Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (4):585-608 (1994)

Authors
Elliott Sober
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Abstract
In both biology and the human sciences, social groups are sometimes treated as adaptive units whose organization cannot be reduced to individual interactions. This group-level view is opposed by a more individualistic one that treats social organization as a byproduct of self-interest. According to biologists, group-level adaptations can evolve only by a process of natural selection at the group level. Most biologists rejected group selection as an important evolutionary force during the 1960s and 1970s but a positive literature began to grow during the 1970s and is rapidly expanding today. We review this recent literature and its implications for human evolutionary biology. We show that the rejection of group selection was based on a misplaced emphasis on genes as “replicators” which is in fact irrelevant to the question of whether groups can be like individuals in their functional organization. The fundamental question is whether social groups and other higher-level entities can be “vehicles” of selection. When this elementary fact is recognized, group selection emerges as an important force in nature and what seem to be competing theories, such as kin selection and reciprocity, reappear as special cases of group selection. The result is a unified theory of natural selection that operates on a nested hierarchy of units.The vehicle-based theory makes it clear that group selection is an important force to consider in human evolution. Humans can facultatively span the full range from self-interested individuals to “organs” of group-level “organisms.” Human behavior not only reflects the balance between levels of selection but it can also alter the balance through the construction of social structures that have the effect of reducing fitness differences within groups, concentrating natural selection at the group level. These social structures and the cognitive abilities that produce them allow group selection to be important even among large groups of unrelated individuals.
Keywords altruism   group selection   human evolution   levels of selection   sociobiology
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1017/s0140525x00036104
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,163
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Brainstorms.Daniel C. Dennett - 1978 - MIT Press.

View all 97 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Problem of Biological Individuality.Ellen Clarke - 2010 - Biological Theory 5 (4):312-325.
There Is No Progress in Philosophy.Eric Dietrich - 2011 - Essays in Philosophy 12 (2):9.

View all 115 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Concept of Group Heritability.Samir Okasha - 2003 - Biology and Philosophy 18 (3):445-461.
Genetic Similarity, Human Altruism, and Group Selection.J. Philippe Rushton - 1989 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12 (3):503-518.
Why Won't the Group Selection Controversy Go Away?Samir Okasha - 2001 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (1):25-50.
Maynard Smith on the Levels of Selection Question.Samir Okasha - 2005 - Biology and Philosophy 20 (5):989-1010.
Altruism, Group Selection and Correlated Interaction.Samir Okasha - 2005 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (4):703-725.
Morality and Evolution by Group Selection.Michael Byron - 1999 - Http://Www.Bu.Edu/Wcp/Papers/TEth/TEthByro.Htm.
Holism, Individualism, and the Units of Selection.Elliott Sober - 1980 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:93 - 121.
Evolutionary Ethics and Biologically Supportable Morality.Michael Byron - 1999 - Proceedings of Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, PAIDEIA: Philosophy Educating Humanity.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2014-01-20

Total views
138 ( #84,682 of 2,507,021 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #209,781 of 2,507,021 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes