The truth about altruism.

Author:Haneman, Frank
Position:Letter to the editor

In his review of The Language of God (December 2006), Stephen Barr seems to agree with Francis S. Collins that the altruistic impulse is a scandal because it "goes directly contrary to the selfishness of the 'selfish gene.'" Not necessarily. This thinking wrongly gives the observer the determination of whether the action is selfish. The determination of selfishness is made by the decider's thought.

The apparently altruistic decision will, in fact, be a completely selfish decision. The decider came to the conclusion that his action would maximize his happiness or minimize his pain. His decisions are made only as a result of the genes he was born with and the environments he has experienced, unless you allow for the influence of the hand of God. In any event, his decisions will be completely selfish. Accepting this situation does not change the goodness of apparent altruistic actions or the goodness of the decider. It is best to define altruism as actions aiding others...

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