Re: Group selection

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 20 Feb 2005 - 13:27:58 GMT

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    --- Agner Fog <> wrote:

    --------------------------------- I am splitting this thread (What happened to the journal of memetics?)because Keith Henson introduced a new subject. Keith Henson wrote:
    >I got this far and then took a look at your web page
    . . . .
    >It might look like group selection happens, but it is
    much betterdescribed by selfish genes and Hamilton's inclusive fitness criteria. That's the predominant view among evolutionary biologists today, but Idisagree.Some simplified mathematical theories say that group selection doesn'twork, but real world observations seem to indicate the opposite.That's why I am doing research on group selection, and I am trying torefine the mathematical models. The non-reproductive castes among ants and bees might possibly beexplained by kin selection because they have haplodiploid inheritance,i.e. they have more genes in common with their siblings. But thisexplanation doesn't work for termites, naked mole rats, and other socialanimals. They have diploid inheritance, so they share only half theirgenes with their siblings, and less with their half-siblings. Kin selection theory says that I should help my brother if his gain ismore than the double of my costs. But this doesn't explain why we aresending money to starving children in Africa and tsunami victims in Asia.You may say that this is because of religious memes. This may be true tosome extent, but atheists give to charity too. Why do birds and many other animals have ritualized fights, and why dothey respect the outcome of the fight? A hungry bird that has lost thefight for the best territories would be better off by not respecting theterritorial boundaries than starve to death. There are so many behaviors among animals as well as humans that can't beexplained by kin selection and reciprocal selection. This is why I amdoing research on group selection. I have not published very much yet, butyou can see the most important results

    I've seen some sort of argument that group selection doesn't hold for non-humans in most instances, but that there could be some sort of group selection at play in humans, perhaps due to our possession of the capacity for culture. OTOH one could puncture this by some selfish gene or strictly individual selectionist EEA account via ev psych or reducing it to the "meme's eye view".

    I think all this stuff relies too heavily on the philosophy of selectionism, regardless of your focus on genes, memes, or groups. If memes exist, drift might be another factor in cultural evolution, like how the Tasmanians lost technologies relative to indigenous Aussies. Plus I'm rather partial to Gould's nonaptive spandrel and exaptive hypotheses which tend to puncture adaptionist EEA logic where historical origin and current utility could be conflated. With Gould dead, we run the risk of forgeting his critical contributions to ev psych.

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