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NDE Explains Everything!


In a comment to Denyse’s article that touched on altruism a commenter said that evolution predicted altruism.  I then explained that Neo-Darwinian Evolution would also predict no altruism if no altruism is found.  That’s because random mutation plus natural selection explains everything (thus it explains nothing).

Like a wish come true, one of the more informed posters at Panda’s Thumb came along and explained how NDE explains both altruism where it is found and lack of it where it isn’t.   Hilarious!  Check it out…

People who comment here know this, but it needs to be said for the record and for any UD folk that stray over here: the claim that the ToE predicts altruism is bone-ignorant, because the portion of the ToE dealing with natural selection predicts no altruism in organisms that aren’t capable of developing and understanding an ethic of reciprocity, charity, and the “golden rule” (i.e, other than us).  More specifically, anything that looks like altruism (any actions that benefit others while potentially or actually jeopardizing the instigant’s future reproductive opportunities) will turn out to be either a case of net direct personal benefit (e.g., wrasse cleaning parasites off reef fish, doing it to get food rather than because they are community-spirited) or genetically based kin selection, in which the instigants on average save more than their own complements of genes in terms of heightened reproduction by their relatives (e.g., a beaver warning the rest of its family of an approaching predator).  

This is just SO precious.

SteveB, echoing DaveScot, asks: "Where may I find the ‘prediction’ of NDE regarding altruism that predates the observation of altruism?" I'm using the word "prediction" the way scientists do, to refer to a direct implication of a theory, regardless of whether the implication has been confirmed by observation yet. For example, scientists speak of how "string theory predicts gravity", or how "QED predicts the magnetic dipole moment of the electron." They know, of course, that gravity was discovered long before string theory was invented, and that the magnetic dipole moment of the electron was measured long before Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga started piecing QED together. I understand that this usage departs from the colloquial definition of "prediction", and that it can be confusing to folks who are not scientifically savvy and who think that the word invariably refers to a prophecy or a forecast. Like every technical field, science often assigns specialized meanings to common words. Figuring this out is part of the frustration (and the fun) of learning a new field. SteveB continues: "Second, the quotations you cite say nothing of consequence. Take, for example, the statement “altruistic actions… tend to be preferentially directed towards close kin.” Sure, altruism happens, and it tends to happen close to home. This is NDEs great prediction?" No, this is just one of many predictions made by NDE. But before you dismiss it as trivial, consider the fact that Intelligent Design does not (and cannot) make this "great prediction", since the designer could choose to establish altruism or omit it in any species, according to whim. "Imagine a gene. Which imaginary gene are we talking about? Interesting that this hypothetical gene is never identified, but merely assumed to exist." The fact that our genes influence our behavior was established long ago. "What is relevant is whether actual genetic facts can be brought to bear that explain the relationship between the biology and the behavior." The fact that a particular gene or set of genes has not yet been correlated with altruistic behavior is irrelevant, since we already know that behavior is genetically influenced. NDE's explanation of altruism does not depend on which genes are involved. Similarly, we can learn plenty about a new infectious disease (how it spreads, what the symptoms are, what treatments are effective, etc.) even if we haven't yet identified the precise pathogen responsible. avocationist wrote: "It must be that the cuteness follows certain parameters that hold true across species. It seems that if an animal is not interested in eating a baby, they may well respond to a baby of another species with affection." Check out this classic essay by Stephen Jay Gould about the "progressive juvenilization" of Mickey Mouse over the years, and how this reflects our tendency to find cuteness in juvenile features: http://www.towson.edu/~sallen/COURSES/311/ESSAYS/MM.html Karl Pfluger
Actually, baby animals are preferentially sought out for eating simply because they are easier prey. I could list numerous examples, but in the intersts of brevity I'd say you just haven't been watching enough nature shows. It must be that the cuteness follows certain parameters that hold true across species. It seems that if an animal is not interested in eating a baby, they may well respond to a baby of another species with affection. Flowers are pretty primarily to attract bees, I think, who see color well. But really, the prettiness of flowers is so outrageous it seems downright teleological. avocationist
This discussion is getting boring. Let me spice it up a little bit. I have been thinking about the phenomenon that baby animals are cute. There is no question that baby animals are cute. I look at my cute baby girl, and when she is driving me crazy I realise that she is cute because otherwise I'd kill her. NDE would surely therefore account for animals to appear cute to their own parents -- maybe even their own kind. However, why are baby elephants cute, and baby geraffes, and baby kittens etc. The only NDE explanation that I can find is that a cute kitten would be less likely to be attacked by a hungry dog. I wonder if there is any evidence for or against species A passing up on a lunch of animal B because animal B is cute. 'Works for humans, ask any seal hunter, but does it work for any other animals? I recently watched a deer roaming through a neighborhood. The deer stopped to eat all of the pretty flowers. My understanding is that the prettiness of flowers attract such attention. Why would the prettiness of flowers attract their distruction but the cuteness of baby animals cause us to keep them alive? I find this to be an intriguing NDE discussion. bFast
