pathological altruism

here’s another book i haven’t read: Pathological Altrusim edited by barbara oakley and a bunch of other people.

i did read this article [opens pdf] from new scientist written by oakley and madhavan. in it, the authors say:

“Over the past decade, there has been an explosion in research and interest in the positive aspects of altruism. Several disciplines, in particular neuroscience and genetics, are providing useful new insights. Against this background, even to hint that altruism could have a dark shadow seems sacrilegious to many. What if it causes people to stop trying to help others?

“This should not deter us from exploring the issue, given the harm it [pathological altrusim] can cause if left unchallenged. For example, during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, many Hutus killed Tutsis because they thought that in doing so they would help protect their fellow Hutus. In other words, they believed they were benefiting their society, their culture and those most dear to them. And there are many other examples of harmful behaviours that occur within the context of helping those close to us, or our in-group….”

hmmm.

of course genocide is a terrible thing. it is obviously terrible for those people killed; it is terrible for a good number of those who witness such a thing, even via a history lesson; and it is probably terrible for some or even many of the people doing the killing. so, no, i do not condone genocide.

however, many hutus “thought” they would be helping their fellow hutus by getting rid of a lot of tutsis? how about they probably did benefit their fellow hutus — or it’s likely that they did anyway.

rwanda is/was a very crowded place. in any environment where a group of creatures has to share resources with another group of creatures — even if they are partly related — that first group will clearly benefit if they can get rid of the second (more resources for them!). ideally they’d want to get rid of the competition with no repercussions to their own group. i don’t think the hutus really managed that — i.e. i’m sure there are a lot of tutsis around who are holding a grudge.

but it’s just plain silly to think that any genocidal group just “believes” that they’re benfitting their group. if they can get away with it, they probably ARE!

happy thoughts for a friday afternoon, i know. sorry.

previously: gene-o-cide

(note: comments do not require an email. here’s something more cheerful! maybe. (~_^) )

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16 Comments

  1. “however, many hutus “thought” they would be helping their fellow hutus by getting rid of a lot of tutsis? how about they probably did benefit their fellow hutus — or it’s likely that they did anyway”

    That was my first thought too! I guess that’s part of having what I like to call a liberated mind. You instantly think thoughts that most people wouldn’t dare to think, and if the thought has some plausibility – you stick with it. Also, of course, there’s what Orwell used to call “crime stop”. Realizing that genocide might have benefits for someone in a certain situation comes hard to most people, even (or maybe especially!?) intellectuals.

    That being said, I’m not really a big fan of genocide.

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  2. The people who want to root altruism in Darwin’s theory of natural selection ignore the fact that natural selection will select for the dark side if it enhances reproductive success. Maybe the Hutus are just good biologists.

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  3. The “dark side” of altruism is probably intuitively obvious to most HBDers: Altruism evolved in humans as a way to promote in-group survival. Of course, that implies that when there is a conflict in interests between an individual’s in-group and one or more out-groups, the individual’s altruism towards his in-group necessarily implies the opposite to the out-group(s). So these scientists are just restating what was already obvious to folks like HBD Chick, Steve Sailer, et al, already.

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  4. @crassus – “Realizing that genocide might have benefits for someone in a certain situation comes hard to most people, even (or maybe especially!?) intellectuals.”

    yes, but the stooopid part is that if no one tries to really figure out what causes peoples to “go genocidal,” we’ll never be able to stop them.

    @crasses – “That being said, I’m not really a big fan of genocide.”

    no, me neither. =/

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  5. @georgia resident – “Altruism evolved in humans as a way to promote in-group survival. Of course, that implies that when there is a conflict in interests between an individual’s in-group and one or more out-groups, the individual’s altruism towards his in-group necessarily implies the opposite to the out-group(s).”

    exactly.

    i have a bad feeling this book (“Pathological Altruism”) might be taking a sort of we-have-to-do-something-about-this-dark-side-of-altruism stance. yeah, i guess. i just hope they try to understand it properly first. there’s no point in saying, for instance, that the hutus believed they were helping their people. you’ve got to understand that they were helping their people — or at least trying to — if you really want to change the behavior.

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  6. > the stooopid part is that if no one tries to really figure out what causes peoples to “go genocidal,” we’ll never be able to stop them.

    WD Hamilton, you may know, suggested differential population growth. It seems that others tended to reject his desire to contemplate this.

