The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

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The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 17th, 2017, 7:17 pm 

"In my article Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, and the Consensus of the Many in This View of Life, I pointed out that these two icons are out of touch with their own field of evolutionary biology in their failure to absorb the concept of equivalence. I based my argument on dozens of scientists who publish on the subject and might have a preference for one theory over the other but at least recognize their equivalence. The nearly 150 scientists who co-signed a letter criticizing the article by Nowak et al. in Nature (see my TVOL article for details) were complaining about Nowak et al.’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of inclusive fitness theory, not their use of group selection as their own preferred framework. It’s nice to know from the survey that the average evolutionary anthropologist is in tune with the current scientific literature, the polemics of Wilson and Dawkins notwithstanding."

https://evolution-institute.org/blog/th ... as-turned/

Pinker and Dawkins are old men and as such they are out of touch by definition. Being out of touch however does not make you wrong. Lots of young people have tried to upend Einstein with little result.

In the article the author keeps referring to evolutionary anthropologists. While the concept of evolutionary anthropology may be valid I would point out that equivalence sounds a lot like post modernist gibberish. The social sciences have been invaded by social justice to such an extent I don't think anyone knows what is up or down. The negative influence of the chaos undoubtedly extents by osmosis to their biology colleagues.

The problem is that group selection undoubtedly influences cultural evolution and cultural evolution undoubtedly influences physical evolution. Culture, at least human culture unfortunately only reaches back a few million years. Most of the primary instincts were well established before culture was a significant factor.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the focus on group selection is that it sees the world through rose colored glasses. There is clear evidence that the domestication of humans has the same effect as in domesticated animals. Smaller brains, abnormal sexual proclivities, diminishing aggression, failure to mature etc. Domestication is only good if you have a benevolent keeper and you are not interested in true innovation.

I placed this in the philosophy forum because it is highly speculative and the fact that many people do not consider the social sciences science.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby Forest_Dump on July 17th, 2017, 9:27 pm 

The question of how we could apply concepts of selection to humans and hominids/hominines has been one I have tried to grapple with for a very long time (well, well over 20 years) and, given how Darwinism in archaeology/anthropology has been one of the big themes in the post processual/post modernist critique of processualism/positivism hyper-science of the 1960s and 1970s, I have probably digested a stack of books and papers several feet high. So I have more interest in this than time. (And of course as you might know, this topic was where I began to get a dislike for the likes of Dawkins.) So I would like to hear more of your thoughts and research on this and try to see where it goes. But since I fully expect to be away from a computer a lot for the next week or three I won't expect you to devote much time to it (and hope we don't get trolled or sent on tangents too much). For my part, as a start, while I hope it is obvious I am an advocate of evolutionary theory, in the topic of human evolution and in particular culture, while it is probably trite to acknowledge that some humans probably did have differential reproductive success, and it probably had something to do with the material culture remains we find, the problem is how do we identify and significantly test any of that. For example, if it is safe to say that a better stone tool provides an adaptive advantage, how can we ever test this kind of "deduction" by 1) even identifying the maker and 2) demonstrating that that individual had more surviving offspring, etc. Becomes even more tricky when we take into account that the ability to make better stone tools may (probably) have had nothing to do with a difference in genetics/inheritance, etc., but someone simply seeing a better tool and then just copying it.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 17th, 2017, 10:32 pm 

I believe culture then big brains. Culture enabled evolution towards bigger brains because you can't get the necessary calories to the brain without down sizing the gut and upscaling food quality. You may ask but what about those huge brained elephants. Elephants are not apes. They had millions of years to grow big enough to munch all day uninterrupted with no other animal able to challenge them. Their big brains also are likely focused on social structure not as much on problem solving. Cetacean have large brains but they also have easy access to a protein rich diet. The apes simply do not have many advantages in their environments to improve their diet short of adopting some form of technology.

Returning to elephants they are actually a good argument against kin selection because those kind of matriarchal societies are very stable and tend to not be very innovative. People have a hard time understanding that what is bad for the average individual is fertile ground for evolution. It is the case in evolution that what nearly kills a species makes it stronger. Bottle necks may even accelerate diversity because small isolated populations are more favorable to unusual mutations. Large unisolated populations tend to homogenize and suppress the spread of beneficial mutations.

Ken selection is probably very important for survival especially given the importance of culture in human evolution but is unlikely to explain the successful adoption of technology by humans. This especially true in the post hunter gather stage but even before that warfare may be just as important. Judging from chimpanzees failure to form cohesive social groups is suicidal.

