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29 June 2005

Wednesday 29 June 2005 21:30-22:15 (Radio 3)

Make Poverty History is the latest manifestation of the rich helping the poor. But what lies behind the urge to do good to others while expecting nothing in return? In Night Waves: Undercurrents, Philip Dodd and guests deconstruct the philosophy, morality and practicality of altruism.


45 minutes

Programme Details

"We are all here to help others. What I can't figure out is what the others are here for."

So wrote W.H. Auden. In this evening's Night Waves: Undercurrents, Philip Dodd and guests will consider the subject of altruism.

When the Asian tsunami devastated millions of lives six months ago, individuals and governments around the world donated money and effort in almost unprecedented quantities. And with Live8 and the G8 summit about to take place, attention will once again focus on aid to Africa.

But what lies behind an individual's desire to help others in a selfless way? Auguste Comte, the French founder of positivism, believed that individuals have a moral obligation to serve the interest of others, even at one's own cost. Yet the writer Ayn Rand challenged both philosophical and conventional ethics and presented strong arguments against altruism in its various forms.

And to what extent is the concept of altruism an evolutionary trait?

Philip Dodd will be joined round the table by the eminent evolutionary biologist and author of The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins; Frances Cairncross, former senior editor at The Econiomist; theologian Phillip Blond; and on the line from Geneva, Hugo Slim, specialist from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, who has spent many years working for a variety of charities across the world.

So, is selflessness really possible? Join Philip Dodd for Night Waves: Undercurrents live at half past nine here on Radio 3.

Presenter: Philip Dodd
Producer: Jerome Weatherald

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