Wednesday, June 27, 2007

With blog competition like this…

It’s no wonder I can’t break 10 hits a day. On the blog for LiveScience, you can read a blog by Robert Roy Britt, identified as Managing Editor for LiveScience and a senior editor for

Apparently the standards for these organizations are really low. I mean extremely low, like “must write better than a drunken hobo” low. How else could one explain “Americans as Altruistic as Chimpanzees” blog entry that Mr. Britt foisted upon the world yesterday?

Britt gives us the Webster’s definition of altruism as unselfish concern for the welfare of others. From this, he derives that anything short of laying down your life for a stranger must be selfishly motivated:

“[individuals of under $100,000 annual income giving $100] derive emotional benefit simply because the act makes them feel good…so by definition most charitable giving is not altruistic.”
He’s assuming that the psychological feeling is the motivation for the giving. But isn’t it just as likely that you give because you’re altruistic, then you derive a feeling of satisfaction because you’re altruistic and that means that you’re better than, say, a chimpanzee?

Not for Britt: he launches into a paean to chimpanzee altruism, which has been noted in laboratory environments but only rarely in the wild, and only when the chimp is not hungry. If the chimp is hungry, it basically says “screw off” and feeds itself and ignores helping others.

So to recap: chimps in the lab, if well-fed, sometimes help others. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy to your hairy brethren? It doesn’t? Well, surely Britt’s faulty logic will convince you:

“for humans, as with chimps, altruism is based on whether their own needs are first met, which is anything but unselfish.”
Welcome to the crazy world of Robert "Kiss My" Britt, where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. The only truly altruistic person, he therefore implies, would be the poor person that lays down his life for a stranger (perhaps a rich chimpanzee) and is unhappy to do so.

Otherwise, all your charitable giving pretty much amounts to stealing. So bah humbug, you selfish bastards.