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  7. I’ve often reflected that unchecked dysgenesis in Blacks and Mestizos may lead to genocide — or at least mass death that no one cares to stanch, or even half- or quarter-stanch in any of a variety of ways, some of them perhaps not terribly effortful. (The same could apply to Whites, but it is less clear that they’re undergoing phenotypic decline ; indeed it’s not 98% certain for any race, but it’s pretty close.)

    Or it’s possible they (whatever pop or semi-pop) could just sink to a mutation-selection equilibrium, where every pop was before the industrial revolution — assuming they weren’t becoming ‘better’ or ‘worse’, by whatever metric(s), in a non-negligible degree over a given time period of interest. (Defining ‘negligible’ as you like.) This case, I guess, is not entirely distinct from the case described in para.-1 above. It ain’t pretty, seeing as it would require a considerable fraction of people to die under age 45. But it will happen if phenotypic decline is indeed occurring, and continues to occur. It could stop by intentional intervention — or it could conceivably stop by way of voluntary, ’emergent’ changes in fertility, but I doubt that will take place.

    This general point or reality is kind of important, given the supposed moral superiority of the anti-biology or anti-heredity contingent.

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  8. W.D. Hamilton worried about dysgenics.

    http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/korthof97.htm

    He was more extreme than most in the HBD-sphere who seem primarily concerned with IQ and submissive personality traits and cosmetics.

    He was concerned with all the deleterious mutations that we can’t see or notice and that he believes are rapidly accumulating due to medical intervention, including primitive medical interventions such as glasses and C-sections. He was skeptical of our ability to repair deleterious mutations by genetic engineering, especially since there are so many that are unknown.

    Even if medical or cultural intervention were selecting for greater IQ and cooperation, it’s easy to imagine how this might come at a cost of deleterious mutations which increase at a rate that outpaces our IQ increase and its ability to repair them.

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  9. “The people who want to root altruism in Darwin’s theory of natural selection ignore the fact that natural selection will select for the dark side if it enhances reproductive success.”

    Except it doesn’t – most of the time – because the good side is more efficient which biologically speaking is why it’s the “good” side.

    The exceptions are certain primitive conditions e.g. Amazon jungle, (which can be recreated elsewhere by pathological altruism e.g. urban underclass), parasitic low-altruism niches within more altruistic populations, and overcrowding / overbreeding like Rwanda (which can also be caused by pathological altruism i.e. food and medical aid without population restriction).

    On top of those i think there’s some rarer but still influential types
    – extension of empathy to “the world” dilutes it towards kin
    – extension of empathy to animals/plants/gaia dilutes it towards humans
    – either of above can potentially flip to hatred of kin / humans

    I think it’s an extension of r.e.d and differential empathy.

    If out-group hostility is proportional to in-group solidarity i.e. the differential, then the hostility will be proportional to the main component of the solidarity. With highly inbred groups who have extremely high relatedness (r) and low empathy (e) their out-group hostility is proportional to relatedness.

    “I hate you because we’re not related.”

    With highly outbred groups who have relatively low relatedness (r) but high empathy (e) their in-group cohesion might become proportional to their perception of causes of maximum distress (d) i.e. they hate whalers or slavers or polluters or whatever.

    “I hate you because you’re eating meat.”

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  10. Actually a better way of putting it might be

    “I hate you because i am ten times more related to my kin than i am to you.”

    or

    “I hate you because starving africans/whales/dolphins/gaia are in ten times more distress than you.”

    i.e. hostility as a function of the differential in relatedness or the differential in distress.

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  11. @g.w. – “overcrowding / overbreeding like Rwanda (which can also be caused by pathological altruism i.e. food and medical aid without population restriction)….”

    i have to say that, personally, this is the sort of pathological altruism which i find most fascinating.

    i mean, genocide — it’s very obvious what’s going on there (unless you’re not an hbd-er, i guess). but the sort-of passive-aggressive pathological altruism where you actually scr*w others completely while at the same time proclaiming how Good you are — and having lots of other people buy that? most psychopaths couldn’t dream up a better system. (i think most of political correctness is exactly this sort of pathological altruism. about political correctness you’ve got to ask, cui bono?)

    related to this, i find all of trivers’ work on deception and self-deception to be very, very interesting. i’d like to get my hands on his latest book.

    Reply

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