[ExI] Ants for spike! Dawkins and Wilson

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Nov 16 19:47:15 UTC 2009

On Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 4:00 AM,   "spike" <spike66 at att.net>  wrote:

(quoting Nicholas Wade)


> But group selection has recently gained two powerful champions, the
> biologists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson, who argued that two
> special circumstances in recent human evolution would have given group
> selection much more of an edge than usual. One is the highly egalitarian
> nature of hunter-gatherer societies,

This is in direct conflict with what anthropologists know about
hunter-gatherer societies.  Azar Gat discusses this here:
http://cniss.wustl.edu/workshoppapers/gatpres1.pdf  See page 12 for a
discussion of how un-egalitarian various hunter-gatherers were with
respect to the most important resource of all, women.

> which makes everyone behave alike and
> gives individual altruists a better chance of passing on their genes.

We know from recent genetic studies that we are descended from a
smaller number of men than women.  Further evidence that things were
not so egalitarian in our hunter-gatherer past.

> other is intense warfare between groups, which enhances group-level
> selection

How does warfare between groups enhance group-level selection over
gene based kin selection?  I can account for warfare using kin
selection and genes.  Just how do they account (mathematically) for
group selection?  One of the problems is that between wars competing
groups obtained mates (i.e., women) from the same groups they fought
wars with.

> in favor of community-benefiting behaviors such as altruism and
> religion.

As I have explained a number of times, religion is deeply connected
with war and war grew out of kin selection and the human practice of
taking he young women of the defeated group.

 Robert Masters <rob4332000 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> I read this when it came out, and no, it does not overturn the central
> dogma of where evolution occurs.? If you think it does, please
> explain.>>
> ===============================
> Well, most simply, you said the Dawkins dogma is that evolution takes place on a single level--that of the gene--while the Wilsons are advocating what they call a "multilevel" theory.  That seems like a direct contradiction.

They fail.  The article is hand waving and bonhomie.  There is nothing
that distinguishes "group selection" from conventional evolution
considering the effects of kin selection (inclusive fitness).

> More specifically, in your 14 Nov. post you defend the view that group selection is never a significant factor in evolution.  I assume that's the sort of thing you mean by "level" (i.e., natural selection never operates at the "level" of the group).  But the denial of group selection is precisely the dogma the Wilsons reject.  They're saying that that denial was an unfortunate detour in evolutionary theory, and a mistake.

Think about it for a bit.  What is evolution (by natural selection)?
If you agree with me that it is change in gene frequencies, then it is
obvious that the frequencies change because some genes increase in
numbers and some alternate genes decrease in numbers.  That means that
the carriers of these genes had more or less reproductive success in
previous generations.

This is not to say groups could not influence selection, on purpose or
accidentally.  The classic example is the French sending the tall men
off in WW I where most of them were killed.  Supposedly this decreased
the average height of the French in the next generation, but this is
not what people usually mean by "group selection."

> The following passages clearly affirm the possibility and importance of group selection:


> "The case against group selection during the 1960s rested upon three arguments: it is theoretically implausible as a significant evolutionary force; there is no solid empirical evidence for it; and there are robust theoretical alternatives. All these arguments have failed in the face of subsequent research."
> "The old arguments against group selection have all failed. It is theoretically plausible, it happens in reality,

OK, cite a reasonable example where conventional selection fails and
group selection explains what is going on.

Understand I *like* the idea of group selection, most humans I expect
to.  It is just that so far it fails to explain what goes on with
evolution as well as conventional gene selection.  it fails logically
with exogamy swapping genes between groups.

Now if you want make a case for some kind of evolution that is not
measured in gene frequency shifts, that's a different matter.


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