The Monkey Business of Pure Altruism

I’ve been reflecting on how Bill and Melinda Gates resemble a pair of monkeys. Earlier this month, the Lasker Awards were announced. The prestigious prize, known as the “American Nobel,” is given annually to a few extraordinary biomedical scientists. A Lasker for public service is also usually awarded—this year to the Gateses.
Great move. They’ve given vast sums of money to medical research and have galvanized other billionaires into doing the same. They’ve targeted research about diseases that bring incalculable misery to the developing world. All with great wisdom.
Philosophers have long debated whether truly selfless altruism is possible. Some argue that pure altruism can occur, while others proclaim the jaundiced sound bite, “Scratch an altruist and a hypocrite bleeds.”
After all, altruism can be immensely fulfilling, and neuroimaging studies show that altruistic acts activate reward centers of the brain. Altruism also can enhance a giver’s reputation and prompt reciprocal gifts. And costly displays of prowess, evolutionary biologists have demonstrated, can serve to attract mates—”If I can afford to grow these gigantic antlers, I must have some studly genes.” Some scientists speculate that altruism evolved as a costly signal meant to impress prospective mates.
[read more]

The Monkey Business of Pure Altruism

I’ve been reflecting on how Bill and Melinda Gates resemble a pair of monkeys. Earlier this month, the Lasker Awards were announced. The prestigious prize, known as the “American Nobel,” is given annually to a few extraordinary biomedical scientists. A Lasker for public service is also usually awarded—this year to the Gateses.

Great move. They’ve given vast sums of money to medical research and have galvanized other billionaires into doing the same. They’ve targeted research about diseases that bring incalculable misery to the developing world. All with great wisdom.

Philosophers have long debated whether truly selfless altruism is possible. Some argue that pure altruism can occur, while others proclaim the jaundiced sound bite, “Scratch an altruist and a hypocrite bleeds.”

After all, altruism can be immensely fulfilling, and neuroimaging studies show that altruistic acts activate reward centers of the brain. Altruism also can enhance a giver’s reputation and prompt reciprocal gifts. And costly displays of prowess, evolutionary biologists have demonstrated, can serve to attract mates—”If I can afford to grow these gigantic antlers, I must have some studly genes.” Some scientists speculate that altruism evolved as a costly signal meant to impress prospective mates.

[read more]

shared 10 months ago, with 104 notes


  1. primateparty reblogged this from anthrocentric
  2. holdingontoclarity reblogged this from snapbutterfly
  3. kaijuutattoo reblogged this from koryos
  4. pongologist reblogged this from anthrocentric
  5. scribeling reblogged this from koryos
  6. nobodysaiditwasgoingtobeeasy reblogged this from carryonmywaywardstirrup
  7. rosierugosa reblogged this from koryos
  8. cempa-zuchitl reblogged this from theveganescapist
  9. theveganescapist reblogged this from anthrocentric
  10. quite-altruistic-beings reblogged this from anthrocentric
  11. snapbutterfly reblogged this from koryos
  12. hajikelist reblogged this from koryos
  13. teuthidtransmitter reblogged this from saxifraga-x-urbium
  14. saxifraga-x-urbium reblogged this from kissing-monsters and added:
    I basically did a blog post about this recently, but with less neuroscience and more hectoring, because being lectured...
  15. spaceadmiraldee reblogged this from theolduvaigorge
  16. kdbird reblogged this from theolduvaigorge
  17. booksmakeme reblogged this from koryos
  18. meltymole reblogged this from koryos
  19. postorbitalbar reblogged this from anthrocentric
  20. trytocare reblogged this from koryos
  21. carryonmywaywardstirrup reblogged this from koryos