Last night I finished reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It was very revealing and it changed a bit my perspective on life, only just a bit(one of the revolutionary moments was when I read On the origin of the species, by you know who: Ch. Darwin).
Ok, so the perspective that got changed was: I always expected that people were good in their nature, not stained by some primeval sin(as some religions might tell you ).
As I was reading it appeared that some of the strategies employed by people to live in this world might seem nice, and they are beautiful behaviors sometimes, but put in the perspective of a replicator which only tends to multiply in the gene pool and we can see ourselves only as vehicles. Now, all our behaviors are designed, and selected to maximize the replicators success in multiplying. So, in our time it might seem that being nice to one another gives us some advantages, but only think of the advantages it gives to the replicator. We all know the examples of altruism between kin or people sharing the same environment. Dawkins reintroduces the idea of an Evolutionary Stable Strategy(ESS- Maynard-Smith) to exemplify those strategies which are best adapted to the environment and give the more advantages to the replicator. After all, being nice is advantageous to us, because we can build trust to obtain benefits which in turn can be put as an opportunity to have better conditions for life, or at least to the point of the biggest importance to the replicator: our reproductive period when we pass on the replicator.
Of course human nature is more complex and sometimes it might seem a bit brutal to try to think of some altruistic behaviors only as a product of our selfish gene, but other times it might shed some understanding on other behaviors like, we do we sometimes not help those not around us. After all, it seems to me we do process some kind of discrimination regarding altruistic behavior between our in-group, kin, and the out-grup - “the others”.
In a more optimistic view I think if we only could use the information available to us to think, and view all the other people as some kind of relative with which we share a certain amount of genes we could see a lot more altruistic behaviors.
That’s only a hope for the nearest future. After all, although those who know me might not consider me an optimist I think optimistically about the future if we choose to use the knowledge and not let ourselves be used by it(as opposed to all the information of dubious provenience which circles around).