LOVE and ‘the selfish gene’

I’m still thinking about love. I’m thinking about living out love in my life and how it actually looks…..as my husband says some people are easier to love than others and the true challenge to love  is loving the ‘unloveable’ or the person along my path who is hard to love. If I have determined that love consists of strong emotional attachment and showing compassion and kindness….how on earth can I possibly love those I have no emotional attachment to or who I cannot understand. If Jesus the Christ is my example of the ultimate love…laying down one’s life for someone…everyone! then how am I to possibly follow that example.

On the recommendation of an atheist friend I’m reading a book “The Believing Brain: from ghosts and gods to politics and conspiracies–how we construct beliefs and reinforce them as truths” by Michael Shermer. It is interesting and well-written from a social scientist’s perspective however there was something in the pages I read yesterday that made me pause and consider once again the concept of love in action in the light of Christ’s example. Shermer briefly references a twentieth-century social evolution scientist W.D. Hamilton’s theory on social altruism called ‘Hamilton’s Rule’ in which Hamilton determines that living beings show altruism (I would say love in action) or spite (I would say withhold love or show disdain or hatred in action) to other living beings based on the benefit or the cost to their own survival and that of their offspring. His theories were popularized by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene” in 1976 and basically what it boils down to is that all living beings are ‘programmed’ at the genetic level for selfishness and survival leading to actions demonstrating love or spite toward others depending on self-preservation.

Maybe that genetic code written into our being is why it is harder to love some people, but we have the advantage as humans of choosing our actions and it seems to me that choosing to love anyone by showing mercy, grace, service, understanding and giving of our time, talents and money is only possible when we live by the example of Christ’s sacrifice….otherwise why would we even bother if it is purely out of survival instinct?  How cynical and sad the evolutionary perspective is on human behavior. If love in action is purely dependent on my genetic need for physical survival it is worthless!!!!! If I unconsciously, on a genetic level weigh the costs and benefits to me personally with every action of compassion and kindness it is not love! The Bible defines God as love and one of the most well-known passages of the New Testament defines love as ‘not self-seeking’. What possible survival advantage could love have if it is sacrificial to the point of giving up life? Personally, I want to demonstrate love …selfless, sacrificial, zealous love with no other motive than obedience to the image of Christ’s example. The kind of love the Bible says the ‘world’ can’t understand because it makes no rational, scientific sense…..It is only possible through a surrender of rationality and an embrace of the power we have as conscious beings to believe, hope and trust in a Higher Power.

On this the 10th anniversary of devastating terrorism and loss, the stories of sacrificial altruism are overwhelming. What power or genetic coding drove men and women to stand beside or some cases to run toward physical danger to help the victims? As you hear and see these stories be on the look out for examples of the power of LOVE  trumping the selfish gene…What a WILD social experiment that can be! Love looks very different than we expect sometimes.

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