“Altruism” is a suspect word. It never caught on in popular language; it is the evolutionary psychologist’s attempt to account for apparently compassionate or empathetic human behaviour as governed solely by the survival strategies of randomly evolved animals. So it is code for: “would really be selfish except that the mind does not exist”
If you don’t need a degree in a field controlled by Darwin’s followers, you are free to ignore it; not otherwise. Anyway, here is the latest effort to explain altruism as “really” caused by manipulation, as demonstrated by roundworms infesting ants, and ants, generally:
Manipulation is often thought of as morally repugnant, but it might be responsible for the evolutionary origins of some helpful or altruistic behavior, according to a new study.
In the study published this week in the journal American Naturalist, the researchers developed a mathematical model for the evolution of manipulated behavior and applied it to maternal manipulation in eusocial organisms, such as ants, wasps, and bees, which form colonies with reproductive queens and sterile workers. In the model, mothers produce two broods, and they manipulate the first-brood offspring to stay in the maternal site and help raise the second brood. Mothers can do this by disrupting the offspring’s development in some way, for example through poor feeding or aggressive behavior. Manipulated offspring of the first-brood stay and help to raise the second brood. Alternatively, first-brood offspring can resist manipulation and leave.
The researchers show that an offspring’s resistance to manipulation may often fail to evolve, if the costs of resistance are high. In a sense, then, helping or altruistic behavior is coerced through manipulation.
There, now you know the truth for this week. Next week, another insightful explanation will be along.