Saturday, 23 February 2013

Cultural kin selection - a bibliography

I was planning to publish this bibliography of cultural kin selection as part of my forthcoming "Memes" book - which will have chapters on cultural nepotism and cultural eusociality. However, several issues have resulted in me changing my mind: the URLs are more use on the internet - and a technical bibliography doesn't necessarily seem to be the best use of pages in a popular book.

So: here is a list of materials relating to cultural kin selection. See also my bibliography of the related topic of tag-based cooperation.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The real kin selection revolution

Looking at the science news, you might think that the news concerning kin selection has something to do with group selection. However, that affair is a bit of a storm in a teacup, with little real impact on the theory of kin selection.

I think the biggest impact on kin selection concerns the expansion of Darwinism's domain. Kin selection was once only applied to genes. However, with the realisation that it also applies to memes, individually-learned ideas, mimicry and other copied entities some previously-unknown vistas have opened up for the theory.

The impact has been broadly similar to the discovery of alien life forms: new evolutionary dynamics let us know what is contingent on our local historical circumstances.

Kin selection's vs the John Templeton Foundation

Is it true that kin selection's opponents are funded by the Templeton Foundation?

Jerry Coyne alleges this:

Finally, much of the work on group selection has been funded by the John Templeton Foundation, an enormously wealthy organization with an agenda to harmonize faith and science. The idea of group selection, with its spiritual and religious connotations—the process is often used to explain the prevalence of religion and societal harmony—is right up their alley. So the proponents of group selection monopolize not only the megaphones but the funding. In science, money talks.
David Sloane Wilson (here), Jonathan Haight (here) and Martin Nowak (here) have all been linked to Templeton foundation funding. The 2010 attack on kin selection by Nowak, Tarnita and Wilson was funded by the Templeton foundation. They funded SuperCooperators, The Happiness Hypothesis and Darwin's Cathedral.

Nowak's grant was ten million dollars - we are not talking about peanuts here.

The Templeton Foundation funding puts a strange slant on the issue. It is strange to think that some of the skirmishes in the ancient battle between science and religion are now being shrouded in arcane mathematics and published in top science journals.