I have almost zero innate desire to pass on my genes. There’s a couple of instrumental desires:
- if I’m going to raise a kid, I’d like them to have my genes; there’s a feeling of closeness in that unchangeable marker
- my genes are pretty good (no terrible genetic conditions, pretty healthy, etc) so if a kid has my genes they have as good a shot as any to have a good life
but there’s almost no innate desire. Like, I don’t really care if, after I’m gone, anyone alive has any genetic link to me.
To most people this probably seems weird. To nerds it probably seems straightforward, correct, and enlightened. But I’m wondering if I’m missing out on something.
Because of evolution, we all have traits that help us survive. But what is “us”? Imagine a trait that makes you always pick selfish choices. That would make you, your individual human body, more likely to survive, so it would pass on. But it might make your community as a whole less likely to survive; after a few generations your entire village has the selfish gene1 and then you all die out because only one of you kills a mammoth and he doesn’t let anyone else eat.
So if “I” is a human body, the selfish gene is adaptive. If “I” is a community, the selfish gene is maladaptive.
As for the not-caring-about-passing-on-genes (NCAPOG) gene, well… for myself, my own personal survival, it might be adaptive. One less desire to have to fulfill! But imagine “I” is the set of Tasses and all my other ancestors all the way back many generations. In that view, this NCAPOG gene is terribly maladaptive! I (all Tasses) am basically killing myself!
So: given that most people care about passing on their genes (citation needed), is it the case that I’m not the enlightened one but actually a kinda deficient one? Similar to, maybe, someone who doesn’t feel hunger because trauma has cut their mind off from that part of their body? Would I feel healthier if I felt more connected to, and invested in, my ancestral line?
(Moot point, anyway, I am passing on my genes now at least. but maybe feeling into me-as-ancestral-line instead of just me-as-body would help me feel more excited about passing on my genes, and value my kid more than I already do.)
Hmm there’s a whole book called this by Dawkins, right? I haven’t read it, and I have no idea if that has anything to do with this. In this post, “the selfish gene” means “a gene that makes you selfish.” ↩︎
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