RE: Group Selection

Gatherer, D. (
Thu, 18 Feb 1999 08:59:06 +0100

Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 08:59:06 +0100
From: "Gatherer, D. (Derek)" <>
Subject: RE: Group Selection
To: "''" <>

>Do we not have a confusion over Wislons here - genetic leash
E.O Wilson
>(Consilience/Sociobiology) and D.S. Wilson (group Selectionism
- Unto

Yep, sorry!

>Whilst D.S. Wilson's sociobiology may be softer than Alexander
- I do not
>think this is necessarily the case for E.O. Wilson.

I think it is, if you compare EO Wilson's 'On Human Nature' with
Alexander's 'Darwinism and Human Affairs'

>What I get out of
>Alexander is the genetic equivalent to the memetic stance - he
wants to
>interpret non-rational human behaviour not from folk psychology
but from an
>inclusive evolutionary fitness heuristic. I, of course, like
this very much
>and think it is useful.

I agree, but I just worry a little, as an (ex-)molecular geneticist, I
feel (felt) that sociobiologists (type I or classic sociobiologists)
required a picture of the relationship between genotype and phenotype
which doesn't quite square with molecular genetics. I said this before
once, and was taken to be saying that sociobiology is rubbish, and that
isn't what I am saying (I'll make that clear at least). It's just that
sociobiologists are usually either zoologists or classic population
biologists who treat genes as abstractions which underlie phenotype,
sometimes without regard to what is actually known about the molecular
genetics of the phenotypes they are discussing. About 60% of human
genes are now cloned if you include ESTs, STSs etc, so the onus is on
sociobiologists, if they want to postulate 'genes for x', to be precise
about which genes they are referring to and exactly what the
cause-effect relationship is that they are postulating. Within 5 years
we'll have all 85000 human genes, so then the chips really will be down.

To a certain extent, one might argue that the gulf between sociobiology
and genomics is rather like the gulf between memetics and neurobiology.
But genomics is a far more advanced science than neurobiology, so
hand-waving is less permissible.

But I do like sociobiology as an intellectual exercise, and I appreciate
that some of its ideas may well turn out to be correct. I just prefer
to reserve judgement for the moment.


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