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Much Ado About Inclusive Fitness
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51Ht9P0jm3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ A few years ago there was a huge stir caused by the publication in Nature of a somewhat mathematically abstruse paper, The Evolution of Eusociality. It was huge enough that it got a treatment in The New Yorker, Kin in Kind. Many of the reactions were basically tribal. Most geneticists were rather upset with the publication of this paper for a variety of reasons, both substantive and stylistic. In contrast, I’ve engaged in conversations with ecologists who assume that the authors of this paper basically proved that old-fashioned inclusive fitness theory, as first outlined by W. D. Hamilton in the 1960s, had been shown to be superfluous and irrelevant.

A major point by one of the authors of the original paper, Corina Tarnita, is that their detractors didn’t really engage with the model that they laboriously outlined. Well, until now. A new paper in PLOS BIOLOGY takes the model from the 2010 paper, and argues that it isn’t really all that robust, and therefore does not really speak to whether inclusive fitness is useful at all in comparison. The paper is Relatedness, Conflict, and the Evolution of Eusociality. Nicely it provides a lot of code to go along with the assertions, so I invite readers to dig into it, and the original Nature paper from 2010. And while you’re at it, W. D. Hamilton’s first volume of collected papers which addresses his work on social evolution, Narrow Roads of Gene Land, is highly recommended (if you want some full-throated anti-Hamiltonian viewpoints, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, might interest you, though only the first half is much focused on evolutionary genetic aspects). 51aEM-jiATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

If I had to bet I would say that inclusive fitness is very important across many branches of the tree of life. But, I’d also suggest that among organisms with particular complex and elaborated social structures (e.g., humans) there is probably a lot more going on. Also there is more than can be explained by reciprocal altruism. So I’ll go on the record that for humans something similar to multi-level selection theory does have something useful to add, especially when it comes to cultural evolution, where standard objections to low between group variance do not hold. It’s just that this is evolutionary, not revolutionary, science. I wish the enemies of inclusive fitness would calm down with the bromides, and just get on with good science. The truth will tell.

• Category: Science • Tags: Inclusive Fitness 
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  1. This paper is probably worth pointing out:

    Levels of Selection Are Artefacts of Different Fitness Temporal Measures


    In this paper I argue against the claim, recently put forward by some philosophers of biology and evolutionary biologists, that there can be two or more ontologically distinct levels of selection. I show by comparing the fitness of individuals with that of collectives of individuals in the same environment and over the same period of time – as required to decide if one or more levels of selection is acting in a population – that the selection of collectives is a by-product of selection at the individual level; thus, talking about two or more levels of selection represents merely a different perspective on one and the same process.

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  2. AG says:

    I just wonder whether people of the same blood type would help each other out since they share the same kind genes of ABO types. Maybe they will if blood type were printed on their shirts.

    Sports fan of particular team can behave like English football hooligans with violence toward opposing team fans. Do they share unique genes in each fan group different from other? Or simply they just have their tribal instinct deviated away from their genetic intrinct.

    These Caucasians are far more loyal to China even than Han people. Yet most hated people for them are actually Uyghur who have more genetic similarity. Uyghur genetically are mid-point between Han and Tajik. Mightbe my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Jajik claimed entire XinJiang were their land while Uyghur were invader. They claimed Loulan mummies were the evidence of their ownership of land. They believe they are true Aryan.

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