“Altruism” and “Selfishness” in The Selfish Gene

His issue may be just a quibble, but in Three Penny Review, P. N. Furbank considers the language of The Selfish Gene:

Dawkins is a sparkling and sometimes an eye-opening writer, but what cannot help striking one is the extreme abuse of language that he (and not only he) commits in this talk of “the biology of selfishness and altruism.” For, according to any proper use of language, what he speaks of as animal “altruism” is not altruism at all, any more than what he speaks of as “selfishness” can rightly be called by that name. He speaks respectfully of the concept of “reciprocal altruism,” introduced by R. L. Trivers in 1971, though, implying as it does a bargain, it is plainly a contradiction in terms; and what he himself refers to as “altruism” might almost, in some cases, be said to be its opposite.

I think this is rather more than a mere quibble. The concept of altruism, rightly understood, is, after all, one of the great achievements of civilized culture, and the choice of acting altruistically in a given situation will be one of the most deeply thought-through decisions a person may ever make (even if, as could happen, he or she might have only a minute or two to make it in). But what is relevant here is that it seems to go directly against the expectations of “kin-selection.” This is the point made by the parable of the Good Samaritan. The injured traveler fallen among thieves receives no help whatever from his fellow Jews, who take care to pass by on the other side. It is left to a Samaritan, a man with no kin-relation whatever to the victim and even, by tradition, his enemy, to come to his aid.