I suppose Wikipedia is twenty years behind the times, and not a full collection of all human knowledge up to this minute, but I think I’ve got another theory, a better explanation for altruism, at least for some sorts of creatures.
The most basic definition of altruism there says it’s when a creature does something at some cost to itself and its chances in the world to improve the lot of another individual and/or their chances (for survival, reproduction, etc.). The definition itself shows the biologists’ lens for viewing the world, a creature helps another individual – biology views everything as from the point of view of individual creatures, or that creature’s genes.
There was some group talk, the suggestion that groups of creatures that practice this one on one altruism perhaps get a competitive leg up on groups of that sort of creature that behave less selflessly.
My other theory suggests that other behaviours produce their fruits at the group level, and that these can be higher priority behaviours than “individually” motivated ones, and I’m now trying out the idea that the group will best explain altruism as well – whups, sorry. I haven’t finished the definitions.
Generally, biology seems skeptical, the evolutionists are not sure “real” altruism exists, meaning that they seem to feel it must add up to an advantage to the altruistic giver somehow, or it would not be selected for, or it wouldn’t, what is it, exist. They go to perhaps the group idea above. Trivers’ reciprocal altruism would seem to redefine it that way, a fairly demonstrable quid pro quo between group members, exactly as stated above, giving their group an advantage over other groups. I’m not refuting these ideas, they’re great, and I haven’t developed my idea yet! Here goes.
Continuing the train of thought I’ve been on, it’s about alphas and the age-old problem of living with them. I think I typed it somewhere this week: what if altruism is a strategy developed by non-alphas to limit and contain the violent chaos of the alphas? What if doing unto others is beta society’s answer to the king’s random violence and narcissism, the stuff of the social bond that enables any sort of society at all? It suddenly occurred to me that when we observe the alphas’ rule in nature among horses or primates, that we are doing just that, going outside and observing what the eternal rule of the alphas produces, and then we go back indoors to the world the betas were able to produce, through affiliation and cooperation, to read and write about it, by portable lights.
If this is the function, or an important function, then it’s a group related thing, but not the whole family group, perhaps. Perhaps alphas are full time cheaters and so are left of any deal-making done among the betas, and it is perhaps not so much a group strategy then as a status strategy, a class strategy, and then one can start to ponder what it means across multiple groups. Now it doesn’t appear that among the baboons or the chimpanzees, the other primates, that it’s the king starting the raids, it looks with the chimpanzees like a band of brothers – but perhaps someone can enlighten me? Is the alpha part of the chimp raiding party, and is he an instigator as he seems to be in the human case? It may be difficult to find primate stories of alphas starting trouble and betas working together to control them, but it’s not a hard fantasy to conjure for us, is it?
A couple of alphas, or would be alphas beating their chests and going straight to madman doomsday scenarios before they ever speak on the phone, and betas on both sides scrambling to save their asses and not minding at all cooperating across borders to do it, whenever possible? (Ha! No-one tell Rodman I said he was a beta, OK?)
This is going to be my new filter for a while. I’ll be looking at things this way, alphas and betas, game theory is for alphas and altruism is for betas. There’s a world of dichotomies in there, maybe. America is caught up in an alpha fantasy, amplified by its enemies, and it elected an alpha to the highest office, something that always means a dark period in history. Nations need their alphas, and alphas will find their way to power anyways, but nations are huge things these days, way beyond our evolved meme of the tribe, which is about a hundred and fifty people. You place your alphas in the military, you give them anything upwards of a hundred and fifty people to push around, and the betas get back to the drawing board, trying to also contain the other nations’ alphas. Altruism.
There’s a book in this, but I’m writing jacket covers these days, apparently.
Mind you, the book’s already been written, at least somebody seems to know how some of this stuff works, even if it’s only the Russian intelligence community.
This is my note to myself to think about this, write something later. If anybody’s read it elsewhere, I hope you’ll tell me.
Nov. 29th., 2017
I cannot seem to post this comment. Why?
