Brotherhood of warmblood

All mammals are more closely related to each other than they are to any bird. That’s why an otter or a porcupine will instinctively help a rabbit that’s being chased by a hawk.

Except that they don’t.  Why not?

 

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229 Responses to Brotherhood of warmblood

  1. ohwilleke says:

    I don’t think you are entirely correct in your premise. A mammal may indeed favor a mammal over a non-mammal in a conflict between them, and may even provide some aid to a mammal looser. But, helping others rather than yourself is never an obvious choice unless the other person is your identical twin, and two different mammal species are less closely related than any two human individuals, for example, by a long shot.

  2. jtgw says:

    There maybe has to be a threshold of similarity, that is, of shared genes. Below that threshold, other living creatures are indistinguishable from the perspective of the one exercising altruism. But you do keep getting anecdotes of cats nursing puppies and whatnot. I’d be surprised if a cat were so confused as to start mothering chicks, however.

  3. tautology says:

    The otter/porcupine would have to carry an allele encoding this altruist. SInce it is very unlikely that fighting a hawk increases its fitness and there is no straightforward mechanism by which this allele would spread, such alleles are selcted against.

    • reiner Tor says:

      Selection for altruism could happen if reciprocity could somehow be ensured, like in the case of a symbiosis where the “altruism” would directly help the altruist, or if the altruism mostly helps kith and kin, and the benefit to specimens carrying a copy of the allele exceeds the cost of altruism, or in human groups if non-altruists were identified and then expelled or killed by other members of the group. Since we humans do have some levels of altruism (including altruistic punishment, i.e. punishing defectors even when it only costs us without any short-term benefit), obviously we did have some kind of selection for altruism, probably our ancestors did indeed identify and then kill or expel non-altruists. Most other mammals, not so much.

      I hope I didn’t leave out anything.

        • j says:

          In a strictly Malthusian universe, where resources are limitd and every one lives at the edge of exhaustion/starvation, altruism is impossible. reiner confuses reciprocity (tit for tat) with altruism (tit for nothing). Even if the tat benefits someone else at some other time or some other place, like a genetic relative in the next generation, it is not altruism.

          Yet altruism exists. Even in the extermination lager of Auschwitz (not in the industrial area), there were acts of altruism, people risking themselves to benefit unrelated strangers, like that German priest volunteering to die instead of a Jewish immate. However admirable, I think it may be some molecular mechanism gone wrong. May be he was expecting that the SS would not kill him (They did). The laws of this pointless universe are ugly and evil.

  4. Bruce says:

    Me against my brother, my brother and me against my cousin, me and a cute baby seal against my ugly political opponent who should shut up and give me his money.

  5. Kris says:

    “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection.” Darwin

    • Lars Grobian says:

      It seems that the question is, why would you expect a porcupine gene that benefits rabbits to confer an advantage on porcupines who have it?

      A domestic dog gene that benefits dog breeders seems like a better bet. But rabbits don’t breed porcupines.

      As far as I know.

      • pyrrhus says:

        The only way this idea works is that porcupines develop an altruism gene that favors other porcupines,which is beneficial due to reciprocity, and it spills over into aiding another mammalian species. Doubtful, IMO.

  6. misdreavus says:

    By definition, a novel allele (say, one that boosts your chances of joining the Aryan Brotherhood) has to originate with a frequency of near zero. From the perspective of the gene itself, just about every other individual is an alien landscape. Its starting frequency everywhere else in the world is would be exactly zero, no matter where you looked. If it originated in East Anglia, it would be just as rare in West Coventry as it is in Ulanbataar or Kismayo — no matter which populations happen to be more closely related. This situation just doesn’t get any better ihttp://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-beard_effect once the allele starts increasing in frequency — by definition, people who are less related to each other than third cousins have a coefficient of relatedness that is a mere fraction of a percent. This is why it is impossible for genetic variants that are purportedly implicated in ethnocentrism, tribalism, or racism to increase in frequency because of the interrelatedness between members of an ethnic group, or race, and nothing else — and certainly not among populations that have carefully avoided consanguineous marriage for well over a millennium. (They may, however, increase in frequency due to entirely unrelated reasons.)

    There is also the green-beard effect* — but I am not aware of any mechanism by which “racial chauvinist” genes may also contribute to light skin, eye color, the shape of the nasal aperture, or any other part of the suite of visible phenotypes that constitutes the European race. And know this is implausible, because many of these traits vary only by frequency between races (and are hence not exclusive to Europeans), or have not even reached fixation among Europeans in general… (Not to mention the fact that there were few opportunities throughout the vast majority of history for selection to operate on such alleles — just how on earth is a gene going to distinguish between an Englishman and a Balochi in 13th century Oxford?) Imagine the absurd scenario in which a blue eyed, Roman nosed woman named Mary rejects her daughter Susan, who has brown eyes and a flat nose, in favor of a Palestinian refugee with blue eyes and a sharp nasal bridge. It just isn’t so. Even individuals in interracial relationships don’t act this way. Your daughter is your own daughter, period. Any gene would have to be remarkably powerful to counteract maternal love.

    *http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-beard_effect

    Also, anybody who believes in such nonsense is a total idiot. Where was this so called “intraracial altruism” when 30% of the population of the German states perished during the Thirty Years War, largely at the hands of their fellow Europeans? During the Naloleonic Wars? When the French allied with the Ottoman Empire against her European neighbors? World War II? The impending collapse of the European Union? Russia’s economic alliance with China against western Europe?

    And why the hell do you white nationalist nutters seem to love east Asian women more than you love Ashkenazi Jews? I just don’t get it. You know, F-ST values and all. Why haven’t their genetic imperatives kicked in sooner?

    • gcochran9 says:

      +1

      Nice to hear from you again. But couldn’t you ramp it up a little?

      An altruistic gene focused on near kin has a chance of getting started, because your near kin will have a fair chance of carrying it if it’s managed to hang on for even two or three generations.

      As for ethnic genetic interests, what this says is that there’s no way for that kind of altruism to evolve. Nor does the world look as if it has: consider Malinche, or Ephialtes, or everything else that has ever happened in history.

      Now it is possible to have a rational motive for favoring or disfavoring some population, maybe even the one you’re from: but there’s no natural, innate tendency to do so. Nothing like mother love.

      • n/a says:

        “As for ethnic genetic interests, what this says is that there’s no way for that kind of altruism to evolve. Nor does the world look as if it has: consider Malinche, or Ephialtes, or everything else that has ever happened in history.”

        “Ethnic genetic interests” is not a “kind of altruism”. So, yes, you can’t read and thought you were waltzing into an argument about group selection.

        Unless Greg Cochran is a more extreme race denialist than Richard Lewontin, “ethnic genetic interests” as actually defined by Frank Salter very obviously exist.

      • n/a says:

        Frank Salter’s definition of “genetic interests”:

        The number of copies of an individual’s
        distinctive genes
        . These are most concen-
        trated in the individual, then in first de-
        gree relatives, thence in decreasing con-
        centration to clan, tribe or ethny, geo-
        graphic race, and species. In terms of
        population genetics, genetic interest can
        be quantified as aggregate kinship, as an
        equivalent number of children or other
        close kin.”

        His definition of “ethnic genetic interests”:

        The number of copies of a random indi-
        vidual’s distinctive genes in his or her
        ethny
        , not counting the copies in kin. The
        size of ethnic genetic interest is relative to
        the kinship of genetic competitors. When
        competitors are closely related ethnies, the
        interest can be relatively small. When
        competitors are distantly related, espe-
        cially from different geographical races,
        ethnic genetic interest can be many orders
        of magnitude greater than familial genetic
        interests.”

        • misdreavus says:

          Evolution does not give a damn about long stands of nucleotides wrapped in packets of chromatin. In the long run, only the individual genes matter — and genes do not respect any group boundaries whatsoever. They can spread from one end of a continent to another

          What you (and many others like you) fail to understand is that white genes will continue to persist in some form, even if the entire population of Europe mongrelizes with something else in the near future. (Which would be a damn shame, because I owe my life to western civilization.) But natural selection does not give a damn about groups, nor does it care about unique combinations of genes if they are of little consequence to fitness. In an environment where mosquitoes carry falciparum malaria, only those genes that contribute to malaria resistance matter. The entire subset of human genetic diversity that constitutes the Igbo people does not matter — and I am sure there are plenty of Igbos who care deeply about their continued existence, and they have every right to be. But selection does not care, nor will it ever care. That is the very process of evolution itself.

          • n/a says:

            It doesn’t matter if no one cares about “ethnic genetic interests” as defined by Frank Salter. “Ethnic genetic interests” as defined by Frank Salter still exist.

            As it happens, I’m not a gene, or “evolution” anthropomorphized. I’m an individual. And in my case, I do care about ethnic genetic interests, regardless of how this came to be or whether or not you feel this is adaptive.

            Nor is evolution some inscrutable force utterly unimpacted by human decisions. Mass immigration is not a force of nature. It’s a product of human decisions, which can be reversed with human decisions.

            • gcochran9 says:

              If you think that Algerians (for example) are on the whole a bunch of dullards, dumber, less creative, more violent (not in a good way, either), and more slovenly than the French – for reasons that are partly genetic and in practice unfixable – and so don’t want them around, just say so. The degree of genetic overlap adds nothing to your argument.

          • ThePostman says:

            “But natural selection does not give a damn about groups, nor does it care about unique combinations of genes if they are of little consequence to fitness. In an environment where mosquitoes carry falciparum malaria, only those genes that contribute to malaria resistance matter. ”

            Natural selection does give a damn about groups. Groups create cultures and cultures create groups, favoring certain genes. Those groups compete, not their single genes, and the successful group will not only spread their gene that gives them the advantage but also the other ones that travel along.

            Human evolution happens WITHIN groups. We are not a random global soup of fruit flies.

          • misdreavus says:

            Whether you are talking about a moral imperative to be generous to your co-ethnics or some mysterious, hitherto unseen force of natural selection, nothing you have said makes any sense whatsoever.

            If you oppose policies like refugee resettlement in nice neighborhoods, mandatory school busing, mass immigration, foreign guest workers on H1B visas, multiculturalism and the like, say so with logical and well reasoned arguments. This entire “genetic interests” stuff is a farce. What on earth do you care about the DNA of a random Slovene? And why should he care about you?

          • misdreavus says:

            “Natural selection does give a damn about groups. Groups create cultures and cultures create groups, favoring certain genes. Those groups compete, not their single genes, and the successful group will not only spread their gene that gives them the advantage but also the other ones that travel along.”

            Wrong. Check again.

            The two economically most successful races on earth today also suffer from birth rates that are below replacement level. Looks like mother nature doesn’t care very much about the culture that spawned Alessandro Volta and Antonio Vivaldi.

            Again we are talking about two very different issues here. So you value western civilization and you think white people are the very best at X, Y, or Z? (Though I am not white, even I could make a rational argument for European superiority in a variety of domains.) Fine. But why should you care about western civilization just because the people who sustain it are more related to you than are the furriners? Do the Ute Indians owe some mysterious “genetic allegiance” to descendants of the Comanches who tortured and raped their ancestors? What about Serbs who were genocided by the Ustashe during World War II? (And in this case, the victims and victimizers shared a common language and culture.) Nobody has ever behaved like this throughout the entirety of human history. Every single soldier who died at Verdun perished with the knowledge that the vast majority of their countrymen were unrelated strangers — and many of them were volunteers, not conscripts.

            And since this biological instinct doesn’t exist (at least not the way you describe it), and most certainly has not been selected for, trying to inculcate it into the minds of your co-ethnics is a complete waste of time. Learn to value European civilization because it you think it is a force for good in the world, not because of F-ST or G-ST values.

          • n/a says:

            Greg,

            There are at least three reasons I prefer not to see the French replaced with Algerians, and two of them have nothing to do with factors like those you mention. Even if Algerians were more intelligent, more creative, and less violent than the French, I still would not want to see the French replaced with Algerians. One, because I value my ethnic genetic interests. Two, on general preservationist grounds.

          • epoch2013 says:

            “In an environment where mosquitoes carry falciparum malaria, only those genes that contribute to malaria resistance matter.”

            No. Also the genes that facilitate creating a malaria vaccine matter. They even matter a lot. They caused the end of the existence of the small pox virus, for one thing.

            • misdreavus says:

              There is an inverse correlation between fitness and one’s ability to invent a malaria vaccine. And inventing a malaria vaccine probably won’t do much to increase the birth rate in Europe.

              So no.

        • misdreavus says:

          *They can spread from one end of a continent to another if the conditions are ideal.

      • ThePostman says:

        You are confusing things like politics with everyday life. Just because a leader (who are often also sociopaths) sacrifices his own kin does not mean “genetic interests” do not exist. It’s the same like pushing a button that kills a few million people. Too abstract for the human mind. Settle different tribes on an island and effects like “genetic altruism” WILL occur. Xenophobia is also innate and may play a part in this, so perhaps it is a side effect of this, too.

