A recent NYTimes article entitled We May Be Born With An Urge to Help by Nicholas Wade [Nov 30] seems at first glance to contradict my last blog posting on the tribal gene. But I contend it does not.
The article speaks to the observation that young children will offer assistance to others who are in need of help. This appears at an age prior to any parental or environmental influence, thereby suggesting a genetic impulse towards altruism.
The article uses such terms as "shared intentionality", "obligatory cooperation" and others to explain this behavior in evolutionary terms. They were necessary traits to ensure the survival of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Group cooperation was clearly necessary, likely facilitated by the acquisition of language. References to the nature of the human eye, the presence of sclera, the tendency of babies to watch the movement of eyes rather than the head all suggest an innate ability to "read" the feelings and intentions others.
This is probably when autistic individuals seem so unusual to us–apparently they are not as capable of decoding the more subtle signs of human feeling which contributes to relating to others.
Still, why does all the evidence of human behavior and history unmistakably demonstrate cruelty, abominable behavior towards others–genocides, holocausts, war ?
The answer, I still maintain, is that tribal gene.
Altruism, cooperative behavior, empathy all seem to end at the gate of the "other".
We love who we love. We will sacrifice for our "kin". But if we declare someone to be outside our tribal identity–all bets are off!!
This is the only way to explain what are seemingly contradictory aspects of human nature. We need to be aware of the true nature of man, if we are to address those horrific consequences of the tribal gene.