Re: Group selection

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sun 20 Feb 2005 - 18:38:55 GMT

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    At 05:27 AM 20/02/05 -0800, Scott Chase wrote:


    >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".

    The main argument against group selection is that it does not close the causal loop, mainly against free loaders taking advantage of others. Now if the group is *also* your relatives, the loop does close.

    >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.

    According to Dr. Diamond in _Collapse_, the Greenland Norse lost the fishing meme same as the Tasmanians. This is even more bizarre than the Tasmanians because the Greenlanders had cultural contact with Norway and Iceland who did fish almost up to the end and they *did* hunt seals. I agree with you that memetic drift is a factor in cultural evolution.

    >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.

    That's actually not the case. The EP people tend to use "by products" or
    "side effects" instead of "spandrel" but they have the same meaning. An example is drug addiction. Now there is *no way* a trait for getting screwed up on plant poisons could have been selected. Drug addiction is now understood (especially by those working with functional MRI) as a side effect/by product/spandrel of chemically mediated reward pathways critical to differential survival in hunter gatherer tribes.

    Keith Henson

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