They began by asking one of their colleagues, William Scott Green, to outline a general framework for studying altruism that could be applied to particular religions by the other conference participants. Green reviewed definitions of altruism and provided this concise version: “Intentional action ultimately for the welfare of others that entails at least the possibility of either no benefit or a loss to the actor.” According to the conference participants—each an expert scholar on a given religion—this concept is foreign to the imagination of all of the world’s major religious traditions.Wilson, David Sloan. Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others (Foundational Questions in Science) (p. 4). Yale University Press.
Any form of hierarchy or power indicates dampened feedback loops. Power can be understood as the privilege of not needing to learn. Evolutionary biologists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O Wilson (2007) frame the effect of social power gradients in terms of the tension between altruism and selfishness: Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary. This insight was well understood for several hundred thousand years of human cultural evolution. The social norms in egalitarian cultures create the psychological safety needed for altruism to flourish.The Beauty of Collaboration at Human Scale: Timeless Patterns of Human Limitations
When you hear about the limits of IQ these days, it’s usually in the context of a conservative narrative that emphasizes not altruism or empathy but a recycled version of the Protestant work ethic. The goal is to make sure kids will resist temptation, override their unconstructive impulses, put off doing what they enjoy in order to grind through whatever they’ve been told to do.Grit: A Skeptical Look at the Latest Educational Fad (##) – Alfie Kohn