        Those mechanisms are also all probably imperfect and only part of a bigger whole. Just because they do not make 100% sense on a theoretical basis does not mean that they do not influence our behavior to some degree. It is proven that we like people that look similar to us instantly more, same with physical attraction, and we release less stress hormones when we encounter them. But we cannot see the true (theoretical) “genetic distance”, only phenotypical things.

        The statement with those “East Asian women” that “White nationalists” prefer is also non-sense. Attraction is also – in addition to this genetic similarity – based on things like symmetry and healthiness. And of course if someone from population A inherits a preference for certain traits than this has evolved in that population. But that does not prevent him liking a woman from population B that shows the same (superficial) traits.

        The occurance of those two things do not contradict each other, albeit they sometimes do not complement each other. It’s a little bit more complex than simple statistical models that those smart sociobiologists use to “prove” stuff.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Talk about “genetic interests” is just bullshit.

        • misdreavus says:

          “Settle different tribes on an island and effects like “genetic altruism” WILL occur.”

          An in-group preference exists among all human societies, and probably has been selected for, to varying degrees.

          But whatever it is, it did NOT originate because members of tribe X (say, Greenland Inuits) are more generally related to each other than they are to other peoples. That’s pitifully dumb. Zero equals zero. Period.

        • misdreavus says:

          genetically related

      • Chuck says:

        “As for ethnic genetic interests, what this says is that there’s no way for that kind of altruism to evolve.

        Uh, no. As I was explaining too Jayman prior, “Ethnic genetic interest” is Salter’s term. It doesn’t mean “ethnic altruism”. It means, basically, race. Let’s take a look at some of Salter’s uses:

        “But this argument has not as yet been supported by quantification of ethnic genetic interests—the number of copies of an individual’s distinctive genes carried in his or her ethny. Without such estimation it is impossible to determine who has it right, those who see ethnies as extended families, or those such as Lewontin (1972) who deny that humans have genetic interests in their ethnies.”

        “Thus genetic interests are the number of copies of our distinctive genes carried by reproducing individuals. Individual genetic interest is the number of copies carried by offspring. Familial genetic interest is carried by close kin, and ethnic genetic interest by one’s ethnic group. Genetic interests are often confused with ‘inclusive fitness.”

        Since it’s his neologism, it would seem reasonable to use his definition, no? Now, Salter argued that it would be gene-frequency maximizing, with respect to the global population, to be ethnically altruistic –, regardless of whether such a disposition evolved. Assuming that you don’t disagree and applying the same logic across species, the answer to your question would be that the porcupine doesn’t because it’s not particularity good at abstract thinking and/or because it doesn’t consciously hold mammalian genetic interest as a personal good. Not difficult..As for whether group altruism could have evolved, most — e.g., Fisher, Haldane, Wright, Hamilton, etc –agree that it is logically possible in both of the two main senses (between population group selection versus within population group selection). The issue is whether the restrictive conditions were met in the case of this or that species. As for within-population-group-selection or trait group selection, I thought that this was shown to produce results equivalent to that of kin selection. West et al., (2006) note:

        “New group selection models show that cooperation is favoured when the response to between group selection outweighs the response to within-group selection, but it is straightforward to recover Hamilton’s rule from this. Both approaches tell us that increasing the group benefits and reducing the individual cost favours cooperation. Similarly, group selection tells us that cooperation is favoured if we increase the proportion of genetic variance that is between-group as opposed to within-group, but that is exactly equivalent to saying that the kin selection coefficient of relatedness is increased (Frank, 1995a). In all cases where both methods have been used to look at the same problem, they give identical results”

        So what’s the argument? This seems to be more aesthetics than empirics.

        • gcochran9 says:

          You’re wrong. As I said, it’s impossible for this sort of thing to evolve.

          A gene that caused this sort of behavior would not increase its own frequency. If someone in China had such a gene, and sacrificed himself in a way that saved half of the population of China, the gene frequency would go DOWN, not up. It only works if the group the gene targets has a significantly higher-than-average frequency of that same altruistic gene – true of close kin, but essentially nothing else.

          Calling something an “interest” doesn’t make it one. I could say that the variant causing blue eyes is special, and that you should care more about it – but other than my saying so, what would the reason be? Now if blue eyes were a “green beard” gene – that would be another story. Such genes could exist. But in that case it wouldn’t be overall genetic similarity that motivated you – it’d be similarity at that one locus. Such a system is possible, because there’s a mechanism for identifying and focusing on carriers: built-in ethnocentricity is not. At least not by natural selection: we could engineer it, of course.

          • Chuck says:

            Greg: “Calling something an “interest” doesn’t make it one.”

            Salter calls the “number of copies of our distinctive genes” an interest because he infers that maximizing this number is the ultimate good of organisms. He engages in classic nature reasoning — where one looks around the world, sees patterns, and induces some ultimate value after which to strive. He clarifies that “genetic interest” as a value involves a metaphysical claim (in the way that “life!” does). He argues that “genetic interest” could be seen as the primary life value (for what else is there?) — and that ethnic favoritism via increasing the genetic interest stored in one’s ethnic group (i.e., “ethnic genetic interest”) is a means of securing it. My point in this regards is that he doesn’t use “genetic interest” as a synonym for “evolved favoritism”. Since this term is closely associated with Salter’s work, when you use it in a distorted way, you introduce confusion. And this confusion masks a problem with his philosophical argument, which is that you can simply take it up one level — and use it to argue for species, etc. altruism

            Greg: “You’re wrong. As I said, it’s impossible for this sort of thing to evolve”

            Cite some prominent biologists who agree with you. Here is what Jerry Coyne says, for example:”This is in stark contrast to the views of most evolutionary biologists, who see group selection as a logical possibility, but one that doesn’t easily work in theoretical models and, more important, has explained almost nothing about nature.” This is a reasonable position. It distinguishes between “can’t” and “doesn’t to a nontrivial degree”. The former precludes the possibility, the latter calls into question the actuality. If group selection “can’t”, what is your explanation for the apparent selection in e.g., social spiders (Jonese, 2014)? And why do most biologists that viciously criticize group selection acknowledge that it — especially in the multilevel sense — is possible, at least under restricted conditions? I presume that you really mean “doesn’t to a nontrivial degree” or “can’t have in humans given historic contingencies”. But I’m not 100% sure. I feel stupid for asking, but since I detest confusion: Could you clarify?

          • misdreavus says:

            Since we have clearly established that this biological instinct does not exist, let’s talk about racial preferences as a moral imperative. All right.

            Well I’m not sure why you care so much about this at all — or why Frank Salter cares, or why anybody on Earth should care. The vast, vast majority of human beings from any race on Earth are insignificant, mediocre, or even worse — and in a perfect society, quite a few of them should have have ever drawn first breath to begin with.

            Remember we’re talking about fitness here — not life satisfaction, nor education, nor longevity, nor quality of life, nor protecting your tribe from an imminent invasion by a hostile people (who happen to belong to your own race). In fact, some of these parameters turn out to be inimical to fitness under a variety contexts. (A longer life span, for instance, results in a profundity of elderly people who consume resources that may be redirected toward those in their reproductive prime. Where would you rather live, Norway or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where entire “groups” are maximizing their fitness like rabbits on viagra?) Any government that cared about such a thing as “group fitness” would have to be staffed by mentally deranged people. That’s not the purpose of any government, and most reasonable people do not want their tax dollars wasted that way, at any rate.

            The only reason why anybody (white nationalists, or anybody else) ought to care about, say, the survival of the German people is that the Germans have produced a profundity of tinkerers, inventors, artists, musicians, engineers, and scientists of the highest order, and that they belong to a race that has produced more of these than all other race put together over the past several hundred years*. But that’s still a miniscule percent of the population. If you value Western civilization, value the fitness of people like Mahler or Poincaré. Pretty much nobody else matters — certainly not the likes of Adam Lanza or the CEO of Comcast. Cloning John von Neumann a thousand times would be a more worthwhile endeavor than maximizing “group fitness”, whatever the heck that is.

            And if somebody out there actually believes that Srinivasa Ramanujan deserves to have a lower fitness than Jurgis the goat herder just because his genome deviates from Prince Phillip’s at too many base pairs, that person is just an imbecile. I don’t even know what to say to people who think like this.

            *By the way — there’s no reason for us to expect that no other race will ever exceed European achievements in the future. Surely you do realize that we can tinker directly with the human germ plasm? Society may soon dispense with the ugly, inefficient process of pounding the mattress, swapping fluids, and hoping that precocity shines out of the birth canal nine months later.

          • misdreavus says:

            To summarize:

            Some people want to replicate white genomes simply because they are white, and not because Europeans (well, not all ethnic groups) happen to have a tiny minority that is capable of bestowing the entire world with rare scientific and artistic gifts.

            This would be like the Chinese Communist Party announcing a national priority to increase the birthrate of the entire nation, because the world needs more basketball players like Yao Ming. (And it’s a good thing for the Chinese that their government is a lot smarter than that.)

            Well I disagree. I mean, of course, this might be because I am just another one of those inferior mud people. And because I have a mental illness. But it just doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. Why does anybody give a damn? Aesthetics?

          • Chuck says:

            misdreavus: “Since we have clearly established that this biological instinct does not exist, let’s talk about racial preferences as a moral imperative. All right.”

            We don’t agree. If you wan’t to discuss this, open a new thread and start with one issue at a time. I would say:

            There obviously is ethnic (in the sense of racial) altruisms. And the behavioral genetic literature shows that variation in “ethnocentrism” is partially heritable. So some degree of ethnic altruism obviously directly or indirectly evolved (in the inclusive sense of adaptation, co-adapted adaptation, co-adapted byproduct, or byproduct). I mean, contra Greg, it has a “natural, innate” basis. The question is: “how?” New group selection is a theoretically possible partial explanation; this would be direct evolution. But kin selection is an easier one; by this “ethnocentrism” might be an adaptive, neutral, or maladaptive byproduct. If kin selection selected for kin discrimination based on phenotypic clues of relatedness, and if those phenotypic clues that differ between kin are qualitatively, from the mind’s perspective, the same as those between populations, the kin discrimination scales up — when you throw a bunch of different resembling people together.

            • misdreavus says:

              Of course what you speak of is heritable. As are all behavioral tendencies.

              But did it originate because of the genetic similarity between members of a racial group? No. Historically speaking, has anybody throughout history ever behaved as if such a thing were true? No.

          • Chuck says:

            re: misdreavus

            As for the sociopolitical stuff, you and Greg jointly are following the race deniers both in conflating issues, misrepresenting terms, personalizing the matter, uncharitably reading the contrary position, making biologically untenable claims, stawmaning argument, playing stupid etc. Seriously. To equate EGI with ethnic favoritism, congenital ethic favoritism with selected ethnic favoritism, genetic interest enhancing ethnic favoritism with directly selected ethnic favoritism, old group selection with new group selection, etc. is to grossly conflate issues. To deny “genetic interest” is to deny race — or to misrepresent the term (Greg). To deny the possibility of group selection is to deny inclusive fitness theory broadly understood (Greg). To claims that group selection could not have occurred because e.g., a gene could not appear ex nihilo (misdreavus) is to attack a straw-model. To construe ethnic genetic interest arguments as being an adventure in white supremacism (Greg) is to engage in bulverism — Salter proposes adaptive utilitarianism. To pretend that intrapopulation conflict provides evidence against ethnic favoritism is just to play stupid; ethnic favoritism scales up, just like races do. Families tend to unit as clans when feuding with other clans, clans as nations when feuding with other nations, nations as civilizations when feuding with other civilizations — but in an increasingly attenuated fashion, since relation decreases — and this is what you see (e.g., Van den Berghe, 1987). Your argument is equivalent to that that the European race doesn’t exist because Irish were considered to be a race separate from French.