Karl, First, I had the same question DaveScott did. Since it remains unanswered, I’ll repeat his wording: Where may I find the 'prediction' of NDE regarding altruism that predates the observation of altruism? Second, the quotations you cite say nothing of consequence. Take, for example, the statement "altruistic actions... tend to be preferentially directed towards close kin." Sure, altruism happens, and it tends to happen close to home. This is NDEs great prediction? Additionally, note that the whole discussion begins with "The basic idea of kin selection is simple. Imagine a gene..." Imagine a gene. Which imaginary gene are we talking about? Interesting that this hypothetical gene is never identified, but merely assumed to exist. Whether it is simple or whether nor not I can imagine it (I can imagine all kinds of things...) is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether actual genetic facts can be brought to bear that explain the relationship between the biology and the behavior. Until this is done, all that’s here is a restatement of the theory that NDE 'predicts' and 'explains' altruistic behavior. Do you truly find this line of argument intellectually compelling? SteveB
Some stories and pictures of the tortoise/hippo pair: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4152447.stm http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/wireStory?id=1451004 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4754996 Karl Pfluger
Found this in my email this morning; unfortunately, I'm not computer savvy enough to send the pictures of them walking and sleeping together: (AFP) - A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise, in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa, officials said. The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about 300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki Riverinto the Indian Ocean, then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on December 26, 2004, before wildlife rangers rescued him. "It is incredible. A-less-than-a-year-old hippo has adopted a male tortoise, about a century old, and the tortoise seems to be very happy with being a 'mother'," ecologist Paula Kahumbu, who is in charge of Lafarge Park , told AFP. "After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat and sleep together," the ecologist added. "The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it follows its mother. If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother," Kahumbu added. "The hippo is a young baby, he was left at a very tender age and by nature, hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years," he explained. avocationist
Dave, Thanks for linking to the Stanford article on biological altruism. It's a terrific article, and it has a lot of information relevant to our discussion:
Kin Selection and Inclusive Fitness The basic idea of kin selection is simple. Imagine a gene which causes its bearer to behave altruistically towards other organisms, e.g. by sharing food with them. Organisms without the gene are selfish -- they keep all their food for themselves, and sometimes get handouts from the altruists. Clearly the altruists will be at a fitness disadvantage, so we should expect the altruistic gene to be eliminated from the population. However, suppose that altruists are discriminating in who they share food with. They do not share with just anybody, but only with their relatives. This immediately changes things. For relatives are genetically similar -- they share genes with one another. So when an organism carrying the altruistic gene shares his food, there is a certain probability that the recipients of the food will also carry copies of that gene. (How probable depends on how closely related they are.) This means that the altruistic gene can in principle spread by natural selection. The gene causes an organism to behave in a way which reduces its own fitness but boosts the fitness of its relatives -- who have a greater than average chance of carrying the gene themselves. So the overall effect of the behaviour may be to increase the number of copies of the altruistic gene found in the next generation, and thus the incidence of the altruistic behaviour itself. Kin selection theory predicts that animals are more likely to behave altruistically towards their relatives than towards unrelated members of their species. Moreover, it predicts that the degree of altruism will be greater, the closer the relationship. In the years since Hamilton's theory was devised, these predictions have been amply confirmed by empirical work. For example, in various bird species, it has been found that ‘helper’ birds are much more likely to help relatives raise their young, than they are to help unrelated breeding pairs. Similarly, studies of Japanese macaques have shown that altruistic actions, such as defending others from attack, tend to be preferentially directed towards close kin. In most social insect species, a peculiarity of the genetic system known as ‘haplodiploidy’ means that females on average share more genes with their sisters than with their own offspring. So a female may well be able to get more genes into the next generation by helping the queen reproduce, hence increasing the number of sisters she will have, rather than by having offspring of her own. Kin selection theory therefore provides a neat explanation of how sterility in the social insects may have evolved by Darwinian means. (Note, however, that the precise significance of haplodiploidy for the evolution of worker sterility is a controversial question; see Maynard Smith and Szathmary (1995) ch.16.)
