The Odds Against Altruism: 
The Sociobiology Agenda


Department of Religious Studies
Mount Allison University
Sackville, New Brunswick
Canada E0A 3C0

From: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 45 (June 1993): 96-110.

The embarrassment created for natural selection by the persistence of altruism is resolved by sociobiology's concepts of inclusive fitness, kin and reciprocal altruism. This conceptual, more than empirical, case against altruism is inspired by the self-interest outlook of modern economics. Expectations of human altruism in total defiance of nature are romantic illusions that avoid reconsidering the basic metaphysical assumption of self-interest.

There is no shortage of evidence to suggest that we are fundamentally, and all but irreparably, characterized by selfishness. If reports of consumptive greed and callous disregard for the obvious distress of others does not clinch the point, the representations of science, particularly the portrayals of sociobiology, confirm that impression beyond any reasonable doubt. This emerging discipline endevers to show how altruism is fundamentally unnatural, an aberration that runs directly counter to the natural flow of life.

The Impossibility of Natural Altruism

For modern life sciences, altruism represents an anomaly that elicits drastic reactions.

The Biological Problem of Altruism

From a biological point of view, altruism should not exist. The Darwinian theory of natural selection holds that those organisms survive and reproduce which are best adapted to their environment. They are "selected" by the natural processes of geography, climate, food supplies, predation, etc. To that extent, any organism that devotes itself to the welfare of other organisms jeopardizes its own prospects for reproduction and enhances those of the recipient of the assistance. As that trend continues, the altruist strain would seem bound to be selected out of existence.

This line of reasoning has been intensified with the development of the more precise investigations of genetics in this century, especially as these have been incorporated in the new discipline of sociobiology. Here Darwin's general problem has been made more acute, for example, through the application of game theory by Maynard Smith. Smith deduces the conditions necessary to ensure what he calls an evolutionarily stable strategy, that is, the strategy for maintaining a population which "cannot be bettered by any deviant individual."1

The mathematical permutations required for this stability are given vivid expression in Richard Dawkins' depiction of the respective effects and fortunes of the three behavioral types that he designates as suckers, cheats, and grudgers.2 These groups are the imaginary representatives of a species of bird that is preyed upon by an injurious and potentially lethal kind of parasitic tick. Each bird can rid itself of these parasites on most of its body, but it cannot reach the top of its own head, and so the only solution is for each bird to have its head ticks removed by another bird. And, of course, this is where the different strategies emerge. "Suckers" are those birds that will groom other birds indiscriminately. They are complete altruists. "Cheats" are those birds that accept this grooming, but never perform this service themselves.

Now the projections indicate that in a population of suckers, everyone will have their head ticks removed, but as soon as a cheat emerges, the situation changes. Cheat genes will begin to spread through the population and the sucker genes will be driven to extinction. For the more cheats there are, the more suckers will go ungroomed, dying from the parasitic infection, and thus having their genes removed from the collective gene pool. The cheats, for their part, thrive as long as there are enough suckers to help keep them tick-free. Of course, as the sucker population declines, the cheats will be affected, but never to the extent of the suckers themselves. "Therefore, as long as we consider only these two strategies, nothing can stop the extinction of the suckers, and very probably, the extinction of the whole population too."3

The third option, represented by the "grudger," involves grooming those who have groomed them. They never groom a cheat a second time. In a cheat population, grudgers would be almost as vulnerable as suckers. They would spend most of their time practicing unrequited grooming, and paying for this with their lives, to the detriment of their own genetic legacy. But when a significant number of grudgers emerges, they will groom each other to the detriment of the cheats, who will be driven to the brink of extinction, but not over, because the lower the population of cheats, the more chance each of these individuals will have of being groomed by grudgers they have not encountered before.

Common sense, and perhaps the lingering legacy of Christian sentiment, might suggest that the ideal evolutionarily stable strategy would be represented by a population consisting exclusively of suckers. This would assure that each bird would be groomed simply because they were in need of grooming. And this might well be the ideal situation. But it is ideal. In the real world, allowance must be made for grudgers and even cheats. But once this is done, as we have seen, the way of the sucker ceases to represent an evolutionarily stable strategy. On the contrary, the way of the grudger holds the most promise for maintaining itself against the interruption of cheats or suckers. The way of the cheat is also equally effective in achieving an evolutionarily stable strategy against grudgers and suckers, but the way of the cheat achieves this at the high price of courting extinction because cheats cannot groom each other. The conclusion to which we are led, then, is that neither pure altruism nor pure selfishness offer long-term prospects on their own. The most promising course is the calculative reciprocity of the grudger. This strategy is effective against both cheats and suckers. But as long as there are cheats and suckers as well as grudgers, the cheats are next in order of stability, with suckers coming in a distant third. Their strategy invites exploitation by cheats and receives only marginal support from grudgers.

Thus from the biological point of view, especially as this is sharpened through the genetic focus of sociobiology, the prospects for serious altruism are particularly bleak. The situation cannot be described more succinctly than it is by Dawkins himself.

Even in the group of altruists, there will almost certainly be a dissenting minority who refuse to make any sacrifice. If there is just one selfish rebel, prepared to exploit the altruism of the rest, then he, by definition, is more likely than they are to survive and have children. Each of these children will tend to inherit his selfish traits. After several generations of natural selection, "the altruistic group" will be overrun by selfish individuals, and will be indistinguishable from the selfish group. Even if we grant the improbable chance existence initially of pure altruistic groups without any rebels, it is very difficult to see what is to stop selfish individuals migrating in from neighboring selfish groups, and, by intermarriage, contaminating the purity of the altruistic group.4

This biological bias against altruism is in accord with the contemporary experience. It is no wonder that self-interest should be the prevailing strategy. We have inherited a genetic bias in this direction. Any inclination toward concern for others that might have been present has been diminished by the genetic triumph of the drive toward self-preservation and self-enhancement. And yet altruism continues to exist. There are individuals who apparently sacrifice themselves, and a fortiori the transmission of their genes, for the sake of others.

Why is it that altruism has not been eliminated entirely? This represents what the leading pioneer of sociobiology, E.O. Wilson, calls "the central theoretical problem of sociobiology: how can altruism, which by definition reduces personal fitness, possibly evolve by natural selection?"5 Indeed, the problem is even more acute than this. For the reality is almost contrary to the picture we have considered in abstract terms. The truth is that in the broad scope of nature, far from altruism having been diminished, the reverse would seem to be true. It is in the most developed species, namely humans, that altruism has attained its most striking expression, evoking what Wilson has called the "culminating mystery of all biology."6 On the premise of modern biology, especially as this is sharpened by sociobiology, altruism should not exist at all, much less have evolved through the process.

