Essay on Altruism and the Fluctuation of Intelect

:: 4 Works Cited
Length: 1013 words (2.9 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Purple      
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Altruism and the Fluctuation of Intelect

"So I raise this question, although there is nobody around to answer it: Can it be doubted that three kilogram brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?" - Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos

On reading the text What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr, one single fact among all that upheaval of information and opinion has stuck with me and continued to occupy my own big brain: that "the human brain seems not to have changed one single bit since the first appearance of Homo sapiens, some 150,000 years ago". In contrast, the two million years before that was a period of rapid brain growth for our forbearers: the approximate volume occupied by the brains of our forbearers effectively tripled in this period of time which is, in terms of evolution, relatively short. (214) Although body mass at this time was also increasing, the rate at which our brains were increasing in size far outstripped that of the body.

Why then, some 150,00 years ago, did that process suddenly halt? As is evidenced by the fossil record, there was apparently some selective pressure towards bigger brains size that eventually leveled off and stopped. Why do we no longer have natural selection in favor of that bigger brain size? Two logical explanations present themselves: either the circumstances that caused our brains to begin increasing were satisfied, or some other circumstances occurred that effected brain size in the opposite direction. One hypothesis that has presented itself to me is that the latter has occurred, but as a side effect of our own evolving intelligence; that we, in effect, became "too smart for our own good". What byproduct of our intelligence could be so powerful as to provide...

... middle of paper ...

...lity that we have in fact become too smart for our own good, and that our intellect is now producing some emotions which will in turn counteract the drive towards more intellect. All the advances that humankind has made since the age of the Neanderthals 150,000 years ago have been a product of our creation of cultural knowledge rather than a result of any increase in our brain size. It is perhaps because of this evolution of culture, and the ideals inherent in it, that our brain size has not selectively increased in the past 150,000 years.

Works Cited

Cartwright, John H. Evolutionary Explanations of Human Behaviour. Routledge: New York, NY, 2001.

Eccles, John C. Evolution of the brain. Routledge: London, England, 1989.

Mayr, Ernst. What Evolution Is. Basic Books: New York, NY, 2001.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Galapagos. Dell Publishing Co.: New York, NY 1985.

Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

This essay is 100% guaranteed.

