Parasyte Episode 14: The Selfish Gene

In Parasyte episode 14, we watch a university lecture that talks about a legitimate topic: the “selfish gene” theory. I have a BA in Psychology and one of my course books was the famous book, The Selfish Gene.

Sorry, I Stuttered. — Parasyte Episode 14 The Selfish Gene

I transcribed the lecture because I find it easier to absorb information when it’s in one space (rather than looking through minutes of subtitles).

Altruism is action undertaken for the benefit of others. It’s the opposite of self-interest, and would seem to have no benefit for oneself. If anything, this action tends to help others while being disadvantageous to the actor. While this may not be surprising, among human beings, altruistic behaviour has actually been reported in several animal species. For example, honeybees will sacrifice themselves, one after the next, to protect the hive if predators appear. While this could just be instinct, some actions would not seem to preserve the species. The prime of example of this could be said to be… infanticide. Why kill the offspring of one’s own species? In recent years, what’s often brought up is… the “selfish gene” theory. Put simply, all animals are manipulated by their own body’s DNA. What’s important is the self, and the offspring that will inherit that DNA, rather than the species as a whole. If we expand on this theory, we can explain all altruistic behaviour, such as caring for others in one’s “pack,” familial love, marital love, and even maternal love. This would mean that love and compassion don’t actually exist. All behaviour appearing to be love is just behaviour to aid to transmitting one’s own DNA. Of course, this theory is not without its problems. There have been countless examples of animals helping others completely unrelated to their DNA strain, or protecting those of a different species altogether. What’s more, can a theory like this fully encompass the complexity, the depth of human consciousness? In which case, it’s interesting to consider whether human efforts in environmental and natural conservation are altruistic or selfish.

It’s pretty long! I’ve bolded the parts I thought were most thought-provoking. Having learned this before, I can say that the professor gave a really good lecture. I don’t know any other anime that actually teaches the audience something for this long. Usually it’s a 15-second explanation or something like that. Parasyte is an amazing anime and it’s also one of my top 5. Consider giving it a try.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is. However, it’s here for anyone who is interested LOL.


11 thoughts on “Parasyte Episode 14: The Selfish Gene

  1. Oh wow that’s so cool to see that in an anime, I feel like I learned something lol. I honestly believe more in the selfish gene theory more than the concept of altruism, although I don’t think all selfish behavior is related to preserving or benefiting our DNA/offspring. I find it really interesting that the selfish gene theory contradicts the definition of altruism though, almost as if the existence of the theory makes it so that completely unselfish human actions are impossible. I wonder if that’s true in reality, I’m not so sure lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • People behave in self destructive fashions all the time that lead to their removal from the gene pool to no genetic benefit to themself. Selfish gene isn’t the entire story.

      What if you have many genes which are selfish but they conflict in what they want to do?

      Most higher mammals, especially humans, can learn concepts that override genetic programming.

      But the selfish gene does logically explain a lot of seemingly altruistic behavior. Just not all behavior.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly. This is something I’ve been thinking about for years. LOL.

      Also… let’s say helping others brings you joy. Is that being selfish? Helping someone so that you will feel happiness. Even though it seems altruistic, I wonder…

      & most of the time when you help others, you get some kind of benefit. Whether it’s the way others perceive you, sometimes monetary reward, even friendships and relationships can form after such an event. Perhaps the person you helped will help you in the future.

      If you save someone and put your life at risk in the process, you are still helping humankind preserve DNA. Do you think that people are more likely to save a child or save a person who is 90 years old? Let’s say you are about to die and you donate your organs to someone in need. Is that truly altruism or does it come down to the selfish gene theory..?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeahhh I never knew it was called the selfish gene, but it’s definitely something I’ve thought about before, especially regarding my own actions and if they’re genuinely selfless acts. And more often than not, those acts do end up fulfilling some selfish desire or benefit (ie improving how others perceive me, internal feelings of accomplishment or mb ego boosting, placing yourself into certain positions in life, etc.), although I don’t believe selfishness is bad at all. Everything is good in moderation.

        I think Fred’s point that we’re smart enough to override the selfish gene is really interesting and important tho. It’s easy for us to think of examples and speculate on the ways an act of kindness could come from a selfish place, but I definitely believe it’s possible for altruistic behavior to exist. Maybe there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to believe somebody can be so amazing that they can perform altruistic acts, thus we use reason to understand where the benefit of being altruistic comes from. And that in itself is also a selfish thought! lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think being selfish is bad either. After all, we need to be selfish in order to survive and continue to evolve as a species. I say that it is necessary for humankind. I think that our world is not fair at all. In order to have a good place for yourself, I think that some level of selfishness is required.

        LOLOL yeah, that is a selfish thought. I feel like no matter what, any action can be selfish depending on how you see it. & I think a big thing to keep in mind is that selfishness does not have to be intentional at all. For example, a lot of animals just naturally know how to take care of their young and reproduce –> therefore keeping the species alive. It’s written in their DNA. Hunting for prey –> therefore killing another species for one’s own gain –> also selfish but necessary. So I think it’s not a bad thing. It does change how you view life though… which *may* explain why I feel so pessimistic LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dawkins “Selfish Gene” is an extremely important work. Perhaps the most important ever in the field of behavioral evolution. It is really unusual for anime – or any other entertainment – to give more than a cursory nod towards an important scientific concept.

    Liked by 1 person

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