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Altruism Hard Wired In the Brain?

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"The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable."


If this is true than being self-interested would seem to make inherent biology a contradiction. Any one have an opinion of (if this were true) how it would affect Rand's arguments concerning the nature of humans?

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I couldn't get the link to work, but I would have to assume that the volunteers weren't starving to death while at the same time being forced to give their only food to someone else. The volunteers were probably just being charitable, which normally makes people feel good. Benevolence is good like that.

After hurricane Katrina, I volunteered at the Astrodome. I did so because I felt the need to so something rather than just sit there. I did it for me. It made me feel better. Get it?

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While I agree with K-Mac, I don't know how the brain "lighting up", or activity in pleasure centers, and so on has any significance. How do such things imply hard-wiring? I just don't understand the argument. There's obviously some premise I'm missing.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Altruism is a view of morality, a philosophical stance.

Replacing the word empathy with it and then proceeding to say that altruism is innate in humans is idiotic on the part of whomever came up with the idea.

If a scientist wants to prove that any type of knowledge (let alone something as abstract as philosophy) is innate, they should prove it with newborns who are quoting Marx (Or what I suspect is these people's favorite, Jesus) on their way out of the womb. I don't see any other way.

As for empathy being part of our nature, that is possible, though this particular study is no evidence of that. (judging by what you quote, the link ain't working) There could be any number of reasons why people had emotional reactions while connecting with another human being (including dirty dirty sexual thoughts), besides having been born in full agreement with these people's arbitrarily chosen imaginary deity.

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These kinds of studies are often very misleading. Don't forget that humans have free will. For this reason, we aren't "hard wired" to perform any action beyond those physiological ones that keep us alive, like our hearts beating, lungs expanding and contracting, etc. We can, of course, be predisposed to performing a certain action. For example, an individual could have an imbalance of hunger hormones, which make him feel more hungry than usual, even though his body does not actually need the extra food. This individual's body will urge him to eat more, but the (strong-minded) individual can overcome these urges and choose to act in any way that he likes. While doing so may be difficult, it is certainly possible and something that must be done if one wants to live properly.

The same goes for any sort of "hard wiring" for altruism. Like Kelly pointed out, most people consider altruism to be just helping others out. In the philosophical sense, however, it means that you put others' interests consistently above your own, even if this leads to your destruction. Biologically, altruistic behavior makes no sense for humans (or any other organism).

Edited by Mimpy
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