Evolution for Everyone

Latest / page 3

The newest effort to place individualism on an evolutionary foundation is led by Alan Grafen and Andy Gardner at the University of Oxford. Their stated purpose is to develop a mathematical framework whereby natural selection leads toward the optimization of individual fitness. They want to be able to say that virtually all adaptations are individual-level…

Individualism according to Williams’ Principle is dead but another version of individualism is also part of George’s legacy. At the time, no one fully appreciated that the two versions are different and incompatible with each other. Some things are only obvious in retrospect.

In addition to showing how to identify a group-level adaptation (see part I), George Williams also made a strong empirical claim: Individual-level selection is almost invariably stronger than group-level selection. Putting his empirical claim together with his principle, he concluded that “group-related adaptations do not, in fact exist” (Adaptation and Natural Selection p. 93). In…

The death of George C. Williams last September coincided with an article that Elliott Sober and I were writing on the significance of his work. The article, titled “Adaptation and Natural Selection Revisited” has now been published in the current issue of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology and is dedicated to the memory of George.…

The Poverty of Affluence

In addition to this blog, I write a monthly column for Big Questions Online, which is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. My latest column, titled “Rich Man, Poor Man“, shows how poverty is not the root of all problems and how affluence can actually erode the capacity for cooperation. While you’re visiting my column,…

Imagine playing chess with someone who insists on continuing after his king has been taken. Or imagine a basketball game where the losing team insists on continuing after the final buzzer has sounded. These vignettes are so absurd that if they actually happened we would regard the protesters as insane. Yet something comparable happens all…

Evolution won’t truly be accepted by the general public until it is communicated through the arts and popular media. Baba Brinkman is leading the way with his Rap Guide to Evolution, which made its debut at the Cambridge Darwin Festival in 2009 and has been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Rachael Maddow Show,…

This is the final installment of my “Economics and Evolution as Different Paradigms” series. The series reflects what I have learned as president of the Evolution Institute, working with literally scores of people who know a lot more. A partnership with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) has funded the effort, starting with a conference…

Rest In Peace, George C. Williams

George Williams, the man whose name will forever be associated with the rejection of group selection in the 1960’s, passed away on September 8. He previously suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, so his voice has not been heard for a number of years. He was my intellectual opponent but also a good friend.

Obsessing about different accounting methods runs the risk of turning evolutionary theory into a kind of postmodernism in which there are no facts, only different ways of viewing. In his book Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism, philosopher Paul Boghossian shows, for anyone who needs reminding, that nothing has happened in philosophy to prevent…