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Three months of silence. I won’t even try to explain it away, only begin anew.

A friend pointed me to the online “Civic Literacy Quiz.” It’s a good quiz. Go take it before reading the rest. It’s short. I’ll wait.

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The idea that human familial relationships are tied strongly to a dawinistic need to propagate a genetic line is false on its face. If this were the driving factor behind familial relationships, then we would have no adoption, we would provide no support for in-laws, we would in fact have no reason to provide support for parents or grandparents (since their genes have already been passed). The theory of genetic determinism is far too limited to explain the ways that humans form altruistic relationships (and is starting to be shown to be false in other animals, specifically vampire bats).

If we argue instead that altruism is based on enlightened self interest and that we are charitable to others in the hope that we may later be the recipients of such charity then we have a much more defensible argument, though I still don’t believe that it holds up. If it were so, then we would expect the most charity from the least secure, and we would expect charity to be doled out in ways that we would expect to need it. There is some weak evidence of this, but very weak in my opinion. The very wealthy under this argument would have ever decreasing altruism, but we tend to see just the opposite.

Instead I put forward the following theory of human nature. It seems deeply set in human nature to divide the world into “us” and “them.” Who is “us” and who is “them” is incredibly arbitrary. While there is a natural inclination towards genetic bonds, in various cultures we see “us” extended to unrelated companions (“friends”), nationals (even of varying races), legally adopted relatives, those of similar beliefs (particularly religious), those who have gone through similar ordeal such as war, those who have been initiated into the same organization (fraternities), etc.

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