• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent can human cooperative and social behaviour be explain by the selfish gene theory?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

To what extent can human co-operative and social behaviour be explained by selfish gene theory? This essay will try to ascertain how far the selfish gene theory can explain the more ambiguous aspects of cooperative and social behaviours when these might appears to contravene the key components of the selfish gene theory (SGT from here in) as posed by Dawkins (1976); in its earliest form this is the theory that organisms are merely acting as hosts for genetic information. Under the umbrella of this theory, the organisms? only concern is to ensure that the genetic information it hosts survives and is replicated. Therefore the motivation of the actor during any social and cooperative action is the attainment of direct or indirect genetic fitness benefits (West et al, 2007). Direct fitness benefits would be the improved reproductive success and enhanced chances of survival for the actor?s genes directly by the action taken, whereas indirect fitness benefits would be the increased chances of the continuation of the actor?s genetic material through the enhanced reproductive success and increased chances of survival of those who share the genes of the actor (Hamilton, 1975). Therefore, if a person?s individual fitness, that is their capacity to directly replicate their genes, is outweighed by their inclusive fitness, that is the degree to which a person is able to not only replicate their genes directly but the number of replications of its genes bought about by supporting others who may carry it, then according to this theory this would be favoured as it improves the persons overall genetic success regardless of how many genes they do or do not share (Heylighen, 1992). ...read more.

Middle

Whilst this discrimination towards helping those who share the same genes makes sense, based on this logic is it incapable of explaining why cooperative and social behaviours occur between those who do not share genes. Why would a person behave in a way that seemingly has no fitness benefits for themselves or those of possible genetic significance and furthermore what if this behaviour appears to bestow cost on the actor. An explanation for why people help others when they are not related to the recipient is ?reciprocal altruism? (Trivers 1971; Kreb & Davies, 1993; Griffin & West, 2002; Frank, 2003; West et al, 2006; Lehmann & Keller, 2006) this is where people help each other on the assumed proviso that when they need help another person will return this type of behaviour (Frank, 2003; West et al, 2006). SGT would stress that through this interaction there is a direct long term fitness benefit for the actor. However, without concrete reciprocal altruism where by favours are paid directly in proportion to the original favour in exactly equal measures, there is no certainty that the favour will ever be returned and therefore this concept may be found wanting; this will be demonstrated later when the public goods game is explained outlining the ways in which this type of behaviour decreases over time. Perhaps these social and cooperative behaviours are better understood when they are examined in their context; the impact of a behaviour on individual fitness relative to the group to which the individual belongs. ...read more.

Conclusion

and cooperative behaviour has evolved as a consequence of its success at replicating itself and therefore cooperative and social behaviour is explained by the SGT as having evolved at the level of the genes through selfish means. Cooperative and social behaviour at the level of the organism is therefore only a mechanism to ensure that the needs of the genes are being met. The survival of the fittest is therefore not a competition for resources and advantageous selfish behaviour but it is an enhanced chance of survival and reproduction bestowed on those who behave in efficient ways such as through cooperative and social behaviours (Margulis & Lovelock, 1974) Conclusively, Dawkins SGT appears to be able to offer adequate explanations for cooperative and social behaviours that enhance the fitness of the actor and those who share the same genes. If the fitness is not directly or indirectly enhanced with an immediate effect then this can be explained as having a lifetime fitness benefit by this same theory but it is worth noting that measuring lifetime fitness benefits is difficult to do which limits this explanation. The weaker the genetic connection between the actor and the recipient the weaker the theory becomes when offering explanations for cooperative and social behaviours, especially as the behaviour of the actor becomes increasingly altruistic. Therefore from the perspective of the SGT even apparently cooperative and social behaviour at the level of the organism is always one of selfish motivation at the level of the genes; put succinctly, ?scratch an altruist and watch a hypocrite bleed? (Ghiselin, 1974). ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Anthropology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Anthropology essays

  1. In what ways have Anthropologists shown that kinship is not about genetic relatedness?

    Instead, it is a man's semen that has all the necessary components for a child, the woman acts as little more than a vessel (Godelier, 1986. Cited in Holy, 1996: 21)1. Therefore, to the Baruya, maternity is not innate but "patently secondary" (Jolly, 1991:55.

  2. What can the exchange of gifts tell us about society?

    Magic rites must be performed over the sea-going canoe when it is first built in order to ensure it is 'swift and safe', but also lucky to ensure it averts dangers. Furthermore, the mwasila (the Kula magic proper) is a form of magic which is believed to directly act upon the partners mind (the nonola)

  1. To what extent can anthropology be seen as the study of indigenous classifications?

    Once occasion calls for more specific color terms the 'level II' terminology is employed with other specific words such as gray or yellow, as well as constructs such as 'very red' or 'weak yellow', with special attention to texture and light reflection of the surface.

  2. Discuss the extent to which tourism is a neo colonialist activity supported by cultural ...

    Social Darwinism is a concept that was defined by Herbert Spencer and one of the perceptions of Social Darwinists is that they consider some people more fit to survive than others. This perception could be used as an excuse for racism and oppression (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopaedia 1993-97). Bodley (1994 p.

  1. Discuss the purposes of genetic testing during pregnancy and the ethical issues raised by ...

    (Ibid), as well as the existence of IVF during which it is possible that preimplantation diagnosis and selection could take place. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis during IVF can be done using blastomere biopsy of a couple of cells from an eight to ten cell embryo (Lau and Leung, 2005).

  2. Culture is concerned with aspects of the human society, which are learned rather than ...

    Marx's idea of recognizing ideology as a false consciousness. The main criticism against Marx's theory may be of Gramsci. He thought that false consciousness could said to be 2'presented and expounded as an immediate expression of structure and must be contested as primitive infantilism'.

  1. Is our consciousness determined by existence or by the social economic aspects of our ...

    that consciousness is determined by nothing more than the social economic aspects of an individual?s life. Marxism is an economic and socio-political worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry which emerged from the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels which expressed and focused on the role of conflict in society.

  2. What can the study of childrens literature tell us about different models of childhood?

    Technological advances and economic potential of books in the late 20th century, coupled with promotion of reading by educationalists saw a massive increase in books published for children. The didactic purpose of books, in particular issues of racism, sexism, religious and sexual orientation were hotly debated during this time period.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work