"This paper argues that altruism plays a central role in formation of human cultures, and that altruism plays a central role in all life. It will be argued that "human intelligence" arises from interactions among individuals and their environment - and that "culture" and "symbolic meanings in the environment" that we use to interact with others (artifacts, built and natural environment, language, etc.) - represent more than a system of shared meanings - but constrain our lives and our development to as great an extent as our genes. To facilitate thinking about these ideas a framework for thinking about altruism, humans, and behavior is presented with three components: a component that defines life in terms of a fundamental altruistic force, a genetic information component, and a cultural information component. Living things are at their most basic level definable as: "systems of matter and energy that tend toward order, aided by genetic information coding."