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Selfishness and aggression

Just been reading "the selfish gene" by Richard Dawkins and I find it very interesting. There are bits that bother me though and thats bits like survival of the fittest and basically being aggressive and selfish is infact benificial if you want to reproduce (I could be wrong, im only a couple of chapters in). I'm just wondering how Buddhism relates to this. I mean does being a Buddhist mean being Mr Nice guy and therefore finishing last? Can Buddhists be assholes if necessary?

Comments

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited May 2016

    @Mingle said:
    Just been reading "the selfish gene" by Richard Dawkins and I find it very interesting. There are bits that bother me though and thats bits like survival of the fittest and basically being aggressive and selfish is infact benificial if you want to reproduce (I could be wrong, im only a couple of chapters in).

    Sure if you want to reproduce selfish and aggressive offspring.

    Think about two groups. One is made up of mostly selfish individuals that only look out for themselves and the other is made up of compassionate individuals that care about the well being of the group.

    If these two groups come to blows the group that cares about each other and can work together will be stronger than the selfish group.

    Minglelobsterrohit
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    That's it exactly.

  • MingleMingle Veteran
    edited May 2016

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    Thanks that was really good. I listened to it all. So basically being an asshole will always beat the nice guy and receive the most gain but he also risks meeting another asshole of which the end result they will both lose terribly . But two nice guys will inherently work together making a mutual gain of half the prize but will both be safe.

    So a nice guy dominated society where most people cooperate will be more likely to survive although there will always be assholes to exploit the nice guys .Switch it up though and have a asshole dominated society there would be no chance of survival because the chances of an asshole meeting another asshole is much greater meaning the two will always lose.

    Makes perfect sense, being compassionate is risky but is worth it as a greater whole.

    personJeroen
  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @Mingle
    Can Buddhists be assholes if necessary?

    People, whether Buddhist or not, can definitely be assholes even when it's not necessary?
    I can't tell you how much Buddhist assholery I've seen explained away with the justification of very selective dharma speak.

    Although Buddhism is really about how best to keep working directly towards suffering's cessation, thinking of yourself as a Buddhist can be like belonging to any other tribe.

    If propagating your genes in a survivalist setting is really one of your main priorities, there are much better suited groups to join that can help you manifest such a priority.

    lobsterFosdick
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    Thanks that was really good. I listened to it all. So basically being an asshole will always beat the nice guy and receive the most gain but he also risks meeting another asshole of which the end result they will both lose terribly . But two nice guys will inherently work together making a mutual gain of half the prize but will both be safe.

    So a nice guy dominated society where most people cooperate will be more likely to survive although there will always be assholes to exploit the nice guys .Switch it up though and have a asshole dominated society there would be no chance of survival because the chances of an asshole meeting another asshole is much greater meaning the two will always lose.

    Makes perfect sense, being compassionate is risky but is worth it as a greater whole.

    That was a really great summation... and funny.

  • MingleMingle Veteran
    edited May 2016

    @person said:

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    Thanks that was really good. I listened to it all. So basically being an asshole will always beat the nice guy and receive the most gain but he also risks meeting another asshole of which the end result they will both lose terribly . But two nice guys will inherently work together making a mutual gain of half the prize but will both be safe.

    So a nice guy dominated society where most people cooperate will be more likely to survive although there will always be assholes to exploit the nice guys .Switch it up though and have a asshole dominated society there would be no chance of survival because the chances of an asshole meeting another asshole is much greater meaning the two will always lose.

    Makes perfect sense, being compassionate is risky but is worth it as a greater whole.

    That was a really great summation... and funny.

    Just goes to show the old saying is true, two wrongs dont make I right.

    So I see that kindness will be the best move when faced with kindness, you will win. What I dont get though is how you can win when faced with an asshole, I guess you will still lose if you are kind but you wont lose as bad as if you were too an asshole. So kindness is still the best move.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited May 2016

    @how said:
    People, whether Buddhist or not, can definitely be assholes even when it's not necessary?
    I can't tell you how much Buddhist assholery I've seen explained away with the justification of very selective dharma speak.

    :3 Guilty as charged :3

    May all the saints, Buddhas and un-smarts save us ...

    Fortunately somebody, mentioning no names ... oh OK, the Enlightened ... are on it. They do not operate from group think or personal agendas. No Mam!

    The motivation of the arhats, attainers and super-conscious is the benefit of peoples understanding and also group and individual well being. Being aware of 'Buddhist assholery' is just another potential hindrance. However also being aware of how to make skilful use of temporary negative acting traits, means there are wrathful, asshole, empathic, master plans in play ...

    Long live the Samyaksambuddhas! B)

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    Thanks that was really good. I listened to it all. So basically being an asshole will always beat the nice guy and receive the most gain but he also risks meeting another asshole of which the end result they will both lose terribly . But two nice guys will inherently work together making a mutual gain of half the prize but will both be safe.

    So a nice guy dominated society where most people cooperate will be more likely to survive although there will always be assholes to exploit the nice guys .Switch it up though and have a asshole dominated society there would be no chance of survival because the chances of an asshole meeting another asshole is much greater meaning the two will always lose.

