Altruism, Spite and Heroism
by W.F. Price on July 23, 2012
As James Holmes’ killing spree in a Colorado movie theater is the talk of the nation, a number of reports are emerging concerning the heroic actions of at least three young men, who died protecting their loved ones. All three were killed while shielding their girlfriends from bullets, and given that Holmes was using 5.56mm NATO spec ammunition, which fragments on impact rather than passing clean through its target, quite probably saved the women’s and other people’s lives.
Some MRAs lament the fact that when faced with danger, men so willingly give up their lives for those they are attached to, while others are upset that women don’t have any appreciation for this sacrifice. I noted in Saturday’s post that women do not always like the personal sacrifices they are called on to make on behalf of the tribe, but there are unpleasant sacrifices expected from men as well. And these sacrifices are not demanded only by society, but apparently our own biology. In other words, our instincts sometimes compel us to sacrifice ourselves.
From a simple, individualistic point of view, this doesn’t make sense. Why sacrifice oneself, thereby denying the opportunity to spread one’s seed and propagate one’s genes?
It’s a bit complicated, but it turns out that it does make sense from a genetic standpoint. When I read the stories of the young men who gave up their lives, I thought of the Price equation, developed by George Price (not a close relative of mine) at the Galton Laboratory in the late 60s after he switched careers in middle age to become a theoretical biologist.