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Our Social Instincts

October 16, 1994

The "neo-Darwinian" theory of genetically programmed human selfishness, ably summarized in Sara Lippincott's Sept. 4 review of "The Moral Animal," is hardly Darwinian at all.

In "The Descent of Man" Darwin speculated: "When two tribes of primeval man, living in the same country, came into competition, if (other circumstances being equal) the one tribe included a great number of courageous, sympathetic, and faithful members, who were always ready to warn each other of danger, to aid and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the other."

Unless the "neo-Darwinians" take account of our social instincts, as well as our built-in urges both to survive and to improve (identified by Caltech's Nobelist the late Roger Sperry), their theory will wind up as no more than the latest bunkum.

STEPHEN HAY, SANTA BARBARA

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