Re: Group Selection

Aaron Lynch (
Mon, 15 Feb 1999 09:54:37 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 09:54:37 -0600
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Group Selection
In-Reply-To: <>

At 11:51 AM 2/15/99 -0500, you wrote:
>I was reading Wilson and Sober's group selection argument
>and it set me wondering...
>Wilson and Sober argue (and this is an impoverished
>summary) that group selection occurs in biological
>evolution when there is little or no differences in fitness
>between individuals within a group - at which point the
>group can act as the vehicle for the purposes of
>identifying the level of selection occurring.
>This seems a very reasonable kind of group selection to me
>- and not at all like the bad old kind of group selection.
>However, Wilson and Sober go on to give an example of the
>Hutterites - whom they claim live in a sufficiently
>'bee-hive' like way for selection to occur at the level of
>the group rather than the individual. The group acts like
>an 'organism'. They claim this explains why you see
>more altruism than you would perhaps expect. They also
>suggest how the various social rules serve to minimise
>within group variation in fitness.
>This would, to me at least, appear to undermine some of the
>'religions as memeplexes' arguments. Perhaps these
>cultural rules are not biologically independant,
>virus-like, bits of culture - but biologically dependant
>bits of culture which serve to minimise within group
>differences in fitness. Does 'new' group selection theory
>undermine our 'gold mine' of memetic examples? (that both
>Aaron and Richard appear to rely upon a lot).
>I don't necessarily buy the Hutterites example (well, if
>honest, I don't) - but it's an interesting (I hope)
>sceptical point. Perhaps, as Dawkins suggests we are
>better off burying the vehicle altogether...
>Ref: Wilson & Sober (1994) Reintroducing group selection
>to the human behavioral sciences. Behavioral and Brain
>Sciences. Dec; Vol 17(4): 585-654
>As a seperate aside - would the illusion of Self count as a
>memetic 'organism'? Hmm.... ;)

Hi Nick.

I actually take up the article by Wilson and Sober in my JoM paper section
13 - Massively Cooperative Propagation. (There is also a Hutterite section
in TC that I wrote before the BBS article.) Hutterites exemplify a kind of
meme group selection rather than gene group selection. Massively
cooperative propagation is to some extent the opposite of centralized
communication: a large number of memetically similar individuals cooperate
in spreading the meme to new individuals--children in the case of the

Units, Events, and Dynamics in Memetic Evolution
Published at Journal of Memetics,

--Aaron Lynch

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)