Altruism as Evolutionarily Useful

Yeah, I just went to a panel on contemporary issues in evolution.  I have thoughts.

I'm going to disagree with Darwin on this one and say that there is an evolutionary advantage to altruism not stemming from some sort of basic good instinct.

I'll start with the obvious argument: altruism is mutually beneficial.  If you're good to someone, there's a chance that they will be good back and therefore save you from being devoured by the horrors of anarchy or, to put it less melodramatically, offer you valuable services that you can't offer yourself.  Altruism is about protecting individuals by creating the protective coccoon often known as 'society.'  Keep people busy helping each other, returning favors, and there's no way they'll have the time to think of killing you.  And yes, you do then have to consider whence arose the notion of 'favors' and 'mutuality'--well, primates display a ton of group behavior, and there is what I would call cultural dimorphism in humans, even back from the hunter-gatherer days (males former, females latter), so there is a huge mutual benefit simply from the understanding that the Y chromosome does one job, the X another.

But anyway.  Onward to a more recent topic I find most intriguing (and just discovered while looking for links between MS and the immune system).
This journal paper mentions, to summarize, links between what I'll call the "emotion molecules" (serotonin (5-HT), dopamine) and certain factors released during immunological attack.

So what I'm thinking is, shouldn't this work both ways?  In Immunobiology, I learned that the brain basically has no role in the immune system...but this doesn't seem right, considering especially the hypothalamus and pituitary glands and their roles in, well, everything.

I propose that altruism may have arisen as a simple way to alter the mood, by which of course I mean the chemical balance in the brain, and promote certain types of immune responses for better health.


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