Okay, genius, Jeff. You are aware that exceptions aside, the quintessential alphas of the world, those we send to the military, men, in general, while the betas are of course those well-trained in waiting patiently backstage — women. Yes, of course there are always “alpha women” and less than alpha men, in fact we tend to call those unfortunates “mama’s boys” as if the maternal stamp remains a terrible thing. We tell those flimp men to “man up” and get a “backbone”! But what we are really telling them is, dont act like a beta when you should be an alpha, dont be a gatherer when youre meant for hunting!
Now there is something you might want to consider, whether the alpha versus beta thing doesnt boil down to our roots in hunter/gatherer societies, where hunting is done more or less by an individual, though not always, not even today. But almost always by men at any rate, whereas gathering is usually a group activity in the sense that it takes a groups gatherings to feed a large group…
Anyhow, as to altruism, i also think that childbirth and its roots in menstruation have a lot to do with why women want to cooperate and do so much more readily than men, a beta strategy over alpha strategy. The menstrual hut usually held women captive together for several days a month, leading to a intimacy that men tend to lavk, even today…and childbearing, or the monthly loss of an egg, makes every woman know much more intimately how —sorry but this seems to be true! — how deeply precious each life abd potential life is, not so easy to throw away or kill in war or otherwise. There is a very good reason why women do not kill or murder at anywhere near the rates or reasons that men do…and i think if altruism were studied with any serioiusness, you would discover many many more instances of it in women than in men.
My opinion is not based on research, to be true, not this last tidbit, but gleaned from my readibgs in other areas…for instance, when a man is given a drug that ups his oxytocin ( ithink, though i may be wrong about which neuro-chemical) he becomes more selfish. When a woman gets the same drug, she grows less so! We all get a boost of oxytocin from physical contact etcetera, but what a difference in our responses!
Enough for now!
Fascinating topic, just fascinating
hafta comment as I read, in real time.
No, half the population aren’t alphas. If a troop is around a hundred and fifty people, then there are one alpha of each gender and a handful of wannabes. I think this is one of our stupid myths, tell every man he’s an alpha. An alpha myth.
I agree with everything about men and women here, I just think it’s a different vector, absolutely the women’s hut intimacy is another level of altruism, but we men have to have our defense against alphas like Trump and Rumsfeld too, we really can’t be letting those pricks run the show, like they really have no interest in RUNNING anything – and goddammit, some of us awful men would like some organization and comfort in all of our lives too. Women didn’t create civilization without the cooperation of some men, probably, I mean, if all men were fighting you and civilization, we’d still be on the savanna with the baboons. Men killing at a rate many times higher than women is not the same as saying the majority of men are killers, and by definition, no majority of anything are the alphas.
Ah. HERE’S what I’ve been after and couldn’t reach: OBAMA is a beta, or at least looks and talks like one. I want to clarify: that positive image, that is not the alpha. He’s a leader, and he can fight, but his violence is not random and we in his own troop don’t feel personally threatened if we hear he’s in our town. What I’m trying to do here is lose this “positive alpha” idea. A positive alpha is a beta. A beta is a positive image, and a leader for civilized creatures. Being male may or may not be otherwise toxic – but alphas are toxic by design and intent.
You’re right about the direction thing, the dichotomies. A woman says “all men are alphas” and it’s bad, it’s the problem. Ask any dumb man who thinks he’s an alpha, alphas are good! I think ‘Viagra for ladies’ is a testosterone spray, which is confusing, so I am not prepared to get into chemistry, that’s way too complex.
I think this idea needs thought to see if that’s really how we work, but I’ll advocate for it now. This alpha worship shit is wrong headed and toxic as fuck.
yeah, have a good day – oh hey, I love that ‘fractured’ thing, that really turns me on, great stuff.
I’ll have a look in my settings, but I’ve probably tried before
This is a good way to maybe re-interpret some stories – the Good Samaritan comes to mind.
what’d I say, alphas run on game theory and betas on altruism, maybe alphas antisocialize, divide and conquer their own, while betas socialize or prosocialize. I’m avoiding the point for myself here, that these things seemed like internal conflicts, we’re compassionate, we’re cruel, we’re violent, we’re cooperative, we’re peaceful, we’re warlike, like these all exist in each of us at least potentially, we “are complex.” Maybe we aren’t quite than complex, maybe this complexity just comes with the fact that one rarely has to deal with a single human alone, that it’s always a herd of us, an alpha and some wannabes, some betas, and everything all else on down the social ladder, all moving into your territory together.