Sociobiological Explanations for Altruism

The biological problem of altruism is at least as old as Darwin's theory of natural selection. Indeed, even for Darwin himself it constituted the "one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to the whole theory."7 The altruism that Darwin found so threatening was that of social insects. Worker castes devote their lives to work to the total exclusion of reproduction, and yet these sterile castes reemerge generation after generation. How? Why does such apparent total altruism not result in its own destruction through the lack of offspring? A possible answer is in terms of group selection. Then workers continue to be reproduced because, in these instances, selection takes place at the level of the colony. Workers are an integral part of the colony, and thus contribute to the fitness of the whole group, so that their own lack of reproductive ability is compensated for at the group level. They do not have to reproduce themselves because their lineage is provided for in the reproductive mechanisms of the group.

The significance of these degrees of relatedness for sociobiology 
is that they provide a basis for explaining altruism that is directed 
to an individual's immediate kin.

This identification of a group level as the focus of the selection process represents something of a minority report in modern biology. V.C. Wynne-Edwards contends that its day has come,8 but even to allow for group selection as a counterpart to the dominant assumptions of individual selection is a concession that does not appear to be forthcoming in any significant measure. To the novice, Wynne-Edwards' claim for group selection can appear to offer a credible way of accounting for the continued appearance of non-reproductive worker castes. "In group selection theory there is no problem about sacrificing the fitness of some individuals if it benefits the fitness of a group as a whole to do so; and this applies not only to vertebrates in changeable habitats but to the special-duty sterile castes of insects as well."9 Sensible though this might appear to sociobiologically untutored common sense, it does not find favor with sociobiologists. They maintain their focus on individual selection through the concept of kin selection, which might sound like a variation on group selection, but is intended precisely to avoid any compromise of the individual focus.

In a series of articles in the 1960s and early '70s, W.D. Hamilton worked out a theory of kin selection in precise mathematical terms.10 Because each parent contributes 1/2 the genes that make up their offspring, there is a 50% chance that a parent and his or her offspring will share any particular gene. Thus the ratio in the genetic relationship between parent and child is 1/2. Roughly the same ratio holds between siblings, because they share the same parents. For more distant relations, the calculation is more complicated, but the results, genetically speaking, are that there is 1/2 of ourselves in our parents, our offspring, and our siblings; 1/4 in our uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces, and in our grandparents and grandchildren; 1/8in our first cousins, our great grandparents and great grandchildren.

The significance of these degrees of relatedness for sociobiology is that they provide a basis for explaining altruism that is directed to an individual's immediate kin. Thus a bird risks attracting a predator to ensure the safety of a flock or of her own brood, as birds often do. She may feign a broken wing to lead a fox away from a nest, leaping into the air at the last possible moment to escape the fox's jaws,11 or warn a whole flock with an alarm call when a flying predator such as a hawk is spotted.12 This has all the appearance of dangerous, sacrificial, altruistic behavior, but from the genetic point of view, it is entirely explicable in terms of gene ratios. A mother bird is not risking anything if her diversionary behavior saves two of her chicks because together they are likely to possess 100% of her genes. Similarly, the bird raising the alarm call is also protecting its own genes if it has a couple of siblings in the flock, or four nieces or nephews or eight first cousins.

Dawkins: "We are survival machinesórobot vehicles 
blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."

It is not that a bird calculates these odds, or even deliberately acts in this seemingly altruistic fashion. The level of agency is not the bird but the genes that constitute it, and every other living being, including ourselves. Genes are the ultimate subjects. "They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence."13 All plants and animals exist as vehicles for the replication of genes. "We are survival machinesórobot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."14 Thus apparent altruism at the level of the phenotype is seen to be an expression of consummate selfishness at the more primary level of the genotype.

If this explanation is accepted for now, it only accounts for altruism among close relatives. This is probably satisfactory for most behavior in the world of nature that might be construed as altruistic. However, it does not cover the more wide-ranging altruistic behavior that can sometimes characterize human actions in particular. The difficulty with human altruism is that there may be no apparent relationship between the altruist and his or her beneficiary, and so no apparent rationale for the action other than the altruistic one of actually benefitting the other person. Saving a drowning person who is unknown and unrelated to me can hardly be attributed to an ulterior strategy promoted by the genetic drive for replication. And yet this unlikely situation is also encompassed by the sociobiological explanation of altruism. The mechanism that accounts for this is known as "reciprocal altruism." Although the immediate act may appear purely altruistic, in a larger perspective, it can be seen to represent a relatively minor risk to the benefactor, with the prospect that should they find themselves in any similar life-threatening situation, they will be more likely to receive the aid they require. Thus ironically, Wilson suggests that reciprocal altruism "is less purely altruistic than acts evolving out of interdemic and kin selection."15 Again, of course, the point is not the survival of the particular individual, but of the genes they bear.

The sociobiological repertoire has other strategies, but these three represent the main mechanisms by which any appearance of altruism is exposed for the self-interested activity it really is. On the most primary level, behavior generally is self-interested, especially in the form of genetic self-interest. Beyond this, most altruistic behavior among insects, birds and animals can be explained by the mechanism of kin selection. Finally, wider versions of apparently altruistic behavior, most evident among humans, can be more accurately understood as reciprocal altruism, engaged in with the expectation, at least genetically speaking, of receiving a return in the future, should occasion require it. Thus sociobiology demonstrates the totally illusory nature of the whole notion of altruism. What appears to be altruism is really always genetically sophisticated selfishness.

Problems With the Explanations

The total scope of sociobiological explanations of altruism may actually betray a fundamental weakness in this whole approach. Perhaps the explanations are simply too good. This is the charge of the Sociobiology Study Group, which says, "There exists no imaginable situation that cannot be explained; it is necessarily confirmed by every observation."16 Any putative case of altruistic behavior that is not susceptible to the calculations of kin selection is almost certainly bound to succumb to the drift net of reciprocal altruism.

Even such a comprehensive program as the sociobiological explanation of altruism does have awkward instances to contend with, though, as its more forthright exponents admit. Dawkins points to the phenomenon of female herd animals adopting orphaned offspring that bear no particular relation to them, thus investing their care in individuals that hold no prospect of perpetuating their own genetic legacy. The only explanation he can provide for this is that it represents a mistake of nature. "It is presumably a mistake which happens too seldom for natural selection to have 'bothered' to change the rule by making the maternal instinct more selective."17 A more difficult example, and one which Dawkins concedes might well be taken as evidence against this whole genetic explanation of altruism, is the practice of bereaved monkey mothers who steal a baby from another female, and look after it. This is really a double mistake, from the perspective of the genetic account, because, as Dawkins observes, the adopting mother not only invests her time and care in someone else's child rather than getting on with producing further offspring of her own, but she also thereby frees the stolen child's mother to do precisely that herself, to the benefit of that mother's genes and the detriment of those of the adoptive mother. This behavior, then, constitutes a direct contradiction of what the sociobiological account should lead us to expect.