            Of course, there is a sociopolitical dimension to EGI arguments. The context is that from the ’40s to ’70s sociologists and anthropologists argued that ethnocentrism was an irrational socially engineered behavioral disposition — exhibited by “mentally deranged people” which must be combated and eliminated through social therapy — it was the gayness of the left. According to this perspective, to borrow from Greg, “there’s no natural, innate tendency to” favor members of own’s population relative to members of another. Some of the same nuts even argued that family-favoritism was socially engineered. Inclusive fitness theory, which was quickly applied to anthropology e.g., Van den Berghe (1987) undermined this by allowing for the evolution of ethnocentrism through the “misapplication” of kin-altruism or through new group selection. Now, whether or not a trait is “natural, innate” it might or might not be inclusive fitness increasing in the sense of increasing ones genetic representativity in the species. For example, gayness clearly has a congenital component, but Greg argues that it is maladaptive. This is not a paradox because a maladaptive behavior can be a byproduct of another which has an adaptive value that more than makes up for the cost of the byproducts. In general, behaviors made to secure the genetic interest stored in one’s ethnic group could be inclusive fitness reducing — and so a maladaptive byproduct (like many mental diseases), it could be inclusive fitness increasing and so either a co-adapted adaptation or an adaptive byproduct (like religion), or could be neutral (like a belly button). That’s what it could be — and “could be” explains why it came about. Another issue is what it would be — that is, would ethnocentrism increase one’s genetic interest (i.e., the frequency of unique genes in the species’ gene pool. .It would not be the former if ethnic groups were not natural divisions — but rather social fictions — or if certain conditions did not hold. Salter has shown, though, that it would be. Thus, if one valued one’s genetic representativity it would be rational to be ethnically altruistic. Now, one might not value this — likewise, one might not value being heterosexual — but that’s a different issue. Rhetorically, Salter’s work tries to show that this “natural, innate tendency” is rational and not ” mentally deranged”; and it tries to show that it is ordinary-sense moral in that it is a logical extension of garden variety family favoritism, which is common people morally acceptable. This is generally what sociomoral philosophies do. They don’t make bullet proof arguments for a position — they can’t — there is no such true position. Rather, they provide cover for ideologies, which represent uniquely structured alliances of predispositions. Salter surely doesn’t do a worse job — logically speaking — than say Peter Singer or Mill, who deduce their utilitarianisms with a slight of hand. I don’t see what the problem is.

            • misdreavus says:

              1) racism most certainly is not a mental disorder. I have never expressed any opinion anywhere affirming that it is.

              2) just about the only reason why parents care for their children at all is because they carry fifty percent of their genes — and is important to remember that virtues such as kindness, gentleness, and empathy are only valuable to the extent that they facilitate the ultimate goal of genetic replication. Were it not for this genetic similarity, there would be no mechanism by which paternal altruism might evolve.

              For the record, there are plenty of parenting practices around the world that you and I might regard as quite immoral and inhumane, but may be be regarded as perfectly consistent with maximizing fitness under a variety of contexts: examples include the infanticide of sick or deformed newborns; the social ostracism of rebellious children, iconoclasts, or independent thinkers; refusing to educate women; religious brainwashing; beating your daughter to a bloody pulp for falling in love with a boy from a rival caste, etc. I don’t think any of these practices ought to be introduced to western civilization, even if they do result in the birth rate rising above replacement level.

              Why I do mention this? Because Salter is conflating two very different issues in an attempt to prove scientifically that pet liberal agendas such as globalization, mass immigration, and multiculturalism are not only irresponsible and shortsighted in the extreme (which they must certainly are), but also contrary to human biological interests. Well that’s one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard in my life. Surely both of us can agree that all responsible people ought to care about the survival of their nation, tribe, civilization, or culture* — but that’s got absolutely nothing to do with genetic relatedness whatsoever. If you’re going to abide by this convoluted logic, then by definition, Cletus the meth addict with ten illegitimate children has done a far greater service to the “fitness” of his race than Ludwig van Beethoven, who died without any progeny. And why not? The coefficient of relatedness between you and either of these people is exactly the same. Which do you value more, European “genetics” or the cultural achievements of western civilization itself? Appealing to genetic similarity does absolutely nothing to support your agenda.

              There’s a critical difference between these two statements:

              “I value Western civilization because for good or for ill, the West has contributed far more concrete achievements to the domains of science, engineering, philosophy, the rule of law, and governance than all other civilizations throughout the history of the world put together, and also because it happens to be the civilization that I call home.

              For this reason, I will vehemently oppose any policies by my government that may contribute to the downfall of the culture that I adore.”

              Vs.

              “I love Western civilization because white people are more genetically similar to me than are Ahmed, Sandeep, or Rasheed”

              Well wtf is that. Does anyone really need a genetic excuse to be patriotic?

              *By the way, there seems to be no shortage of white people throughout the world who happily support policies that enrich themselves and their children, at the expense of the overriding majority of their own race. (Which is exactly how most humans tend to behave, just about everywhere — especially political and economic elites. Score “zero” for racial genetic interests.)

              Who bears a far greater responsibility for opening the floodgates to illegal Hispanic immigration in the United States, Jorge the illiterate Guatemalan bricklayer, or the white people who run wealthy agribusinesses? What about H1B visas? Bombing Vietnam or Iraq? How on earth do you explain the entire editorial board at the Wall Street Journal?

              And no, they’re not all crypto-Jews, either.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Blah blah blah. I said take it elsewhere: can you take a hint?

          • misdreavus says:

            In case my point wasn’t clear: caring about your civilization is NOT the same as maximizing “racial genetic interests”. In fact those two can be diametrically opposed. Any government that prioritized the latter would end up destroying just about everything that is useful or valuable about western civilization.

            And we know that this instinct doesn’t exist to begin with — there’s no use in pointing out that people are care more about their close relatives than they care about distant relatives, distant relatives vs. other members of their tribe, their tribe over all other tribes, etc. Social arrangements that exist outside the extended family unit have nothing to do with genetic similarity, although they may succeed in increasing individual fitness. You don’t need to appeal to genetic similarity to explain why they are not only heritable, but seemingly ubiquitous across all cultures.

            By the way, do you really love Western civilization because those people are your distant relatives, or because there are just so many things here that are worthy of respect and admiration? I’m pretty sure that if by some stroke of magic, all of the white-majority countries became as dysfunctional as Somalia overnight, virtually all of you would be willing to escape to those countries inhabited by alien races, and maybe even tolerate your children intermarrying with them. (Perhaps Japan or South Korea — but of course, I doubt they would be willing to entertain such an idea.)

          • Chuck says:

            misdreavus,

            You lost me here:

            “Surely both of us can agree that all responsible people ought to care about the survival of their nation, tribe, civilization, or culture* — but that’s got absolutely nothing to do with genetic relatedness whatsoever.”

            First, I hope we both can agree that there is truly nothing that one ought to do. Objective morality is a myth. There are just impulses and inclinations. In aggregate, individuals knit these into an ethical narrative. Narratives which better promote inclusive fitness and which tap into deeper evolved instincts and which weave more beautiful tapestries (e.g., which more stably form alliances of instincts) are the ones which persist and become widely accepted. But, of course, we have our own local dispositions. So that they can find expression we lobby for space — by making this or that ethical argument — we try to show that our local mannerism are not “delusional” or “mad” or “evil”. Even those who live outside of everyday moral horizons do this- just read Göring’s apologetic ‘Last will and restatement’. I take this all as the default position.

            Now, based on my own inclination, I would have to disagree with you. Personally, I like the idea that Europeans, as such, exist. Part of this is because I genuinely like human diversity. Part of this is because I like European phenotype in particular — and I am sure that my liking has something to do with “genetic relatedness”. Do I really care about genetic relatedness per se? I imagine that it’s: I care about — to a limited degree — the existence this and that cultural and phenotypic trait because, in part, of ethnocentric tendencies which are present due to selection for indexes of genetic relatedness and which I have been (accurately) socialized to interpret as indexing ancestry. Roughly the same holds with regards to “kin”. And the existence of this kin favoritism reinforces the ethnocentrism when I make the connection between the two — which I more readily do when I read e.g., Salter or MacDonald. So the latters, I think — contra Greg — do offer an argument. Like all arguments they work form premises (e.g., kin favoritism and extended phenotypic favoritism). They try to weave these together to make a case for biological racism — and ethics (adaptive utilitarianism) which best realizes, so it must feel to them, their inclinations.

            Now you continue:

            “Cletus the meth addict with ten illegitimate children has done a far greater service to the “fitness” of his race than Ludwig van Beethoven, who died without any progeny… Which do you value more..? … Well wtf is that. Does anyone really need a genetic excuse to be patriotic?”

            Personally, I value high culture more, a value, which, in part, led me, despite my raciocentric inclinations, to marry whom I did and not whom I did not. But none of my personal history leads me to overlook the concept of “ceteris paribus” and to construct false dichotomies. As for the other point, as I said above, own race — phenotypically indexed — favoritism has a hereditarian basis, as does own cultural and religious favoritism. So yes and no. It would be: “I love Western civ more than Indian civ, in part, because it is comprised of people who resemble me phenotypically and culturally more than do the members of Indian civ. And this is because, evol speaking, this similarity indexes the genetic form.

            Now you said:

            “By the way, there seems to be no shortage of white people throughout the world who happily support policies that enrich themselves”

            I was just finishing up a paper on race. If you want, you can read and review it over at open behavioral genetics. In the last section — unfinished — I consider the many moral arguments against the race concept, one of which is that it’s a “dangerous” ideas. To strongman the argument I cite Van Den Berghe: “Racism is a special case of ethnic sentiment, using phenotypic as an ethnic marker. Because however, the markers themselves are largely immutable, ascribed at birth and genetically inherited, societies that use primarily phenotypes as ethnic markers are characterized by more rigid and invidious intergroup relations than societies using cultural markers.” I reason that the race concept could be seen as dangerous because it allows for racial identities and that these are more potent — that is, for many they tug more at the heart many — than cultural ones because they better trigger evolved genetic similarity preference mechanisms. I reason that this is the reason that multicultural societies focus so much effort on discrediting race and racial identities — if racial identity didn’t elicit — or at least have the potential to — the pathos of many, deconstructing it would not be of such vital interest to the elite. I think that there is an element of truth to this. I’m just not sure how much. I appreciate your objections — about in-group conflict — and I make them in defense of both racial identity and the concept, but I am not convinced.

            You say: “Any government that prioritized the latter would end up destroying just about everything that is useful or valuable about western civilization.”

            I don’t see why this would need to be the case. Why would a pre-1965 White American policy destroy the U.S, for example? In the case of north Eurasians, racial conservation generally happens to coincide with civilization preservation since many denizens of the rest of the world descend from less genetically civilized populations. You might point to East Asians — but they have somewhat of a different cultural profile, which you see when you live over there long enough. More generally, the scenario you lay out strikes me as a strawman. Why couldn’t one be an inclusive fitness-ist and a eugenicists? Now, this might not be possible given the contingent facts of history — but that’s another matter.
            You say: “And we know that this instinct doesn’t exist to begin with — there’s no use in pointing out that people are care more about their close relatives than they care about distant relatives”

            But we already agreed that ethnocentrism (EC) does exist — and that it has a congenital basis. The issue is that it’s not that strong on average. This is why Salter and MacDonald, who must have a very high ECQ — especially of the phenotypic variety, have to make arguments for it. Now, what possibly do you mean? Explain how your statement is consistent with your agreement that hereditary EC exists.

            Finally:

            “Social arrangements that exist outside the extended family unit have nothing to do with genetic similarity, although they may succeed in increasing individual fitness.”

            What does this mean? How do you explain the examples given by Gat in “Nations: the long history and deep roots of political ethnicity and nationalism” or by Van Den Berghe in “The Ethnic Phenomena” or by Vanhanen in “Ethnic Conflicts”? Class exploitation?

          • Chuck says:

            “Blah blah blah. I said take it elsewhere: can you take a hint?”

            Hint taken.

      • Henk says:

        Yet…if birds were able to impregnate their daughters, mammals everywhere might still come to help anyone against a bird.

    • Chuck says:

      “By definition, a novel allele (say, one that boosts your chances of joining the Aryan Brotherhood) has to originate with a frequency of near zero. From the perspective of the gene itself, just about every other individual is an alien landscape. Its starting frequency everywhere else in the world is would be exactly zero, no matter where you looked.”

      The idea is that group selection acts on variation within populations; modern group section models are multilevel ones. So you have a dozen populations of howler monkeys and in each some howl, despite this having a small fitness cost on the individual howlers. If howling is advantageous to the group and if individual survival is closely tied to that of the group, then the direct cost to the individual will be out weighted by the indirect benefit gained from the group survival. The thing is that the math only works in cases where howling happens to also increase the overall inclusive fitness (IF) of the individual monkey. So it is redundant with “kin selection” — in the extended sense. Rhetorically, it’s different in that it acknowledges between population Fst — that is, you take into account population substructure i.e., race. So, for example, Hamilton (1971):

      “If there is free mixing within subdivisions an encounter concerns a randomly selected pair from the subdivision. The correlation of gametes from such a pair is zero with respect to their subdivision. Thus an altruistic trait expressed in random encounters is certainly counterselected within the subdivision. The correlation of gametes with respect to the population is Fst, which is always greater than zero, depending on the degree to which the gene frequencies of the isolates have differentiated. Thus if there is a gain to inclusive fitness on the basis of the coefficient 2Fst/(1+Fit) the genes for the trait are positively selected in the population as a whole”

      There are still a number of restrictive conditions, of course — subversion from within is still a problem — but the kind of a priori argument you made above simply doesn’t work.

      • gcochran9 says:

        When I want to hear nonsense about group selection in humans, I promise to give you a call. In the meantime, give it a rest.

