Kin Selection vs. Group Selection and Other Possible Theories


This story is a sidebar to another that examines the cognitive and emotional underpinning of our extreme sociality: Good Tribe/Bad Tribe — Nerdcore Mix


Unsurprisingly, the components I’ve assembled here are controversial.

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Group Selection vs. Kin Selection

There’s a ongoing dispute about whether there is anything like ‘group’ or ‘multilevel’ selection beyond the widely accepted ‘kin selection’ model. The resolution of this dispute in the direction of group selection is critical to the core of my base story. Despite my own admitted bias, here follows what I hope is only a only somewhat biased review of the history and current status of the dispute.

Shootout in Nature Mag

o=> In August of 2010, Nature Magazine, E O Wilson and coauthors Nowak and Tartina published a defense of group selection and a dismissal of kin selection as an explanation for the sociality of some species.

Background and Coverage

To get an understanding of the issues involved Wilson’s interview in Discover cited above and the three articles below are helpful. If you’re interested in a deep dive, I recommend you start with the third.

The Battle Continues

Richard Dawkins was probably the best known critic of E O Wilson et al and has been a consistent critic of any form of group selection theory. Both Dawkins and Wilson have enormous stature so it was natural that much of the coverage seized on these two figures since the news tends to highlight conflict to the disadvantage of the substance beneath it.

A Few Other Superstars Weigh In

For kin selection, Steven Pinker:

Multilevel Selection and Seriously Selfish Genes

Finally, extending the concept of selfish genes, Burt and Trivers look at genes that cheat within an organism!


Just so you know…


You can sign up below. I’ll let you know when I publish something.

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store