Billy Gramm, when having a mood swing, writes poetry all the night, much of it about Good and Evil. He reflects two people; a nervous, never offensive mother and a likely grandparent who gambled, swindled, and swapped women. Billy goes through intervals of betting, playing with more than one girl, and lying to important people in his life. These active moments are quickly followed by verbal self-flagellation.(1)
He wants an explanation for his own conduct; I offer one about behavioral mosaics and our parents and grandparents (from Here Comes Granddad Again). He understands the possibilities but they don't seem Right to him.
Billy is an icon, a humanized yin yang symbol, one that hurts after he acts. It probably doesn't help that he takes the same existential courses that helped keep me depressed for several undergraduate years. Whether Nietzsche or Dostoevsky in hand, we create polarities and a lot of confusion while missing the woven fabric of altruism and competition.
Altruism may always be mixed with competition. The eclat of love preludes sex and is elicited by it. There can be loss, injury, and even death in the wooing of a soft maiden. The mix of courtship implies long term rules for rearing children, for projecting ourselves (and our genes) into another generation.
Sociobiology appears to have made an awkward beginning; perhaps with too much "tooth and claw" material. However, violence and sex have always sold, even while being offensive.(2) De Waal (3) is kind in his remarks about sociobiology and wisely observes, "Humans and other animals have been endowed with a capacity for genuine love, sympathy, and care - a fact that can and will be fully reconciled with the idea that genetic self promotion drives the evolutionary process."
SB requires that we think both long-term and immediate when considering a structure or a shard of behavior. A frill, an extra feather, an excess of a "good" may lead to subsequent extinction. Even if for the noblest of reasons, extinction still means that you're out of that game wherein Life tries to beat the 2nd Law. A "bad" may save or may damn the herd.
A friend of mine showed it well. He gives a neighbor access to several hundred acres of riding ground. There is no fee. On day, my friend needs to put several loads of manure on his fields but the road drops too sharply for the hauler's trucks; there is some danger to frames and transmissions. The neighbor's drive offers smoother access to the fields and my friend gives the hauler direction to use the drive. Unfortunately, the neighbor is not home at decision time; my friend proceeds and the neighbor arrives to bluster. Altruism and dominance crystalize as my friend says, with evolutionary wisdom, "This is country here, we help each other. Get it!!" Earlier altruism (access to the fields) should have led to use of the drive. My friend's waiting to get permission likely would have smoothed things. Still, his expectation was that of automatic reciprocity. When it failed to appear, the implied threat was, "Let us use the drive or forget riding your horses."
This intimacy of polarities, of "good and evil," means that the same person can have Psych Adaptations for nurturance, property care, and reverence but still be a philanderer or assaultive as a function of eliciting circumstances. The same lovely home can be an expression of nurturance or of power; it can be managed by an outwardly loving father who is also bipolar, alcoholic, and controlling. Indeed, the same feature that is seen as "controlling" or oppressive sometimes is the ingredient that keeps the family united and sheltered.
I offer Billy some Wilson and some De Waal; he seemed better for the moment.
1) He's very bright. He once observed that dinosaurs were to ferns what people are to oil. The same carbon shortage will get both of us.
2) Wright R (1994) The Moral Animal: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, NY: Pantheon, gives the Victorian setting for Darwin's announcements. The scientific establishment rallied early against Natural Selection as a creative, rather than a conservative, force. Even so, they still talked about it!
3) De Waal F. (1996) Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, Cambridge, MA: Harvard, pp. 16-17.