August 30, 2010

When inclusive fitness is right and when it can be wrong (van Veelen 2010)

I've been doing a little reading to put the recent Nowak et al. paper in context, and I came across another interesting recent critique of kin selection and its limitations. This is a fascinating area of study, and the fact that theoretical arguments have continued so long since the introduction of the inclusive fitness concept tells me that it is perplexing even for experts.

In the interest of clearness, here is Figure 1 from the paper, which gives a nice graphical representation of the cost-benefit relationship.

In this figure: "c the net cost of the behaviour to the acting individual, and b the aggregated benefits to the others."

I'll keep on thinking about both papers before I write anything more on the subject.

Journal of Theoretical Biology
Volume 259, Issue 3, 7 August 2009, Pages 589-600

Group selection, kin selection, altruism and cooperation: When inclusive fitness is right and when it can be wrong

Matthijs van Veelen

Group selection theory has a history of controversy. After a period of being in disrepute, models of group selection have regained some ground, but not without a renewed debate over their importance as a theoretical tool. In this paper I offer a simple framework for models of the evolution of altruism and cooperation that allows us to see how and to what extent both a classification with and one without group selection terminology are insightful ways of looking at the same models. Apart from this dualistic view, this paper contains a result that states that inclusive fitness correctly predicts the direction of selection for one class of models, represented by linear public goods games. Equally important is that this result has a flip side: there is a more general, but still very realistic class of models, including models with synergies, for which it is not possible to summarize their predictions on the basis of an evaluation of inclusive fitness.



Dexter Edge said...

Thanks for the helpful link.

The reference in the title of your post is incorrect: it should be "van Veelan 2009), with no "et al."

Steve Sailer said...

I'm looking forward to your thoughts on the Nowak-Wilson paper.