Altruistic behavior poses a problem
for evolutionary theory. Altruistic behaviors, it seems, are
individually disadvantageous. But if this is the case, then how can
they evolve and persist in the population? Three main answers have been
proposed: Reciprocal altruism, kin selection, and group selection.
These three answers have been understood to be distinct - each
identifying a distinct mechanism. This has been called into question in
Elliot Sober's and David Sloan Wilson's influential work "Unto Others."
They propose a theory of group selection that subsumes both kin
selection and reciprocal altruism under the rubric of group selection.
In this talk, I do two things: First, I challenge the received view of
the definition of biological altruism. Second, I argue - contra Sober
and Wilson - that reciprocal altruism is not a kind of group selection.
If this is right, it undermines their claim that group
selection is common in nature and that it is a powerful force in evolution.