The Biological and Evolutionary Logic of Human Cooperation

Analyse & Kritik 27 (1):113-135 (2005)
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Human cooperation is held to be an evolutionary puzzle because people voluntarily engage in costly cooperation, and costly punishment of non-cooperators, even among anonymous strangers they will never meet again. The costs of such cooperation cannot be recovered through kin-selection, reciprocal altruism, indirect reciprocity, or costly signaling. A number of recent authors label this behavior ‘strong reciprocity’, and argue that it is: (a) a newly documented aspect of human nature, (b) adaptive, and (c) evolved by group selection. We argue exactly the opposite; that the phenomenon is: (a) not new, (b) maladaptive, and (c) evolved by individual selection. In our perspective, the apparent puzzle disappears to reveal a biological and evolutionary logic to human cooperation. Group selection may play a role in theory, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain human cooperation. Our alternative solution is simpler, makes fewer assumptions, and is more parsimonious with the empirical data.



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