It's the first day of 2011, and like many other people I'm making New Year's Resolutions. This year amongst other things I'm going to raise £1,000 for my local Air Ambulance. This is the figure I chose because they calculated it costs £1,000 for each life saved by the Air Ambulance.
It's obvious from the fact that I'm an Atheist what I think about what informs our morality, but why would I want to do something altruistic like this that has no direct material benefit to me?
As a Humanist I feel a sense of empathy with my fellow humans, and I want to live in a society where we care for and look out for those who need help. And one day I may need help myself. If we lead by example while we have the power to do so, then there is perhaps a greater chance that when we need help someone will do the same for us. I've noticed that as we get older we tend to get more altruistic and we tend to do more to help other people. Is it because having dependent Children 'conditions' us to care for others, and having experienced our share of knocks in life we can understand how we all need to help each other to get through life? I'm constantly amazed when I'm out collecting for the Air Ambulance how pensioners are so often the most generous, and how young men are invariably the least generous. Perhaps it is only as we get older that we begin to realise our corporate responsibility for our fellow humans.
Altruism is a sign of civilisation and is an evolutionary social attribute to increase our future chances of survival. Hooray for us humans! :-)