    Makes perfect sense, being compassionate is risky but is worth it as a greater whole.

    That was a really great summation... and funny.

    Just goes to show the old saying is true, two wrongs dont make I right.

    So I see that kindness will be the best move when faced with kindness, you will win. What I dont get though is how you can win when faced with an asshole, I guess you will still lose if you are kind but you wont lose as bad as if you were too an asshole. So kindness is still the best move.

    I'm working through that one myself. I think maybe you could see it as you may lose certain battles with assholes but you could win the war by gaining support of the good guys.

    Sometimes the assholes are violent or are whole countries with armies so the cost of losing maybe gets too high for complete pacifism.

    Matt Parker and Trey Stone of South Park fame make a compelling argument for how to deal with assholes. (Not for the faint of heart)

    Mingle
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    What is it with "the selfish gene"? Survival of the fittest is not survival of the most aggressive. After all, whales don't distinguish between an aggressive krill and a passive krill. To Tutu, they all taste scrumptious. Fittest translates to the best able to adapt to the environment/ecosystem it is in. It also refers to a species, not the individual turtle, person or crayfish.
    A degree of selflessness, not selfishness, contributes to the advancement and survival of the species. Inter-species cooperation, such as between Republicans and Democrats, has, by-and-large, worked out to the betterment of both species. Selfishness on the other hand, while temporarily seeming to enhance individuals survival, has always ultimately resulted in the degradation of that species and often of the ecosystem inhabited by the individuals and the species. Again, we can refer to the Republicans and the Democrats. Although, technically, they are really sub-species within a specific genre.

    That remind me - THE CIRCUS IS IN TOWN! :o:3:p:)

    Enough of this tom foolery and falderall!
    Time for some hot cocoa (home made of course).

    Peace to all

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    Thanks that was really good. I listened to it all. So basically being an asshole will always beat the nice guy and receive the most gain but he also risks meeting another asshole of which the end result they will both lose terribly . But two nice guys will inherently work together making a mutual gain of half the prize but will both be safe.

    So a nice guy dominated society where most people cooperate will be more likely to survive although there will always be assholes to exploit the nice guys .Switch it up though and have a asshole dominated society there would be no chance of survival because the chances of an asshole meeting another asshole is much greater meaning the two will always lose.

    Makes perfect sense, being compassionate is risky but is worth it as a greater whole.

    Well, this is why we should temper our compassion with wisdom and vice versa. Being compassionate doesn't mean we have to be willing victims.

    The path of least harm means sometimes we put the bully down.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited May 2016

    Oops, double post

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    As usual the forum delivers an excellent discussion, it has expanded my knowledge of evolutionary competition vs cooperation mechanics, thanks people :)

    Although I would point out that the whole discussion about who "finishes last" in evolution is a bit lost on most Buddhists, as the monks by being celibate are weeding themselves out of the gene pool, and also neatly take themselves out of most competitions for who is strongest/richest/most successful. As in fact the teachings encourage lay people to do as well.

    Perhaps there is a meta-environment for evolution once you include karma and rebirth and the afterlife. Who knows who finishes first or last in that? Or indeed what finishing means?

  • MingleMingle Veteran

    @person said:

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:

    @Mingle said:

    @person said:
    You should look into the science of cooperation. Most life lives the majority of its time in cooperation with those around them. I'm guessing that conflict and aggression were studied first because its more noticeable since it stands apart from the norm, like two people getting in a fight at a party, the basic structure of a party is people mingling and getting along but if there's a fight suddenly the whole night becomes about that single outlier of an event. Survival of the fittest favors those who will work harmoniously with the group, imagine a world where everyone was actually competitive and aggressive in traffic or shopping lines, etc. rather than cooperative. Aggressive, selfish behavior is only successful because the majority is cooperative.

    This one of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite podcasts

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/

    Thanks that was really good. I listened to it all. So basically being an asshole will always beat the nice guy and receive the most gain but he also risks meeting another asshole of which the end result they will both lose terribly . But two nice guys will inherently work together making a mutual gain of half the prize but will both be safe.

    So a nice guy dominated society where most people cooperate will be more likely to survive although there will always be assholes to exploit the nice guys .Switch it up though and have a asshole dominated society there would be no chance of survival because the chances of an asshole meeting another asshole is much greater meaning the two will always lose.

    Makes perfect sense, being compassionate is risky but is worth it as a greater whole.

    That was a really great summation... and funny.

    Just goes to show the old saying is true, two wrongs dont make I right.

    So I see that kindness will be the best move when faced with kindness, you will win. What I dont get though is how you can win when faced with an asshole, I guess you will still lose if you are kind but you wont lose as bad as if you were too an asshole. So kindness is still the best move.

    I'm working through that one myself. I think maybe you could see it as you may lose certain battles with assholes but you could win the war by gaining support of the good guys.

    Sometimes the assholes are violent or are whole countries with armies so the cost of losing maybe gets too high for complete pacifism.

    Matt Parker and Trey Stone of South Park fame make a compelling argument for how to deal with assholes. (Not for the faint of heart)

    That's really funny, I recognize the voice. Sounds like Randy off south park.