Yet even these obvious exceptions to sociobiology's central thesis are accommodated by its more imaginative proponents. So D.D. Barash explains the apparent altruism of adoption of non-relatives on the human level as a holdover from the past when humanity lived in small groups, so that there was likely to be a significant genetic relationship between adopter and adoptee.18 If this extreme explanation does not represent the snapping of this highly elastic theory, other more empirical difficulties almost certainly do. We saw how Darwin was particularly troubled by the apparent altruism of social insects. He wondered how workers which did not reproduce themselves had ever evolved. We also noted the consideration that the answer in this case might lie at the group level. Their altruism is in the interest of the group, and so they are reproduced by the reproductive members.

...Darwin was particularly troubled by the apparent altruism of social insects. 
He wondered how  workers which did not reproduce 
themselves had ever evolved.

We also saw that this deviation from the individual version of natural selection was not favored by sociobiologists. In fact, the explanation sociobiology has developed for this apparent altruism of the worker castes of social insects not only reaffirms individual selection but is regarded by Dawkins as "one of the most spectacular triumphs of the selfish gene theory."19 The triumphal account focuses on the means of reproduction in these insects, which leads to the recognition of a closer relation between the reproductive queen and her sterile sister workers than the normal 1/2  genetic relationship that generally prevails between siblings. A queen bee, for example, makes one mating flight, storing up the sperm for rationing out during the rest of her reproductive life. The sperm is released as required to fertilize the eggs that will develop into females. Males develop from eggs that are not fertilized at all. Whether a female develops into a worker or a queen is due to environment, rather than to genetic make-up, the principal factor being the food she receives. Thus queen and worker are full sisters. But because males develop from unfertilized eggs, they contain only their mother's genes, a single set rather than the double set that generally characterize a species propagated by sexual reproduction. This means that the male will pass on the same genes to all offspring. Thus any two females will receive  1/2  of their mother's genes and all of their father's genes, with the result that the relationship between full sisters will not be  1/2  but  3/4 , because each will receive the same genes from their common father.

This increase in relatedness goes a long way
 toward explaining the apparently altruistic behavior 
of worker castes among social insects.

This increase in relatedness goes a long way toward explaining the apparently altruistic behavior of worker castes among social insects. For in relinquishing their reproductive capacity to the queen, the worker bees, for example, are actually ensuring the replication of approximately 75% of their own genes in each of her offspring, whereas direct reproduction would pass on only 50% of their own genes. This is the major triumph achieved by this sociobiological theory in this area that presented particular problems for Darwin. Unfortunately, however, there is a major impediment to this explanation. This arises from the fact that on her mating flight the queen must copulate with several males, a honey bee queen up to 12 times, in order to store enough sperm for the rest of her life. "Hence workers very often rear half sisters with whom they share only 25% of their genesówhereas they would pass on 50% of their genes through their own daughters."20 Dawkins acknowledges this difficulty at the conclusion of his explanation of this spectacular triumph of sociobiology, but the best response he can offer is: "My head is now spinning, and it is high time to bring this topic to a close."21 This closure might well be fatal to the sociobiological explanation of altruism, if it depends on our not recognizing that in this final paragraph of this triumphal explanation for altruism in social insects, Dawkins glosses over a crucial fact which runs directly counter to what sociobiological theory should expect.

The Rationale for the Impossibility of Natural Altruism

The determination and depth of the case against altruism mounted by sociobiology suggests that there must be a profound and conclusive basis for this stance.

Biological Altruism and Selfishness

In this analysis of the treatment of altruism and selfishness in sociobiology, it is possible that we have forgotten one crucial fact. That fact is that the altruism and selfishness under consideration are biological. It is a matter of genes rather than of intentions. "None of the definitions of altruism in biology refers to the altruistic animal's motives, and it is in this way that they differ from the concept of altruism in human behavior."22 It is a mistake to read into these terms the usual moral connotations they have in their every day usage. The biological meaning is measured by a scale of prospects for reproduction rather than by any kind of value judgment about the quality of particular modes of behavior. As E.O. Wilson puts it: "Altruism is the surrender of personal genetic fitness for the enhancement of personal genetic fitness in others."23 To say that an animal acts altruistically is not to imply that it cares about other animals, but rather to affirm that it is endangering the replication of its own genes in a form of behavior that enhances the reproductive success of other individuals.

The restricted scope of this biological sense of "altruism" suggests a much more modest agenda than we have been attributing to sociobiology. If we were to go back over the evidence we have considered with this chastened reminder of the true biological meaning of the term, things might appear quite differently. The issue is not whether the worker caste in social insects, the sentry bird or the stotting gazelle, leaping for the apparent purpose of warning the herd of a predator, are intentionally sacrificing themselves for the sake of others, in the ordinary sense of "altruism." The point is that these forms of behavior do appear to entail genetic sacrifice.

The worker caste forgoes reproduction completely, while the sentry bird with its alarm call and the stotting gazelle with its exaggerated leaps not only appear to risk their lives by issuing their warnings, but in so doing would foreclose all prospects for ensuring the reproduction of their own genes. This is the altruism that sociobiology seeks to explain, and indeed must explain to salvage its own theory. And explain it it does. The principal explanation is that these forms of behavior do not entail genetic sacrifice at all, but, on the contrary, are genetically calculated to ensure the safety of these identical genetic strains in the close kin who are served or warned. The explanation then amounts to explaining away altruism, even at this minimal biological level. "In short, when one speaks of 'animal altruism' one is simply speaking of instinctive behaviors, selected because their possessors thereby maximize their gene-transmission capacities."24 It is the genes, and not the insect or animal, that are the fundamental agent. Individuals do not sacrifice themselves. They may be sacrificed by their genes, but this is only because those genes are present in other individuals and their perpetration through those individuals will be enhanced by the sacrifice. Thus from the genetic perspective, altruism is impossible, rather than even voluntary, much less morally laudable, and is ultimately an expression of the opposite of altruism, the pure self-interest of genetic manipulation.

Sociobiologists also extend this elimination of altruism 
from the level of genetic explanation to that of the phenotype.

 In genetic terms, there is no such thing as altruism. But here again we are encountering the totalitarian tendency of this doctrine. For it is not adequate to explain the risks of apparent genetic altruism by theories such as kin selection, which assure the perpetuation of the same genes. Sociobiologists also feel constrained to extend this elimination of altruism from the level of genetic explanation to that of the phenotype. So sociobiology not only claims that the actual behavior of individual animals is not altruistic in the genetic sense, (that is, in not actually endangering the genes that they share with close kin who are saved by their apparent altruism) but also seems to have a compulsion to explain away any connotation of altruism attaching to the behavior itself. Thus sentry birds are not only assuring the preservation of their genetic strains in their close kinóthey are actually ensuring their own individual safety by silencing the flock or summoning them to fly up into the trees in the safety of numbers. Stotting gazelles are not only serving the interests of the genes they share with other members of the herdóbecause their exaggerated leaps (that seem to be warnings to the herd of the presence of a predator) are actually advertisements of the health and vitality of the stotting individual, and are intended to divert the predator to more vulnerable members of the herd,25 regardless of how closely they may be related.