        • Chuck says:

          Maybe Henry can weigh in. He has said much the same as Hamilton:

          “Total kinship is then derived in a familiar way. Two individuals within the same subdivision are related as… With respect to the total population, take the expectation of… Thus two different individuals are negatively related with respect to the local population, but they may be positively related with respect to the total population or the species. This will mean that helping behavior within the subdivision will be selected against locally, because kinship is negative locally, but it may be positively selected within the species because kinship between donor and recipient is positive with reference to the global base population (Harpending, 1979)”

          We should be discussing the conditions under which this can happen — and whether humans could have ever met them — not the possibility that it can.

    • Chuck says:

      “Of course what you speak of is heritable. As are all behavioral tendencies.

      (1) But did it originate because of the genetic similarity between members of a racial group? No. (2) Historically speaking, has anybody throughout history ever behaved as if such a thing were true? No.”

      I took the liberty of numbering your positions.The first one seems to ask if it’s due to new group selection. For background, I take the following to be a roughly accurate characterization of the situation:

      ““New” group selection is the idea that there are multiple levels of selection (hence usually termed multilevel selection), which can vary in their importance (Wilson 1975). For example, cooperation could be favored if the benefits at the group level (between-group benefits) outweighed the cost at the individual level (within-group costs)…. [N]ew group selection (multilevel selection) and kin selection are just different ways of conceptualizing the same evolutionary dynamics. Both approaches find that increasing the group benefits and reducing the individual costs favors cooperation. Similarly, group selection theory predicts that cooperation is favored if we increase the proportion of between-group as opposed to within-group genetic variance, but that is equivalent to saying that the kin selection coefficient of relatedness is increased. In all cases, where both methods have been used to look at the same problem, they yield identical results (Hamilton 1975, Lehmann et al. 2007).” (The Evolution of Altruism in Humans)

      New group selection models (which work) generate results no formally different from “extended” kin selection ones, where “extended kin selection” refers to contemporaneous definitions which define “kin relatedness” not in the original sense of “close relatives of the affected individual” (Smith, 1964) but in the extended sense which takes into account population structure. One can discuss the same effect under both — by one it would be called “between-group-selection” by the others it would be called extended kin selection. The effect is when a heritable behavior increases an individual’s inclusively understood fitness (i.e., ability to reproduce) relative to the global population but not to the local population. The only statistical difference which I can see is that NGS explicitly decomposed overall selection into “between-group” and “within-group” selection. So the group versus kin selection “debate” is irrelevant. The question is whether there was extended kin/group selection for ethnocentrism or whether ethnocentrism is a byproduct of close kin/within group selection. Neither you nor Greg have shown that ethnocentrism was not extended kin/group selected. To move forward we would have to identify the conditions which allow for this.

      Regarding the second point, I couldn’t disagree more. People don’t ONLY exhibit close kin favoritism; they exhibit forms of ethnocentrism like nationalism. And these behaviors are triggered by symbols phenotypic or cultural genetic resemblance. We have an explanandum. And new group selection could be a nontrivial part of the explanation.

      • misdreavus says:

        OK, buddy,

        Would you mind explaining to me why the Germans in east Prussia had far less compassion for their polish neighbors than they did for Austrians living over 1100 km away? Why Ashkenazi Jews in Israel permit the immigration of Yemeni Jews (to whom they bear little physical resemblance), but not Italians (with whom they share not only DNA, but a great deal of physical resemblance)? Why Christians and Muslims in Lebanon aren’t bosom buddies? Why the Croats actually allied with an alien ethnicity to help genocide their fellow ethnic kin? Why the east Asian ethnicities essentially hate one another? Why Hong Kongers curse the mainland Chinese as “locusts” while yearning for the days of British colonial rule?

        I’m sure this is all because of group selection.

        Again, nobody has ever behaved like this throughout all of human history. You can’t call something an instinct if it doesn’t really exist. Especially not if it “misfires” to the extent of causing genocide.

        • gcochran9 says:

          People talk a lot about instincts that don’t exist. There’s the helpful gay uncle, and there’s that natural reluctance to kill enemies in battle. They also are quite happy denying instincts that do exist. That is, if people in academic are really people.

          • Toddy Cat says:

            “If you think that Algerians (for example) are on the whole a bunch of dullards, dumber, less creative, more violent (not in a good way, either), and more slovenly than the French – for reasons that are partly genetic and in practice unfixable – and so don’t want them around, just say so.”

            I don’t want them around. Wow, that was easy!

        • Chuck says:

          misdreavus,

          I’m interested in hearing you out — since I’m trying to discuss the issue in a paper and since, unlike some here, I like to get to the bottom of things and unearth the root of disagreements. Might you start a thread at some other blog or forum — perhaps Straight Dope — and email a link (J122177(at)hotmail.com). Thanks.

  7. mitchellbpowell says:

    Animals that don’t help extremely distant relatives in dangerous situations will not waste energy, time, and risk of death, giving them an edge over animals that do. What the hell does an otter gain by helping a rabbit? Otters that take stupid risks like that will lose out to otters that don’t.

    What’s next, otters refusing to eat monkeys that fall into their zoo enclosures, giving up delicious monkey flesh out of a sense of pan-mammalian solidarity? Nonsense. Close relatedness doesn’t even keep cancer cells cooperating with their near-clones throughout a body.

    The idea of a porcupine swooping in to rescue a rabbit is just the old group-selection gay-uncle silliness taken up a notch of implausibility.

  8. Sean II says:

    All I know is the last time a porcupine left me stranded in a fight, he appeared to be performing some kind of cost/benefit analysis.

  9. j says:

    How could a porcupine or an otter help the rabbbit? The hawk picks up the rabbit while flying at 30 -40 km/h, giving no chance to altruist porcupines.

    And if we are talking abut brotherhood of the warmblood, birds are warmblood too (with higher body temperature than mammals.)

    Neither should humans expect altruism from other lifeforms or self-aware computers.

  10. bispora says:

    Two possible explanations:
    1. A huge rabbit population could be harmful as desease vectors for their warmblooded relatives.
    2. Too much help for the rabbits may provokes a hawk evolution against the defenders

    • Sean II says:

      You mean the hawks might develop a Hanson Brothers approach to keeping all those interventionist porcupines in check? Interesting.

    • bispora says:

      The third explanation:
      The Gaussian distribution of altruism in porcupine and otter populations in case of frequent interspecies defend would be shifted toward the less altruistic mean as the frequent rabbit-hawk stuggle would utilizes great part of the available altrusitic porcupine and otter pool -taking account of the high risk of damage of these lightweight defenders by hawks.

  11. I feel closer to Japanese people than to Slavs, which is unfortunate because it rather speaks against Genetic Similarity Theory, which I am quite wedded to.

    On the same lines, I would like to know why I find cats more beautiful than gibbons. After all, I’m closer genetically to a gibbon. What’s going on?

    • Patrick Boyle says:

      Gibbons are nearly the only primate that is in anyway attractive. Adult male orangutans, for example, are hideous. I don’t think anything is going on. People can ask loony questions. That doesn’t mean they have sensible answers.

      Coral snakes are prettier than mole rats, probably smell better too.

      • You’re right, it is a bit of a stupid question. Even so, I understand why I find 20-year-old women more attractive than 80-year-old women and why I find certain landscapes more beautiful than a pile of rubble but I don’t understand why I find cats, horses, tigers and Golden Retrievers beautiful but not hyenas, pigs, sloths or Boxer dogs. Why is it?

  12. Is it because God didn’t choose to endow otters and porcupines with the feeling of empathy or love? Am I getting close, Greg?

  13. I have another theory. Porcupines can only look down at the ground and consequently can’t see the hawk circling above the rabbit. If it could it would be there like a shot to help poor bunny. Or maybe porcupines are only good at defense and rubbish at attack.

    As for otters, it would probably have drowned, skinned and barbecued the rabbit before the hawk could get a look in.

  14. I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW!!!!!! As J.B.S. Haldane said, I would risk my life for two siblings or eight cousins. Otters and porcupines are so far removed from rabbits that a zillion rabbits, minimum, would have to be in peril to make saving them worth while. And even porcupines and otters know that a hawk couldn’t possibly kill that many, duh.

    • Airgap says:

      Actually, otters and porcupines are well aware that, according to information provided to the Bush administration, the chances of hawks developing nuclear weapons is extremely high (they know this because they have a mole in the CIA).

  15. Selfish genes says:

    A non-reciprocal altruism allele has to differentially help bearers of the allele rather than non-bearers, even in a population of mostly non-bearers, in order to spread. Children and siblings are good bets, distant relatives are not (eventually the altruism allele may be widespread throughout the species, but we are talking about how it grows and displaces alternatives).

    That said, you can get some misfiring and leakage, as long as it is rare enough. Humans find puppies cute and protect them, and there are rare instances of pet-keeping or cross-species friendship among monkeys. Not to mention cuckoos and a wide variety of other exploitations of imperfect discrimination mechanisms.

  16. Whyvert says:

    It is called “ethnic genetic interest” not “ethnic genetic instinct”. If the latter existed, in a strong way, Salter wouldn’t have to bother convincing us that is is desirable to pursue the former.

    Nobody has to write books trying to persuade people to favor their close kin.

    • gcochran9 says:

      The mathematical extent of genetical overlap is not, by itself, going to give you any practical reason to favor or disfavor anybody. I mean, most of what you’re counting is stuff that doesn’t even code for anything: who cares?

      Now if you’re saying that you like Bach, and you favor population policies that maximize the number of potential Bachs – then that’s what you like. But Fst isn’t going to tell you anything useful about that. And what if someone doesn’t like Bach? Telling him that he should like Bach, because he’s genetically closer to you than, say, Tojo, isn’t much of an argument.

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Telling him that he should like Bach, because he’s genetically closer to you than, say, Tojo, isn’t much of an argument.

        You mean like this?

        (Ignore the sprinkling of white people behind the instruments.)

      • Whyvert says:

        I suspect Salter is making an analogy between kin and ethnie in this way:

        For parents to favor their children, as long as they don’t harm their neighbors’ offspring, is considered moral, and is a legal obligation.

        But, for a Western government to favor its ethnie, without harming any other, is now considered immoral, and in breach of its obligations.

        Why stigmatize preference for our own ethnie who are, after all, like extended kin?

  17. ziel says:

    But the behavior called “favoring one’s own” needn’t arise de novo – it’s already extant in the mammalian class. I presume that’s why the 85 lb. black lab in the yard behind me chases any rabbit or cat that strays her way with unbridled ferocity, but wimpers with longing when my 17 lb. mini-dachsund appears – how does she know this strange creature is a fellow canine?

    So would it really take much for this already fixed behavior to be tweaked just a tad among homo sapiens to imbue them with a tendency to implicitly favor those who look more like them? [Ducks for cover]

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      You are up against the fact that the benefit falls off as 1/(2^n) where n is the distance.

      It seems more likely that with humans there is strong selection to accept and internalize the local culture including language and religion because the costs of being an outsider are large.

      However, I suspect that there has been some selection for hardware support for some aspects of culture.

    • ursiform says:

      She can easily tell a fellow canine by smell.

  18. Red says:

    In Jamestown, it is said that the English at first thought the Indians were sunburned White people.

  19. Because they never read Watership Down or Redwall. Once they do that, otters and porcupines will be flocking to each other’s aid all the time.

  20. Greying Wanderer says:

    @Selfish Genes

    “A non-reciprocal altruism allele has to differentially help bearers of the allele rather than non-bearers, even in a population of mostly non-bearers, in order to spread.”

    It doesn’t have to be direct though. If a woman is particularly soppy around babies then on its own that trait might on balance be negative for her but if it makes her more attractive then the benefit from that might outweigh the cost so when it comes to reproduction the calcs have to take into account the couple not just the individual.

    If an altruist trait makes an individual more attractive that might outweigh the cost of the altruism.

    This doesn’t conflict with what you said but I feel this point isn’t stressed enough.

    .

    Also the mechanism for an altruist trait might not be specific. If soppiness over babies is triggered by visual cues like small head, big eyes then it can misfire onto puppies or ET.

    So if otter and porcupine young took a dozen or more years to mature and as a result otters and porcupines had to develop traits that would make them care for their young for that long and the mechanism for making it so involved recognition of long ears then they might help the rabbit.

    The place to look for irrational altruism would be elephants, whales and dolphins.

    .

    @misdreavus

    “This is why it is impossible for genetic variants that are purportedly implicated in ethnocentrism, tribalism, or racism to increase in frequency because of the interrelatedness between members of an ethnic group, or race”

    Altruist traits developed among populations of 2nd cousins don’t disappear the second people start to out breed a bit and if the close-kin mechanism was facial recognition (built on inbreeding and linkage equilibrium creating family resemblances) then there’s no reason a weaker form shouldn’t continue to exist for a long time afterwards.

    .

    “Also, anybody who believes in such nonsense is a total idiot. Where was this so called “intraracial altruism” when 30% of the population of the German states perished during the Thirty Years War, largely at the hands of their fellow Europeans?”

