Deciphering the Secret Chain



In 2011, five-year-old Roxy Key was at the Santa Anita Park racetrack in California with her father Michael to watch the horse races. Roxy was among the fans gathered on the ground to watch the horses right before they were to be led onto the track. A sudden commotion occurred when one of the horses broke loose and began running directly at Roxy. Before Roxy could react, a 90-year-old guard at the racetrack named John Shear—who had never met her—positioned himself in front of Roxy to shield her from the horse. The horse, running at full speed, collided into John and knocked both him and Roxy to the ground. While Roxy was only slightly injured, John spent the next seven weeks at the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained from the impact. Recounting his experience, John stated, “I knew I was going to get hit … I thought there was a possibility I was going to die but you cannot stop and think should I or shouldn’t I.” John’s heroic act is but one of numerous examples of strangers putting themselves at grave risk to save others, apparently without deliberating about whether to act or not. In such cases, it seems as if pure instinct is leading the rescuers to forego their own safety on behalf of people they have never met. It is acts such as these that best illustrate the human species’ remarkable capacity to sacrifice their own interests on behalf of others, and which help validate Michael Ruse’s claim that human beings are biological altruists “par excellence” (1995, 97).


Antisocial Behavior Prosocial Behavior Social Comparison Relative Fitness Altruistic Behavior 
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© Stephen G. Morris 2015

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