RE: Between groups.

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Thu 26 Feb 2004 - 14:49:59 GMT

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    At 12:48 AM 26/02/04 -0500, scott wrote:

    >>From: Keith Henson <>
    >>Subject: Between groups.
    >>Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 23:14:05 -0500
    >>At 01:08 PM 20/02/04 -0500, frankie wrote:
    >>>But in social animals, competition occurs *between groups* as well as
    >>>between individuals. Prides of lions and troops of monkeys compete for
    >>>territory much like individual birds do. And in the example of ants,
    >>>the concept of individuals being the unit of selection is a bit of a stretch.
    >>You really need to read Hamilton who worked out how it works at the level
    >>of shared genes.
    >>Lion prides are generally sisters or half sisters and the transient males
    >>are usually closely related, typically brothers. Hamilton was
    >>particularly interested in ants, bees and wasps. They have a particular
    >>gene system where the workers are closer related to their reproductive
    >>sibs than they are to their own offspring. I can't really do justice to
    >>this, if you can't find Hamilton's work described on the web, ask and I
    >>will get you the pointers.
    >>>Mutual interdependence decreases the importance of the individual.
    >>I don't think so, not from a gene's viewpoint.
    >Actually you are taking it a step below the individual with a genocentric
    >kin altruism argument.

    Yes. As I said, from the gene's viewpoint its "vehicle" is darned important. It is the only one it can be certain has the gene, all else is statistical even if really good statistics (half for a brother, quarter for step sib or first cousin).

    >I can accept the argument that eusocial insects are great examples for the
    >importance of genetic relatedness.
    >With humans OTOH there's reciprocity and on top of that the conscious
    >realization that one belongs to non-kin groups.

    You really need to invoke evolutionary psychology here. For several million years the people in the tribe around them who were--on average--fairly closely related to them. Thus you should expect people to be psychologically shaped to respond to those in close contact as if they were related at the tribe level. Prior to DNA testing, the only approach genes had was to make such statistical assumptions. Even in cases where the relation was known such as brother, there was always the possibility that a brother was really a half brother.

    >Insects don't say to themselves or each other that they belong to this or
    >that kin group and share genetic bonds with other members, therefore let's
    >raise the Jolly Roger.

    I don't think people have that much conscious awareness of why they act the way they do toward kin. They just do.

    >Humans bond based on the most trivial matters, such as favorite sports
    >teams. This might not be a very convincing argument for group selection,
    >but OTOH humans are not eusocial insects, thus genocentric kinship
    >arguments might be taken with a grain of salt.

    They have to be carefully considered because of imperfect knowledge. A classic is for a father to kill his own offspring thinking it is not his.

    >Even if stepchildren suffer more abuse than related children, this
    >unfortunate possibility doesn't cover the whole gamut of human behavior.

    True. The subject is messy.

    Keith Henson

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