Sunday, 30 September 2012

Equivalence naysayers

Not everyone is on board with kin selection and group selection turning out to be the same thing. Some quotes from the naysayers:

The non-equivalence of group selection and kin selection is therefore not only an important finding in itself, but also a case where the use of the Price equation leads to a claim that is not correct.

- Van Veelen M, García J, Sabelis MW, Egas M. (2012) Group selection and inclusive fitness are not equivalent; the Price equation vs. models and statistics.

Moreover, the claim that group selection is kin selection is certainly wrong.

- Nowak, Martin A., Tarnita, Corina E., and Wilson, Edward O. (2010) THE EVOLUTION OF EUSOCIALITY.

The concept of Group Selection has no useful role to play in psychology or social science.


Group selection', even in the rare cases where it is not actually wrong, is a cumbersome, time-wasting, distracting impediment to what would otherwise be a clear and straightforward understanding of what is going on in natural selection.

- Dawkins, Richard (2012) "Group Selection" Is A Cumbersome, Time-Wasting Distraction

He treated kin selection as a special case of group selection, an error which I was later to highlight in my paper on “Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection” as Misunderstanding Number Two. Kin may or may not cling together in a group. Kin selection works whether they do or not.

- Dawkins, Richard (2012) The descent of Edward Wilson

the kin selection model is merely a special case of the multilevel selection theory
- Turchin, Peter (2011) Warfare and the Evolution of Social Complexity: A Multilevel-Selection Approach

Maybe, neither inclusive fitness nor evolutionary game theory can cover all mathematical intricacies of the other approach.

Ever since the publication of G. C. Williams' 1966 classic Adaptation and Natural Selection, biologists have joined with social scientists to form an altruism debunkery society. Any human or animal act that appears altruistic has been explained away as selfishness in disguise, linked ultimately to kin selection (genes help copies of themselves), or reciprocal altruism (agents help only to the extent that they can expect a positive return, including to their reputations). But in the last few years there's been a growing acceptance of the fact that "Life is a self-replicating hierarchy of levels," and natural selection operates on multiple levels simultaneously, as Bert Hölldobler and E. O. Wilson put it in their recent book, The Superorganism.
- Jonathan Haidt (2012) Contingent Superorganism

bees, ants and termites did not evolve their social behavior by group selection, but by a different mechanism known as kin selection
- Massimo Pigliucci (2011) Jonathan Haidt does it again, unfortunately

The altruism that evolves by group selection is "genuine" because it entails real self- sacrifice, while the altruism that evolves by kin selection is only "apparent" because it is just genes promoting copies of themselves in other individuals.


Multilevel selection is gaining in favor among evolutionary biologists because of a recent mathematical proof that kin selection can arise only under special conditions that demonstrably do not exist, and the better fit of multilevel selection to all of the two dozen known animal cases of eusocial evolution.
- E. O. Wilson (2013) The Riddle of the Human Species

To his credit, David Sloane Wilson has subsequently reversed his position on this issue.

However, as of 2015, he still denies that kin selection and group selection cover the same turf. In Challenge To Kin Selectionists. Explain This! he claims that group selection is a more general theory.

Modern kin selection and group selection concepts have turned out to have an enormous overlap. Even if they are not identical, they are certainly very close concepts.

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