This excerpt addresses Ekstasis' objection that many species cannot distinugish kin from non-kin:
Contrary to what is sometimes thought, kin selection does not require that animals must have the ability to discriminate relatives from non-relatives, less still to calculate coefficients of relationship. Many animals can in fact recognize their kin, often by smell, but kin selection can operate in the absence of such an ability. Hamilton's inequality can be satisfied so long as an animal behaves altruistically towards others animals that are in fact its relatives. The animal might achieve this by having the ability to tell relatives from non-relatives, but this is not the only possibility. An alternative is to use some proximal indicator of kinship. For example, if an animal behaves altruistically towards those in its immediate vicinity, then the recipients of the altruism are likely to be relatives, given that relatives tend to live near each other. No ability to recognize kin is presupposed. Cuckoos exploit precisely this fact, free-riding on the innate tendency of birds to care for the young in their nests.
And this section addresses Jason's concern that evolutionary explanations of altruism are no good unless they predict behavior 100% of the time:
Another popular misconception is that kin selection theory is committed to ‘genetic determinism’, the idea that genes rigidly determine or control behaviour. Though some sociobiologists have made incautious remarks to this effect, evolutionary theories of behaviour, including kin selection, are not committed to it. So long as the behaviours in question have a genetical component, i.e. are influenced to some extent by one or more genetic factor, then the theories can apply. When Hamilton (1964) talks about a gene which ‘causes’ altruism, this is really shorthand for a gene which increases the probability that its bearer will behave altruistically, to some degree. This is much weaker than saying that the behaviour is genetically ‘determined’, and is quite compatible with the existence of strong environmental influences on the behaviour's expression. Kin selection theory does not deny the truism that all traits are affected by both genes and environment. Nor does it deny that many interesting animal behaviours are transmitted through non-genetical means, such as imitation and social learning (Avital and Jablonka (2000)).
I encourage all of you to read the entire article. It's only a few pages. By the way, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a great resource. Take advantage of it, and if you find it useful, support it (they accept donations at their home page). Karl Pfluger
Karl Pfluger, One other comment in response. Thinking about it, all sorts of complex features have supposedly arisen is response to the evolutionary process. Now, presumably animals lose track of who their close kin are once they leave the nest/burrow/den, etc. I have not seen extensive studies to indicate that they retain the knowledge to distinguish their close kin. Why not? If this is so darn important to the survival of their genes, they should be experts at distinguishing, and then practicing altruism only for only their own. One would expect this capability to exist and be widespread across many species. Hmmmm. Ekstasis
"No, NDE predicts that people will tend to aid their family members much more often than they kill them." - Karl How is this "prediction" useful? How could you even have families if family members killed one another more often than not? Whether design or NDE produced humans and animals, we couldn't exist at all if family members consistently destroyed one another. russ
Here is a good article on the evolution of altruism hypotheses. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism-biological/ Note that Darwin observed some cases of altruism and made a prediction that altruism (or the appearance of it) is due to natural selection of groups. This was falsified (more or less by consensus) in the 1960's and then emerged the ad hoc hypotheses of kin selection and reciprocality. The ad hoc hypotheses remain in doubt. DaveScot
Some of the people commenting on ATBC, including the author of the quoted comment in the article, are wondering why I didn't engage them at their forum instead of doing it here. They accuse me of hiding in a safe place from which to snipe. Interestingly and revealingly, none of the many participants at ATBC who know that Wesley Elsberry banned me at ATBC bothered to tell any of the others why my comments don't appear there. A classic lie of omission. DaveScot
