Aug 27 2008

Not So Red in Tooth

Published by at 11:49 am under culture,evolution

Evolution and survival are not simply about competing with others for valued resources.  Cooperation plays an essential role as well.  For social species such as we primates, this is especially true.

Consider this finding from a recent study on the behavior of monkeys:

The capuchins then were given the choice of two tokens: the selfish option, which rewarded that capuchin alone with an apple slice; or the prosocial option, which rewarded both capuchins with an apple slice. The monkeys predominantly selected the prosocial token when paired with a relative or familiar individual but not when paired with a stranger.  (From Monkeys Enjoy Giving To Others, Study Finds.)

Hmm . . . I wonder, would an Ayn Rand-grade libertarian scold the monkeys for giving other monkeys food they hadn’t worked for?

That issue, right there, is why I think of myself as a libertarian in terms of civil rights, but not in terms of civic responsibilities (do libertarians even recognize civic responsibilities?).  In that regard, I guess I’m a good old-fashioned democrat.  Or at least a primate with some capuchin tendencies.

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