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Title: Altruism, Sex, and the Stupid Gene
Author: David J Larkin
  A Contrast in Perspective
Keywords: Altruism, Sex, Replication, Reproduction, Stupid Gene
Created: May, 2013

•The following brief comments are not intended to elaborate current understanding, if anything, the comments are simply indicative of a contrast in perspective. However, the comments are qualified by the fact that I make no pretence to any expertise in the (specialised) subject matter of the biosciences.

Sociobiology concepts are not appreciably complex, and arguably, the oft-used embellished terminology, the language of convenience, merely obscures the (otherwise) conceptual clarity of the subject matter under consideration. Terminology, directed at the uninitiated reader that is at best, inadvertently or otherwise, misleading. More disingenuously, however, the stylistic embellishment may be a mere contrivance to sensationalise and elevate the stature of the work, or perhaps, a mere contrivance to obscure its intrinsic thesis or ideology from common scrutiny. The language of convenience is gratuitous and the associated controversy is an unwarranted distraction.

The assertion that reproduction is an imperative, an instinctual drive, I believe, is simply conjecture. That is not to deny that, for many, to reproduce is a compelling desire. From an evolutionary, or survival of the species, perspective, it could be argued that reproduction is merely a contingency of a desire for sexual gratification. Those that pursue its pleasure procreate and proliferate.

And any biochemical condition or bio-based behaviour that increases the likelihood of conception increases the likelihood of that behaviour being passed on to the offspring. The behaviour is incidental to procreation. For example, the male offspring of a particular individual develop a condition, or biochemical imbalance, such that when the afflicted is sexually aroused, it leads to that individual behaving aggressively. The aggressive individual, and perhaps his equally aggressive siblings, intimidate the more passive males. The aggressive males procreate and proliferate, and the biochemical imbalance is passed on to the offspring. This aggressive behaviour is not, therefore, an indication of gene competition but is merely symptomatic of the incidental.

A dendrite crystal forms with a tree-like structure or fractal pattern. [1] The pattern formation is precipitated by crystal growth instabilities and not by an imperative to replicate. There is not an evident inherent intent, nor evident inherent purpose effecting the formation, simply an outcome: an outcome of an energetically-favourable chemical or physical process. The replication is incidental.

One could extend this line of reasoning to include gene replication, arguably more complex, but arguably not more complicated. Simple chemical reactions can lead to wondrously intricate designs and patterns, but the pattern- or replicated-formation is incidental to the causal chemical processes. That is, the entity's replication is a contingency not an imperative.

A natural disposition to nurture or care, a trait with definite survival benefit, would manifest itself in acts of altruism where one responds instinctively; social conditioning excluded. Is there a genetic basis to this natural disposition? Quite likely, but the exposition of that basis does not have to be premised on an imperative; the disposition may have evolved incidentally, and independently of an intended or purposeful outcome. Therefore, the comparatively convoluted suggestion that altruism is indicative of the imperative of gene survival or, perhaps, kin survival is merely an alternative interpretation that, arguably, begs intent or a purpose.


(Of course, it could be asserted that intent or purpose presupposes cognition, which raises other compounding and, arguably, more problematic issues. Certainly, at least, issues of precedence regarding the order of emergence or development of biological and neurological characteristics: what came first?)

NOTES (click the list-number for any additional link)
1. Certain dendritic mineral-crystal formations in rock fissures are often mistaken for flora fossils.
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