Selfish traits do not pose an evolutionary advantage. Selfish traits can actually harm an individual and an entire species. Nice guys and girls, and nice families, finish first.
Mike Lawrence/AP Photo
Nature is cold, hard, and ruthless, and only the most aggressive - and selfish - survive and pass along their genes. So would suggest one standing school of thought about the nature of the world, a philosophy that plays itself out in the writings of authors like Ayn Rand, who elevated selfishness to high ideal, the most powerful force of creativity and industry possessed by humankind.
As it turns out, this isn't merely an oversimplification of the natural order of things - it's probably mostly wrong. A team from Michigan State University used a logic model to demonstrate that exhibiting only selfish traits would have spelled the end of the human race a long time ago, and that cooperation and mutual benefit are, in fact, core to our success.
This makes sense, when you look at nature for even a moment - families of animals (and insects, and other organisms) take care of one another, communities defend themselves, and even entire species join forces with one another in displays of symbiotic mutualism that work to the advantage of all those involved. Communication and memory mean that short-term boons gained by trickery and selfishness tend to poison the community to the detriment of all - and disrupt potentially positive cooperation.