Dr. Edward Osborne Wilson is recognized as the world’s leading authority on ants. He is the foremost proponent of Sociobiology, the study of the genetic basis of the social behavior of all animals including humans. In his book, Sociobiology : The New Synthesis(1975) he had presented his theories about the biological basis of social behavior. It involves the application of the Theory of Evolution to the study of animal and human social behavior. It holds that the Theory of Evolution by ‘natural selection’ applies to behavior in the same way that it applies to structure and physiological functions. He holds that behavior patterns are genetically determined and are governed by the process of ‘natural selection’. Accordingly, he explains that social behavior relies upon the principle that genes are able to influence behavior and will be selected if the behaviors they encourage contribute ultimately to the reproductive success of the individual carrying those genes. The ‘Darwinian Fitness’ of an organism or a gene is a measure of the ability of that organism or gene to project copies of itself into future generations. Because, ‘natural selection’ would influence genetically controlled behavior, he believes that individuals will tend to behave in ways that maximize their ‘Darwinian Fitness’. However, he had attributed 10 percent of human behavior as genetically induced, the rest being attributable to environment. It could be indeed true that some behavioral abilities depend upon underlying genetic mechanisms which support the neural and hormonal mechanisms that are required in the performance of actions by organisms. Dr. Wilson has recognized the essentially biological principles on which animal societies are based and could apply those principles to human social behavior. One of Dr. Wilson’s most notable theories is that a characteristic such as ‘altruism’ could be genetically based and may have evolved through the process of ‘natural selection’. Dr. Wilson maintains that altruistic behavior is consistent with ‘natural selection’ in that the sacrifice is made to save closely related individuals who share many of the sacrificed organism’s genes.
ALTRUISM AND SOCIOBIOLOGY:
The term ‘altruism’ ( French – altruisme ) was coined by Auguste Comte, the founder of Positivism and Sociology. It is considered as antithesis to Egoism. Altruism is behavior that benefits others at some cost to the individual displaying altruistic behavior. Social scientists refer to altruism as the behavior of an individual who consciously comes to the aid of another, without expecting anything in return. Such behavior is influenced by empathy, an emotional response that results from being aware of another person’s emotions. In Ethics, altruism is described as a theory of conduct that regards the good of others as the end of moral action. It describes unselfish concern for the welfare of others. However, biologists view altruism as any behavior that reduces the ‘Darwinian Fitness'( reproductive success ) of the altruist while increasing the fitness of another. It is common for animals to share food, help provide for another’s young, defend others against predators, and give alarm calls when a predator appears. Such animal altruism is common and it does not require psychological abilities and functions like sharing of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Altruism as a behavior is not always a psychological function or ability. It is displayed as pure altruism in the social behavior of worker bees, ants, and wasps.
SPIRITUALISM – THE NEW SYNTHESIS:
It must be understood that behavior is a fundamental characteristic of life and of all living entities. All species, whether single-celled protozoans or the largest of mammals possess the capacity to respond to stimuli in their environment. This ability called responsiveness is the fundamental attribute of all kinds and types of behavior. Psychologists like B.F. Skinner tend to focus on the learned components of behavior and stress the importance of environment and its influence on behavior. Biologists like Konrad Lorenz tend to focus primarily on the analysis of the innate components of behavior. Sociobiologists tend to recognize the role of genes and the influence of environment and describe that behavioral abilities depend on underlying genetic mechanisms that develop the structures and physiological mechanisms that are important to display a given behavior. It may be noted that both Psychologists and Biologists are describing behavior in the context of social relations and interactions between individual and groups of living organisms. Living things behave in ways to maximize their chances of survival. In the entire animal kingdom, most living organisms display parental or social instincts. All animals display social behavior. There is no animal that is ever completely isolated from some kind of environment that includes members of the same species or other species. Animals form parental societies to care for their offspring. Bacteria come together to live as colonies. Hence, it will be important to recognize social behavior that is displayed by individual living cells. I define Spiritualism as the capacity or the biological ability of an individual living cell to form harmonious relations with others and to participate in or contribute constructively to changes in the social environment. The potency called Spiritualism is reflected in the biological functions of Consciousness and Intelligence. At cellular level, the social aspect of Consciousness is reflected by the biological abilities of the cell such as association, cooperation, communication, recognition of other living cells in its immediate environment, and performing actions which have characteristics of functional subservience to provide benefits like survival and reproductive success to other cells. A very good example of Spiritualism is that of altruism displayed by the mature Red Blood Cells of humans. The mature Red Blood Cells have no nuclei and hence cannot divide or reproduce. Each Red Blood Cell has a very limited life span of its own. They sustain their meagre energy needs by a form of anaerobic respiration as they do not have mitochondria like the trillions of other cells of the human body. The Red Blood Cells are passive in nature and they simply exist to provide Oxygen to other cells and tissues, collect Carbon Dioxide while being swept along by the blood stream. Since the mature Red Blood Cells have no nuclei, their behavior is not operated by genes or genetic mechanisms which could be important in their formation, development, and maturation. The social aspects of the Red Blood Cell behavior is related to the spiritual nature of its living substance. I would ask Biologists to give attention to the nature, functional abilities of the living substance apart from the consideration of genes and genetic mechanisms. It may be very clearly understood that the nucleus, the chromosomes, and the genes have no independent existence of their own and they perform their cellular functions while they derive energy and nutritional support from the living substance or Protoplasm that has the biological abilities of Consciousness, and Intelligence which is reflected in its properties like responsiveness, the power of nutrition, and reproduction. Spiritualism is the Science of New Synthesis; the New Synthesis that formulates the relationships between Substance, Structure, Function, Heredity of a Living Organism and its Environment, Behavior, and Social Community.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S. Class of April, 1970.
- Spiritualism – the Key to Human Nature (bhavanajagat.com)
- Spiritualism and Materialism (bhavanajagat.com)
- Spiritualism – the Medical Doctrine of Dialectical Spiritualism (bhavanajagat.com)