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  1. #1
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Default Group selection as opposed to kinship.

    Where does good come from?
    Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson tries to upend biology, again


    Some excerpts:

    Natural selection means that the fittest pass down their genes to the next generation, and every organism would seem to have an overwhelming incentive to survive and reproduce. Yet, strangely, self-sacrifice exists in the natural world, even though it would seem to put individual organisms at an evolutionary disadvantage: The squirrel that lets out a cry to warn of a nearby predator is necessarily putting itself in danger. How could genes that lead to such behavior persist in a population over time? It’s a question that bedeviled even Charles Darwin, who considered altruism a serious challenge to his theory of evolution.
    The currently accepted explanation for altruism is something known as kin selection theory. It says that an organism trying to pass its genes down to future generations can do so indirectly, by helping a relative to survive and procreate. Your brother, for example, shares roughly half your genes. And so, by the dispassionate logic of evolution, helping him produce offspring is half as good for you as producing your own. Thus, acting altruistically towards someone with whom you share genetic material does not really constitute self-sacrifice: It’s just a different way of promoting your own genes. Wilson was one of the original champions of kin selection theory, but 40 years later, he is calling it a “gimmick,” and is imploring his colleagues to give it up.
    The alternative theory holds that the origins of altruism and teamwork have nothing to do with kinship or the degree of relatedness between individuals. The key, Wilson said, is the group: Under certain circumstances, groups of cooperators can out-compete groups of non-cooperators, thereby ensuring that their genes — including the ones that predispose them to cooperation — are handed down to future generations. This so-called group selection, Wilson insists, is what forms the evolutionary basis for a variety of advanced social behaviors linked to altruism, teamwork, and tribalism — a position that other scientists have taken over the years, but which historically has been considered, in Wilson’s own word, “heresy.”
    Interesting stuff. I'm afraid I'm with the heretics on this one. To be very brief, I don't understand how group selection wouldn't happen.
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  2. #2
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Yep, I agree with you. If you're further interested, I suggest you to read the book "Unto Others" by Sober and Sloan Wilson. A small excerpt:

    In their 1998 book Unto Others, and in various articles before this, Sober and David Sloan Wilson challenge this view. While one of their challenges takes the form of naming organisms, such as the so called "brain worm" (Dicrocoelium dendriticum), which has a life cycle much like that of the haystack organisms above, they present a more significant argument, based on the notion of trait groups.
    Trait groups can occur within larger groups through the interaction of particular genetic traits, and need not interact for a generation to promote survival value. Sober and Wilson see kin selection, which is often considered an alternative to group selection, as a special case of a trait groups. To see how a trait group could be beneficial, let's imagine an altruist trait, such as cooperation with another organism even in such cases were it only benefits 40% as much as the organism it helps, and a selfish trait such as cooperating with another organism only when it will benefit more than the organism it helps. The first trait is considered altruistic in Sober and Wilson’s sense because the within-group fitness of the altruistic organism drops every time it cooperates compared with the other member of the group. Now imagine five organisms, one of which is altruistic in regards to this trait, and the rest of which are selfish. Assume that each case of cooperation increases the chance of survival and reproduction by 10 units, which is divided among the interacting pair (group of two). Now assume that member of the population groups/interacts with each other member of the population one time. After all the interactions have taken place, the selfish organisms have each acquired 6 units. This is because they all refuse to cooperation with other selfish members (since it is impossible for both members to benefit more than the other), but each takes advantage of the altruist benefits over that individual in a ratio of 60% to 40%. The altruist on the other hand has interacted with 4 selfish organisms and thus has earned 16 units (four for each encounter) and thus has a greater survival advantage than the selfish members of the population. The altruist ends up winning the survival "war" even though it came out behind in every survival "battle".
    Because individuals can form hundreds or even thousands of trait groups within its life span, the trait group selection model does not have to rely on the unlikely situation of an entire population isolating into groups, merging, and then isolating into groups again. Likewise the rate at which trait groups can form and dissolve can be many times faster than the rate at which individuals reproduce, providing cumulative as opposed to all-or-nothing benefits. It is important to note that this argument has not settled the issue of group selection however. There is still heavy debate as to whether or not such formations count as “real” groups in the traditional biological sense of groups affected by group selection.
    Since I'm not an expert, I don't think I can easily debate this topic. However, their thesis makes perfect sense IMHO.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Where does good come from?
    Harvard’s Edward O. Wilson tries to upend biology, again


    Some excerpts:







    Interesting stuff. I'm afraid I'm with the heretics on this one. To be very brief, I don't understand how group selection wouldn't happen.
    I don't see how it's heretical. It's common sense that ensuring the survival of others ensures your own survival. Self interest in the interest of others.

  4. #4
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    I'm a heretic apparently. To me it's like common sense that being altruistic toward other people, even those not related to you, could ensure your own livelihood. What if all your relatives are dead? It's good to have friends.

    People make "families" all of the time from people they've chosen. I think it's just human to cooperate, at least in small groups (I know it's not necessarily "natural" on a larger scale, which is why thinking leaning toward socialism is considered a form of being rational and complex beyond instincts, and it's part of the theory of why liberals are smarter than conservatives, oh boy I'm about to get into trouble...).

    But YES, at least in small groups it's perfectly logical and normal, like living in a tribe. It's simply easier to survive with a tribe even you aren't related by blood. Every different person serves a purpose, making each person's life easier. You can help each other out when something goes wrong, or if one gets sick. Safety in numbers, et al.

    I just want to say fucking duh and conclude with a completely unnecessary (but related)"Ayn Rand was a psychopath".

  5. #5
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Marmie, I don't think this is what is being argued. It's some type of meta-evolution, if it was operating on us we couldn't even notice, we'd need an external observer.
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

  6. #6
    Senior Member InTheFlesh's Avatar
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    The reason animals want to reproduce is to keep the species going, individual reproduction feeds into that larger goal.
    Enabling the species to survive and reproduce by warning them of a threat precedes reproduction on a singular scale, since evolution based off natural selection still has the main goal of species survival.

    I'd argue altruism doesn't exist, but that's a little beside the point.
    Warning the others of a threat is collective selfishness, the drive to help results from the selfish desire to keep the larger group safe so they can continue to reproduce.

  7. #7
    Intriguing.... Quinlan's Avatar
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    As a complete layman, group selection (multilevel selection) totally makes intuitive sense to me. I still don't really get why it's controversial.

    It might explain the (possible) biological basis for things like why cognitive preferences (like MBTI) are distributed the way they are. Why aren't we all a single optimal type? Why are there more sensors than intuitives? etc.
    Act your age not your enneagram number.

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  8. #8
    Intriguing.... Quinlan's Avatar
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    Oh and for those interested I recommend this blog (especially the "Truth and Reconcilliation" series:

    http://scienceblogs.com/evolution/

    "Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary."
    Act your age not your enneagram number.

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  9. #9
    Senior Member InTheFlesh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quinlan View Post
    Why are there more sensors than intuitives? etc.
    I tend to go the existentialist route here and claim that it's a result of how people are raised/what their childhood is like.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by InTheFlesh View Post
    I tend to go the existentialist route here and claim that it's a result of how people are raised/what their childhood is like.
    I don't think that's it.

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