This compulsion to explain away every semblance of altruistic behavior suggests that the restrictions of the biological sense of altruism have been left behind. The point is not the preservation of genetic strains, or even the reproductive prospects of the apparently altruistic individual, but the nature of the behavior itself. The behavior that appears altruistic is really fundamentally an expression of self-interest. The explanation for genetic altruism expands to take in the more conventional sense of the term. The point is made succinctly by Wilson. "The theory of kin selection has taken most of the good will out of altruism. When altruism is conceived of as the mechanism by which DNA multiplies itself through a network of relatives, spirituality becomes just one more Darwinian enabling device."26

Wilson: "The theory of kin selection has taken most of the good will out of altruism."

The pursuit of this sociobiological explanation of altruism thus involves what Philip Hefner calls "reverse reductionism."27 Rather than a direct equation of altruism with the biological version of genetic processes, the explanation at that level, (which rules out altruism by definition)28 expands to absorb the usual sense of the term. Or, perhaps more realistically, the ordinary sense of the term has been present all along. The resulting scheme, which attempts to explain away all altruism through the device of kin selection and reciprocal altruism, is the logical result.

Repeated warnings that talk of altruism is metaphorical29 may begin to sound hollow in light of this crusade against all forms of altruism, but this ploy is even less credible when applied to the other side of the picture, the ascription of selfishness. There can be no question that, far from representing a metaphoric shorthand for alluding to impersonal genetic processes, the processes themselves are understood under these essentially selfish terms. If selfishness was a metaphor for an impersonal genetic process, there would be no reason to attribute that same orientation to the level of the phenotype.

In fact, if organisms are essentially vehicles for the 
propagation of "selfish" genes, then the organisms themselves 
are, almost by definition, unselfish, if not actually altruistic.

In fact, the reverse would seem to be implied. If organisms are essentially vehicles for the propagation of "selfish" genes, then the organisms themselves are, almost by definition, unselfish, if not actually altruistic. One would expect to find a treatment at the level of the phenotype along the lines suggested by Michael Ruse. "To talk of selfish genes is to talk metaphorically, and the whole point is that the phenotypes they promote are anything but selfish."30 But this is not what happens.

As we have seen, the supposedly metaphorical talk of selfishness at the gene level continues to apply at the level of the phenotype. Apart from the particular examples considered, this is also evident in sociobiology's insistence on the individual, as opposed to the group, version of natural selection. Granted that genetic variations occur at the individual level, it is the species, and not the individual, that is ultimately modified. Why then should the focus fall so exclusively on the individual?

The obvious answer is that the assumption of the pivotal significance of selfishness that is taken to characterize the gene level continues to be affirmed on up the scale. "Opposing individual selection to group selection as egoism is different from altruism, biologists represent the scientific content of the first [as] opposition [to] the folk concept of the second."31 The contrast between egoism and altruism provides the horizon within which biological processes themselves are understood. Thus it is perhaps not extravagant of Mary Midgley to suggest that sociobiologists are fixated on selfishness.32 The tenacity with which this theory is held and the comprehensive scope of its influence suggest that what is involved is something much broader than sociobiology or even than modern biology as a whole.

The precariousness of those claiming to be operating with a peculiar biological and genetic sense of altruism is betrayed by sociobiology's enthusiastic vendetta against any and every semblance of altruism. M.T. Ghiselin is under no illusions that this explanation is confined to the genetic level.

Where it is in his own interest, every organism may reasonably be expected to aid his fellows. Where he has no alternative, he submits to the yoke of servitude. Yet, given a full chance to act in his own interest, nothing but expediency will restrain him from brutalizing, from maiming, from murderingóhis brother, his mate, his parent, or his child. Scratch an "altruist" and watch a "hypocrite" bleed.33

D.D. Barash attempts to explain the apparent altruism of Kamikaze pilots by contending that their families would enjoy enhanced social status, an explanation that hardly seems to eliminate altruism. It might be a sense of the inadequacy of this explanation that leads him to the further desperate expedient of suggesting that these pilots might have received "sexual privileges" as inducements for their sacrifices.34 E.O. Wilson himself even goes to the extent of impugning the integrity of Mother Theresa. "Mother Theresa is an extraordinary person, but it should not be forgotten that she is secure in the service of Christ and the knowledge of her Church's immortality."35

The comprehensive scope of the attack on any semblance of altruism not only far exceeds the level of genetic explanation, but, as Mary Midgley suggests, it even results in blatant self-contradiction. For example, the indiscriminate and total attack on altruism described by Barash finds parents attacking their own genetic legacy, as represented by their children. Midgley points out that genetic selfishness, which is supposedly the focus for sociobiology, appears in parental behavior in the form of care for offspring. To describe parents as inherently selfishly disposed against their children is a direct contradiction of this genetic version.36 When everyday selfishness is promoted to the direct detriment of the supposedly pristine sociobiological version of selfishness, we have a very clear indication that something much more fundamental than biological theory is at stake.

The Source of Opposition to Altruism

The tenacious dedication to the principle of self-interest, and corresponding opposition to all appearances that suggest any tinge of altruism, despite the apparent contradiction of this in significant aspects of animal behavior, is indicative of a prior foundational vision. The most obvious candidate for the source of that vision is the pervasive culture which shapes the wider background against which sociobiology has developed. "What is inscribed in the theory of sociobiology is the entrenched ideology of western society: the assurance of its naturalness, and the claim of its inevitability."37 That ideology centers particularly on this assumption of the primacy of self-interest, whether in the intellectual vision since Descartes, in the political theory of democratic individualism or in the economic version of laissez-faire, free market capitalism. This latter form seems to be particularly influential for sociobiology.

Ghiselin: "Scratch an `altruist' and watch a `hypocrite' bleed."

The presentation is made most vividly by Richard Dawkins. He applies the calculations for kin selection, which represent a sophisticated exercise in economic theory in their own right, to the situation of a mother bird attempting to determine her optimum clutch size.38 The strategy proposed is for her to lay one more egg than she "thinks" likely to be the true optimum. If there is sufficient food supply, she can raise all the children. "If not, she can cut her losses." She would do this by feeding the runt of the litter last, making sure that it got less than it required so it would die off, leaving enough food for the others. Then she is only out her "initial investment of egg yolk or equivalent."

Sahlins, the Chicago anthropologist who is perhaps the most prominent individual proponent of this cultural critique of sociobiology, points out that this focus on optimization or maximization stands in direct contrast to the fundamental opportunism of classical natural selection theory.39 He suggests that the likely source of this shift is the marketplace ideology, which gives such prominence to this notion of optimization, that is, the most for the least.

In fact, a great deal of the genetic strategy outlined by Dawkins can be read as straightforward cost-benefit analysis. The bird seeking to "optimize" her clutch size might also face the challenge of assuring that her mate accepts his share of responsibility in the raising of the young when they do arrive. One possible strategy would be to spurn the male's amorous advances until the nest is built, on the theory that having invested in the nest building, the male will have too much at stake to abandon his family for new prospects.

