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How to Destroy Love with Darwinism

Photo: First responders, by Matt Chesin via Unsplash.

When Darwin proposed a new view of biology based on chance, he cheapened everything, including our most precious human values. One of those is love — not just sexual attraction or the tendency of organisms to form groups, but real, mental, heartfelt love, the kind of love that leads some people to die for others. To avoid sounding like grinches, evolutionists use the word altruism, because papers on “the evolution of love” would probably not go over well. When they talk about “the evolution of altruism,” readers who need a dictionary for that word can probably remain unperturbed, allowing the Darwinian to compare humans with slime molds in the fine print.

Altruism as defined by evolutionists means “behavior by an animal that may be to its disadvantage but that benefits others of its kind.” There are plenty of examples of this: antelopes who engage in stotting behavior (leaping) to warn the herd of a lion, watchman crows that call out to flock mates feeding on the ground, ants that cling to one another to make a bridge so that other ants can crawl over them to close a gap. Each of these individuals puts itself at risk by this behavior. In extreme cases, such as in ant and honeybee colonies, individuals give up the ability to reproduce, and will work themselves to death for the good of the hive. Such individuals are unable to pass on their own genes — a seeming conundrum for Darwinism.

Legacy Approaches and Human Exceptionalism

Darwinians have made some progress (they think) explaining such things with theories of group selection or kin selection. W. D. Hamilton is considered the founder of this approach. Genes for altruism, the determinists allege, can be inherited if the group benefits by the self-sacrifice of the individual, and are able to pass on the genes for altruism as a group. 

What remains problematic for all Darwinians is the true self-sacrificial love exemplified by humans. They will send money to benefit non-kin individuals across the globe. Soldiers have been known to throw themselves on a live grenade in order save their non-kin comrades. Even human behaviors that might fall into the category of “kin selection” such as a parent dying to save a child, or an elderly aunt, uncle or grandparent past reproductive age taking responsibility for the young, seem too rational, involving genuine caring and loving, to succumb to material explanations like behaviorism or genetic determinism. Think of all the first responders in the current pandemic, or firemen or police officers, going beyond the call of duty to save individuals they don’t know.

Cases of human uniqueness like these do not stop some scientists from Darwinizing them anyway. They try to account for them by various kinds of “selection” which have nothing to do with real mental choices by thinking human beings. To them, rationality and morality are illusions that reduce to genetic propensities. (Funny that they never apply their reductionism to their own thinking. Otherwise, the act of formulating a theory of “the evolution of altruism” would self-destruct as a mere biological behavior guided by their own selfish genes, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.)

The Latest Buzz

Papers with new ideas about the puzzle of altruism appear with regularity in the journals. In the preprint server bioRxiv, Denton, Ram, and Feldman propose “Oblique transmission, conformity, and preference in the evolution of altruism.” The jargon of academic reductionists can sound very scholarly. 

The evolution of altruism is frequently studied using models of non-random assortment, including kin selection. In genetic kin selection models, under certain assumptions including additive costs and benefits, the criterion for altruism to invade a population is Hamilton’s rule. Deviations from Hamilton’s rule occur when vertical transmission has cultural and genetic components, or when costs and benefits are combined multiplicatively. Here, we include oblique and vertical cultural transmission and genetic transmission in four models — two forms of parent-to-offspring altruism, sibling-to-sibling altruism, and altruism between offspring that meet assortatively — under additive or multiplicative assumptions. Oblique transmission may be conformist (anti-conformist), where the probability that an individual acquires a more common cultural variant is greater (less) than its frequency. Inclusion of conformist or anti-conformist oblique transmission may reduce or increase the threshold for invasion by altruism relative to Hamilton’s rule. Thresholds for invasion by altruism are lower with anti-conformity than with conformity, and lower or the same with additive rather than multiplicative fitness components. Invasion by an allele that increases the preference for altruism does not depend on oblique phenotypic transmission, and with sibling-to-sibling altruism, this allele’s invasion threshold can be higher with additive rather than multiplicative fitnesses.

Non-yawning readers who can parse this jargon will perceive its underlying genetic determinism. There’s an “allele” for altruism (a mere genetic behavior) that might “invade” a population’s genome depending on assumptions about relatedness and the angle of transmission. “Invasion by altruism” — how’s that for a heady concept? Remember, to scientific materialists, humans are just populations of organisms like ants. That soldier on the grenade must have been invaded by the altruism allele lurking in his population. This is how to destroy love with Darwinism.