Comparing ourselves to other social animals it is clear that technology not Ken selection is the secret to our success.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby Forest_Dump on July 18th, 2017, 8:18 am 

I will try to play some devil's advocate here with some bits and pieces.

wolfhnd wrote:I believe culture then big brains.


There does seem to be some agreement here. Stone tools do appear before bigger brains start to develope although much earlier primates already have relatively bigger brains. Nonetheless I try to remain skeptical in that correlations do not necessarily mean a causal connection. In this case, how confident are we in the "culture" inference here? The assumption is that the appearance of stone tools is merely the visible tip of the iceberg with many other aspects not preserved. But is it not also possible that the earliest stone tools are merely a preserved version of a beaver dam and lodge? Whatever "culture" is may not appear until more complex technolgies appear like Homo erectus/ergaster use of Acheulean hand axes or even later with archaic Homo sapiens. It may well be that brains did grow first and "culture" was an accidental by-product that gave some kind of selective advantage in a more after-the-fact kind of way.

If there was something to the idea of the genetic bottleneck of 70,000 years ago (I just am not longer up to speed on the literature) and our species of anatomically modern Homo sapiens was close to extinction at the time, then it becomes a bit tenuous to be confident that culture and advanced technology was that adaptive and didn't really become so until after the Pleistocene/Ice Age. We tend to assume that amHs out-competed the other late surviving hominids and, while genetically absorbing some (e.g., Neanderthals) and thus passively assuming our success contributed to the extinction of H erectus/ergaster, the Flores "hobbits", archaic Homo sapiens, Denisovans, etc., this may not have been the case and they might all have simply gone extinct simply because until the Holocene, culture, big brains, etc., was not all that adaptive without a tremendous amount of luck.

wolfhnd wrote:Culture enabled evolution towards bigger brains because you can't get the necessary calories to the brain without down sizing the gut and upscaling food quality.


Of course, we aren't all that sure what they ate. We do have some scraps of bone, some of which also have carnivore tooth marks indicating that our ancestors scavenged carcases. But those are rare. Most is reasonably good guesses so we do need to remain cautious.

wolfhnd wrote:The apes simply do not have many advantages in their environments to improve their diet short of adopting some form of technology.


Which some do be it tool making (chimps), nest building, etc. They are still relatively big brained compared to other mammals and, at least until recently, were surviving and doing quite well. Might be worth checking the numbers but I wonder what were the numbers of anatomically modern (big brained, complex tool using, culture bearing) H.s. during the bottleneck of 70,000 years ago compared to the populations of gibbons, gorillas, chimps, etc? Again, prior to the late Pleistocene, what makes you think big brains and culture, etc., was all that adaptive other than how it all ended up?
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 18th, 2017, 6:01 pm 

Forest thanks for taking the time to reply. I'm going to do some more reading on the topic and see what is new as it has been years since I checked up on it.

For now I will just say that big brains and culture are adaptive under certain circumstances like any other trait. I would go with sharks as the best adapted large predator not humans. Humans have a variety of genetic maladaptions leaving us susceptible to a variety of diseases. You could think of culture as a crutch that enabled humans to in some ways suspend natural selection. In the absence of culture humans may be one of the more poorly adapted species.

That was the point I was trying to make in regards to kin selection. Social structure is a critical part of any social species survival. I'm going to say that is self evident. The exact nature of that social structure is buried in time and under layers of cultural evolution. Cultural evolution once it reached some critical mass increased fitness exponentially. People tend to over think fitness as it is simply the measure of multi generational reproductive success. Fitness is purposeless. Whatever contribution kin selection had to fitness prior to the cultural revolution it's significance just as with case of genetic maladaption is eclipsed by technology.

It appears to me that technology itself in the long run may be maladaptive. The trajectory of evolution seems to be for humans to be replaced by a new artificial intelligence species. AI is the ultimate adaptation because it would be equally at home in the harsh environment of space as on the planet. It may be susceptible to some form of viruses we haven't imagined or other problems we have not thought of I don't know. What is clear however is that the ultimate adaptation requires leaving this planet. This is kind of boring speculation of course because our purpose if we can be said to have one is the survival of our species. The relevant question is then if kin selection helps us fulfill that purpose.

