I have a book on my coffee table called the “Selfish Gene”, and though I have not yet gone through its pages as of yet, my mind was playing around with the title and the possible ramifications of indeed, our genes are ”selfish”. I remember a conversation with someone about 3 years ago who achieved three degrees before the age of 27 and looked at the world in a very analytical way, and they dissected it all down to base level. What came out of the conversation was interesting in that we looked at the driver behind many human needs and desires, and from one vantage point it would appear that most, if not all, human tendencies are driven by a self-serving mechanism. For example, when we look at generosity, the act of giving of one’s self in money, deed or time, causes our brain to give us a little spike of dopamine, which makes us feel good, and if we feel good by acting in such a manner, then we would probably repeat the process, but for the act itself or the dopamine rush? The benefit of such a process is that is helps the continuation and support of the species as we are biological driven as healthy people to nurture others, as both parties benefit from the exchange, one party is supported and the other gets a dopamine spike.
How about the biological process called love? When someone declares that “I love you” what they are saying is they are creating inside of themselves pleasing neuro~chemicals that make them feel a certain way when they think about another person, so the act of love is a biological process that serves primarily the person having the feelings first. It is possible as well that emotions such as jealousy in relationships is a reaction to the potential loss of dopamine and other neuro~chemicals, and we are guarding perhaps not the relationship but “how we feel” in response to the relationship? The biological benefit of “love neuro~chemistry” is that is supports the creation of coupling and the continuation of the human species, which is a self-serving mechanism, hence, the selfish gene.
It is a fine line between doing things for the benefit of others and for the benefit of ourselves, and according to a Buddhist saying that our motive determines the quality of the act, so are we acting in our own self-interest or in the interest of others? I believe both and to what degree depends on the individual. Some may be mainly self-interested and some may be more externally directed, focused on the needs and wants of the other primarily, but never without some end benefit to themselves.
So, are we selfish little genes seeking to simple extend our genetic code forward in an effort to live forever, manipulating the world around us by using our responsive to neuro~chemistry as leverage? In a manner yes, I believe so, but I think that is where poets and philosophers began to create a language of intention, words that make us act and feel in various ways,(affecting our biochemistry) so that we began to understand more poetically the need to survive as a species and the methods required to assure that end.
C. David Gilks Your Fellow Traveler
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