Altruism in Biology

Biology / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
A discussion of the concept of “altruism” within the context of biology.

This paper presents an examination of the phenomenon of “altruism” among humans and animals. Altruism is defined as behavior by an organism that may be to its disadvantage but is to the advantage of others of its kind. The question of why organisms behave in this manner is the focus of this paper. Various research works in this field are detailed, shedding light on why altruistic behavior is manifested in the animal kingdom and why altruistic behavior is undertaken intentionally in the human world.
“The subject has been much studied to ascertain why animals and humans alike behave in an altruistic fashion, given the selfish power of the genetic predisposition toward self-protection. Research has been conducted to identify behaviors which might be considered altruistic and then to determine whether they are truly altruistic or instead offer some benefit to the organism that may not be readily apparent. Different ethical theories involve differing procedures, implications, and justifications for solving moral dilemmas. A moral dilemma occurs when an individual has to face a choice between two different ethical solutions, solutions that are contradictory. Our society depends on a sense of morality as part of the normative structure of the citizenry, and the normative structure is what we accept as a minimum of shared understanding of what is moral, serving thus as a guide to our behavior and to our judgment about the behavior of others. A moral dilemma tests our definitions and our resolve to find ways of balancing competing interests. Altruistic behavior in some ways challenges this structure by being behavior without evident reward, though it may be an example of a normative behavior. Some theorists consider altruism as having a genetic basis, while others see it as a social construct and as a norm imposed by society. Still others consider the psychological implications for such behavior seek reasons for altruistic behavior in human psychology.”


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