[ExI] The Selfish Gene? Maybe not----

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Tue Mar 17 15:29:16 UTC 2015

On Mon, Mar 16, 2015  BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:

> Articles are appearing claiming that The Selfish Gene got it wrong.
> <
> http://joshmitteldorf.scienceblog.com/2015/03/09/what-looks-like-cooperation-is-really-selfishness/
> >

I have a few thoughts on this. First of all it proposes a tactic that would
allow you to score more points than the other player, but that is
not necessarily the same strategy that would allow you to gain the most
points, or even a strategy that would allow you to avoid getting a
disastrously low score. If you starve to death one day after your opponent
it's questionable how successful that tactic really was. The best tactic
may not be the best strategy.

And sometimes a tactic can be too clever for it's own good, you expect
your opponent to respond logically to your actions but even if they are
100% logical if they are too complex your behavior might appear to
your opponent as being random, and if you look at the actual paper


you can see that it's rather complex. Animals, and people too, can only
react to what they understand; if your opponent believes you're behaving
randomly then there is no way to know how they'll respond.

In addition it ignores the part emotion plays in behavior, in real life
tests of the Ultimatum Game it was found that people would usually choose
to punish those who they believed acted unfairly even if that results in
less reward for themselves. There is evidence that chimpanzees, monkeys and
even rats also behave in this way. This probably evolved because without
a sense of fairness social cohesion would not be possible, and
if collective behavior was beneficial enough genes that promoted fairness
would reproduce faster than genes that did not.

I think the real moral to all this is that Evolution doesn't always find
the perfect solution to a problem, in fact it almost never does.

 John K Clark
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