The idea that all animals, including humans, are selfish by nature has a long history in theology, philosophy, and the social sciences. It appears to have been endorsed by scholars who are in the best position to evaluate it-evolutionary biologists. In Descent of Man, Charles Darwin (1874) wrote,

Following the publication of Descent of Man, Thomas Huxley (1893) considered the moral implications of Darwin’s theory of evolution and concluded that if “brought before the tribunal of ethics, [nature] might well stand condemned” (p. 59). More than a century later, Williams (1989) evaluated Huxley’s (1893) conclusions in light of refinements in the theory of evolution and found it “indecisive and disappointing” (p. 180). After considering the evidence, Williams (1989) reached the following decisive conclusion:

In his highly influential book, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins (1989) popularized William’s position:

In this chapter, I will evaluate the idea that the process of natural selection has rendered all beings selfish by nature and find it wanting. I will begin by spelling out the logic that has induced evolutionary theorists to conclude that all evolved behavioral dispositions are selfish, then go on to argue that because the genetically selfish dispositions favored by natural selection do not equate to biologically or psychologically selfish dispositions, the latter can evolve. In the remainder of the chapter, I will review evidence suggesting that both selfish and unselfish dispositions have evolved in a variety of social species, including our own.