    What “me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against a stranger” leaves out is what is the basis of deciding when two brothers or two cousins are in a conflict.

    Obviously if there’s a conflict where the relatedness is the same then other factors will apply and if for example you’re in an environment where church congregation is replacing clan as the local safety net then it’s not surprising people would fight over it.

    Like the saying goes it’s a mechanism for choosing between x and y. If x and y are the same then the mechanism doesn’t apply. It applies when x and y are different.

  21. Patrick Boyle says:

    Many years ago at my office in Diablo Valley of California there were a mating pair of tiny hawks in the big oak tree outside my window. Then one day to my horror I see our fat aging office manager outside throwing rocks at one of these hawks. The hawk is trying to protect it’s nest from invading squirrels. It is flying in a helix around the tree. I wouldn’t have believed it possible had I not seen it. It stayed within a foot of the trunk while flying at high speed. Incredible and glorious. Meanwhile our benighted office manager was throwing big rocks straight up in the air. Oh how I wished one would have landed on her head.

    The ugly fact is that while otters and porcupines don’t wax sentimental about mammals, plenty of humans do. There is a person called Kid Rock who apparently wears an otter hide coat. From the public reaction you would think he was Adolph Eichmann.

  22. jb says:

    Let’s say there were a gene, found in mammals but not elsewhere, that allowed all carriers to recognize other carriers, no matter what the species, and which in addition motivated carriers to help other carriers when such help could reasonably be offered. Let’s also assume that the gene allowed carriers to recognize whether the altruism of other carriers had been subverted in some way (i.e., mutant versions of the gene, or other genes countering its effect), and withhold support from those individuals. Given these assumptions, it seems to me that such a gene really would increase in frequency in all species in which it occurred.

    I think the problem is that those are unreasonable assumptions. Recognizing kin is hard enough when it’s immediate kin; recognition across species would be much harder. And how is a dumb animal even going to know what to do if it wants to help another carrier? (The porcupine’s defense against hawks is entirely different from the rabbit’s). And what magic property of the gene will allow carriers to recognize cheaters across species? Even if the math works out, in practice it just isn’t going to happen.

    This question reminds me of a short science fiction story I once read. All the descendents of a particular individual share the same mind, and while pretending to be separate individuals, over the centuries they gradually they increase in number, until the most of the population of the Earth belongs to the group-mind, and World Peace is on the horizon. Except that it turns out there was a mutation early on, and as a result a separate group-mind exists, and has taken over the Western Hemisphere. Peace is finally achieved when the second group-mind leaves Earth and colonizes Venus. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of this story, or who wrote it. Has anyone else read this story?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Let’s be Frank! (Brian Aldiss)

      What you’re imagining is called a green-beard gene. An effective green-beard gene in humans would probably lead to world conquest. Instant asabiya.

      • jb says:

        Am I wrong in thinking that any sort of genetic altruism is basically just watered down green-beard genes? By watered-down, what I mean is that carriers of genes for altruism can’t actually recognize other carriers directly, so they use relatedness as a proxy. Maybe one of my brothers carries the same altruism gene that I do, while the other doesn’t. Since I can’t recognize this directly, I favor them both, on the principle that close relative are more likely to share my genes — including the altruism gene — than more distant relatives. Distinguishing close and distant relatives, while not always easy, at least seems to be doable.

        If I’m right about this, it would mean that the answer to your original question is that there is no reason in principle why mammals couldn’t have genes that caused them to favor other mammals with the same genes over non-mammals that lacked these genes, but it just isn’t technically feasible. No mechanism exists that would allow carriers to recognize other carriers across species. It’s basically an implementation issue.

        BTW, one thing I remember from the Brian Aldiss story is that the Frank gene seems to be passed on to all of a carrier’s descendents, not just some. So in addition to being a green-beard gene, it is also some sort of selfish gene, which means there isn’t even any need for carriers to favor other carriers. World conquest indeed!

      • setstamov says:

        It is so obvious. The only thing empires care about besides taxes is the state language. In human instincts, language plays the role of the green-beard gene and predisposes towards cooperation and altruistic behaviour. Wrongly. Empires have been built on this deadly mistake (assyrian way, as the owner of this blog saisd once). And destroyed, because it is not really a green-beard gene. It fakes one.

        • jabowery says:

          And that, dear friends, is how Disraeli destroyed the British and, indeed, the entire Anglosphere.

          • gcochran9 says:

            Another one bites the dust.

          • setstamov says:

            I was thinking of Roman Empire and Caracalla, not of Disraeli. In 212 Caracalla gave Roman citizenship to all inhabitants of the empire which had a “profound effect upon the fabric of Roman society” ( Leithart, P. Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom). The result of this “profound effect” was that when 2 centuries later the huns and goths arrived in Rome, there were no romans there to confront them – just plenty of italians. They were not enthusiastic about defending someone’s empire – and definitely not enthusiastic about sacrificing their lives for it – and so it went.
            Just give it two more centuries. Or less.

      • j says:

        Implausible, Dr Cochran. An effective green-beard gene would cause its own exponential disminution till there is only one of it, and then it would be ineffective. The basic reason is inbreeding depression but there may be behavioural causes. Assabiyya is weakness, defeat, suicide: no Arab tribe with tons of it can stand its ground against diverse American marines or the heterogeneous Israeli Border Police, that lack it.

        BTW, mouse sperm possess that precious green-beard gene and they form “trains” to out swim rival teams. Forming of trains is a well known strategy among competition swimmers (moi), bycicle riders and long distance runners. For all I know, no altruism is implied, each competitor is out to out-cheat the others. But it never works, those like Phelps and Spitz with extra large hands and size 18 shoes always win.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      It is claimed that humans have an incest aversion that only works if two related individuals are raised in close proximity during the early years, say from 2-10. However, this is not a trait that involves genetically-controlled instant recognition.

      On the other hand, Eleanor MacCoby in The Two Sexes: Growing Up Apart, Coming Together suggests that young human males have a clear preference for all-male play groups, while young females have much less of a preference.

      However, I cannot figure out if they are using socially designated cues (hair, clothing etc) or a genetically-determined behavior type recognition (they usually don’t get to look under the hood to count the wrinkles.)

  23. Cpluskx says:

    I think relatedness doesn’t matter you should select that behavioral trait. Swedes/Russians are more closely related but maybe Swedes/Japanese are closer to each other when it comes to altruism or some other behavioral trait.

  24. Gerard Mason says:

    At first I thought it was a joke question, until I saw how many people seem to assume (without thinking?) that there’s some way for an animal (or even a human in a non-scientific culture) to know that there is such a group as “mammals”, to know which bits of the environment belong to that group, and to know that they are more closely related to it than other bits of the environment. That would be one enormous gene!

    There is no such mechanism, hence it’s not possible. The best an animal could do is know, though experience rather than instinct, that some bits of the environment taste good and are crunchy on the outside, whereas others taste good and are crunchy on the inside.

    As for sexual attraction and family kinship, it’s all done through smells, calls, shapes, colours or behaviour, i.e. at reasonable distance from raw genetics. In humans, colour is one of a few attributes that until recently have been reasonable proxies for a whole host of genes, hence it’s not surprising that we are hard wired to pay some attention to them.

    • This is probably one of the more crucial things that should be made more explicit.

    • Richard Harper says:

      Hear, hear. Kinship altruism operates through the evolution of kinship recognition systems in the species’ history in their environments of evolutionary adaptedness. Hypothesizing the existence of kin altruism mechanisms in the absence of consideration of ancestral environments is insufficiently constrained theory-making (c.f. ‘just-so’ stories.) Human evolved kin recognition systems are designed by selection pressures for primates and more recently designed by selection pressures of living in human tribal systems. (With of course allowing for the rapidity of evolution in larger more recent population sizes as per Hawks et al.) To the extent that modern population characteristics share cues of tribal living or that modern political, marketing, and religious forces have developed to exploit kinship recognition mechanisms we might expect to see altruistic acts along the lines of kin altruism. Marketing and war-propaganda developed to get individuals to buy and die and do so in part by exploiting kin recognition mechanisms and so create cultures where kin presence seems much more prevalent than genetic similarity would otherwise indicate – thus creating a bias in such discussions as these here.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      At first I thought it was a joke question until I saw how many people seem to assume (without thinking) that there is some way for an animal (or even a human in a non-scientific culture) to know that it is male and that at a certain time in its life it should stiffen up a certain part of its protoplasm using blood and some nitric oxide and stick it in an interesting hole on some other objects in the environment. That would be an enormous gene.

      I guess boys must be taught by their mothers how to do that, possibly during birth, but then there must be some sort of imprinting going on to prevent girls from learning the wrong lesson. I wonder how many boys fail to learn that those things in the environment that are vaguely human-shaped with bumps are the correct things for sticking things into?

      • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        Of course, failure to recognize the appropriate objects of your reproductive activities reduces your inclusive fitness by close to 100% it would seem. Failure to recognize and support relatives only reduces your inclusive fitness on the order of 1/2^n where n is the number of steps between you and the most recent common ancestor.

        So, I can easily see how gene-complexes to help you recognize individuals who are related to you are much less likely to evolve than those that help you recognize appropriate objects of reproductive activities.

        • Richard Harper says:

          Yes, but not entirely independent systems. Evolved incest avoidance psychological mechanisms are at the core of kin recognition systems in general and in some sense it seems likely incest avoidance systems precede and are later built upon by more complex kin recognition systems. David Haig has suggested in his 2002 book that perhaps placental mammals developed complex social systems were males and females are part of the same social group (as opposed to marsupials) because placental systems permit genomic imprinting allowing signalling for (additional types of) brother-sister recognition. Presumably then marsupials would have a smaller set of systems for incest avoidance. But such things are difficult enough to measure let alone for acquiring funding.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          “So, I can easily see how gene-complexes to help you recognize individuals who are related to you are much less likely to evolve than those that help you recognize appropriate objects of reproductive activities.”

          Recognizing people who are related to you is part of recognizing appropriate objects of reproductive activities – hence why you need a Westermarck effect to prevent it when the relatedness is too close

          • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

            However, it seems to work only if the close relatives are raised in close proximity during a certain age range.

        • j says:

          … failure to recognize the appropriate objects of your reproductive activities reduces your inclusive fitness by close to 100%…

          Not at all. I had a poodle with the obsession of mating with people’s shoes. I was told to provide him with a plastic bitch to calm him down. His blind, indiscriminate sex overdrive also covered cats, male collegues (regardless of size) and bitches in heat. I think he was fit, crazy but fit.

  25. AppSocRes says:

    Altruism to another species carries risks and zero benefits. If I try to protect a porcupine from a leopard there is a good chance I will be removed from the gene pool. Even if the porcupine survives and reproduces it is not carrying any of my genetic material. If, on the other hand, I intervene to save my fourth cousin, the negative risks are the same, but assuming reciprocity, I am increasing the likelihood of some fraction of my genome surviving to be passed on to the next generation. I’m guessing the algebra is pretty simple but I’m ferociously hungry and don’t have the time to do it now. Any fraction of my genome being passed on though is certainly better than zero chance of my genome being passed on.

  26. ursiform says:

    Some mammals eat other mammals. Some birds eat other birds. Some mammals eat birds. Some birds eat mammals. Obviously the groups have diverged too much to recognize each other as fellow anythings. Typically one animal probably groups another as prey, predator, competitor, irrelevant, or (occasionally) symbiont. Those are the categories that matter to an animal and its relatives (or fellow group members, if a social animal).

  27. dave chamberlin says:

    Genetic altruism carefully considering what you could and could not eat could get really complicated. Cannibals could make rules like no eating anyone closer than a cousin or just old useless people. Fundamentalists vegans couldn’t eat anything other than single celled plants and kosher dirt. You might find vegetarians in principle who could eat well treated pets that died of old age. A super duper fundamentalist vegan should aspire to photosynthesize for themselves so that all living things are left alone.

  28. RCB says:

    Wow, I look away for a moment and there are already 60 comments.

    I think the blame lies in how poorly Hamilton’s Rule is taught. The student comes away with crazy ideas about the number of shared genes across the genome, and such. Another “stumper”: if all humans are 99% the same across the genome, then shouldn’t selection favor altruism toward total strangers? (The answer is no, btw.)

    I think people would be much better able to answer your question (and mine) if they had never heard of Hamilton’s Rule. They would realize that if a rabbit-altruistic allele arose in a porcupine, it would yield no fitness benefit to its holders relative to other porcupines, and would therefore die off quickly. That’s easy population genetics thinking, with no rb>c calculation required. The same logic would reveal why ethnic-level altruism doesn’t work.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “They would realize that if a rabbit-altruistic allele arose in a porcupine, it would yield no fitness benefit to its holders relative to other porcupines, and would therefore die off quickly.”

      Or… if porcupine young take twelve years to mature and as a result porcupines develop altruistic genes towards young porcupines and if young porcupines had long ears or made a rabbit like noise when distressed then the fitness cost of occasionally mistakenly helping rabbits might still be outweighed by the benefit of helping young porcupine.

