[ExI] Evolution "for the Good of the Group"

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Sep 21 18:56:12 UTC 2008

Stuart the Avantguardian wrote

> [Keith] wrote:
>> "Is evolution a team sport, or is the
>> contest for survival played out
>> strictly between individuals?"
>> Trivers, Hamilton, and others showed and
>> it was popularized by Dawkins that evolution
>> happens at the *gene* level.  So the first 
>> sentence is out of main stream evolutionary
>> thinkings
> That is certainly the mainstream opinion but the mainstream
> itself has drastically changed its opinion over the years like
> a car swerving back and forth over an icy road. I think what
> you see is the result of overcompensation from one extreme
> viewpoint to another. Ultimately both "selfish gene theory"
> and "group selection theory" are extremist views that fail
> to see the big picture. To adhere blindly to either view is to
> ignore mountains of evidence that show merit to either side
> of the debate.

I agree with that. Sober and Wilson's book "Unto Others" 
was for me the ultimate proof that *group* selection can be
real and can work. (Stuart, you will be most interested to
know, if you don't already, that the mechanism they identify
as responsible for group selection is the wonderful "Simpson's
Paradox", a notorious but beautiful mathematical result.)

Keith wrote in this same thread, 

> > Just because someone rates as high as EO Wilson
> > doesn't mean what he says should be taken without
> > examining the logic behind what his claims. Of course
> > this applies even more to people like me far down
> > the feeding chain.

I'm not sure, but you may be mistaking "David Sloan Wilson",
the author of "Unto Others" (who is the big group selection
proponent) with the much more legendary EO Wilson of
sociobiology (ev psych) fame.

My only problem with group selection at this point is that
it seems like, according to all I've read, it's rather relatively
infrequently used by evolution. In other words, most selection
phenomena is still best described at operating at the gene level.


> Remember that the only reason termites can digest wood
> is that they harbor a protozoan in their stomachs that helps
> them. And amazingly these protozoa could not digest wood
> on their own either except that they harbour bacterial
> symbionts that help them by making crucial digestive enzymes.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichonympha

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