Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium


Grant Ramsey

Duke University

"Biological Altruism Reconsidered"


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.

Friday, January, 26, 2007
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served