Monday, March 29, 2010

Altruism

One crucial point of the argument of Richard Dawkins is that we do not need religion to explain the foundations of our morality. Scientific theories of evolution provide convincing and powerful accounts of how our ethical behaviors have evolved.

For example, origins of altruism can be explained by models of interaction between agents, where certain actions lead to the increase or decrease of utility for the parties concerned. Models suggest that "free riders" (those agents that take advantage of other agents' altruistic behavior) can certainly arise under certain conditions. However, they never become the majority. It is an obvious fact that a community consisting entirely of free riders is not sustainable. Under robust interaction conditions, altruistic behaviors naturally evolve, as they are certainly adaptive for the individual agents as well as for the community, increasing the overall utility.

Morality does not need to be explained by religious commandments, which the human beings are required to follow without questioning their origins. Even if we have a free hand in choosing what codes of actions we adopt, we can end up as reasonably altruistic, caring beings, with the bonus that we have the freedom to think through the foggy mists of unquestioned systems of beliefs.

4 comments:

r_yuzurin said...

Sometimes religion can make people stop thinking. Therefore I think that parents need to be careful to establish sound ethics for their children. That's because children have to follow it without understanding. That is to say they love basically their parents.
My experience indicates that...

Takuro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jane Robson said...

Hello Ken, I found your blog whilst searching for information about Rei Naito some time ago. I'm a British artist, my practise revolves around the question of existence and spirituality, more from the perspective of a potential world religion than any individual religious pracise, but your comments interest me. I believe as a scientist you are bound to question such notions as religion, but I also note that you write with such delight about awaiting the new cherry blossoms - which from my recent research is a very 'Zen' thing to contemplate. Perhaps religion is so tightly bound to our cultural heritage that it is, in essence, impossible to reject one without rejecting the other?

Ken Mogi said...

Dear, Jane.
It is very kind of you to leave a comment on my humble blog. Rei Naito is a good friend of mine. I can see some resonances between your works and Rei's, judging from the images that I could find on the internet.
As you say, my eager waiting for the first cherry blossoms might be quite a "Zen" thing, although I do not practice it on a routine basis. Cultural influences are interesting in that they affect us through unconscious processes. In fact, the more unconscious it gets, the more powerful its influences are on us.
I was in U.K. for sometime and quite admire the English culture.