I think the so-called predictions about altruism and other behaviors are not really predictions, but explanations which often have a lot of common sense to them and could as easily be explained without recourse to NDE, in a similar way that microevolution or natural selection to maintain species viability are common sense and not dependent upon NDE. Why such surprise that animals sometimes help or befriend one another? Dolphins, by the way, sometimes protect groups of sea lions from killer whales. The surprise is based upon the idea that animals have no intelligence at all and that energy is so extremely scarce that no animal ever expends it for nonutilitarian purposes. But play alone refutes that. Also, the dolphins that raced each other until they gave out trying to keep up with our ship on the Black Sea refute that. As to intelligence, why give animals such a low estimation? Sure, humans are way out ahead of the pack, but animals have plenty of emotion, rudimentary intelligence and pretty good problem solving skills. Why are people so incredulous when higher mammals display a little more behavioral flexibility than bacteria? Or some individuality? avocationist
And my point with animals not ALWAYS showing altruism is- if the theory doesn't stay true for all cases, even if the situations the animals find themselves in are identical, how the theory tell us anything? We can get 2 different outcomes and they could occur about 50/50- what would we say? NDE predicts this? NDE predicts family members are more likely to protect each other than an outsider- I'd argue, again, that common sense predicts this, not NS and RM. Further- when this doesn't hold up and the family members attack each other and help the outsiders, how can the same theory explain this as well? What's the REASON that 1 family decides to kill each other and help people they don't know when the other sticks with the family- protecting the family while shunning others? I see no way to answer this, outside of- 'people are complicated and we're all different.' Same could go for dogs, cats, any animal as far as I can tell. JasonTheGreek
I should point out- the idea that RM+NS explains altruism is nonsense. I don't know how you could ever make such a claim. So, I guess we shouldn't say that NDE predicts this, but rather that it's predicted from an evolutionary standpoint to some degree. I just can't imagine a scenario where we could figure that RM+NS in particular leads to the above mentioned behaviors. As I said- in humans, we DO often care for other species other than our own yet kill our family members. A theory doesn't mean much when it says- 'A, B, and C are true unless they aren't true." How would NDE (RM+NS) explain dogs who take kittens in and raise them almost as their own? When, for the most part, we could probably agree that NDE predicts (again, these are all post-hoc explanations, not really predictions at all) that dogs shouldn't take kittens in and raise them, as it serves them no reproductive/survival purpose. Rather, it's counter to reproduction- as a kitten can't breed with a dog. I'm also sure there are many cases of dogs who know each other who kill their family members yet would be willing to be friendly with another animal of a different species. So, if NDE predicts the opposite- that animals won't ever show altruism to outside species AND attack their own, then we can say that this probably isn't the case 100% of the time. If a theory is only right half the time- what good is it? Most Darwinists claim that NDE can explain everything- right down to why some people don't accept NDE. Anything that explains everything, can't explain much of anything in the end. I think instead of saying that NDE predicts that animals will, more often, show kindness to their own and not so much to others is a bit off. It's really a prediction from common sense. I know of nothing that shows these things to be true because of random mutations and natural selection. Maybe NS comes into play, but it's no very good at it's "job" if it allows ANY animals to show cross-species 'altruism', as this doesn't do anything to help reproduction, rather it has a negavtive effect overall, I'd guess. The 3 items listed could be explained (let's just say, for the sake of argument, all 3 are true, and true all or most of the time) by, again, just general common sense. I see no reason to think of these 3 true BECAUSE of a combo of RM and NS. I'd go as far as to say that even the ancients probably observed animals and noticed that animals of the same species are more often nice to each other and that they're usually more hostile towards outside species members. We surely know, as humans, that families are often more altruistic to each other than to outsiders, though that rule doesn't hold 100% of the time. I'm no scientist, but shouldn't a scientific theory hold 100% of the time and not just some of the time? Like I said- you can have 2 identical situations with animals, and they can behave two completely different ways. The theory (NDE) posits an explanation for both. Same species of animals involved, same situations, etc. The only difference is the outcome- the family members kill each other and show kindness to the outsider while the other set of animals does the exact opposite. If NDE can explain both of these outcomes that are direct opposites, yet the situations are precisely the same- then it surely can explain everything. JasonTheGreek
