Explaining People Who Help Others

I was drenched to the skin, cold, tired, frustrated and worried as I drove back to Wheeling from Parkersburg one night last weekend.

But I felt pretty good about life in general.

I’d been in Parkersburg for a funeral service. Not long after I left, a tire on the car went flat. There was nothing to do but pull over and change it.

It was raining. I was wearing a suit. It was dark. All top of all of that, the tire I was worried about – the one with the slow leak – wasn’t the flat one. After I changed it, would the other troublesome rubber doughnut leave me stranded?

I pulled the car into a small convenience store/gas station lot, got out and went to work.

A fellow saw me and offered to help.

A couple of minutes later, another man said he’d be glad to assist.

Then a third asked if I needed any help.

I turned them all down. No thanks, I said. No sense them getting wet, too.

Within about 10 minutes, three people had offered to help a total stranger.

Now, what made this particularly interesting to me was that on the way to Parkersburg, I’d been listening to a public radio program about altruism. It included information on a scientist named George R. Price, who “proved” that altruism and theories such as evolution and natural selection are compatible.

Now, strictly speaking, evolution holds that the fittest survive and are bound to behave in manners calculated to keep them and their DNA alive. Some would say people who risk their lives for others – the surpreme act of altruism – are going against that theory.

Price, in a contention full of holes, claimed our DNA supports such heroism because there’s a good chance the person whose life we save may have DNA similar to ours. Thus, we’re perpetuating our DNA when we risk our lives to save others.

Remember, I told you the theory was full of holes.

But I couldn’t help but think of it after the three men offered to help me change a tire – and as I pondered the many acts of compassion seen during the Christmas season.

Some folks seem to think they have to have a “scientific” explanation for everything. Humbug.

What’s wrong with the most logical explanation – that most people have good hearts?

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.