Does It Make Any Sense to Be Nice–What Evolution Says?
Science & Tech / /
Can contemporary science solve Darwin’s puzzle of kindness and explain is it worth being kind?
Even though it doesn’t seem, selflessness and kindness are widespread among both animals and humans. Many people perform acts of kindness such as volunteering, giving blood or donating to charity and they feel significantly happier because of that. On the other side, in the animal world, many species perform kindness by not acting harmfully violent in conflict situations. A typical example include male fiddler crabs fighting over a burrow but don’t damage each other’s bodies with their pincers.
From our own experience can be concluded that the benefits coming from receiving kindness are numerous, but motivations for performing a kindness act is much less obvious. If we observe the existence of altruism and kindness more detailed, it can be said that it actually seems to contradict Darwin’s theory of evolution. He’s theory is based on a competitive process of natural selection in which only the strongest survive. For example, the selfless behavior of sterile ants that are protecting their colonies from predators, is a problem that Darwin himself considered fatal and insuperable to his theory.
So how could kindness evolved and was not eliminated by natural selection?
Ever since the time of Darwin up to the 1960s, scientists were trying to explain the evolution of kindness by setting the hypothesis that individuals act cooperatively for the good of their group, at the same time irrespective of their personal loss. This “group selection theory” was the only theory that made sense in explaining this phenomenon for many decades, but it is now taken with a touch of skepticism.
The question, which is now being introduced is how could cooperative populations, which allegedly survived better than competitive populations, have evolved in the first place?
Part of the answer is provided by the more recent selfish gene theory, widely known through Dawkins’s bestselling book, according to which:
natural selection favors kindness to our close relatives, who look similar to us and share our genes. Helping a relative is a way of passing on copies of our own genes, and it benefits the helper in proportion to how related he or she is to the recipient.
But this is not enough to explain kindness toward unrelated individuals, so it is needed another theory. At this point comes the reciprocal altruism theory, which presents the idea of “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine,” in many cases seen as a win-win situation. If an individual that doesn’t share our gene is kind to us, he/she thereby establish a relationship of repeated cooperation benefiting both. Actually, certain social emotions such as gratitude, guilt or sympathy may have evolved in order to detect and avoid cheating and thereby encourage relationships of reciprocity—crucial in human evolution.
source: Popular science