DaveScott, you are surely right that altruism is observed prior to the NDE explanation being applied. Bottom line, I find it difficult to account for cross-species altruism via NDE. I could see such altruism in cases of a clear symbiotic relationship. (I think of a certain wasp that actually harvests a bacteria, prividing the bacteria with nourishment.) However, when that kind of symbiosis exists, NDE should side squarely with the "selfish gene", having some ability to "protect my family", but not to protect and nourish members of other species. My vote is that NDE is solidly loosing this one. bFast
Karl Pfluger A prediction is a prophecy not an explanation of something already observed. Where may I find the prediction of NDE regarding altruism that predates the observation of altruism? I predict you won't be able to tell me. DaveScot
Hi Jason, Let me respond to you point-by-point. You wrote: "NDE “predicts” that people are altruistic to their family members, except when family members kill each other..." No, NDE predicts that people will tend to aid their family members much more often than they kill them. It also predicts that people are more likely to behave altruistically toward family members than toward complete strangers. The fact that there are exceptions does not negate the fact that the tendency is overwhelming. Genes may predispose people to certain behaviors, but they generally don't determine those behaviors. You continue: "...or that animals of one species will protect those among the species, except in cases where they kill each other." You are misunderstanding NDE here. NDE does not predict that animals of a given species will tend to protect others of the same species, in general. Look at ants, for example, who will ruthlessly attack visitors from a foreign ant colony, even if they are of the same species. You continue: "It does, indeed, explain everything, thus nothing. Altruism isn’t a given rule among members of the same species, because animals of the same species kill each other all the time. It’s more common for them to not do so, but they do it everyday- thus, what good is the theory at all?" Again, NDE does not predict that members of the same species will always behave altruistically toward each other. Look at individuals competing for a mate, for instance. How would it benefit a individual's genes if he always backed down in confrontations with rival suitors? "I’ve also seen dogs try to kill each other- same with cats who try to attack and kill each other. That alone knocks down the theory you mentioned (that a species will never show ‘altruism’ to a stranger yet are actively hostile to those of the same species.)" Look again at what I wrote: "For example, NDE predicts that you will never find a species whose members are altruistic toward strangers of the species, yet actively hostile to those they know well and those in their immediate families." You continue: "There’s no standard you can point to as to what will happen ALL the time. You can only say- most of the time family members won’t kill each other…sometimes they do." You're exactly right, and that's why an occasional exception does not negate the fact that family members aid each other far more often than they kill each other, just as NDE predicts. Some other interesting things NDE explains: 1. The 50-50 sex ratio of humans, even though we could produce more offspring if we had fewer men and more women. 2. The hormonal battle between mother and fetus that leads to gestational diabetes. 3. The fact that social insects will work for the good of the colony even though they are sterile themselves (worker bees, for example). Karl Pfluger
Also- meteorology is different. It explains why there's rain under one condition and why there isn't in a different condition. NDE purports to explain why 2 sets of animals will have different reactions to the same situation. Put a cat and dog together, and sometimes they will attack each other. Sometimes they will become friends. The former is surely more common, but it doesn't always hold true. NDE claims to explain why the dog and cat attack each other (they're of different species, thus they will attack each other.) Except, in an indentical situation they might not attack at all and might become close friends who live side-by-side. NDE would have to explain this case as well. It would thus have to posit that animals do A because of X EXCEPT when they don't do A but rather do B because of X. Makes no sense. JasonTheGreek
"NDE is not like this. It predicts that altruism will occur in some circumstances, but not in others." That's all well and good, but NDE doesn't even stand up on this "prediction", which of course was a post-hoc "prediction" to begin with. NDE "predicts" that people are altruistic to their family members, except when family members kill each other, or that animals of one species will protect those among the species, except in cases where they kill each other. It does, indeed, explain everything, thus nothing. Altruism isn't a given rule among members of the same species, because animals of the same species kill each other all the time. It's more common for them to not do so, but they do it everyday- thus, what good is the theory at all? It holds up except in all the