Evolution for Everyone

Richard Dawkins’ recent review of E.O. Wilson’s new book The Social Conquest of Earth affords an opportunity to show that BOTH fail to recognize that the days of pitting group selection theory against kin selection theory are over. I have written an article to this effect titled “Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, and the Consensus of the Many” which has just been published on EVOLUTION: THIS VIEW OF LIFE.

Is the controversy over?


  1. #1 Colugo
    May 30, 2012

    “the days of pitting group selection theory against kin selection theory is over” I agree, in terms of pristine, simplifying generalizing models of behavioral evolution. Price figured it out. Very well.

    The question that people are really interested in is this: is group selection or kin selection more analytically useful in understanding human behavior? I mean, few really care about slime molds, or corals, or ants.

    But for a vast array of human behaviors the answer might be more horrifying (from the perspective of some): “neither are useful at all”.

    Behaviors might be driven by a thought contagion, or perhaps even a literal pathogen like toxoplasmosis, or toxins in the soil, or nutritional deficits. By pregnancy effects, teratogens, the unforseen influence of the human-modified environment. Neurological constraints and glitches caused by phylogenetic inertia and bodyplan cul-de-sacs can play a role too. What I’m saying is that maybe human behavior is more intractable than anyone thinks, that there’s a lot more chance and happenstance, behavioral/cultural “drift”, neutral “mutation” of ideas and activities, and even malaptations than we want to admit. Maybe a selectionist-adaptationist approach – heck, any kind of evolutionary approach – is doomed to be mostly fruitless, whether for human universals, group characters, or individual variation.

  2. #2 Tim Tyler
    June 5, 2012

    Seen the paper titled: “How useful has group selection been?”

    Equivalence is recognised in it – but it still seems to think that group selection is the ugly sister of the pair.

New comments have been disabled.