Jim wrote:... - that nature doesn't care, and that man is no better or worse than anything else in nature. The thing is that for every decent person in the world, there seems to be 100 that actually don't care. That's perception of course not fact, the ratio could be opposite but only the latter draw attention...
According to evolutionary theory, whether or not something has evolved to behave altruistically towards its conspecifics (or family members, or herd members) depends completely on its life history and social structure. e.g. Homo sapiens has, by and large (and like other social species), evolved to be altruistic towards family members (i.e., kin altruism - a direct genetic benefit) and others in the local community (usually people you are very likely to come across again, so the altruism can be reciprocated, i.e. reciprocal altruism), because our genes are more likely to be passed onto the next generation that way. Basically, humans can't really survive and reproduce in the long-term without being part of some sort of community or extended family (for help, division of labour etc etc), and if you don't behave altruistically, you'll be chucked out, not helped by others etc. But it depends on the environmental context, e.g. in times of scarce resources individuals become more selfish (or are altruistic towards a smaller group). .. wars etc.
Evolutionary theory predicts a small number of "cheats" in any system - but there can never be too many. Maybe these "cheats" are Jim's few that are not "decent people". It all gets a bit weird in our modern society, with the altruism that we originally evolved to help us reproduce our genes more successfully spilling over into rescuing strangers and other people's dogs.
Not sure what this has got to do with anything, but maybe it can help answer Mark's original question about seeing if anyone can come up with a good reason why everyone should chip in to pay for general emergency services rather than a rather nasty, selfish "dog-eat-dog" world. It's just not how humans' brains/societies have evolved, well sort of. Although we haven't evolved to benefit from helping strangers, so - who knows whether it's a valid argument or not.