I was attracted by the headline of an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail which read, “Why you SHOULD give away your last chocolate: Selfish people 'will eventually die out' because evolution favours cooperation”. Journalist Emma Innes’ interesting piece describes the conclusions of research undertaken at Michigan State University in the US and recently published in the journal Nature Communication.
The research project led by Christoph Adami, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, used a variety of experiments involving games to prove that selfishness will eventually disappear as a personality trait because evolution, contrary to the notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ actually favours cooperation.
According to the Daily Mail: “Researchers used the prisoner's dilemma game to study cooperation where two people who have committed a crime are arrested and each are offered a deal by police. Grass on your friend and go free while the friend spends six months in jail.
If both prisoners grass, they both get three months in jail. If they both stay silent, they both get one month in jail for a lesser offence.
The game allows scientists to study a basic question faced by individuals competing for limited resources - do I act selfishly or do I cooperate?”
According to Professor Adami: ‘We found evolution will punish you if you're selfish and mean............For a short time, and against a specific set of opponents some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn't evolutionarily sustainable.’
The Professor’s conclusions conflict with the widely accepted theory that it is selfishness which maintains the process of evolution.
Christians take a very different world view using the Bible as a starting point for explaining the genesis of selfish behaviour.
Wikipedia defines selfishness as: ‘placing concern with oneself or one's own interests above the well-being or interests of others. Selfishness is the opposite of altruism or selflessness.’ The Bible is quite clear that the root of all selfishness is sin.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Philippi exhorts them to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others”.
In the same letter, Paul talks about the opposite of selfishness which comes through being united with Christ; altruistic, selfless, compassionate and “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose”.
Sorry scientists, we don’t have to wait for generations of evolution to test your theories. Today, those who genuinely turn to God, receive the mind of Christ, the only truly selfless person in history.