RE: Group Selection

Gatherer, D. (
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 09:19:32 +0100

Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 09:19:32 +0100
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: Group Selection
To: "''" <>

Nick wrote:

>I think Wilson and Sober were implying that everyone was
>genetically pre-disposed to groupish behaviour whenever the
>environment allowed it to flourish (e.g. by punishing

I can see how it could become concentrated by
>the positive fdbk loop you describe - but is step 1
>memetic? Or, as Wilson and Sober suggest, we are all
>'Hutterites' in the right set of circumstances?

On the first point, game theory implies that 'defection' will be an
unstable evolutionary strategy under such circumstances. That defection
need not be genetic, because game theory discusses strategies and leaves
open the issue of whether those strategies are genetic or memetic. As
far as humans are concerned, I'd say that such behaviours are primarily
memetic. However, the process of genetic assimilation (alias the
Baldwin Effect) will tend to instinctualise those learned behaviours
that are very useful to organisms over long periods of time. So yes,
you could in theory breed humans who were genetically disposed to
altruism, and maybe something of that sort might be happening in
communities like the Amish. I tend to doubt it though, the initial
populations are too genetically heterogeneous and the number of
generations is still a little on the small side (but maybe in another 10

On the second point, I don't know what the political situation of the
Amish was before they emigrated, but it has been suggested that when
identifiable minorities are subject to prejudice, behaviours which
isolate them from the persecuting population will be selectively
advantageous (memetic selection acting at the level of the individual).
So yes, I think that step 1 leading to endogamy could be memetic. I
wish I could give you the ref. to where I read this.... the book was
called 'A Short History of Judaism', but I've completely forgotten the
author and publisher. However, against this, read Steve Jones' 'In the
Blood' where he makes a strong case that true endogamy in the absense of
geographical isolation is actually very rare, and that even tiny amounts
of gene flow can have cumulative effects that are quite large. for
instance Askenazi Jews have cystic fibrosis alleles that are 'European'
in origin and Tunisian Sephardic Jews have African ones. As much as 30%
of the Jewish gene pool may be of recent Goyim origin (even in orthodox


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