Mathematics and faith explain altruism

Rich Barlow in The Boston Globe:

The work of the Harvard mathematician and biologist Martin Nowak, who is a Catholic, proposes a partnership between science and religion.

If evolution is all about survival of the fittest, then why have humans evolved a sense of altruism and cooperation? The seeming contradiction has engaged theologians, scientists, and even comic book writers (think the Incredible Hulk) who’ve probed human duality and how its good half sometimes empowers selflessness to override self-interest

The British biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins believes that altruism in modern humans is essentially an evolutionary oops, albeit a beneficial one. It paid off in prehistory, when people lived in clans and protecting others meant the survival of their own gene pools; now that we’ve expanded into large cities, our instinct to help others still kicks in, even though those we aid may have no relation to us.

On the other hand, Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and a Christian, sees in our willingness to work with others the handprint of God.

Then there is Harvard’s Martin Nowak. A mathematician and biologist, he agrees with Dawkins’s explanation of how we evolved to be good Samaritans. Yet as a Catholic, he rejects Dawkins’s notion that believing in evolution precludes belief in a God who included altruism in evolution’s bequest to us. Needless to say, he also rejects Dawkins’s disdain for believers as scientifically illiterate yahoos. This Vienna-born mathematician says that if you do the math, you’ll find that cooperation is more than just a nice leftover from humanity’s infancy; it’s a winning strategy for living, a way to thrive.

Full article at Mathematics and faith explain altruism – The Boston Globe

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