  29. RCB says:

    Here’s another fun one:

    Suppose a population is divided into a number of large, fully-inbred families. Within each family, siblings compete, and ultimately one male and one female from the group succeed in becoming the progenitors of the entire next generation for that family. There are many such inbred families; they never interbreed. (Of course, we can view each family as its own closed population.)

    A rare allele causes an individual to behave altruistically to one of its siblings. Let’s say this slightly decreases his or her probability of becoming the next progenitor (c=0.1, say), but greatly increases the odds that the benefiting sibling becomes a progenitor (b=0.5, say). Will this allele spread?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      If it made the person more attractive as a mate then quite possibly.

    • RCB says:

      (The answer is no.)

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        The answer is you’re leaving out one of the numbers.

      • Ilya says:

        @RCB: thank you, this is a marvelous illustration, actually!

        I think the point is that humans are evolved for sociality, hence groupishness. Whether groupishness takes hold via formation of kin-based ties (e.g. tribes) or through more synthesized cultural norms (e.g. everyone believing that some guy with long hair got killed and became an all-forgiving god) is an orthogonal question.

        Of course, the former (tribes) are historically a much more convenient/straightforward units of acculturation and group formation, but the last 3000 years or so illustrate other possibilities. Coincidentally, to form/tie larger groups of people, it helps to have much more than just kinship-based ideologies.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Do the math. 0.5 * 0.25 is 0.125.

      Does the benefit outweigh the cost by enough?

      • RCB says:

        My main point is that the usual Hamilton’s Rule math is incorrect here, because of strong inbreeding. rb>c gives you the wrong answer. When all your mate competitors are sibs, then helping a sib is actually disfavored. In this case, no sibling altruism ever evolves.

        This is related to the classic result that “sticking close to home” doesn’t necessarily favor greater altruism. It increases relatedness between interactants, but also increases competition between relatives. These effects can cancel each other out.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          “When all your mate competitors are sibs, then helping a sib is actually disfavored.”

          If all the conflict is between siblings then yes but if the conflict is a mixture of
          – self vs sibling / cousin / stranger
          – self taking sides between two brothers
          – self taking sides between a brother and a cousin
          – self taking sides between two cousins
          – self taking side between a brother / cousin and a stranger

          then the selection pressures go in multiple directions so the net effect will depend on the net balance of forces like summing vectors.

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  31. JayMan says:

    Sometimes all it takes is a well-placed match. 🙂

  32. AllenM says:

    What a larf- we struggle to maintain a barely functional society, and people think there is an altruism gene that pushes self sacrifice?

    I would argue that sacrifice for society is a learned response that only really works through societal reinforcement mechanisms.

    With all pardons to EO Wilson, we ain’t ants.

    Now talk about what happens when we start fixing genes like this into the genome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternal_effect_dominant_embryonic_arrest

    Now, that is going to be interesting, after all, what happens when we finally split into Morlocks and Eloi?

    Humanity is most likely about to fracture into transgenetic folks, and relicts living in preserves.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “and people think there is an altruism gene that pushes self sacrifice?”

      No, people think genes that evolved over a very long time when people were living in small bands of cousins disappear over night when they stop living like that.

  33. Dale says:

    Clearly, there is some selective pressure for “ethnic” interests. In traditional societies, there’s a fairly high level of inbreeding, so those who live near you are likely to be somewhat related to you. (E.g. in a Yanamamo village, you can address everyone else in the village by a kinship term.) But of course that’s confounded by the fact that people near you have similar culture (and so are both easier to deal with and can more easily coordinate reciprocal altruism with you) as well as their mere physical nearness making reciprocal altruism easier to maintain.

    In more modern multicultural societies, each ethnicity is endogamous (by definition) and often has overarching organizations that facilitate group action and reciprocal altruism (including the marrying off of children).

    So in the long run, there is pressure for the widely-observed tendency of people to behave better toward those they perceive as like themselves. But the specific properties that people perceive as determining “likeness” they pick up from their society.

    • JayMan says:

      @Dale:

      “Clearly, there is some selective pressure for “ethnic” interests. In traditional societies, there’s a fairly high level of inbreeding, so those who live near you are likely to be somewhat related to you. (E.g. in a Yanamamo village, you can address everyone else in the village by a kinship term.)”

      Sounds like we’re back to HBD Chick’s theory, which is the only place where this has meaning in the real world.

      • RCB says:

        I’m skeptical of the idea. Insofar as inbreeding arises through limited dispersal, then it may not favor increased altruism, because it also increases competition between relatives for mates. The effects can cancel each other, in some cases. Also called “viscosity” in the literature – been known for decades. In any case, a model would help.

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  36. j says:

    From the comments I conclude that otter/porcupine/rabbit/hawk altruism has zero chance to evolve, and neither inter-ethnic altruism can exist. Apparently, altruism can exist only between parents/descendants or close relatives, and only to certain point because they are also competitors. Yet in many situations, like war, an African soldier will risk his life to save a White comrade and vice versa. Historically, we have many cases of intra-specie altruism, like the Apes protecting little Lord Greystoke, or the She-Wolf lactating Remus and Romulus. More grants for research are required.

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  38. Stan D Mute says:

    Off topic, but in your wheelhouse I think:

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/01/racism-science-human-genomes-darwin

    I plugged your book in a comment and so far moderation isn’t too extreme. Comments have gone very wrong from the columnist’s perspective it seems.

  39. Richard Harper says:

    Dogs are altruistic to humans because we’ve hijacked their kin recognition systems. Ancestral enemies cats and dogs are much less mean to each other if around each other a lot while puppies and kittens. Perhaps species that have evolved toward greater neoteny also carry along in with that development a longer set of developmental/critical periods for the psychological identification of kin members. If there has been developed a scale for neoteny, I wonder to where cetaceans rank. Common folklore seems to be that porpoises (or is it dolphins) have rescued many drowning sailors.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Yes, social animals and those whose young take the longest to mature.

      Like humans.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Dogs are altruistic to humans because we’ve hijacked their kin recognition systems.

      So selection has had nothing to do with it?

  40. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    There must be a gene for race-denial:

    As we harvest ever more human genomes one fact remains unshakeable: race does not exist

    or maybe just a group of genes for stupidity.

  41. Greying Wanderer says:

    @fourth doorman

    “However, it seems to work only if the close relatives are raised in close proximity during a certain age range.”

    Yes, it would be another example of something that evolved over the hundreds of thousands of years humans were living like that.

  42. Greying Wanderer says:

    Using a convenient quote to stress a point made up thread.

    “You are up against the fact that the benefit falls off as 1/(2^n) where n is the distance.”

    Which is why kin recognition (aka recognition of percentage of self in kin) would provide such a substantial reproductive advantage. If you could recognize and were twice as attracted to someone with 20% of your genes over someone with 10% then you win.

  43. “It only works if the group the gene targets has a significantly higher-than-average frequency of that same altruistic gene – true of close kin, but essentially nothing else.”

    Let me go out on a limb. Suppose there are numerous descendants of the individual with the original altruistic gene mutation. If they all carried it — say the males, it being on the Y chromosome — and they lived together in an endogamous patriarchal tribe, say, wouldn’t they have a greater genetic tendency to sacrifice for other members of their group, even distant cousins, and to stick together, based on genes and not culture?

    • gcochran9 says:

      You haven’t suggested any mechanism by which they can tell which Y-chromosome other people have and then focus their altruism on it. So, it doesn’t work – it’s not a green-beard gene.

      Now if we had a Y-chromosome that left a mark, and other bearers of the Y-chromosome felt altruistic towards guys bearing that mark, it could work. Even then you would have other people tend to evolve ways of faking – bearing the mark without having the altruistic tendency, which would make chumps out of bearers of the original gene, etc. Chromodynamics: hard to calculate.

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  45. I’m getting too famous to post in comment sections but it’s totally obvious that ethnic genetic interests can and did evolve. If you have two tribes, one that randomly mutates people who are willing to die for the group and the other that doesn’t, the former tribe will expand in size while the latter will go extinct, leaving only ethnocentric people and tribes as the survivors.

    The reason genetic interests didn’t evolve at the level of mammals vs non-mammals is because those groups are so large that level of competition within the group greatly exceeds competition between groups & because all mammals don’t look alike allowing no obvious mechanism for group loyalty to evolve.

  46. jabowery says:

    The neither the otter nor the porcupine have been parasitically castrated by the rabbit the way a eusocial queen parasitically castrates her sterile and oh-so-loving offspring.

    • jabowery says:

      Googling around for any critiques of Nowak et al by Harpending and/or Cochran I come up empty handed. This seems unfortunate since among the “et al” is the author of “The Social Conquest of Earth” which posits “The 10,000 Year Explosion” may, in large part, be explained in terms of Nowak et al’s description of the evolution of eusociality. My, only somewhat tongue in cheek, description of parasitic castration as the origin of much of what we mistake for altruism is congruent with Nowak et al. That Nowak et al may have overstated their case — due, possibly, to Wilson’s obsession with the social insects and the unfortunate presumption that inclusive fitness arguments depend on the haplodiploidy of eusocial insects — should not detract from the importance of their insight into some forms of “altruism” in some societies, including civilization.

  47. Greying Wanderer says:

    Part of the problem with this argument is the definitions of “ethnic” and “altruism” being used.

    1) The altruism in question isn’t just self-sacrifice it includes ganging up with brothers and cousins on the stranger standing with his back to you while tying his camel to a tree. Part of it might involve maternal type altruism but part of it is picking sides in a conflict or in other words the kind of altruism we are talking about here is the mafia kind not just the St. Francis of Assisi kind.

    2) In practice the “ethnic” part of the question varies in scale. If you have a group of say four extended families with a long-standing marriage arrangement between them then their “ethnic group” is the border of that arrangement because that is where the tipping point of relatedness lies. Within that border they show a great degree of ethnic altruism e.g. burying bodies for each other, and little or none for people beyond that border – including little or none for all the people outsiders might see as part of their ethnic group.

    (It’s why countries like that suck.)

    Very strong ethnic altruism – in the mafia sense – clearly exists at the level it exists at – which is generally at a lower level than most people think of when they hear the word “ethnic”.

    But if those mafia genes existed in all groups back in time then they are probably still there but relatively inert like a chemical that is inert when cold and explosive when hot – hence uniforms and regimental flags to try and trigger them artificially.

  48. Greying Wanderer says:

    Given that the methods people have generally used to reinforce kin altruism have often been visual e.g. tribal scars, tattoos, head dress, face paint, uniforms etc I think it’s plausible the original cue might have been visual too.

    If there was a 10 point scale of family resemblance and through linkage equilibrium effects in-breeding / out-breeding adjusted a group up and down this scale then maybe this was the basis of the recognition mechanism.

    If this mechanism existed and mechanism evolved at a time when the people involved shared say a 6/10 family resemblance on average then if people later out bred to the point where they only had a 4/10 resemblance on average then the mechanism might no longer trigger i.e. you could have a population which still had those genes but they no longer triggered because the mechanism had become too diluted to work.

    (Or they still triggered but in a more diluted and low-key way.)

    .

    Also if the altruism we are talking about here is the mafia kind: nice to kin, nasty to non-kin, then altruism not triggering as much works both ways – less being nice to close kin but also less being nasty to more distant kin. It should be easy to see how that could change the whole nature of a society and allow much greater levels of large scale cooperation.

    So a dilution in very strong close-kin mafia altruism might lead to a much more diluted but as a result much larger scale weak distant-kin mafia altruism i.e. the process being argued about here is actually working in reverse (but partially disguised by economies of scale).

    .

    nb you probably still need cultural reinforcement to make it work – things like a fixed pattern of patri or matri linearity and patri or matri locality and/or some level of culturally preferred endogamy (or even accidental endogamy through distance) etc.

  49. Greying Wanderer says:

    Rambling now but some comments above got me thinking…

    A lot of the problem people have with this idea stems from the extreme case of self-sacrifice in battle which logically makes no sense – fair enough – but what if there are actually two roots to two kinds of altruism:

    1) Maternal/parental type altruism evolved due to having young that take a long time to mature
    2) Mafia style altruism evolved from being a social animal

    then there could be three combinations.

    1) Social animals with fast maturing young which might have a lot of the mafia type altruism but not much of the maternal kind.

    2) Non-social animals with long maturing young. I can’t think of any personally but there’s probably lots I don’t know. I’d imagine they’d be easy to hunt though so maybe giant sloth and tortoises were like that.

    3) Social animals with slow maturing young who had a lot of both the maternal kind and the mafia kind.

    In which case the extreme case of self-sacrifice in battle might be a mistake – maternal altruism in the context of a social animal event like a battle.