cases that it doesn't? Dogs sometimes take in cats and protect them and raise them. Dogs an cats often live in the same homes and are friendly to each other. They're of different species. I've also seen dogs try to kill each other- same with cats who try to attack and kill each other. That alone knocks down the theory you mentioned (that a species will never show 'altruism' to a stranger yet are actively hostile to those of the same species.) With humans- the theory totally gets knocked down, as family members will often times kill each other for no reason at all. An animal killing a member of the species to get to food or to survive might be explained somehow via NDE, but a son killing his father because the father didn't let him go out with his friends? There's no standard you can point to as to what will happen ALL the time. You can only say- most of the time family members won't kill each other...sometimes they do. Sometimes they kill for no reason. JasonTheGreek
The fact that NDE explains altruism in some cases and its absence in others does not mean that NDE explains "everything (and therefore nothing)." If it did, then you could just as easily claim that meteorology explains everything and therefore nothing, because it explains why we see rain under certain circumstances and sunshine under others. The true indicator of an empty theory is that it can always be reconciled with opposite observations under the same circumstances. For example, suppose I live in a farming village which is experiencing a severe drought. My fellow villagers and I pray fervently to our weather god for relief. We get a downpour, and we credit our weather god for responding to our prayers. On the other hand, suppose it remains bone dry. Then we assume that the weather god is angry with us or that our prayers are insufficient. Opposite outcomes, but both compatible with our "weather god" theory. The theory explains everything and therfore nothing. NDE is not like this. It predicts that altruism will occur in some circumstances, but not in others. For example, NDE predicts that you will never find a species whose members are altruistic toward strangers of the species, yet actively hostile to those they know well and those in their immediate families. P.S. Along the same lines, DaveScot, I'd be curious to hear about observations that would falsify your ideas about front-loaded evolution. Karl Pfluger
Here's a story of altruism & other emotions I posted some months ago. Elephants. I thought it was amazing. https://uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/715 DaveScot
bFast - Granted the 'familial altruism' story is plausible; the objection is that a 'universal egoism' would be equally plausible: if we observed that family members don't act altruistically towards one another we'd forge another NDE story to explain that. Theories are only really useful when the exclude possible observations. Since Evolutionary Phsycology doesn't, it's not very useful. BenK
BarryA Yep... one of the abandoned puppies I rescued in December has a very strong protective response. It's a little hard to deal with because he's got his ferocious act down good and he's getting pretty big. He doesn't actually bite anyone. He goes for the feet and herds them away. It appears he's got a lot of Anatolian Shepherd in him which are livestock guard dogs from Turkey. They are notoriously suspicious of strangers and protective of their flocks including the human members of the flock. They herd the flock by nipping at the feet until the feet move in the desired direction. He doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body with the "family pack". Very submissive and well behaved. I don't think it's possible for him to even conceive of not acting as the faithful guardian willing to give his life in defense of those he guards. Much better behaved than his sister who is a bit on the naughty side. She however has no aggression problem at all and just wants to romp and play with strange people and strange dogs. They don't look a lot alike. I suspect they had different fathers in the same litter. She's much taller and longer, a little heavier, and marked like a Rottweiler instead of an Anatolian. Sorry to ramble. I was a cat person and have never really bonded with a dog before. In fact I didn't really like dogs until fate put these ones in my life. Now it's sort of like when I got my first pickup truck - you don't want to ever be without one again. Of course the chance worshippers will probably first say guarding is in trade for feeding but our dogs aren't chow hounds and really don't even see where their food comes from. Their dishes just mysteriously stay full of food and they eat what they want when they want (which is about as much as a vet recommends). Given that the chance worshipper will just call it instinct that was bred into them. I don't think it's possible to win an argument with people who hold theories such as NDE that can explain everything. DaveScot