Title Length Color Rating  
Fluctuation of Prices Essays - Exercise 1: Question 1. Everyone’s Gasoline Problem For any consumer who owns a vehicle and has to commute daily, the rise and fall of gas prices can be difficult to comprehend. In order to understand the variances for gas and oil prices, one must evaluate the core reasons for the fluctuation. According to recent research, the quick changes in oil and gas prices can be directly associated to several factors, which include supply and demand, market speculation, taxes and the expense of refining crude oil into gasoline (Herbert, 2008)....   [tags: Supply and Demand]
:: 5 Works Cited
988 words
(2.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Altruism: Our Desire to Help Others Essay - Over the endless cycles of generations, human life has lived up to its fundamental purpose of survival. Not only have we survived as a species, but we have evolved into the most complicated species on earth. Creatures riddled with mystery, emotion, morality; we have outdone ourselves in overcoming our basic reset function of survival. We originated in the mindset of survive and reproduce only to morph into a race rooted in emotion and intricate thought. Darwin’s theory, survival of the fittest, calculates that humans basic goal and reason of life is to survive, and reproduce; to have only ones self in mind....   [tags: Psychology ]
:: 9 Works Cited
2509 words
(7.2 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
The Causes of Altruism Essay - How do humans actually behave when faced with the decision to help others. The innate desire that compels humans to help is called altruism by psychologists. Through this feeling, humans transform from a selfish jerk to a more compassionate and caring person. Some psychologists believe that this feeling stems from nature itself. Despite the fact that some altruistic acts originate from the pressures of society, altruism predominantly comes from the survival of the fittest, the feeling of empathy, and the selfish desire to benefit your own kin....   [tags: Psychology ]
:: 7 Works Cited
1151 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Altruism and Egoism Essay - In popular culture, an altruistic person is connoted with being a genuine individual that plays as a role model for others, but an egotistic person is synonymous with an evil beast that squashes over anything to attain his own end. However, the views of Ayn Rand heavily collide with these mainstream perceptions of Altruism and Egoism. Rand believes that the basic principle of altruism "is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, his service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value."(1) Thus, she conceptualizes altruism as an ethical dilemma for the person whom sacrifice is demanded....   [tags: Literature] 1131 words
(3.2 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Essay on Altruism: The Illusion of Self-Interest - The behavior of altruism in an individual is when it brings more costs than benefits for the benefit of another individual. Altruism comes from the Latin word "Alter" which means "the others." This translation of alturism describes it relatively well. Another great definition of altruism can be found in a statement of Edward Osborne Wilson, an American biologist. According to Wilson, "Altruism is defined in biology, as in everyday life, as a self-destructive behavior for the benefit of other." (Recent Work on Human Altruism and Evolution) Another popularized theory by Richard Dawkins states that an individual who behaves more altruistic towards others who share its genes will tend to reprod...   [tags: psychology, egoism, altruistic] 1154 words
(3.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Altruism Essay - Why do we show altruism. Social and evolutionary biologists, psychologists, economists and philosophers alike have made many attempts at providing an explanation for altruism. As a result, many opposing theories have developed over the years. In this essay, I will attempt to explain altruism as the presence of an altruistic gene which is selected for by natural selection in terms of kin selection. I will explore evidence supporting this theory, as well as evidence pointing to psychological explanations such as reciprocal altruism, social norms and primitive sympathy....   [tags: Psychology] 1080 words
(3.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Altruism VS The Selfish Gene - Would you give a penny to the needy. How about a kidney. A heart. The thought of spring break brings up images of partying in warm weather, drunken one-night stands, and the raging hangovers that follow; yet for Rachel Garneau, a junior at Notre-Dame, it represented an pseudo-holiday opportunity for giving, and give she did. This twenty year old gave up a kidney for a complete stranger. There was an air of psychosis to her as she walked right into the University Of Chicago’s Bernard Mitchell Hospital, calm as ever; her demeanor quite indifferent, her nonchalance quite unnerving....   [tags: Sociology] 1545 words
(4.4 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Analysis of Real Altruism Essay - Helping someone in need or getting the feeling of wanting to help someone in need is something that happens in everyone’s life. It is a common thought that animals help each other expecting to gain something in return. But in some cases, helping is not linked to immediate returning benefits or these are inexistent. This type of behavior has caught the attention of psychologists interested in understanding the ideas and thoughts behind it. Can this be considered real altruism. Psychologists have been studying this issue suggesting different ideas to explain altruistic behavior....   [tags: social issues, social psychology]
:: 9 Works Cited
1682 words
(4.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Altruism: Selfless or Selfish? - Altruism: Selfless or Selfish. "We are all here on earth to help others. What I can't figure out is what the others are here for." --W. H. Auden (1) Whether we are here to help others is a question I've often asked myself, and a question I will not be able to answer while I am still here on earth. Perhaps before I even consider that question, however, I should wonder whether we even can be here to help others: is selflessness really possible. Or is "altruism" merely doing things for others in order to feel good about ourselves....   [tags: Biology Essays Research Papers]
:: 10 Works Cited
1620 words
(4.6 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Psychology of Altruism and Morality Essay - Psychology of Altruism and Morality The two competing theoretical frameworks that attempt to explain the development of morality are cognitive-behavioral and cognitive-developmental. The cognitive-behavioral approach is taken by Liebert, and the cognitive-developmental approach is taken by Kohlberg. Both sides have strong arguments that support their own theories and try to tear apart the opposing theory. The cognitive-developmental approach has been studied extensively by Lawrence Kohlberg. Through his studies using moral dilemmas, Kohlberg developed his six stages of moral development....   [tags: essays papers] 732 words
(2.1 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]