Re: Between groups.

From: Francesca S. Alcorn (
Date: Fri 27 Feb 2004 - 01:10:52 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "RE: Is Freud contagious?"

    Keith wrote:

    >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.

    I'll look into it, but I don't know that it will change my contention
    - if you have a bunch of genetically identical individuals running around (as in ants) then they are pretty expendable as individual units. An ant can't live/reproduce without it's colony, but the colony can absorb the loss of quite a few of it's ants. It's almost as if the anthill itself is the organism (didn't Dennett write something like that in Mind's I?) My understanding is that there is a high correlation between genetic relatedness and the degree of social cohesion in a group. Which explains racism, but makes me wonder what we will do if the Global Village becomes a big "melting pot" and as a species we become more genetically similar (lose our biodiversity).

    >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.

    I was thinking more along the lines of a genetically primo male in a pride with a really poor territory - he may end up failing on the basis of *pride's* fitness or lack there of. And of course the reverse is possible as well: genetically compromised individuals who survive because of their group.

    So the fitness of the group trumps the genetic fitness of an individual.


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