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Tuesday, March 06, 2012


larry kurtz

@billmaher: a third of Americans think Darwin was the husband in Bewitched.

Bill Fleming

Nice overview, KB. It's a paradigm shift to be sure, but looked at from the pespective of life evolving and speciation as a set of de facto "experiments" toward that end, it makes perfect sense. What are the best survival strategies to insure that DNA will continue to replicate. As some mystics put it, "We don't have a life. Life has an US."

larry kurtz

This came across my twitter feed a couple of days ago:


D.E. Bishop

I'm going to take a chance and let my ignorance show:

Does this cover competition within a species? One pack of wolves v. another pack? Or is that competition for resources?

Pandas seem to be hopelessly unsuited for survival, and they are solitary. Are solitary animals less safe?

Very thought-provoking. I want to make leaps to humans, but I'm going to think about this more first. Thank you.

Donald Pay

In humans oxytosin has a well-established role mediating various aspects of the menstrual cycle, childbirth and lactation in human females. It is also involved in sexual arousal, and "cuddling." Other studies point toward oxytosin as a fairly strong cause of "generosity" in human males. Generosity is one aspect of altruism.


I point this out because group selection has a hard time getting down to the biology, and explaining the steps involved in how a higher order trait, like altruistic behavior in males, could arise within a group. In the case cited above, I can see how oxytosin levels varying in individual females would lead to differential reproductive rates that would probably favor genes for higher oxytosin levels. I can also surmise that higher oxytosin levels in males might be a side effect, and that might lead to a more "domesticated" male, one more willing to cooperate, rather than compete with other males.

Certainly groups that had more of this gene expressed in the population might be more cooperative within the group, thus being able to out compete other groups who did not have the gene in high proportion. So, I could see group selection working as an enhancer and accelerator of natural selection or kin selection.

Ken Blanchard

D.E.B.: the question with regard to group selection is whether between group competition (one wolf pack v. another) can overcome within group competition (one alpha male against a beta male). D.S. Wilson (with whom I am acquainted) thinks it can. I am inclined to agree, though I am still mostly an amateur.

Donald: your note is very interesting, but I don't know much about oxytosin in this context.

larry kurtz

"It looks like the same molecular pathways have been engaged repeatedly in evolution to give rise to individual differences in novelty-seeking."


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