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← Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence

Donald's Avatar Jump to comment 42 by Donald

I received Jonathan's Chapter 9 yesterday (thank you Jonathan) and it is rich with examples of human cooperation and has numerous scholarly footnotes.

I'm still in the process of reading, and find it an interesting, enjoyable and informative read, but already I can see that Richard Dawkins will find plenty of targets for scathing criticisms of this chapter if he reads it.

The essential proposition of the chapter is that (at least in the case of humans) genes for groupish (as opposed to selfish) behaviour have been selected by group selection.

The distinction between cooperation (benefiting the group at no personal expense) and altruism (benefitting the group at personal expense) is blurred. The former could be endorsed even by RD if the term "group selection" were to be discreetly replaced with alternative terminology. The latter is the tricky one, and I didn't see yet any decisive example, argument or reference to research, that might alter the opinion of those who criticise "group selection". To establish the latter, one has to show that the net advantage to genes when occasionally losing individual vehicles is more than compensated by increased number of those vehicles because the group is larger (and/or that surviving individual vehicles have increased fertility). Obviously possible in principle, but one has to show it in practice.

(My guess is that it will eventually be shown,)

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 00:31:51 UTC | #929477