Although this line of reasoning appealed to fellow sociobiologist Robert Trivers, Dawkins challenges it. The challenge, however, is based on economics, not on biology. "This is fallacious economics,"40 Dawkins charges. The prudent business person "should always ask whether it would pay him in the future, to cut his losses, and abandon the project now, even though he has already invested heavily in it."41 It is no wonder that we have to remind ourselves sometimes that it is biology, and not economics, that we are reading. "After listening to the discussions of the Dahlem workshop on Animal and Human Mind for a couple of days, American sociologist Henry Gleitman asked whether all biologists were economists."42 It is certainly impossible to imagine sociobiology shorn of the outlook and apparatus of economics.

So integral to the central theses of sociobiology is this perspective of economics that it is difficult to refute the charges of people like Sahlins and the Sociobiology Study Group when they contend that economics contributes to the substance, and not simply to the articulation, of sociobiology. So the Study Group contends that sociobiologists like Wilson impose human institutions, especially those of the free market economic system, on animals. "Then, having imposed human traits upon animals by metaphor, he rederives the human institution as a special case of the more general phenomenon 'discovered' in nature."43 This is how radical selfishness is "discovered" in nature. The discovery is actually imposed from the assumptions of the prevailing economic culture. Or, as Sahlins puts it: where Hobbes reduced human beings to an animal level and helped provide the rationale for the modern free-for-all view of economics, whereby "man was seen as a wolf to man," sociobiology extends this assumption to the whole animal kingdom, rendering animals as conniving and calculating as robber barons or single-minded executives (remember Dawkins' "calculating" birds) so that "the wolf is a man to other wolves."44

Contrary to the usual understanding that sees the 
pure economic ideal of modern business 
as a reflection of the "law of the jungle," the "law of the jungle" 
might well be more a reflection of modern business ideals.

Therefore, contrary to the usual understanding that sees the pure economic ideal of modern business as a reflection of the "law of the jungle," the "law of the jungle" might well be more a reflection of modern business ideals. To recognize this "contribution" of economics to sociobiology is not to deny that nature includes viciousness and selfish behavior. There is no need to romanticize natural processes. But the uncompromising insistence that nature represents nothing but this, so that every hint of altruism must be explained away, must be challenged. How much of that picture truly reflects what goes on in the natural order, and how much of it reflects the imposition on that order of this particular reading of life developed in modern economics?

The Legacy of the Opposition to Altruism

The explicit cost-benefit calculations of animal behavior presented by sociobiologists are only a more detailed version of the fundamental orientation of modern biology generally. "Evolution is basically a selfish doctrine, preaching that the individual that maximizes its own welfare and reproduction relative to others will gain the selective edgeóby leaving more descendants who, themselves, carry the same behavioral traits."45

The parallel with the modern economic vision is unmistakable, but the dynamics of the parallel are even more revealing. I have noticed the suggestion that this modern economic reading crept in through the influence of social Darwinism. Thus Sahlins concludes that "Darwinism, at first appropriated to society as 'social Darwinism,' has returned to biology as a genetic capitalism."46 On this reading, Darwin's biological vision was applied to human society through "social Darwinism" and then, in turn, this free enterprise social vision was read back into nature with the result that, as Sahlins suggests, the wolf comes to be seen in light of the acquisitive behavior associated with the aggressive human entrepreneur. It may be, however, that in spite of the sharpness of Sahlins' attack on the genetic capitalism developed by sociobiology, his historical reading of Darwinism itself is really too conservative.

At the very least, there is a reciprocal relationship between natural and social Darwinism in their origins, and not simply in their long-term development. "The social Darwinian description of nature, with its emphasis on the survival of the fittest and a claw-and-fang mode of natural selection, precisely reflected the relations that prevailed in the 19th century marketplace. The fit is almost perfect, and it is hard to say whether natural Darwinism produced social Darwinism or the very reverse."47 Thus it is not the case that natural Darwinism developed as a biological theory in pristine isolation, and then received social application. The theory itself reflects the outlook of the age in which it developed.

Ashley Montagu points out that though Darwin himself was by nature a gentle person, he grew up in a world torn by repeated warfare, with the industrial revolution at its height in England and well under way elsewhere.48 This climate provided the perspective from which Darwin viewed nature. "It was not that the human struggle was seen as a part of the struggle of nature, but rather that nature was interpreted in terms of the struggle for existence of men living and attempting to live in a ruthless industrial society in which the fittest alone survive."49 Thus the origins and development of Darwinism are, in fact, the reverse of what they are generally taken to be. Rather than representing a natural biological theory applied to human society, the theory itself, in its natural as well as its social versions, reflects the way human life appeared in the first half of the 19th century.50

It is not the case that natural Darwinism developed 
as a biological theory in pristine isolation, 
and then received social application. 
The theory itself reflects the outlook of the age in which it developed.

Evidence of the origin of Darwin's theory in human circumstances is found in his starting point in Malthusian speculations about the fate of human populations occupying an industrial society.51 This assumed background becomes even more specified, however, when account is taken of the significance of Adam Smith, the patriarch of modern free market economics, to Darwin. Smith's notion of individuals pursuing their own interests somehow contributing to overall prosperity and harmony through an invisible hand becomes, in Darwin, individual random mutations resulting in new species through the invisible agency of natural selection.52

But more important than this theoretical parallel is the parallel in fundamental vision. Darwin accepts Smith's assumption of the primacy of the individual and its corollary, that the whole is simply the sum of the parts. Life builds up from individual units to form aggregates. There is no wider unity beyond this aggregation itself. That not only a biologist, but one who developed what is almost certainly the most influential organic vision of life ever known, could disown this requisite recognition of the intimate interrelatedness of life in preference for a mechanistic individualism demands explanation. None is more obvious than the direct acceptance of the laissez-faire economic vision that was molding the fabric of his own society. It is hardly an exaggeration then, when Stephen J. Gould suggests that "Darwin grafted Adam Smith upon nature to establish his theory of natural selection."53 It is not surprising, therefore, that sociobiology should corroborate this origin by refining the Darwinian direction in explicit economic cost-benefit calculations. That this reflects an adequate understanding of either the natural or the human order, however, is another question.

 The Implausibility of Non-Natural Altruism

The disassociation of altruism from nature does not entail the total abandonment of altruism. On the contrary, this natural ban can be accompanied by a plea for, and an expectation of, full blown moral altruism.

 The Unnaturalness of Altruism

 Even though it is altruism itself that is the target of sociobiology, and not simply the biological anomaly of reproductive altruism, according to some critics, this extravagance could be alleviated if only sociobiologists would recognize the uniquely human quality of altruism.

