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If Evolutionary Psychology is true, concern for ones immediate family is just disguised selfishness. Discuss.

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If Evolutionary Psychology is true, concern for ones immediate family is just disguised selfishness. Discuss. "Evolutionary psychologists (EP) are concerned with studying the evolved cognitive structure of the mind. EP argues that much has changed since the mind evolved in the ancestral environment and behaviours today may or may not be adaptive. The focus of study is on psychological or mental mechanisms.....Evolutionary psychologists believe these mechanisms were shaped by natural selection..." (Leda Cosmides and John Tooby). The perspective, evolutionary psychology has grown from Charles Darwin's theory of evolution (1859). Darwin believed that the evolutionary process of natural selection was responsible for shaping behaviour as well as anatomy and physiology. He envisaged that all human behaviour would eventually be explained in evolutionary principles. Classical Darwinism saw natural selection as a competition between individuals or groups. Neo-Darwinist's consider the process to be a competition between genes. With this modification they believe evolution theory can now account for human behaviour. It is our genes which are the raw materials that have been modified by natural selection, and hence the driving forces behind all cognitive processes. All human characteristics are considered the product of genetic competition: "The ultimate goal that the mind was designed to attain is maximising the number of copies of the genes that created it" (Steven Pinker). ...read more.


(Homicide, New York, Aldine 1988) Of course this is a rare occurrence in any family, and the perpetrators are obviously psychologically disturbed, yet (according to EP) step parents are not genetically equipped with the desire to nurture some one else's children. David Barash sites the example of a parent who would jump in front of a car to save their child to illustrate that parental altruism is, in fact, well disguised selfishness: By endangering themselves and of course their genes to save their child, the act may appear altruistic. Barash claims that this is not an example of true altruism because the genes are simply saving some of themselves. He concludes: "Caring for your own children or for those with whom we share genes is, then just, a special case of those genes selfishly promoting themselves by watching out for others in whom they also reside" (p.211). Therefore, the parent is acting in their own genes best interest which is ultimately selfish behaviour. This argument can be identified as unsound on several accounts; initially because the parent's risky behaviour may in fact be contrary to the genetic interest: If the adult should die in this rescue, they would be unable to have any more children; they may leave several orphaned children behind unable to take care of themselves or the rescued child may be heavily disabled. ...read more.


In addition, the interests of the genes are very rarely in tune with the interests of the individual. Of course, genes in themselves don't have motives or interests, but are responsible for forming an instinct or desire in us to love and take care of our children. Genetic interests aside, the parent will risk their life to save their child because they genuinely put their child's safety before their own. Therefore, even at the level of the individual the action may be perceived as ultimately selfish because in rescuing the child the parent is satisfying their own desire to do so. Philosophers call this idea' psychological egoism': the idea that all our concerns are ultimately concern for ourselves. To bite the bullet with this theory, though, is to define altruism out of existence. Indeed all concern for our family could be deemed as well disguised selfishness. But so would charity and any form of philanthropic behaviour. In this case it would be irresponsible to concede to this self defeating concept as it would mean departing far from evolutionary psychology to investigate. In light of Barash's argument, there is no reason to assume that parental altruism is not genuine. Therefore, if evolutionary psychology is true, concern for ones immediate family is not just disguised selfishness. ...read more.

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