Saturday, March 29, 2008

The search for our selfish gene

Through evolutionary biology we have come to believe that every animal is born to be selfish in order to survive, adapt and breed. ‘A predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness,’ (Dawkins, 1976). Cognitive and evolutionary psychologists have formulated their own ideas as to why humans are selfish and what drives the selfish desires or traits of an individual. Recent research has lead to the possibility that we are born that way.

For the first few years of a regular child’s life they are primarily selfish, some continue this trait all through life. A newly born baby doesn’t care for others, only for its own hunger, fatigue or boredom. Researchers have claimed that there is sufficient evidence to believe that there is a gene containing the material that drives our selfishness. The ‘selfish gene’ has not yet been found. This gene is the basis for our morals, which develop with age and influence. Combine the gene our morals and emotion and you have all the tools necessary to make a cooperative or selfish choice.

At the moment the focus is on finding if the selfish gene actually exists. Philosophical speculation as to what it will mean if the gene is found is well in discussion. If we are born selfish then how did we develop into emotional and moral creatures all those centuries ago? If the gene is discovered it will be a big day for biology but perhaps more of a focal topic in philosophical circles.

by Michael Milevskiy


Dean, T (2007) Right & Wrong, COSMOS, issue 17, page 46-53, Luna Media

Picture: Dean, T (2007) The Science of Good & Evil, issue 17 October, Luna Media, accessed: 28th March 2008

Further Reading: Richard Dawkins, 'The Selfish Gene'
: The Selfish Gene,

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