 The uneasiness with the "atmosphere" of sociobiology can, in my view, be reduced to one central question: sociobiology does not take notice of the fact that manóand only manócan identify with any conspecific and feel sympathy with him; and that this can be a source of emotions that cannot be explained or even dealt with within a system of genetic cost-benefit relations.54

 If sociobiologists would only recognize the distinctiveness of altruism as a capacity peculiar to human beings, the assault on natural altruism would not be particularly significant, because genuine altruism is really culturalónot biological. "The conclusion seems to me inevitable that man can have achieved his social-insect-like degree of complex social interactions only through his social and cultural evolution, through the historical selection and cumulation of educational systems, intragroup sanctions, supernatural (superpersonal, superfamilial) purposes, etc."55

On the surface, social insects and human beings both seem to act with a significant degree of altruism. Beneath the surface, however, it becomes evident that the apparent altruism of insects is genetically programmed. Human beings are unique in having developed altruism as a cultural phenomenon.

An immediate difficulty with this neat division between humans and other animals is that the more the distinctiveness of the human is emphasized, the more the organic unity of the evolutionary process appears to be threatened. The nature of biological science itself is at stake in this type of contrast. This might help to account for the ambiguity among sociobiologists over this matter of human distinctiveness. Even within the writings of a single sociobiologist, the ambiguity is apparent. In what has become the Bible of sociobiology, Wilson contends that sharing is rare among non-human primates, with rudimentary forms occurring in chimpanzees and perhaps in a few Old World monkeys and apes. "But in man it is one of the strongest social traits, reaching levels that match the intense trophallactic exchanges of termites and ants. As a result, only man has an economy."56

However, we seem to have arrived at a complete repudiation 
of the solemn assurance of the preface: 
"We are... robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve 
theselfish molecules known as genes."

But elsewhere, Wilson explicitly denies that economics is peculiarly human. "The point is that human economics is not really general economics, but rather the description of economic behavior in one mammalian species with a limited range of the biological state variables."57 Such explicit self-contradiction, added to the basic ambiguity over biological and everyday meanings of altruism, makes the sociobiological position on the naturalness of altruism even more difficult to pin down. Are human beings peculiar in their capacity for sharing, and so able to enter into the exchanges that constitute economics in a way that other species cannot approximate, or is human economics only one version of a more general phenomenon? The salient issue, of course, is the distinctiveness or commonality of human altruism.

Even if this ambivalence can be overcome, it is not clear which direction would constitute the preferred resolution. Recognition of the distinctiveness of the human might well silence those critics of sociobiology who perceive its threat to consist in subjecting the human to biological reductionism. However, it will hardly answer the concerns of those who contend that the fundamental direction of sociobiology, and indeed of modern biology generally, is determined by a particular vision derived from the modern understanding of the human fabricated under the influence of laissez-faire economic culture.

Indeed, from the perspective of this concern, any emphasis on the distinctiveness of the human, far from representing a concession in the reductionistic tendencies of sociobiology, may really only represent a further expression of the self-assertion taken over from the modern economic managerial mandate. At the end of Dawkin's book, which is dedicated to extolling the absolute primacy and authority of selfish genes, we are confronted with the concept of the "meme"58 (an abbreviation of the Greek mimeme, "imitation," to achieve a parallel to "gene"), as a term for units of cultural evolution. This can appear to be an abrupt modification of the thesis affirming the determinative significance of genes. However, when we are told that even these memes are at our disposal, we seem to have arrived at a complete repudiation of the solemn assurance of the preface: "We are survival machinesórobot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."59

Now we are assured that we can leave all this evolutionary legacy behind. "We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing a pure, disinterested altruismósomething that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world."60 The prospects for such an unprecedented phenomenon do not appear great. However, of more immediate consequence for this whole position is the high cost at which even this prospect is achieved óthe apparent repudiation of the central conviction of the position itself, that genes are the determinative agents of life.

 The Artificiality of This Unnaturalness

In spite of the apparently total about-face represented by this assurance that "we are built as gene machines and nurtured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators,"61 this does not necessarily mean a complete repudiation of the detailed delineation of genetic strategies. It can rather entail drawing on the knowledge of these strategies as the means for the rebellion against them. So, as Peter Singer observes, "the better we understand evolution, the better we can outfox it."62 Then rather than a direct repudiation of the selfish gene reading of life, the promotion of an unprecedented altruism requires precisely this knowledge of the endemic selfishness at the heart of nature as a measure of the odds against which any prospect for genuine altruism must contend.

Human beings are unique in having developed altruism as a cultural phenomenon.

As a revolt, the suggestion of an unprecedented altruism is more credible than it would be as a direct repudiation of the genetic theory that led up to the reversal. The odds may still be very high against genuine altruism, but at least these odds are recognized. It is not as if sociobiologists like Dawkins are saying "forget the genetic base, and act altruistically." The point is rather that if there is going to be genuine altruistic behavior, it is going to have to be in defiance of the predilection for selfishness characteristic of the genetic base. Whether this actually harmonizes the major premise that we are born survival machines for selfishly replicating genes with the conclusion that we have the power to rebel against these same genes, however, is another matter.

The crucial question is: is this reversal itself independent of any genetic base? "What could it mean to transcend our genes, turn against them, or be freed from slavery to themóparticularly since the organism that turns against [them] is thoroughly dependent on genetic evolution?"63 Conversely, if the fundamental thrust of life is as uncompromisingly selfish as Dawkins claims, how does the vision of altruism ever arise? "For what reason does Dawkins wish 'to build a society in which individuals co-operate generously and unselfishly towards a common good', if it is true that such a desire is in contradiction to his inborn human nature?"64 The chasm remains between a supposedly inescapable genetic endowment and an equally independent human initiative, lending credence to R.W. Burhoe's characterization of Dawkins' conclusion as offering "an admittedly lame hope for any explanation of human altruism."65 The unrelenting insistence on the utterly selfish orientation of the most formative life forces is bound to render arbitrary any account of altruism from within this kind of sociobiological perspective.

The only plausible source of Dawkins' abrupt interest in altruism in the final chapter of a book dedicated to its extermination is the same cultural milieu that nurtured that very drive to extinguish every spark of altruism from the natural order. Paradoxical though this may appear at first sight, on reflection it can be seen to be so perfectly consistent that we might wonder why the apparent reversal of the final chapter seemed so surprising.

The appeal to a heroic, unnatural altruism is completely consistent with modern western self-centeredness, and can very readily accompany a reading of the natural order as genetically programmed for selfishness. The only device that is needed to effect this otherwise unlikely amalgam is one that has developed and flourished in the self-centered managerial mentality of the modern West, the fact/value dichotomy. The genetic explanations then represent a factual account of the order of nature, in contrast to which the call to altruism represents a volitional value judgment that we are free to make, and can only make, independently of the factual situation.

The only plausible source of Dawkins' abrupt interest in altruism 
in the final chapter of a book dedicated to its extermination is the same cultural milieu that nurtured that very drive to 
extinguish every spark of altruism from the natural order.

