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Inclusive fitness defended

Last year, I critiqued a paper arguing that inclusive fitness (reproduction by individuals who are more likely than the overall population to share alleles with a focal individual) isn't a useful concept. I disagreed, as did a lot of other blogging scientists.

This week, a significant fraction of the world's leading evolutionary biologists published letters in Nature in support of inclusive fitness, both as it applies to social insects and more generally. But the Templeton Foundation apparently liked the paper belittling the inclusive fitness concept and is giving the one of the authors millions of dollars to study "teleology and ultimate purpose in the context of evolutionary biology." More discussion at Why Evolution is True and The Loom.


What a sad state of affairs. I have the original edition (1975) of Wilson's "Sociobilogy", where, in the glossary he clearly stated that Kin Selection was a subset of Group Selection.

Is your point that Wilson never understood kin selection -- I've seen that claim somewhere -- so his recent "conversion" to group selection isn't really a change? Or do you think selection among groups of unrelated individuals is an important evolutionary process?

I think he has been in the group selection camp for some time, and has found some more mathematically inclined allies over the years.

I strongly disagree with Wilson et al that kin selection is a subset of group selection. My understanding of Hamilton's work and others like Trivers may be relatively unsophisticated, but I never caught even a whiff of group selection from it.

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