You know what I’m getting at here, maybe we’re not “all bad.” Every human group is headed up by one of these alphas, and we all have to do what he says, so we think we’re all bad. If every man thinks he’s the alpha, then every man thinks he’s a narcissistic murdering swine, and now we’re all asking for this horrible alpha behaviour to be OK, somehow. Now we’re all OK with it, because we think it’s our idea. – hey, we’re back to original sin, alphas absolutely are born sinners, and the original sin meme is all of us betas believing we’re as bad as they are?
Back using my secret email cuz that’s all your blog allows me now!
Anyhow, this confuses me a bit, maybe because i am a firm believer that even alphas are born good, yes, even the worst of the worst and that all original sin notions are hogwash. Even as memes they do nothing but damage and corrupt the issue, which is that (of course) society has opted to brutalize its children and vulnerable populations in the name of education (Poisonous pedagogy Alice Miller called it) and socialization.
But i believe that even the Trumps among us were once vulnerable. Indeed, you know, i think Trump himself suffers from an unbearable (to himself) feeling of not being understood or heard…This does not excuse his public behavior, any more than saying that Ted Bundy was an abused traumatized child excused his being a serial murderer. An explanation does not mean we can accept a behavior, it is just a place to start to understand a person, and why? Because if we do not understand them you know sure as shooting they will never change, or want to change, and we can do nothing to help them behave any differently. Now, it may be questionable whether we have the right to change someone, or judge them as needing to change, as a friend suggested. But at least in serial murderers’ cases i think the argument can be made that it is either that the person change their behavior or society has deemed them worthy of death…(i do not agree with this, by the way).
In any event, starting from the point of understanding that, say, a leader, or a murderer ( i am not by any means equating the two) is lacking in a fundamental human need like understanding or being heard, we can then move on to solving that problem…and possibly changing the person’s behavior once their needs are truly met. If you look into Marshall Rosenberg’s NonViolent Communication, which is available online and via youtube videos you can see him demonstrating his techniques in action and it is really remarkable. While this may seem simplistic, he maintains that all human conflicts are reducible to feelings arising from unmet universal human needs…which needs can be met, all of them.
Alphas are not bad, betas are not good. There is no good and bad, not according to NVC. There is no such need for judgment in NVC. Only the judgment that discerns what makes life “more wonderful” for everyone…what serves life. If something does not serve life, then it is not fulfilling a human need, and that is the only judgment that matters, in the NVC view, which is eminently practical when it comes right down to it.
Anyhow, i got off the subject a bit, but i am convinced that NVC is actually what is needed, practically, as a way of living, and talking together, to save us, now.
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I read a few Alice Millers a long time ago!
Oh, absolutely, Trump is a ruined child, I can’t imagine how he wasn’t fucked by his dad and all his dad’s friends or something, no argument there. I’m not really so much about whether he’s a born alpha or not, just that the voters think so, and that they think that’s a good thing. I mean, destroyed or not, he’s one, that’s how baboon alphas act, loyal to none, random as fuck. I see you fighting for that too, an alpha as a positive thing, like it can be, like it should be, and maybe so – but as long as we think that it will always be the worst sort in charge of everything.
I think irredeemable criminals should live their lives out in a comfortable prison, safe from each other and everybody else. We say prison’s for our safety, then we use to abuse and traumatize and make everything worse, that’s one of the puzzles I’ve answered. It’s just stupid, except, warrior society likes everybody worse.
I did look at Rosenburg, he’s brilliant.
. . . yeah, I’m still a psychologist in my heart – but I’ve gone over to the biology side in the brain now. Evolution works under and behind all of it. “Good” and “bad” to me in these conversations is non-violent or violent, like 98% of the time. In baboon society, maybe all other primate society, alphas and betas are congenital, heriditary, and probably genetically distinct, at least in terms of gene expression. We gotta understand that stuff a certain amount before we can run off into psychology, is how I think now.