bFast Nah, it's a bunch of crap. A few years ago I rescued a tiny finch that had fallen out of its nest. Finch nestlings are fed by regurgitated partially digested foot. While I've got the process down of raising that kind of bird (pablum, eyedropper, patience, and time to feed them every couple hours) I didn't have the time this time. So I took the little guy to a friend of mine who raises finches and she promised to git 'er done. At first my friend put the little finch in a finch cage with similar finches hoping for an adoption. Nothing. She then put the poor little guy in a cage with a pair of canaries. The canaries adopted and the little finch grew up and was released. So why did a pair of canaries adopt a common finch? Granted canaries and finches are in the same family but I'm pretty sure canaries can tell canaries from house finches. I've raised a lot of wild birds from nestlings and kept many as pets. The "birdbrain" is misleading. Individuals from the same species can exhibit remarkably different personalities. They can also easily tell one human apart from another and treat them differently. I had a little cardinal for 8 years who treated everyone in our human family with a unique greeting and dances. When he saw a stranger for the first time that person was treated to a very elaborate, long lasting song and dance with much trilling and bowing. I suspect the poor buy was searching for a mate and he'd given up on everyone in the family but was always willing to try courtship with a stranger. DaveScot
Do we need to look any further than Old Yeller for intra-species altruism. Of course, I use Old Yeller as a proxy for the many thousands of dogs that have given their lives to save their people. Dogs sacrifice themselves for their people, and there is simply no way to account of this in NDE terms. By the way, this is one reason (of several thousand) I am a dog person and not a cat person. Can anyone even imagine that a move named “Old Tabby” will ever be made. I can’t. BarryA
Not only does NDE explain altruisim, but as this article in The Times (U.K.), the "Human brain naturally inclined towards the supernatural". http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2342421,00.html Absolutely brilliant, as usual! Also, I'm sure, N.D.E. will explain atheisim and perhaps N.D.E. is a result of evolution! # # # # # The human brain is hard-wired to be susceptible to supernatural beliefs as a result of tens of thousands of years of evolution, a British psychologist said today. Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive, in spite of a lack of evidence and the advance of science, because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational in their daily lives, according to Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol. This evolved credulity suggests that it will be impossible to root out belief in ideas such as creationism and paranormal phenomena, even though they have been refuted by evidence and are held as a matter of faith alone. People ultimately believe in them for the same reasons as they attach sentimental value to inanimate objects like wedding rings or teddy bears, and recoil from artefacts linked to evil, as if they are pervaded by a physical "essence". Even the most rational people behave in these irrational ways, and supernatural beliefs are part of the same continuum, Professor Hood told the British Association Festival of Science in Norwich today. To demonstrate, he asked members of his audience if they were prepared to put on an old-fashioned blue cardigan in return for a £10 reward, and had no shortage of volunteers. He then informed them that the cardigan used to belong to Fred West, the mass murderer. "Most hands went down," he said. "When people did wear it, most people moved away from them. It’s not actually Fred West’s jumper. But it’s the belief that it’s Fred West’s jumper that has the effect. It is as if evil, a moral stance defined by culture, has become physically manifest inside the clothing." P. Phillips
Hi Dave. I don't know that N.Wells' argument is really that illogical. When I put my NDE hat on, I can see that familial altruism would be honestly supported by the theory, just as selfishness is. I think that there is an "altruism by proxy" that is also reasonably supported by NDE. This to say, it would not surprise me of other animals in the forest and lake have learned to recognize the slap of the beaver's tale, thereby also being alerted to the danger that caused the beaver to react. However, I bet we could find many examples in nature where animals have reached out altruistically to those who clearly do not support their own genes, and who do not have a symbiotic relationship with the animal. I think, for instance, of stories that dolphins actively lead ships through troubled waters. I think of stories I have heard of animals adopting members of other species -- a cat raised by a dog, etc. I suspect that if we open our eyes to non-familial altruism in nature, we will find that it is a significant phenomenon. Such should certainly shake N.Wells' view of NDE. Oh, probably not, its hard to shake a person's religous committment. bFast

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