logical behaviour between small groups where people know each other. He cited the case of insects that have a nest. Altruism becomes a practical way of organizing food and safety when the colony starts growing. This may sound as though we are splitting hairs but for science this may be revolutionary.
Altruism is clearly a trait of social-entrepreneurs – but aren’t all ethical and credible entrepreneurs altruistic?
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