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← The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

kriton's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by kriton

Jos Gibbons, actually you are missing the point. I'm really discussing two different issues here.

  1. Genes and genomes

  2. Altruism and the numbers 1/2, 1/4 and so on.

On issue 1, I'm just suggesting that the genome perspective could add something to the picture. I'm not saying it would contradict the gene view.

Issue 2 is NOT in itself an argument for group selection, even if there might be such implications that I haven't thought of. It is an argument against the idea that the numbers 1/2, 1/4 can be found in real-world relationships.

Zeuglodon, as I interpret him in #31, argues that kin selection genes establishes strategies that other genes cannot change, because if an U gene comes in, it will be outcompeted. I'm really just saying that a gene in another locus can modify these strategies, and these modifications could make the numbers 1/2, 1/4 and so on unsuitable for describing the actual human condition.

And even if you at least temporarily only get K with U, what happens when a U-free version of K enters the scene? Kiss U goodbye.

Suppose we have two large separated populations of equal size, U-K and notU-K. After a few good years, famine strikes large areas of the territories of both populations. Many families in notU-K starve to death, because they don't have enough close relatives in areas that were not affected. But U-K people in unaffected areas will help those other U-K in affected areas, even if they are not closely related.

When the famine is over, there will be more U-K than notU-K. On the other hand, if the famine lasts a long time and spreads to the unaffected areas, the notU-K in those areas will be better off than the U-K, because they have saved more. So it depends on the situation.

If there are big variations in time and place between scarcity and plenty, this could favor U. Less variation would favor notU. I'm guessing the invention of agriculture would favor U.

And then there is of course the mechanism of reciprocity. If you save the life of an unrelated person when you happen to have plentiful resources, you might get an ally or something important in return. Similar to agriculture, settling in one place would probably favour U here, because if you roam around you may never meet the person you saved again.

So there could certainly be situations where U-K could be favored over notU-K. Again, I'm not claiming anything about group selection on this particular issue. One could simply say that the other genes, and the epigenetic regulation, form parts of the environment where U competes with notU.

Sat, 26 May 2012 17:21:31 UTC | #943668