To Bee Or Not To Bee

September 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Altruism, as a result of evolution, has been displayed throughout the animal kingdom. Whether it is the worker termites protecting their queen or the drone bees performing a similar role, somewhere along the path altruism was deemed as favorable by evolution. However, these animals did not choose to become altruistic beings. So the question arises, if you could artificially give your offspring a gene (or genes rather because something as complex as a character trait is undoubtedly coded for by more than one gene, if it is even inheritable at all) that would make the child more altruistic would you?

I guess in some form or fashion, all parents want their children to be “good people” (whatever that means). Not being a parent, I guess this is all speculation on my part but isn’t it okay to allow your children to mess up every now and then. Live and learn right? Part of what makes people extremely successful is that they know from experience what doesn’t work. By altering your children’s genes and, in essence, forcing them to be nice people you are depriving them of the opportunity to learn for themselves; you are depriving them of free will.

Part of being a good person is one’s choice to be a good person. Creating a set of genes that remove a person’s choice to be a good person defeats the purpose. I would rather teach my children the importance of being kind to others rather than insert a gene that compels him to do just that.

Society (or maybe our human nature?) has instilled in us some general guidelines, if you will, of what it means to be a good person: respecting others, respecting yourself, abiding by preexisting laws, etc. However, there is certainly a point where someone can go overboard by being a good person. At what point does one step back and say, “Maybe I should be selfish this one time?”

Of course, nobody actually utters those words. But at what point does being altruistic become harmful to one’s well-being? In some cases, you simply have to be selfish and look out for yourself. After all the wild is governed by one rule: Eat or be eaten.

If we assume that the drone bees had a developed brain for higher level thinking, there is no way they would continue in their altruistic, suicidal behavior. Luckily, these bees don’t have a cerebral cortex that parallels that of humans and therefore cannot make the choice to veer away from their current lifestyle. Conversely, humans can. What’s the difference you ask? It’s all a matter of choice. Choice makes humans human; lack of choice makes drone bees drone bees. If humans didn’t choose to be altruistic, what would differentiate our lives from those of the poor drone bees?

Nothing. Except that humans don’t make honey.

-Pranav Santapuram




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