[ExI] Group Selection Advances

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Fri May 1 21:17:08 UTC 2009

At 10:12 AM 5/1/2009, spike wrote:


>It seems that with the survival of the species at stake, some sporty young
>Irish elk couple would have come up with an alternate position, in which the
>stag's massive antlers could somehow rest on the ground.  It is difficult to
>form a mental image of that.  Are humans the only species with more than one
>mating position?

You should read the wiki article.  The antlers are not thought to 
have been the problem.

>Intraspecies war (as far as I know) is seen in only four species, chimps,
>gorillas, humans and ants.

What gorillas do can't really be called war.  It's displacement of 
one harem master with another.  Lions come closer because one group 
of brothers will fight another group for the females in a pride.

You can make a case for wolves and hyenas where social groups fight 
other social groups, generally at the territory edges.  The same may 
be true of cooperative breeding birds, where a group hold the 
territory and one pair breeds.

>The anthropologists argue to this day whether
>the chimp and gorilla intraspecies fights qualify as war.  Some are more
>comfortable comparing that phenom to a gang rumble, for they tend to be
>chaotic and short-lived with little apparent overall plan or goal, and the
>territory capture aspect is questioned.

Read Goodall on this subject.  Her group at Gombe was severely 
reduced and their territory much reduced at one point.  A splinter 
groups was killed to the very last individual, and in other places 
whole groups have been subjected to genocide.

What's really interesting is that Bonobos, who are as closely related 
to us as chimps, don't seem to do this.

>So intraspecies war would then be
>considered something that is seen in nature but is extremely rare if one
>ignores humankind as an oddball species.  Even the ants would be considered
>a special case, because the actual fighting is be done exclusively by the
>non-breeders, as neither the queen nor the drones get involved in duking it
>out, or in this case mandibling it out.  It is the workers which open a can
>of whoop-abdomen.  It isn't clear to me that this case of war would lead to
>group selection, for the losing side maintains its reproductive capacity.

Over time, much reduced capacity is "failing to reproduce."

>Imagine a group of hungry pre-technology humans, where some extropian minded
>individual comes up with the idea of agriculture.  Some agree this is a
>great hi-tech way to get reliable food, but the majority insist on the
>traditional way of praying to Etaoin Shrdlu for divine guidance in finding
>roots, berries and squirrels.  Over time, the agriculturalists have a more
>reliable food source, become richer and more numerous, and eventually
>everyone is an agriculturalist.  If this is not a clear example of group
>selection I don't know what else to call it.

It's not.  It is a simple case of one trait (farming) pushing out 
another (hunter gatherer).  Happened a number of times.  Farmers were 
not better off, but there were typically 200 times as many of them.

>I can imagine that group selection is analogous to intraspecies war: present
>in nature but extremely rare.

I don't think anyone has made a cogent argument for group 
selection.  I have never seen one that can't be better understood 
with ordinary evolution.


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