It appears to me that technology has made kin selection largely irrelevant. Labor saving devices, nutritional abundance, rapid transportation, secure housing, abundant energy etc. has made the role of kin superfluous in the survival of infants. The difference in success between the offspring of single mothers and pair bonded couples shows that relationships are not totally irrelevant but we can't forget that fitness is measured not in the success of individuals but surviving offspring. We have adopted however a new measure of fitness we call morality.

The role of kin selection under the morality measure of fitness is not clear. As I mentioned earlier kin selection is related to warfare. Warfare of course is not limited to mortal combat but can be economic and cultural. At the moment matriarchal inclinations seem maladaptive. For example the alignment of feminists with the most misogynistic religion, treating a foreign invasion of economic migrations as infants to be protected from a nebulous patriarchy, the philosophy of post modernism that assaults the enlightenment, the illiberal nature of modern liberalism, the number of women marrying the state instead of pair bonding, the lack of appreciation for the providers of essential services, failure to rationally confront the failures of welfare, the cult of environmentalism, trying to introduce subjectivism into the sciences etc. I will get back to the original topic now :-)
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 19th, 2017, 4:43 am 

I'm dubious of kin selection outside of group competition or intra species rivalry and as a cultural evolution. I feel I need to state that up front. Therefore expect some bias in the papers or information I select.

I was listening to Gad Saad and David Buss discuss evolutionary psychology in which they agreed that the rejection of the kin homosexuality link was an example of evolutionary psychology not being a so so story telling process.

An empirical test of the kin selection hypothesis for male homosexuality

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16010468

The Evolution of Human Homosexual Behavior

http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/300 ... b_contents
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby Forest_Dump on July 19th, 2017, 9:05 am 

Just a few minutes to check in at the moment but I did want to note that there are quite a few things that I am not sure fit in with any kind of topic related to evolutionary theory, etc. Perhaps at a more macro scale, hwoever, a point can be made that human culture has allowed for an very expanded shell of emergent complexity that perhaps acts as a kind of buffer or is the result of this buffer between selection, etc., and people and/or groups. I would need to think about this more, however.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 19th, 2017, 4:37 pm 

The problem I have is there is a time frame issue very similar to the proximate/ultimate explanation issue. What is adaptive short term may not be adaptive over longer periods. That is why I used sharks as an example because their genetics seem to allow long term survival. You are faced with this problem in almost every discussion of human behavior. For example is what is moral determined by immediate or long term suffering. In other words how much immediate suffering is justified in the pursuit of reducing long term suffering. In this case are there negative long term consequences of a kin selection strategy. I suspect the anthropologists may be focused on proximate explanations while biologists may favor more ultimate explanations. They both may be talking about proximate explanations from a cosmologist's perspective. I have struggled with this question most of my life.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 20th, 2017, 5:56 pm 

No need to reply Forest I understand you are busy but I do appreciate you guiding me through this labyrinth. My exploration of the topic is necessarily random and somewhat slowed by being forced to use an android device. There are a host of unfamiliar terms and concepts that I have to find definitions for. I found a book reference which seemed somewhat interesting if for no other reason than it illustrates how hard it is to read the relevant excerpts.

Developmental Plasticity and Evolution

Mary Jane West-Eberhard

If anyone is reading this thread I would be interested in their opinions of the author.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby Forest_Dump on July 20th, 2017, 9:24 pm 

wolfhnd wrote:I suspect the anthropologists may be focused on proximate explanations while biologists may favor more ultimate explanations.


To try to make a long story short, I suspect that part of the problem is this anthropocentric belief that 1) everything has to have some kind of logical causal explanation and 2) it has to be grounded in some kind of selection/adaptation hypothesis. When I say I am not convinced at how strongly selective pressures operate on humans, this does not mean I think they are absent. Instead, given the degree to which adaptive mechanisms can spread through non-genetic means and the delayed sexual maturity and low brood size for humans, I think "evolution" in humans happens to fast to be accounted for by strict selection/adaptation arguments. While I certainly would not say that selective pressures are absent, I do think that for perhaps 250,000 years, maybe even more than 1,000,000 years, we have been heavily buffered from significant direct slective pressure to a large extent. Perhaps a kind of metaphor might be that you can't tell the skeletal structure (adaptive fitness) of a bird by looking at the colours of the plumage (cultural manifestations).
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 21st, 2017, 1:03 am 

Forest_Dump » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:24 am wrote:
wolfhnd wrote:I suspect the anthropologists may be focused on proximate explanations while biologists may favor more ultimate explanations.