    So the answer to how could that form of altruism evolve might be it didn’t. Two separate forms of altruism evolved with their own selection pressures and in some situations the streams cross by mistake.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Forgot to mention and anecdotal anyway but in times past I’ve talked to people who had an inclination to run first into dangerous situations and when asked they often use familial terms for the reason why i.e. “I don’t want any of my [kids / boys / bros] getting [hurt / killed].

  50. IC says:

    ants protect aphids

    Ants will kill other ants (from different colony)

    Dog owners protect his dog over human strangers.
    Dog protects its human owner over fellow dogs or wolves
    Land lord protect his renters over others.
    Slave owners protect his slaves over others.
    European feudal lords protect Jews against resentment from common people.

    Genetis similarity is not reason for the action. Self-interest or mutualism of individual is reason to defend for another living being.

    Whatever help individual genes survive is way to go. Helping your own kind is really useful in tribal competition. Without tribal competition, your own kind actually is your worst enemy who competing for the same resouce.

    • IC says:

      One more point, human history has been following the principle of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” . Example: Poland alliance with Britain and France against Germany,
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_enemy_of_my_enemy_is_my_friend
      In Chinese history, it was phrased as `Ally far and attack near” (远交近攻)as military and diplomatic strategy starting in Waring States era (Classic Greek time, more than 2000 years ago).

      This very human strategy is very much against the very people who share more genetic similarity with. Wishful thinking of genetic brotherhood was unlikely winning strategy based on history.

  51. Heinz Hommler says:

    Hippos are known to help fellow mammals against crocs.
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hippo+saves+animal+from+crocodile

    • gcochran9 says:

      I know of a case (from Henry) in which a gazelle was trapped against a lake by a pack of hyenas, and a helpful hippo opened his mouth, let the gazelle in, and carried him to the other side of the lake.

      Unfortunately, the hyenas followed and were waiting when the hippo reached the other side.

      Frustrated, the hippo made the best of it and ate the gazelle. Chomp. There was a school-bus full of Botswanan children watching: they were very upset.

      The consensus was that the whole thing was witchcraft-related.

      • j says:

        In the version I heard it was a busload of Botswanan physics doctorants. One of them, against the consensus, blamed Max Tegmark’s axis of evil, also witchcraft-related.

  52. epoch2013 says:

    Say, sedentary farmer societies do better than hunter-gatherers in child survival due to their ability to store grains. The civil societies require people doing things they do not get immediate rewards for, for “the greater good”. Say, storing that actual grain surplus. Genetic trait that favours such behaviour, let’s call it the gentlemans gene, will thus outperform other genetic traits, let’s call those for the sake of the argument the warrior gene.

    Now something happens and the farmer society collapses. But not enitirely, no, just parts of it. Say, again for the sake of the argument, that the more inclined parts of this society is to do things for the greater good, genetically inclined even, the more resilient it is.

    Now your genetic trait for civic, i.e. altruistic, behaviour wins.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Only if the positive effects are concentrated on those that carry the relevant gene. You know, I didn’t think that many people understood this. Boy was I ever right.

      • epoch2013 says:

        “Only if the positive effects are concentrated on those that carry the relevant gene.”

        No. Not necessarily. In all parts, when it goes well, the bastards will profit just as well as gentlemen. However, natural variation occurs and various parts will get different ratios. Now if the system is tested by environmental influences the different ratios might influence the survival rate of the different parts.

        If war means less survival of all children and civil behaviour better survival of all children, and thus repeated stress keeps weeding out the most war inclined systems you might have a system that favours altruism.

      • RCB says:

        Indeed!

        Another poorly understood point: r is measured relative to the relatedness of one’s competitors in the mating pool. If you’re mostly competing with your cousins for mates, for example, then selection won’t favor altruism among cousins; their r effectively becomes 0. David Queller has a good old review about this.

      • Sean says:

        A while back while commenting on Professor Harpending’s post on inclusive fitness I said Martin Nowak doesn’t think there is anything to Inclusive fitness/Kin selection. But my reading is that Nowak isn’t that dogmatic; he says it is just not a very enlightening way to look at the real world, usually. There are different ways to understand things. It ill behoves us to be dogmatic.

  53. Robert King says:

    Because its not about “shared genes”. Inclusive fitness pertains only to those genes that underlie altruistic behavior or structures. You could potentially have non-altruistic clones of one another,.

    • MawBTS says:

      Or you could have reciprocal altruism between myself and an alien from Proxima Centauri. The degree of relatedness doesn’t mean much either way.

  54. epoch2013 says:

    “That’s why an otter or a porcupine will instinctively help a rabbit that’s being chased by a hawk. Except that they don’t. Why not?”

    Because a mammal that has a genetic urge to help all mammals, let’s call it transmammalism, will be outperformed by a mammal that had the genetic urge to help his own kind. Let’s call that mammal exclusiveness. That is because the transmammalism gene will invest in all mammals, most of which it will not be able to mate with, whereas the mammal exclusiveness gene will ensure the exapnding of the potential gene pool for itself. Every saved mammal can be a potential mate or parent of a future potential mate.

  55. Sean says:

    To partially answer that part of the the post’s closing rhetorical question, because those mammals don’t have a genetic mechanism for that behavior an’t monitor and enforce compliance with (or violation of) a code of group selection, they don’t help their brethren largely because they don’t suffer from disobeying a learned principle.

    Group selection versus whatever helps individual genes survive is way to go</b/> .

    Compare the foregoing antithesis to morality (i.e. “to ‘subject one’s own interests, where they conflict with those of other people , to a principle one one can accept as governing anyone’s conduct in like circumstances”) versus individual success (it is always in any particular individual’s interest for everyone else to subject their interests to a principle they accept as governing anyone’s conduct in like circumstances).

    So beware of people who tell you you owe something to the brotherhood of your kind, (be that neighbour, race, or species) because they are just trying to manipulate you for their own purposes. But on the other hand, better watch out that you aren’t being monitored by the enforcers of compliance with your kind’s norms. Or the comment moderator. Which brings me to give the most relevant part of answer to the post’s closing rhetorical question: because those mammals can’t monitor and enforce compliance with (or violation of) a code of group selection; they can’t act according to such a principle.

  56. kai says:

    Is EDAR east asian variant a plausible candidate for green beard effect? It is both visible/identifiable quite easily, and have broad ranging effects (so possibly behavioral effects)

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      It might have been at the beginning.

      Things like that might be a candidate for situations where kin recognition was much easier at one point in time and then fades due to its own success i.e. eventually everyone has a green beard and it no longer becomes a good close kin marker.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        or green eyes and red hair

        • kai says:

          very visible, but not really broad ranging effects, afaik. Green beard is both visible (or reliably detectable by others, smell would do) and triggering enhanced altruism for other cariers, so should be expressed in the brain. Something which affect a lot of things is imho a better candidate. It is also less likely to be easily cheated by variants which have the physical markers without enhanced altruism, I think…

          From what I understand, EDAR both have multiple strong impacts but unclear advantages, so it is a strange variant to be selected…hence my question on possible green beard effect 🙂

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            I think visibility aka family resemblance is the key. Mafia style close kin altruism already has a reason to evolve it just needs a recognition mechanism to make it viable. I’d have thought some distinct phenotype change would fit the bill nicely (for a while). It wouldn’t last because if it was successful it would stop being a good signal of close kin.

            IIRC EDAR has a bunch of phenotype changes (on top of the functional things you mention) so in a sea of people who didn’t have EDAR maybe it was a green beard for a while?

  57. Sean says:

    Fears over new Seti plan to repeatedly broadcast greetings to habitable planets for hundreds of years dismissed as paranoia. Steven Hawking is a nutcase. Inclusive fitness in nonsense. Be they ever so unspeakably unrelated, the aliens will say “what’s the diff, I never met a slime mould I didn’t like”.

  58. Greying Wanderer says:

    Thinking on it some more if a green beard gene is wholly phenotype then it might need to be recessive to spread because the initial effect on the first person with it would be the reverse i.e. it would reduce their family resemblance not increase it.

    If a purely phenotype gene was neutral and recessive then maybe it could spread among a small group widely enough before it started to pop out visibly.

    If a green beard gene had positive effects in some area and the phenotype changes were incidental then it might spread initially if the positive effects outweighed the negative effect of the phenotype change only becoming a green beard after it had spread sufficiently.

    In that case the ideal green beard might be a gene that had distinct positive effects plus more subtle phenotype effects to turbo charge it.

    (Makes me wonder about some of those neanderthal genes that didn’t have any obvious benefit.)

    So…successful green beard genes likely to be recessive?

  59. Greying Wanderer says:

    off-topic but anyone know if goats are considered a possible candidate for self-domestication?

  60. anne emmanuel says:

    Looking at the context of the post (oh boy!), the answer you want is one that goes something like “since r << 1, rb < c (a.s)” – or so I assume. But —

    Porcupines don’t protect rabbits against hawks because they have much to lose and nothing to gain by doing that (evolutionarily or otherwise) and this is true regardless of how you model it, since, unless the rabbit reciprocates in whatever way (an indirect fitness benefit), the porcupine’s actions are decreasing its fitness. Alleles that caused such behaviours would last more than just a few generations only if the costs were very small (say, if there weren’t that many hawks around and the porcupines’ wasteful instinct wouldn’t get triggered that often). In many cases it wouldn’t even go past a single copy (especially if the poor sucker with the freak allele happened to be a female).

    Relatedness doesn’t factor into anything here, because selection happens on the level of the individual organism that carries such an allele (that such a contention is anathema in many circles today out of sheer mathematical convenience is another matter). This is obviously true, otherwise the phenomenon of symbiosis would not exist.

    — kin selection (and Hamilton’s “rule”) has nothing to do with anything here. No more than it has anything to do with the domestication of wheat just because we share an ancestor some one billion years ago.

    @Sean

    “A while back while commenting on Professor Harpending’s post on inclusive fitness I said Martin Nowak doesn’t think there is anything to Inclusive fitness/Kin selection. But my reading is that Nowak isn’t that dogmatic; he says it is just not a very enlightening way to look at the real world, usually. There are different ways to understand things. It ill behoves us to be dogmatic.”

    What Martin Nowak essentially says is that the math behind kin selection (starting with Price’s equation) amounts to little more than a toy model. He’s right. Kin selection is generally nonsense. Unless a mechanism for kin recognition is present “inclusive fitness” effects have a very narrow window of applicability confined to founder populations or sterile individuals.

    If even that. There are bee colonies where the queens are polygamous for example. What’s the relatedness between all the various pairs you can find in such colonies? Isn’t it a bit too low for some of them? Then why do they “cooperate”?

    Consider this alternative: because they “domesticated” themselves for it. Or put more aptly, because they are a case of genetic “auto-engineering”. The worker bees aren’t “altruistic” or acting to increase their “inclusive fitness”. They’re the queen’s slaves. Termites are an even better example. Because they “engineer” fungi. What stopped them from “engineering” themselves? The sanctity of the life of their children?

    I see a lot more evidence for processes that are akin to domestication than kin selection. Including in humans, who seem to care a lot about kin. But I’m kinda nutty.

    • Sean says:

      No offence, but my approach is to decide who is the most reliable authority on a subject, and harken to them. I have Nowak’s book and he is not so dogmatic. On my reading he does allow there are certain circumstances where looking at things in a kin selection way can be useful.

      At the Reykjavik summit President Ray-gun did say that all peoples would help each other against things not of this earth. Obviously anyone who thinks aliens would not be nice to our genes is out of touch with reality, like Stephen Hawking.

    • RCB says:

      Nowak would not disagree that kin selection occurs, at least among close kin. His arguments are mostly pedantic, about the “utility” of using an inclusive fitness framework over some others. It’s true that Hamilton’s rule is an approximation, and that inclusive fitness can only be calculated explicitly under certain conditions (e.g. additivity of interactions). This has been known for a long time. But the fact remains that your close relatives are much more likely to carry a shared allele than the population average. That’s what matters. That’s why parents take care of their children.

      • n/a says:

        RCB,

        “Nowak would not disagree that kin selection occurs, at least among close kin.”

        Nowak’s issue in his (specious) attack on kin selection was closer to the opposite, including assertions that kin selection overemphasized “close pedigree kinship” and the “haplodiploid hypothesis” for the evolution of eusociality. In reality, Hamilton’s insights were from the beginning extremely general, regardless of whether or not his math was always perfect.

        Nowak’s models of course still end up demonstrating the reality of kin selection; he just doesn’t want to call it kin selection:

        “For weak selection, we show that the natural selection interpretation is appropriate for all cases, whereas the kin selection interpretation, although possible in several cases, cannot be generalized to cover all situations without stretching the concept of “relatedness” to the point where it becomes meaningless. [. . .]

        The extra complication of inclusive fitness theories arises from the attempt to bring into the discussion increasingly abstract notions of ‘relatedness’ when it is not natural to do so. This situation is not particular to theory. [. . .]

