In thinking about darwinian evolution I have come to a question (subtlely linked to altruism) which I can’t quite judge. So I thought I’d put it out there for appraisal. It may well be a question adressed already by the likes of Richard Dawkins that I haven’t come across. I have phrased it as a metaphorical representation of some environment that a species finds itself in. The scenario is as follows:
Two males find themselves facing a mezzanine level. The females of the species are up on the mezzanine. A ladder to the mezzanine protrudes only one metre above ground level and is too short to gain access to the upper floor. All males of the species are programmed in an “if/then” way such that:
1. IF you find yourself facing a short ladder THEN you wait.
2. IF you find yourself facing a deep pit of spikes THEN you jump in.
The spikes in the pit rest on a button which activates a hydraulic system which in turn extends the ladder to the mezzanine. One male in the pit results in one male on the mezzanine. If the programming of the males was such, then the suicidal tendency would have the result that the same programme reproduces.
This would mean that altruism need not be explained in the context of an individuals genes but simply in the species genes. It also is not intended to cover simply the destruction of one individual to the benefit of the other but more generally as anything that an individual can sacrifice that leads to the benefit of any other of the species. Forgive me if I am covering old hat!!
Is anyone aware if such a questioin is adressed by anyone and if so which books/videos should I look for?