By genes alone: a model selectionist argument for genetical explanations of cooperation in non-human organisms

Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):951-967 (2017)
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I distinguish two versions of kin selection theory—a purely genetic version and a version that also appeals to cultural forms of cooperation —and present an argument in favor of using the former when it comes to accounting for the evolution of cooperation in non-human organisms. Specifically, I first show that both GKST and WKST are equally mathematically coherent—they can both be derived from the Price equation—but not necessarily equally empirically plausible, as they are based on different assumptions about the inheritance system underlying the cooperative phenotype. Given this, I then, second, present a model selection theoretic argument in favor of GKST over WKST. This argument is based on the fact that, in non-human cases, the former theory is likely to be as empirically successful as WKST, while containing fewer degrees of freedom. I end by defending both the intrinsic importance of this argument and its relevance to the discussion surrounding the “gene’s eye view of evolution.”



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Armin W. Schulz
University of Kansas

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