Some psychologists claim that nobody does anything without expecting something in return and that there is no such thing as “altruism.” Richard Dawkins, who wrote, The Selfish Gene, claims that what we consider altruism, is only a selfish gene making us want to protect our kids and close relatives, so it—the gene—will survive. Love is how that egotistic gene reproduces itself, and we are mere gene-bearing pack mules whose sole raison d’etre is to keep that narcissistic gene going. Whew!
The behavior of “lower” animals is mostly determined by their genes. We “higher” animals think we make our own decisions, but are constantly reminded that lots comes from that selfish gene, competition in particular. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is simply competitive consumption.
Billionaires do yachts, Lamborghinis, and trophy wives, aspirers do Cadillacs, MacMansions, and Christmas lights that say, “My lights are better than yours.” A sign on a front door saying, “This is a God Fearing Home,” really means, “We ‘re holier than thou.” Little American flags on police cars and fire engines say, “We’re more patriotic than you.” A Wall Street trader says, “The object is to win the game. Making money is just how you keep score.” The game is competition and it all begins with that gene inherited from remote single cell ancestors. Could we have become top predator without it? Does it rule with an iron twist?
We have a split brain, right and left lobes, but actually it’s triple, counting the primitive “lizard brain” the medulla oblongata, down in the base of the skull. It came first and controls breathing, digestion, the heartbeat, rage, fear, and self-preservation. Our upper brain--cerebral cortex—is the seat of memory, consciousness, and the power to reason. We think that the upper brain is in charge. But consider this theory:
The lizard brain spun off the upper brain which is now trying to take over, but the lizard brain is fighting back with potent weapons: fear, fury, and the drive to survive. A war is taking place inside each and every one of us. In some, the upper brain is ahead, in others the lizard brain has already won. This explains both greed (lizard brain) and altruism (upper brain), the Tea Party (lizard brain) and Occupy Wall Street (upper brain).
All this theory needs is a Name. Can you think of one?