Evolution for Everyone

Archives for November, 2009

We have reached the end of the T&R series. In a truth and reconciliation process, truth is required for reconciliation. There must be a consensus on what happened, even if all wrongs cannot be righted. I have had my say on what happened during the group selection controversy. Anyone who wishes to challenge my account…

August 22, 2009. I am at the annual meeting of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) in Turin, Italy. Twelve hundred evolutionists have gathered to strut their stuff and party over a five-day period. I’m here to speak at a symposium on levels of selection that is being held on the first day. The…

John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary boldly expanded the symbiotic cell theory of Lynn Margulis to include other major transitions. They were a bit timid in their discussion of human evolution, however, restricting themselves to the genetic basis of language. Now it appears likely that human evolution was a full-fledged major transition. The reason that…

Just as Brutus was a close companion to Caesar but proved to be his undoing, evolutionary theory seemed to provide a rock-solid foundation for individualism– until Lynn Margulis came along. Lynn is famous so you might already know her story. In the 1970′s she proposed the radical theory that nucleated (eukaryotic) cells evolved not by…

In T&R XIV I showed that prejudice against group selection is impervious to evidence from laboratory experiments. It is also impervious to evidence from the wild. I will focus on one of many examples that can be provided. In 1995, Robert Heinsohn and Craig Packer published an important paper on territorial defense in lions in…

The newest issue of Science Magazine includes a lovely demonstration of multilevel selection by Omar Tonsi Eldakar, my former graduate student, who is currently at the University of Arizona’s Center for Insect Science. Readers who have been following my “Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection” series will be well prepared to appreciate the import of…

In the storybook portrayal of science, theories are tested by experiments, which are conducted in laboratories so that the conditions can be rigorously controlled. How would group selection be tested in the laboratory? Let’s begin with the thousands of selection experiments that have already been conducted in the laboratory at the individual level. A population…

Pity people who become icons. Once they represent an important idea in the minds of others, they can’t change their iconic status, even when they change their own minds. Such was the fate of William D. Hamilton, the legendary founder of inclusive fitness theory, which was dubbed kin selection by John Maynard Smith (see T&R…

Meet Athena Aktipis–evolutionist, mother of two, and salsa dance instructor in her spare time. Perhaps it was the dancer in Athena that caused her to teach multilevel selection by having the students get up and move. Each student is given a wooden stick with an A (for Altruistic) or S (for Selfish) written on one…

Richard Dawkins did not invent naïve gene selectionism (see T&R X) but he spread it far and wide with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Let’s follow his logic, beginning on page 6 of the 1989 paperback edition: This book will show how both individual selfishness and individual altruism are explained by the fundamental law…