Sunday, 19 October 2014

West and Gardner on kin vs group selection

West and Gardner have not been shy about pointing out the virtues of kin selection over group selection. Here they are with a summary in 2013:

The most frequently used methods are neighbour-modulated and inclusive fitness. In particular, modern neighbour-modulated fitness methods allow the modeller to go from the underlying biology to an expression or fitness, in a way that facilitates the development of relatively general models [8,27,28,35,37]. In contrast, the group selection approach is used relatively little for modelling specific traits partly because as soon as one moves away from the simplest, most abstract models, and wants to add in real world biology, it often becomes analytically intractable — for example, when populations are structured into different classes of individual, according to sex, age, caste or ploidy [38–40].
I know these folk also have plenty of other objections to group selection. Here, forced to pick one, they went for analytic tractablility. It seems like an odd choice to me. As a veteran computer modeller, analytic tractablility comes relatively low on my list of virtues. I would probably list group selection's association with junk science as my number one complaint.

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