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August 20, 2017


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... individual selection as you and I compete with others to leave the most surviving offspring. This is the standard view ... argue[ing] that any appearance of altruism or sacrifice for others can be explained entirely by kin selection.

I don't think this is correct. Altruism certainly needs to start as kin selection, but once individuals are able to condition their altruistic behaviour on the behaviour of others, it can be sustained in reciprocal relationships with non-kin. This requires repeated interactions and a limited number of others to interact with, both conditions that apply to the circumstances under which humans evolved (though maybe not always to today's world).

> ... Those groups that are successful have a greater chance to leave behind their genes.

I find gene group selection implausible. As far as I know, nobody has ever convincingly solved the problem that everyone prefers that the other sacrifices themselves for the group instead and that genes of those more willing to do so eventually die out. Now if you try to explain MEME group selection, I'm listening. A group that has a meme that encourage self-sacrifice for the greater good of the group does not die out if someone does sacrifice themselves (probably on the contrary).

Thanks for your comments. Regarding the last point, Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson, in Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Harvard University Press, 1998): pp. 23-26, provide a model for explaining how the gene for altruism could survive. Your MEME point is a good one, but may not be the only mechanism for promoting altruism. Perhaps you will convince me in the end, but I'm willing to keep open the gene possibility for now. Best regards, JW

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