Brian Boyd – On The Origin Of Stories


Cooperation has been a prime focus of sociobiology and its offshoot evolutionary psychology. In the mid-1960s William Hamilton and George Williams transformed evolutionary theory by turning sociality from an accepted fact into a scientific problem. Darwin, always aware of difficulties his theory needed to contront, had been troubled by eusociality in ants and bees, in whose colonies most renounce their reproductive rights. But before Hamilton and Williams, others less inclined to confront difficulties had been able to think that individuals could easily evolve to act for the good of their group or species, a position now known as “naïve group selectionism.” Hamilton and Williams made clear how hard it was to explain the cooperation necessary for social life. If one animal behaves for the good of others — draws attention to predators or fights them off, for instance, at risk to itself, or forgoes a share of food bacause others are hungry — but another does not, the second will be more likely to survive. Its more selfish genes will be more likely to pass to the next generation than the genes of the more selfless. Over time, cooperation genes should therefore die out and uncooperative genes come to dominate in any population.

© Brian Boyd – On The Origin of Stories (excerto) – Belknap Harvard


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