Indeed, this promotion of non-natural altruism illustrates not only the perspective of the fact/value dichotomy, but also a very prominent reading of that dichotomy, focusing on what has become known as "the naturalistic fallacy." The essence of this fallacy is the attempt to derive what "ought to be" from an examination of "what is." To avoid the naturalistic fallacy, then, in this context, we must recognize that "sociobiology can not be used to make value judgments on what an organism 'should' do."66 This provides an opening to say that just because the genetic predisposition favors the unflinching pursuit of self-interest does not mean that the pursuit of that self-interest is right. The value of that direction is a question beyond establishing that that is the actual situation.

 We have seen that this supposedly factual account of the natural order really reflects the "values" of modern economic self-interest applied to nature. The total selfishness of natural processes is read into at least as much as it is read out of the biological evidence, as the extreme contortions required to abolish every hint of altruism demonstrate. But if the supposedly factual descriptions of nature involve valuational perspectives, as the recognition of the determinative significance of the economic outlook for sociobiology suggests, should we not expect that the reverse will also hold? Then valuation can be expected to have some reference to the way things are seen to be.

We might formulate this expectation as a counter-fallacy. Just as it is fallacious to seek to derive any kind of moral prescription from a purely factual description, so too it must surely be tenuous to the point of absurdity to think that we can affirm values in complete disregard of the way things are. We might call this "the valuational fallacy." But absurd though it may be, this fallacy represents a bed-rock assumption in the modern western mentality. The natural order awaits our manipulation, pure raw material for the imposition of our designs. Thus the plea for a totally unnatural altruism in defiance of the totally selfish determinations of the natural order is not finally a repudiation of the modern self-centered perspective, but a further instance of it. It is our prerogative to assert whatever values we choose over this alien realm of nature.

The Natural Basis of Non-Natural Altruism

Flattering though the confinement of altruism to our species might be, it is ultimately self-defeating because it requires a fundamental gulf between biological and cultural evolution. The idea that something could emerge at the cultural level that not only does not draw on the biological base, but actually stands in fundamental contradiction to it, is an incredible doctrine from the point of view of biology itself. It is even tenuous from a humanistic perspective, precisely because it is so unequivocally anthropocentric.

No doubt, there is a uniqueness to human altruism. It is entirely plausible that it involves a capacity for identifying with the plight of others which is not matched in other species.67 But to regard this as totally discontinuous with the behavior of animals and birds is much more readily attributable to the anthropocentric perspective of modernity than to generalization from observations of nature. Parental care, alarm calls, and adoption of orphaned animals all suggest approximations to what we know as altruism in the human sphere. The rejection of this link is indicative of theoretical requirements of a vision which cannot countenance this possibility.

The vision of cardinal self-interest has no place for what Laurence Thomas calls "transparent" love.68 In contrast to opaque love, which depends on the object which elicits it, transparent love, in Thomas' usage, is a love which is independent of the qualities of the object of the love. The contrast is parallel to the one Christian theologians draw between eros as the love of attraction and agape as the care and concern that may be lavished on the most undeserving recipient.

Sociobiology views parenthood as a matter of genetic calculation. 
In contrast, Thomas sees it more generally as an instance 
of transparent love, and, as such, it represents 
a dominant element of biological reality.

 Sociobiology views parenthood as a matter of genetic calculation. In contrast, Thomas sees it more generally as an instance of transparent love, and, as such, it represents a dominant element of biological reality. "Now, may we not suppose that [much of the] continuum comes in the wake of the capacity for parental love and, therefore, that if human beings (or, for that matter, any creatures) are biologically endowed with the former capacity, then they are biologically endowed with the latter, unless the latter is specifically selected against?"69 This entirely plausible reading represents the only basis for any serious prospect for genuine altruism. Far from an anomaly invented by humans, human altruism rather represents a refinement of a tendency evident to some extent in the wider natural order.

The arbitrariness of the attempt to salvage altruism as an invention of human culture is not relieved by attributing a special role in this cultural evolution to religious sensibility. No doubt, just as the human capacity for imaginative identification gives human altruism a scope that distinguishes it from approximations in animal behavior, it is also true that, as R.W. Burhoe notes, religion has played a particular role in providing motivation and rationale for serious altruism.70 To attribute altruism to religion as a cultural phenomenon, however, would only magnify the inadequacy of the cultural explanation as such. For not only is this still subject to the suspect anthropocentrism of the modern outlook, but it also implies a theological perspective that amounts to what might be called an inverse deism.

While deism locates God back at the beginning as a designer who set the universe in motion and sent it on its largely independent way, the confinement of altruism to our own species, and the particular identification of it with religious sensibility, has the effect of implying that God, understood along altruistic lines as in Christian theology, is located almost exclusively on this end of the process. The difficulty with this is that from within the religious perspective itself, God must be seen to encompass the whole process, past, present, and future. If God is characterized by agape, by transparent love, as the Christian gospel claims, then that reality must be expected to permeate life, rather than being confined to a latter day development peculiar to our own species. And the evidence for this is at least as compelling as the evidence for unmitigated selfishness apart from the supposed altruistic breakthrough of our own species.

....the confinement of altruism to our own species
 has the effect of implying that God is located 
almost exclusively on this end of the process.

Further, in both cases, what is involved is not simply a matter of evidence but of a formative vision of life through which the evidence is read, and, as we have seen, in the interests of which the evidence may well be contorted or ignored.

It would represent a considerable advance if even this were to be recognized, so that the aura of pure scientific factuality might be dispelled and the importance of fundamental visions appreciated. Then, rather than assuming that the depiction of endemic selfishness is pure scientific description and that any hint of authentic altruism is simply religious romanticism, there might be some hope of recognizing the comprehensive visions of life that are at stake, and perhaps even opening up the contrary possibility that it is this so-called scientific account of altruism that is romantic, in expecting altruism to materialize out of thin air in utter defiance of a diametrically opposed selfish genetic base.

The prospects for such recognition, however, are not good. The assumption of selfishness is so pervasive and pivotal in the modern outlook that it represents a serious breach of conventional wisdom to contend that there might be something natural about altruism. Sociobiology itself deserves some of the credit for confirming and refining this perspective. In spite of its own indebtedness to this cardinal modern direction in general, and to its economic instantiation in particular, it has, in turn, provided an aura of scientific respectability to this vision of life. It thus not only reflects this wider cultural influence, rather than simply constituting a direct factual reading of natural phenomenon, but also contributes to the promotion of this vision with its requisite anticipation of selfishness and corresponding dismissal of any serious expectation of altruism in others or motivation for it in ourselves. The result can only serve to discourage any prospects for altruism that people might entertain. "It can only mean that their feeble efforts to behave more decently are futile, that their condition will amount to the same whatever they do, that their own and other people's apparently more decent feelings are false and hypocritical."71 Thus, in contrast to the neutral position that it claims to represent, sociobiology not only draws on a particular cultural era for its primary inspiration, but also enforces that vision through the very aura of neutrality that it enjoys as science.

