Charles Darwins Group Selection theory no longer a taboo

November 29th, 2007 - 4:00 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, November 29 (ANI): Charles Darwins theory of group selection, which has been neglected for about four decades, has once again found supporters in leading evolutionary scientists David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson.

The theory, published in Darwins The Descent of Man in 1871, proposes an evolutionary explanation for morality and pro-social behaviours.

Darwin proposed the theory with the words: “Although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe…an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another.”

Almost a century after its publication, the theory became taboo and has not recovered since.

David Wilson and Edward Wilson, whose book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis brought widespread attention to the field in 1975, have now called for an end to forty years of confusion and divergent theories in their landmark article.

In a landmark article for The Quarterly Review of Biology, Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology, they propose a new consensus and theoretical foundation that affirms Darwin’s original conjecture, and is supported by the latest biological findings.

The two evolutionary scientists trace much of the confusion in the field to the 1960s, when most evolutionists rejected for the good of the group thinking, and insisted that all adaptations must be explained in terms of individual self-interest.

In an even more reductionistic move, genes were called the fundamental unit of selection, as if this was an argument against group selection.

With the publication of The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins in 1976, scientific dogma entrenched in popular culture.

While evidence in favour of group selection began accumulating almost immediately after its rejection, its taboo status prevented a systematic re-evaluation of the field to this day.

Writing about the current theory and evidence, Wilson and Wilson said that natural selection was unequivocally a multilevel process, as Darwin originally envisioned, and that adaptations could evolve at all levels of the biological hierarchy, from genes to ecosystems.

They concluded: Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary. (ANI)

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