Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Kin selection's 50th birthday

There were prior murmurings, but 1964 marked kin selection's initial publication in a number of respects. Now it's 2014 - it's kin selection's 50th birthday.

Academics have noticed this and are celebrating. One of the celebrations is the Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B's theme issue:

‘Inclusive fitness: 50 years on’ compiled and edited by Andy Gardner and Stuart A. West

The introduction says:

In order to better assess the health of inclusive fitness theory on its 50th anniversary, here we showcase research showing the research programme in action, from the extremely pure, mathematical realm, through basic empirical science, to bold applications in a variety of disciplines.

I disapprove of the Claidière / Scott-Phillips / Sperber contribution. They doubt the applicability of kin selection to cultural variation, writing:

Darwinian selection leads to the maximization of inclusive fitness, and this explains the appearance of design in the natural world. Is there an analogous result for cultural attraction? As selection is a special case of attraction, design is possible and in some cases explicable in standard Darwinian terms. Having said that, such explanations will not apply generally, and may not even apply commonly.
From my perspective, this seems like ignorant nonsense. Kin selection is about as applicable and useful to cultural evolution as it is to understanding organic evolution.

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