If God is characterized by agape, by transparent love, 
then that reality must be expected to permeate life, 
rather than being confined to a latter day 
development peculiar to our own species.

The point of this conclusion is not to reject the scientific ideal of factuality. Indeed, this critique of sociobiology presupposes that ideal. The problem is precisely that sociobiology does not recognize the apparent altruism that exists in the natural order. How different modern life, and not simply biological science, might be if Darwin had not been consumed by the vision of competition, and had been able to acknowledge the cooperation that is also evident in the natural order!72 How different our present prospects might be, if sociobiologists were to relinquish their obsession with selfishness and give sufficient scope to the cooperation and apparent altruism that they themselves are constrained to mention! A more balanced agenda in sociobiology might even penetrate the omnipresent contemporary commercial culture, whence it derives its present perspective, and at least prompt some questioning of this incessantly insistent endorsement of the self-centered vision of life.



I wish to record my gratitude to my colleague in Biology, Jean-Guy Godin, for providing books from his own library, to Anne Ward and Ruth Miller of the Ralph Pickard Bell Library for acquiring other books and articles through interlibrary loan with their characteristic efficiency, and to our department secretary, Robin Hamilton.


1Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (London: Granada, A Paladin Book, 1978), p. 74, hereafter cited as SG.

2Dawkins, SG, pp. 197 ff.

3Ibid., p. 199.

4Ibid., p. 8.

5E.O. Wilson, Sociobiology, The New Synthesis (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975), p. 3.

6Ibid., p. 362.

7Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 6th edition (London: John Murray, 1888), p. 228.

8V.C. Wynne-Edwards. Evolution through Group Selection (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1986), p. 357.

9Ibid., p. 345.

10W.D. Hamilton, "The Genetical Theory of Social Behaviour," The Journal of Theoretical Biology, 7 (1964), Part I, 1-16, Part II, 17-32.

11Dawkins, SG, p. 7.

12Ibid., p. 6.

13Ibid., p. 21.

14Ibid., "Preface," x.

15Wilson, Sociobiology, op.cit., p. 120.

16Sociobiology Study Group, "SociobiologyóA New Biological Determinism," in The Ann Arbor Science for the People Editorial Collective, ed., Biology as a Social Weapon (Minneapolis: Burgers Publishing Co., 1977), p. 145.

17Dawkins, SG, p. 109.

18D.D. Barash, Sociobiology and Behaviour (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1977), pp. 312 f.

19Dawkins, SG, p. 187.

20Georg Breuer, Sociobiology and the Human Dimension (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 59.

21Dawkins, SG, p. 194.

22Brian C.R. Bertram, "Problems with Altruism," in King's College Sociobiology Group, Cambridge, ed., Current Problems in Sociobiology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 256.

23Wilson, Sociobiology, op.cit., p. 106.

24Michael Ruse, "The Morality of the Gene," The Monist, 67 (1984), 170.

25Dawkins, SG, pp. 182 ff.

26Wilson, Sociobiology, op.cit., p. 120.

27Philip Hefner, "Sociobiology, Ethics and Theology," Zygon, 19/2 (1984), 194.

28Dawkins, SG, p. 38.

29Michael Ruse, "The Morality of the Gene," op.cit., p. 170.

30Michael Ruse, Sociobiology: Sense or Nonsense?, (Dodrecht, Holland: Reidel Publishing Co., 1979), p. 198.

31Marshall Sahlins, The Use and Abuse of Biology: An Anthropological Critique of Sociobiology (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1976), p. 20.

32Mary Midgley, "Gene-Juggling," Philosophy, 54 (1979), 444.

33M.T. Ghiselin, The Economy of Nature and the Evolution of Sex (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 247.

34D.D. Barash, The Whispering Within (London: Penguin, 1979), pp. 167 f.

35E.O. Wilson, On Human Nature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 165.

36Mary Midgley, Evolution as a Religion (London, New York: Methuen, 1985), pp. 126 f.

37Sahlins, The Use and Abuse of Biology, op.cit., p. 101.

38Dawkins, SG, p. 140.

 39Sahlins, The Use and Abuse of Biology, op.cit., p. 78.

 40Dawkins, SG, p. 162.


42Georg Breuer, Sociobiology and the Human Dimesion, op. cit., p. 257.<P7MJ247>

43Sociobiology Study Group, "SociobiologyóA New Biological Determination," op.cit., p. 141.

44Sahlins, The Use and Abuse of Biology, op.cit., p. 99.

45Stephen T. Emlen, "Ecological Determinism and Sociobiology," in George W. Barlow and James Silverberg, eds., Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture?, AAAS Selected Symposium (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1980), p. 125.

46Sahlins, The Use and Abuse of Biology, op.cit., p. 72.

47Murray Bookchin, "Ecology, Society and the Myth of Biological Determinism," in The Ann Arbor Science for the People Editorial Collective, ed., Biology as a Social Weapon, op.cit., p. 124.

48Ashley Montagu, Darwin: Competition and Cooperation (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1973 (1952)), pp. 18 f.

 49Ibid., p. 28.

50Ibid., p. 32.

51Ibid., p. 47.

52Silvan S. Schweber, "The Origin of the Origin Revisited," Journal of the History of Biology, 10/2 (1977), 280.

53Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin (New York: Norton, 1977), p. 100.

54Georg Breuer, Sociobiology and the Human Dimension, op.cit., p. 259.

 55Donald T. Campbell, "On the Genetics of Altruism and the Counterhedonic Components in Human Culture," in Lauren WispÈ, ed., Altruism, Sympathy and Helping (New York: Academic Press, 1978), p. 51.

56Wilson, Sociobiology, op.cit., p. 551.

57Wilson, "Biology and the Social Sciences," Daedalus, 106 (1977).

58Dawkins, SG, p. 206.

59Ibid., "Preface," x.

60Ibid., p. 215.


62Peter Singer, "Ethics and Sociobiology," Zygon, 19/2 (1984), 155.

63Philip Hefner, "Sociobiology, Ethics and Theology," op.cit., 198.

64Georg Breuer, Sociobiology and the Human Dimension, op.cit., p. 263.

65Ralph Wendell Burhoe, "Religion's Role in Human Evolution: The Missing Link Between Ape-Man's Selfish Genes and Civilized Altruism," Zygon, 14/2 (1979), 141.

66Stephen T. Emlen, "Ecological Determinism and Sociobiology," op.cit., p. 127.

67Georg Breuer, Sociobiology and the Human Dimension, op.cit., pp. 137 f.

68Laurence Thomas, "Love and Morality: The Possibility of Altruism," in James H. Fetzer, Sociobiology and Epistemology (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Pub. Co., 1985), pp. 120 f.

69Ibid., pp. 121 f.

70R.W. Burhoe, "Religion's Role in Human Evolution," op.cit., pp. 149 ff.

71Mary Midgley, "Gene-Juggling," op.cit., 455 f.

72Ashley Montagu, Darwin: Competition and Cooperation, op.cit., p. 100.