Re: Selfishness (Was: Re: Polemics for longevity)

From: Robert Owen (
Date: Sat Jan 22 2000 - 20:39:26 MST

J R Molloy wrote:

> When I use the word selfishness, I mean the instinctive, biological, congenital
> behavior that derives from unconscious evolution. To transcend biological
> imperatives, one needs to supplant the biologically-implanted selfish gene with
> a non-biological, inorganic, non-carbon based entity.
> To remain selfish, immured in the idea of "self," means to remain an animal.

Hello J.R.,

You know, of course, that a hypothesis if gaining credibility among
evolutional biologists that "cooperation" as a primordial genetic deter-
minant of behavior may be as, or more, fundamental that "competition"
relative to natural selection.

The basic question asked is: why is their not nothing but unicellular life
on earth? Why are we not all bacteria?

What needs to be explained, in this view, is what would cause quint-
essentially successful unicellular organisms to form communities and
eventually a differentiation of labor in the development of multicellular
organisms such as ourselves. Whatever the cause, the effect obviously
had survival value. Interestingly, it seems to be turning out that our
most threatening predator, our natural enemy, is our constituent
ancestor, the bacterium.[1]

This hypothesis equates this "cause" with what we call "sociality", or
more simply, "cooperation". It is not merely that each constituent
unit is perfectly selfish and in operating without the slightest interest
in other units is so integrated into the whole that the survival of the
organization is enhanced. To take one example, this organization will
subordinate the interests of units to the the survival of the brain,
sacrificing them as needed in the interests of collective survival.
Autophagia of muscle tissue to supply the brain with essential nutrients
is a case in point.[2]


[1] The virus seems to be an anomaly; it is merely a chemical reaction
     that nevertheless behaves as if it were a parasite.
[2] Obviously, the argument applies only to organisms whose diverse
     functions are ultimately integrated only by a central nervous system.
     The brain is the only thing that stands between us and progressive,
     terminal necrosis.

Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:02:32 MDT