    Man I dont wanna be covered in shit.

  • namarupanamarupa Veteran

    If the world was a little less selfish and aggressive, we would have cured cancer, solved the energy crisis, explored a habitable planet already, and many other things. What is it holding the human race from advancement if not wars, greed, pride, anger, and ignorance?

    Jeroen
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @namarupa said:
    If the world was a little less selfish and aggressive, we would have cured cancer, solved the energy crisis, explored a habitable planet already, and many other things. What is it holding the human race from advancement if not wars, greed, pride, anger, and ignorance?

    These are just symptoms of the disease of us and "them".

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @federica said:
    Dawkins is not as smart as he'd like US to think he is.

    He has some pretty sound theories and "beliefs". But his atheistic beliefs make him just as stubborn, die-hard and obstinate in his determination to justify his opinions, as any fundie God-believer...

    THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Most fundies use their religions to be an asshole. Dawkins uses science - but he's still an asshole.

    silver
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I must admit, something about Dawkins' aggressive denial seems excessively zealous and not very tolerant. But I respect his point of view, and that he represents a sizeable fraction of society. Religions owe it to their adherents to be compliant to scientific inquiry, and more reasonable in nature than their past has made them.

    The fact that Dawkins is to a certain extent calling religions on their responsibilities and reasonableness is no bad thing. He is teaching people to think for themselves a bit more, which is good. The scientist in me likes him, the spiritual seeker says he has a lot to learn.

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited May 2016

    To me, evolution is based on the premise of continuation of the "self" through species, race, family. If the individual self cannot exist indefinitely, at least it can sort of continue as a species. For the species to survive, cooperation is needed and the self can continue as the species. So much so that wherever Homo Sapiens go, there follows mass extinctions of "other" species. Humans are successful precisely because they are able to cooperate in large numbers that no other animals are able to. We unite under the umbrella of ideology, religion, race, fans of Michael Jackson - basically anything.

    Yes. Humans are selfish. If they have to choose between their own survival and that of another species, it's a no brainer what that choice is going to be.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @pegembara yet we continue to manage the planet in a way that will eventually ensure our destruction. We only have the ability, apparently, to choose our species' survival when it is an immediate, short term threat.

  • @karasti If we have to choose between our own survival or destruction, it's also a no brainer what that choice is going to be. The question is will it be too late when the time comes.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I think it's probably already too late, I don't think we can do much to stop the cascade, it's just a matter of how long it takes to happen. It's a no brainer when the choice is individual. It's another matter when it requires us as a species to work together on a problem that seems intangible. It's easy to know what to do when your house catches fire or a dog attacks one of your kids. It's not so easy when the threat is mostly silent and hidden and we can't even agree on whether it's a problem never mind what to do about it. We'll drown in the rising oceans while we're looking to the sky for the apocalyptic meteor.

    silver
  • @Kerome said:
    As usual the forum delivers an excellent discussion, it has expanded my knowledge of evolutionary competition vs cooperation mechanics, thanks people :)

    Although I would point out that the whole discussion about who "finishes last" in evolution is a bit lost on most Buddhists, as the monks by being celibate are weeding themselves out of the gene pool, and also neatly take themselves out of most competitions for who is strongest/richest/most successful. As in fact the teachings encourage lay people to do as well.

    Perhaps there is a meta-environment for evolution once you include karma and rebirth and the afterlife. Who knows who finishes first or last in that? Or indeed what finishing means?

    Thanissaro Bhikkhu once said, that living in celibacy is an act of compassion since you won't reproduce, thus not reproduce suffering. It was in "Counter cultural Values".
    One could achieve this with contraception too, though :)

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Mingle said:
    Just been reading "the selfish gene" by Richard Dawkins and I find it very interesting. There are bits that bother me though and thats bits like survival of the fittest and basically being aggressive and selfish is infact benificial if you want to reproduce.

    Survival of the fittest, means 'fit for purpose' and that may mean that in certain circumstances, stupidity, aggression, noisier, selfish, altruistic, empathic - whatever the needs of the situation are favoured.
    So for example some sangha may be in a favourable position to be seduced by Maras sons and daughters ...

    I think that is how temple guardians are born :p

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @Mingle said:
    Just been reading "the selfish gene" by Richard Dawkins and I find it very interesting. There are bits that bother me though and thats bits like survival of the fittest and basically being aggressive and selfish is infact benificial if you want to reproduce (I could be wrong, im only a couple of chapters in). I'm just wondering how Buddhism relates to this.

    I would buy into this if the brain hadn't evolved to nurture our young. I think it started with the birds and then on to mammals. Now we've gotten to the point where we actually let our young move back in with us if their first attempt in the world fails. Only humans do that as far as I'm aware.

    A human infant will simply not survive if their guardians are selfish and aggressive towards it. This nurturing of the young is very beneficial to the species because it makes for a more caring adult. We are starting to realize that we need to be cooperative to out grow this teenage wasteland we call samsara.

    To me it would follow that compassion is now slowly being hardwired in.

    Think of the world if we were all selfish and aggressive instead of just the loud minority. I don't think we would have made it this far.

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