The Paradox Of Altruism
Charles Darwin regarded the problem of altruismâ€”the act of helping someone else, even if it comes at a steep personal costâ€”as a potentially fatal challenge to his theory of natural selection. After all, if life was such a cruel â€œstruggle for existence,â€ then how could a selfless individual ever live long enough to reproduce? Why would natural selection favor a behavior that made us less likely to survive?
And yet, as Darwin knew, altruism is everywhere, a stubborn anomaly of nature. Bats feed hungry brethren; honeybees defend the hive by committing suicide with a sting; birds raise offspring that arenâ€™t their own; humans leap onto subway tracks to save strangers. The sheer ubiquity of such behavior suggests that kindness is not a losing life strategy.