Random acts of kindness, and other things.

3/25/2010 06:30:00 pm

My usual disclaimer: the content of this post is verging on deep and meaningful. Reader discretion is advised, though not actively encouraged (as the exercise of discretion often results in a life sorely lacking in interest). Here we go…

From an evolutionary perspective, one of the most difficult things to explain biologically (when it comes to survival of the fittest) is altruism. Many suppose that in order to survive, and perpetuate the gene pool, selfishness is actually a necessity. To explain that further, from a purely evolutionary stand-point, the point itself it reproduction. In order to be successful genetically, you only need to live long enough to reproduce. Production of offspring is key to ensuring the continuation of your genetic heritage. The purpose of the individual is perpetuation of the individual, not the species.

So then, disregarding the fact that we, and many others, are herd animals and survival depends on our herd mentality, selfish individuals should be more successfully genetically. If there’s only one banana and you eat the banana, then you’ll be full of yummy banana (it’s a really big banana, I guess) and you’ll be strong and healthy etc. If you share the banana with your 3 friends, then you only get a tiny little piece of banana, and you’ll be hungry and die…etc…or something.

The problem with altruism is that it doesn’t benefit the individual. So they say anyway. I disagree for a number of reasons because, like I said, we are a herd…a flock…a flock of little woolly sheep. By sharing the banana on a cold sad miserable day, you increase your chances of being shared with on another cold sad miserable day. In theory, anyway.

Here’s another thing: I firmly believe that altruism is beneficial because it leaves a warm fuzzy feeling in the tummy. And everyone knows, you know…from a science genetic hoo haa perspective, that a warm fuzzy feeling in the tummy surely equates to happy eggs (because they’re being incubated like teapots in cosies), and happy sperms (because they’re being cooled as a result of the heat transference that must occur to make the tummy warm). Therefore, I don’t believe that the existence of altruism truly poses a problem for evolutionary biology, but that's an argument for another forum, and not really the point of my story.

The point here is actually another story. A much shorter one indeed.

Once upon a time (it was last week), in a land far away (it was the 310 bus from Eastgardens to the city), a lady sat on a bus (it wasn’t me, but it was someone I know, and she’s a credible source so I’m going to take her word for it).

An elderly man, as the bus neared Central Station, asked my source (ok fine, it was my mother) where the bus was going. He realised that he was on the wrong bus and stared to become quite distressed. My source asked the man, “Where are you going?” and he replied, “St. Vincent’s Hospital.” “Oh no” she replied (or something to that effect), “how will you get there?” Said the man, “I suppose I will walk.”

St. Vincent’s is a long walk from Central Station.

Across the aisle from my source and the old man, a different man listened to their conversation with a look of mounting concern on his face. The man took his wallet from his pocket, and pulled out twenty dollars. “Please, take a taxi”, said the man, and he handed the money to the old man.

I don’t know about you, and I don’t know about the evolutionary perspective, but I have to tell you, my eggs feel pretty warm right about now.

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