But my heart is still with the children, the former children, the women, psychology, the victims of the world. Fuckin’ Nazis and misogynists don’t own biology. I want to go down into biology, solve some issues, and then bring the two together. The fact that social science and actual science are on different, non-parallel trajectories means at least one is wrong, and it’s probably both. Sales pitch: fortunately, it’s the same fix for both! “Only I can fix it,” LOL.
I may work through it, but right now this alpha/beta thing is my answer. Today I’m calm, finished writing, because I have solved my mysteries to my satisfaction. My curiosity can take a long awaited vacation. Four eternal questions, that’s a life’s work: nature/nurture, original sin, the deep roots of war, and now altruism – Immanuel Kant – now who is he again?
you too, hope things are OK. I’m kinda glued to the news.
How do you see ME fighting for Alphas as a good thing, pray tell? Sheesh!
I meant, i am not fighting for alphas at all, not in my view, so where do you see this in anything i have written? Pam
hey, I see your name!
not fighting for them, just trying to for the existence of a positive male image or something. I don’t mind the image of a strong provider/protector/leader, I just think it’s a strong beta, and that alphas look more like Trump.
I thought you portrayed a positive male image and described it as an alpha, like you want alphas to be OK and for bad or violent men to be just damaged versions
it’s OK if you don’t, I’ll be wrong
Not in my memory…! I have none that i can remember so why would i describe any?
Men can be friends without being alphas, and the less alpha the better. My best male friends are the least alpha possble. But i dunno what writing you refer to so i cannot explain anything…
fuck, doesn’t matter if it’s not what you think. I’m not saying you like or approve of these alphas, I’m just saying you sounded like you thought the positive male image was that of a benevolent alpha – and I’ve changed my mind about that. I think most folks think that, right?
I can’t find a sentence, it’s just my impression from your first comment here – and again, everything you say there about alphas is normal – but I don’t think all those things, so you’ll be missing me if you think I think an alpha is a leader, an organizer, any sort of model to follow. Wait, maybe this is it. You said we all tell men they should all act like alphas, so we’re agreeing, most folks think that’s the model to emulate. I’m saying I’ve figured out its not – maybe that was your point too.
I never said we tell all men they should act like alphas….where? I said all alphas are born good, all people are born good, that is all. I said nothing about FOLLOWING ANYONE, where have i ever siggested anyone should ever follow an alpha or anyone? U cant find it because i never wrote it or said this…i do not believe in hierarchy, or any such power over dynamics…so this is a big HUH? I think you might be misreading me, but you have not read my literal words correctly!
By the way, any time i talk about alpha behavior it is with DISGUST NOT ADMIRATION,.,it is Beta behavior i admire, completely, and altruism, maybe you did not grok that…
I didn’t, and me too! Like I say, if we get to understanding the details of the convo before don’t matter, but here, first comment, second paragraph –
“We tell those flimp men to “man up” and get a “backbone”! But what we are really telling them is, dont act like a beta when you should be an alpha, dont be a gatherer when youre meant for hunting!”
and again, we’re agreeing
Pam, new convo – I’ve told you this one, have I, that it was reading and learning biology that seemed to have broken my brain, caused this break I’m either living with or recovering from depending who you ask? I was all down with Miller and psychology for my whole adult life and didn’t crack a biology book until I was over 50, then I read some Steven Pinker, then some other stuff and I went through this mania followed by depression and I feel like my whole thought structure reorganized, everything getting updated with this biology thing, this science thing. I forget, but it’s like we’re speaking completely different languages, I’m having exactly the same sorts of troubles communicating with my sisters. I talk about evolution and genes and they’re countering with reincarnation, it’s hard to talk. It all sounds kinda groundless now, psychology too. I’m trying to solve the same sorts of problems psychology does, but it’s a different way of looking at it, doesn’t seem to translate. Natural enemies, these schools of thought, maybe.
I’m a little prideful for stepping across the aisle and trying biology, for really looking at both sides, everybody doesn’t do that – and I found out why, I guess. Breaks your brain.