To try to make a long story short, I suspect that part of the problem is this anthropocentric belief that 1) everything has to have some kind of logical causal explanation and 2) it has to be grounded in some kind of selection/adaptation hypothesis. When I say I am not convinced at how strongly selective pressures operate on humans, this does not mean I think they are absent. Instead, given the degree to which adaptive mechanisms can spread through non-genetic means and the delayed sexual maturity and low brood size for humans, I think "evolution" in humans happens to fast to be accounted for by strict selection/adaptation arguments. While I certainly would not say that selective pressures are absent, I do think that for perhaps 250,000 years, maybe even more than 1,000,000 years, we have been heavily buffered from significant direct slective pressure to a large extent. Perhaps a kind of metaphor might be that you can't tell the skeletal structure (adaptive fitness) of a bird by looking at the colours of the plumage (cultural manifestations).


Logic I agree gets in the way. My argument is that humans have evolved rapidly in part because they are poorly adapted genetically. I watch videos from CARTA https://carta.anthropogeny.org/ and one of the things I have learned is that compared to our closest relatives we seem to be the poster children for stalled adaptations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV8fYgj ... DC01219B23. What you have identified as strict selection buffering has negative consequences. The ability to avoid strick selection means that deleterious traits can be preserved. By contrast well adapted species are genetically stable. The number of genetic diseases that humans suffer from I offer as exhibit A.

The other point you are trying to make is illusive. I have my wild theories and one of them has to do with freewill for example. I'm strongly opposed to Sam Harris's position in much the same vein as Dennett. It seems to totally escape him that it is possible his philosophy doesn't incorporate all of reality. Even if everything has a physical explanation there is no reason to believe we are anywhere near those explanations or that we know what physicality means. I will address what you are eluding to in another post. For now I will simply say that there is at least some evidence that information comes closer to capturing the nature of reality than physical models.

The intellectual snobbery, that I assume is driven by scrambling for position in the mating hierarchy, that accompanies an intellectual career can obscure the obvious. While I tend to ignore popular culture it is interesting how profound it can be. Swarm intelligence discounts the sexual marketplace value of genius. The amount of credit that people give to the rather mindless evolution of ideas like evolution or relativity is part of the anthropocentric mindset you refer to. The population outside of academia never bought into the black slate theory. The interplay of culture and genetics is something the "deplorables" have always understood. Hopefully people like Jordan Peterson will restore faith in academia and reconcile scholarly work with common sense. That is what lends wider importance to discussions such as the one we are having. Evolutionary psychology can at least in part beat back the demons released by Nietzsche's death of God.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 21st, 2017, 4:34 am 

One thing I think we shouldn't forget is that we have observed in bacteria that during catastrophic colony stress bacteria that survive are typically those with signs of genetic instability allowing for rapid evolution. You can find discussion of this topic elsewhere in the forums. This is not a genetic adaptation but simple the way selection works. The mathematical models duplicate the probabilities involved so we can be confident that at least in bacteria standard concepts of natural selection apply.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 21st, 2017, 5:45 am 

This is an excellent talk on human specific diseases related to siglecs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU3yVbDpA_4

What is interesting is the rapid evolution required to compensate for the loss of gc recognition. You can think of it being similar to sickle cell disease in that a defect becomes adaptive only to cause other diseases. Humans are the only mammals with this mutation and it plays a role in many diseases humans are partially susceptible to.
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Re: The Tide of Opinion on Group Selection has Turned

Postby wolfhnd on July 21st, 2017, 6:12 pm 

The assumption that a beneficial adaptation is not part of a cascading hierarchy of benefits and costs can be restated as "part of the problem is this anthropocentric belief that everything has to have some kind of logical causal explanation and it has to be grounded in some kind of selection/adaptation hypothesis."

There is an article in the news section that discusses the relationship between parasites and Alzheimer's. Earlier I mentioned seglecs and sickle cell disease. What they all have in common is the cost benefit logic of selection. It isn't just a case of anthropocentric but also egocentric logic. The idea of me as a unified entity. Multi cell organisms are colonial structures. Competition and selection are internal as well as external processes. Dennett uses the competition between neurons that results in pruning during brain development as an example. Not only is it impossible to consider our bodies as a unified single entity but the brain functions that create the illusion of me is a Darwinian competition.

Kin selection itself is a cost benefit relationship within an internal and external ecosystem indifferent to the me concept of existence. By extension the same principles apply to me and my family, my family and the tribe, the tribe and the state, the state and the world.
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