        Note moreover that what is called “relatedness” by theoreticians is not a measure of genetic identity (that would be Q j ) but a measure of relative genetic identity. Due to this normalization, the relatedness of any individual to oneself is one and the relatedness to the population is zero. A consequence of the latter is that the actor also has negative “relatedness” to some fraction of the population. Inclusive fitness theory focuses on low mutation, hence the only interesting effect is that due to selection.”

    • Tom says:

      Aren’t the workers essentially parasitically castrated by the queen via chemical pheromones?

    • gcochran9 says:

      “Kin selection is generally nonsense.”

      Not so. You know, in terms of tactics, your first comment should be not particularly foolish. Then you can gradually work your way up.

    • n/a says:

      “Porcupines don’t protect rabbits against hawks because they have much to lose and nothing to gain by doing that (evolutionarily or otherwise) and this is true regardless of how you model it, since, unless the rabbit reciprocates in whatever way (an indirect fitness benefit), the porcupine’s actions are decreasing its fitness.”

      No, it’s only true because selective forces on taxonomic classes on the order of birds and mammals are nonexistent relative to selective forces on species, groups, and individuals; and it’s hard to imagine the situation being otherwise. But, in the abstract, there’s no reason Hamilton’s rule wouldn’t apply.

      On the other hand, it’s not at all hard to imagine (or at least wasn’t for Hamilton) how group selection could have played a role in shaping human behavior.

  61. Yudi says:

    I freely admit I know little about genetic theory, but I am certainly enjoying the artificial selection on display here in the comments section. Lots of idiots speaking out and getting banned. I hope Greg does more posts like this so more WNs and other tards reveal themselves and get kicked out.

    • Gordo says:

      If you were being disembowelled and eaten by dinosaurs in alliance with purple eight-legged space aliens I would laugh, yes laugh, uproariously.

      I’m sure there must be a lesson there in altruism or the lack thereof in certain circumstances and perhaps there are evolutionary biologists on here who can draw out the meat of the matter, however foul.

    • Cracker1 says:

      Why should WNs be kicked out. Whatever WNs are?

      • MawBTS says:

        WNs = white nationalists.

        A while ago there was a post about how some beliefs are like idiot flypaper. They attract the wrong sort of personality, regardless of whether the belief itself is true or not.

        I’m grateful for the things white people and white civilisation have given us. But the HBD community would be generally healthier if everyone who irrationally overidentifies with their race went somewhere else.

        • Cracker1 says:

          Thanks. Apparently I am not very good at recognizing acronyms or comments by WNs.
          As this relates to the subject of the post, I think a WN would want to identify with other whites by a willful political choice rather than because of an inherited behavioral trait.

      • MawBTS says:

        …Especially people who take credit for the accomplishments of other whites, like we’re all part of one huge united group. “We’re the race that discovered relativity!” Yeah, because a 85 IQ ex-serviceman cleaning his hunting rifle in Florida while refreshing Alex Jones’ site just has so much in common with Albert Einstein. You two would never run out of things to discuss if you were in a bar together.

        It’s like sports fans going “yay, we scored!” No, you didn’t score. The Seattle Seahawks scored. You sat on a couch eating doritos. Shut up and stop piggybacking off other people.

        • Toddy Cat says:

          “Shut up and stop piggybacking off other people.”

          Totally agree. Black History Month is a perfect example of this. As if some guy in South-Central flew with the Redtails or worked on the underground railroad.

  62. Greying Wanderer says:

    “Kin selection is generally nonsense. Unless a mechanism for kin recognition is present “inclusive fitness” effects have a very narrow window of applicability confined to founder populations or sterile individuals.”

    A thing can’t be “nonsense, if” – if there’s an “if” then at most it’s an “in theory it makes sense, but”.

    So in reality Hamilton’s rule makes perfect sense if there’s kin recognition.

    I haven’t come across anyone proving that one way or the other although I have read stuff about people being put into visually marked teams (uniforms) and that leading to greater cooperation so I wonder how genes to recognize being on the same team evolved?

    It would be particularly interesting to see if long-term in breeding increased family resemblances through linkage effects and thus improved kin recognition – as that would make a lot of sense.

    It seems to me kin recognition is completely ubiquitous “he’s got his father’s eyes” etc but breaks down quite quickly with distance (but maybe extends a bit wider if there’s a lot of in breeding).

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “So in reality Hamilton’s rule makes perfect sense if there’s kin recognition.”

      doh, should be

      Hamilton’s rule makes perfect sense but requires kin recognition

  63. Greying Wanderer says:

    Further to a previous point up thread it seems to me beneficial genes are actually quite likely to have a phenotype effect as a turbo-charger.

    Say:

    1) a mutated gene has a beneficial effect x and no phenotype change giving a chance of spreading of y

    2) an alternative gene with the exact same beneficial effect x but which also has a phenotype change as well (not necessarily anything to do with x or having any effect at all) so it gets turbo-charged by kin selection and the green beard effect leading to a chance of spreading of y++

    then on average over time you might expect to see a disproportionate percentage of positive genes which managed to reach fixation having a phenotype effect of some kind. They don’t need to do anything – bigger earlobes would do – but as long as they provide a visible marker of the important bit of the gene then all the effects of the gene gain the advantage of Hamilton’s equation.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      Thinking more about how something like this might work in practice.

      Say you have a population that are all Dravidian/Ainu looking stretching from India through East Asia.

      Then one group on the edge of Tibet pick up an advantageous allele somehow which also has some phenotype effects – not necessarily connected to the advantage and not necessarily having any effect at all – which acts as a green beard style turbo charger leading to the population that has it expanding north, east and west.

      As the phenotype become fixed in the start region the green beard effect in that region weakens but on the frontier of the expansion the green beard effect continues until it hits a geographical barrier or some other kind of boundary.

      In the case of this example maybe the borders were populations with tropical adaptations in SE Asia blocking it getting back into India, the Pacific Ocean to the south and east and in the north maybe not blocked but slowed down greatly by mountainous terrain.

      .

      Looking at a physical map of East Asia and assuming a rain forest type barrier in the Myanmar to Cambodia area of the map then there would be a bowl created by the geography for such an allele to potentially expand into.

  64. melendwyr says:

    Because traits only accumulate if they ensure their propagation, and intervening in most other organisms’ lives doesn’t increase fitness.

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  66. j mct says:

    Hamilton’s theory is important because prior to him coming up with it, evolution had no way to account for altruism because per the theory, cheaters would always win, so the altruism would be impossible. Since there was and is plenty of observed altruism, thus if this problem couldn’t be solved, the theory of evolution would thus be wrong. Hamilton solved it so evolution didn’t get put on the scrap heap.

    However, Hamilton’s stuff is not an explanation for why there is altruism, it is an explanation as to why it’s not impossible, and if it might appear, that it has to be amongst kin. So finding out why altruism is not happening is like finding the root cause of poverty, there is no root cause to poverty, poverty is normal, prosperity is the weird thing that requires an explanation, finding a reason for the absence of altruism is silly, there is no why. Altruism needs to be reciprocal amongst kin in order for altruism to happen, but kinship isn’t what makes it happen. Kinship is necessary but not sufficient.

    Altruism amongst big cats on the African plain would occur if five lionesses and a lion, hunting as a team as in other things, can kill more meat with less of their cubs being eaten than in an every lion for itself scenario. The answer appears to be yes on the plains so one sees lions in prides that are matriarchal, the females are all relatives. In the jungle, every tiger for itself seems to do better than cooperating in a group, so with the exception of a tigress for her cubs, tiger’s do not do altruism. That’s about it.

    Lastly there must be a trigger that gets altruism going and it cannot be kinship, since to truly know kinship in the genetic sense, animals would have to be able to do genetic tests on each other and since they cannot do that, kinship per se cannot be the trigger for altruism, though whatever the trigger might be, in the EEA or whatever one might call it, it has to be highly correlated with kinship, even if it cannot be kinship itself.

  67. Greying Wanderer says:

    @melendwyr

    “Because traits only accumulate if they ensure their propagation, and intervening in most other organisms’ lives doesn’t increase fitness.”

    Intervening in your baby’s life directly increases fitness.

    I think it’s worth separating maternal/parental kin altruism from mafia style kin altruism as the maternal/paternal kind
    1) is more self evidently true
    2) appears among non social animals as well as social animals
    3) unintended overlap between maternal/parental genes and mafamilia genes might explain some aspects of behavior which are difficult to explain otherwise.

    .

    @Janet

    “Lastly there must be a trigger that gets altruism going and it cannot be kinship, since to truly know kinship in the genetic sense, animals would have to be able to do genetic tests on each other and since they cannot do that, kinship per se cannot be the trigger for altruism”

    1) That’s just another conflation of the validity of the basic idea with the presumed likelihood of the necessary mechanism. Kinship is one of the required components, not the trigger – the trigger is a mechanism for recognizing kinship. The likelihood of such a mechanism could be 0% and it wouldn’t change the validity of the idea.

    2) Also a mechanism evolved to reap the latent benefits of kin altruism doesn’t need to be 100% certain. Probability would work if it’s high enough:

    p(r)B > C

    where p(r) is the probability of being related.

    The p(r) of a baby in a small band is high. Mechanisms that made people behave differently around babies in their band like for example reacting automatically to big eyes in a small head could evolve simply out of probability – they’re not recognizing kin they’re recognizing x where x has a high p(r) – and once evolved this could misfire on kittens, puppies .. baby goats, lambs in fact by an odd coincidence pretty much all domesticable animals – and even more if they sound like babies as well.

    There are loads of ways these kind of genes could evolve directly and indirectly – which illustrates the strength of the underlying idea.

    .

    A separate point to make as a lot of people maybe don’t know is strong mafamilia type kin altruism is everywhere – especially related to crime. In Europe it used to be either travelers (who marry their 1st cousins where possible) or remote little villages where everyone was practically a clone. They had/have a very strong sense of us and them and the law was “them’s” law. More recently you see the same thing with immigrant populations from similar remote rural or consciously clannish backgrounds so it might not exist in lots of places but it definitely does in others.

    So what’s the mechanism? Linkage equilibrium creating stronger family resemblance would be my guess although after someone mentioned the EDAR gene I’d add any random mutation within an extended kin group that had even a minor visible phenotype effect which enhanced family resemblance (even if it performed no other function).

    (It might even be possible for a negative mutation to be carried if the benefit to family resemblance outweighed the cost of the disbenefit.)

    • gcochran9 says:

      This has got to stop.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        ok last comment

        Pleiotropic gene: random positive effect, secondary altruistic effect where the benefit of the first part outweighs the cost of the second part until it spreads enough for the cost to flip into a benefit also.

  68. Cracker1 says:

    There is variation in the intensity of group identification within individuals and between groups. All other factors being equal, the group with the greater intensity will prosper relative to less intense groups.

  69. Sean says:

    Maybe knowing that you are related is cheating. But humans don’t necessarily consciously calculate. It has just been discovered that humans sniff their hands after shaking hands. Whether or not the fellow who got brained in the the axe fight thought that shared genes had nothing to do with it or not, the fact remains that the interactions were carefully analysed and the shared genes had an effect on who got helped (or clobbered) by who. People are always interested in who they are related to, and they know they have have less to worry about from those. Knowing gives an edge.

    Imagine us and two other alien species of the same power equidistant from one another* and finding out about one another at the same time. Aliens would not know our intentions just like we couldn’t be certain of their attitude. If we found out one set of aliens were actually very similar we would be less worried about them (and they about us) than the other totally unlike alien species. And as the beginnings of an unspoken alliance would go with similarity, similarity would confer an advantage.

    *A near neighbour would of course be a natural enemy and the entities on the far side of a enemy would be a natural ally.

  70. MawBTS says:

    If we found out one set of aliens were actually very similar we would be less worried about them (and they about us) than the other totally unlike alien species.

    But wait, if the aliens are like us, think about what “us” is. A patchwork of groups, some benign, some evil, all struggling for supremacy with no common goal, causing huge damage to our planet, having recently fought a planet-wide war that killed 3% of our race, etc, etc.

    You’d really feel more safe around those “like us” aliens than the “unlike us” aliens, even if I told you they were completely altruistic and haven’t harmed a sentient being in a thousand years?

    Being similar to a neighboring tribe is not an encouraging thought if both tribes are violent. Think of a Rwanda/Burundi situation.

  71. Dale says:

    I can think of two interesting cases. One is where the two individuals are part of some socially-defined group whose members are “supposed” to exhibit reciprocal altruism toward each other. As long as defectors are punished to some degree, everyone will have experience of people exhibiting altruism toward those that they are expected to.

    Another is when the species is divided into smaller groups that are largely endogamous, such as “clans” or “races”. Then altruism directed toward members of your group is to some degree altruism toward your present kin, and even toward your future descendants, whereas altruism toward members of other groups is guaranteed to not benefit your kin. In a sense, the social definition of your endogamous group acts as a “green beard”. And this sort of distinction in altruism is ubiquitous in human societies.

  72. James James says:

    Darwin: “the competition is always the most severe between the most closely allied species”

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