Reductionism of Another Kind

Actually, the bioRxiv paper never discusses non-kin altruism. It doesn’t even apply, therefore, to human self-sacrificial love. Another paper in PNAS from Lausanne University (Kay, Keller, and Lehmann) commits a reductionism of another kind that is bad news for all Darwinian theories of altruism. These authors reduce all such theories to kin selection.

The genetic evolution of altruism (i.e., a behavior resulting in a net reduction of the survival and/or reproduction of an actor to benefit a recipient) once perplexed biologists because it seemed paradoxical in a Darwinian world. More than half a century ago, W. D. Hamilton explained that when interacting individuals are genetically related, alleles for altruism can be favored by selection because they are carried by individuals more likely to interact with other individuals carrying the alleles for altruism than random individuals in the population (“kin selection”). In recent decades, a substantial number of supposedly alternative pathways to altruism have been published, leading to controversies surrounding explanations for the evolution of altruism. Here, we systematically review the 200 most impactful papers published on the evolution of altruism and identify 43 evolutionary models in which altruism evolves and where the authors attribute the evolution of altruism to a pathway other than kin selection and/or deny the role of relatedness. An analysis of these models reveals that in every case the life cycle assumptions entail local reproduction and local interactions, thereby leading to interacting individuals being genetically related. Thus, contrary to the authors’ claims, Hamilton’s relatedness drives the evolution to altruism in their models. The fact that several decades of investigating the evolution to altruism have resulted in the systematic and unwitting rediscovery of the same mechanism is testament to the fundamental importance of positive relatedness between actor and recipient for explaining the evolution of altruism.

Kay, Keller, and Lehmann have just destroyed all the alternatives. All those models for altruism invoking comical concepts like Red Queens1 and Green Beards2, all the stories invoking “evolutionary game theory” with endless speculations about the “evolution of cooperation” have no traction because they reduce to kin selection. The authors smirk at “some evolutionists from nonbiological backgrounds who have been highly successful in publishing studies dramatically overselling the novelty of their findings.”

Evolutionists at a Loss, Thank Goodness

If the interacting individuals are not genetically related, then, no other evolutionary model remains to account for human self-sacrificing love. It would be absurd to think that passengers on the Titanic who gave up seats on the lifeboats to let others live acted that way because they possess a beneficial chance mutation for self-sacrifice. They died! They had no opportunity to pass on that “allele” for altruism. In fact, it would be more to be expected in a Darwinian world which values fitness if genes for selfishness were to predominate. What kind of genetic mutation could produce altruism anyway? Where is it on the human genome? It’s not a real thing; it’s a myth residing in the imaginations of materialists.

If there was a gene for love, no person could be converted to a faith that values mercy and self-sacrifice. No one could be persuaded to change his or her ways for good. Humans would be helpless marionettes of their genes. Stories about the “evolution of altruism” exist not to make the world a better place, but to perpetuate a reductionist philosophy.

It’s a good thing that after a century of trying, the Darwinians are still stuck with just one faulty, controversial theory attempting to “explain” altruism. If they were to succeed, they would take the whole world of human exceptionalism down into a black hole with themselves. Why? Because their work of publishing papers to help “explain” altruism would go down with the ship, being illusory altruistic acts themselves, appealing to rationality and morality to presumably “help” other non-kin humans understand the nature of their existence. Nothing, forever after, would make sense or be good.

A Loving Alternative: Intelligent Design

Instead of taking humans down to the level of bonobos and ants, intelligent design can promote the dignity of all living beings as purposeful, designed actors in a world of wonders where truth, love and creativity are real and good, not just illusory. Go forth and be exceptional!


  1. The “Red Queen” hypothesis, taken from a statement in Alice in Wonderland, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place,” suggests that organisms must keep evolving just to remain stable against opponents. 
  2. The “Green Beard” hypothesis promoted by Hamilton and by Dawkins posits that if an individual has a noticeable idiosyncrasy like a green beard as well as a beneficial trait like altruism, that individual will be attracted to others with the commingled traits and will get preferential treatment.