Category Archives: Evolution

Everyone else is a hypocrite

hypocriteindexRobert Kurzban is an evolutionary psychologist and author of this book published in 2010.  If I were more organized, this book should have been discussed in the post Justifying our Decisions….  It includes another take on plausible deniability or that Larson Far Side where Larry unknowingly filled the Grand Canyon because the sign was posted in the other direction. Instead of Jonathan Haidt’s driver on an elephant, Kurzban suggests the press secretary as the model for the conscious modules of the brain.

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Toward a Culture of Neurons

450Stanislas Dehaene is a mathematician and neuropsychologist who has written two popular books, The Number sense:  How the Mind Creates Mathematics and Reading in the Brain. Using fMRI and magneto-encephalography (MEG), Dehaene and his colleagues have made much progress in relating cognitive function and brain function.  The two books are quite readable even though much of the material is likely to be brand new to the reader.

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Evolution for Everyone

davidsloanwilsonEvolution for Everyone is an interesting book published in 2007 aimed at the general public and written by David Sloan Wilson. This particular blog entry is largely a rehash of Multilevel Selection Theory, but I just had to include some of the most interesting tidbits.

Wilson discusses so called highly sensitive people as an evolutionary variant.  Information is a mixed blessing with too much being overwhelming and too little potentially being disastrous. There seems to be no best solution to this trade-off.  Thus, we have HSP or animals who tend to be slow in novel situations and appear to be shy, but can arrive at new solutions to problems by slowly absorbing the available information.

Wilson mentions Ed Wilson author of Insect Societies and answers the question of why should we study these insects with the answer that their social organization is unequaled with cohesion, caste specialization, and individual altruism.  He notes that insects in social colonies makeup 50% of insect biomass.

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Multilevel Selection Theory

bee2imagesDavid Sloan Wilson is a persuasive proponent of multilevel selection theory.  His 2007 article entitled: “Multilevel Selection Theory and Major Evolutionary Transitions:  Implications for Psychological Science” is a good synthesis.  The main argument is that when between-group selection dominates within-group selection, a major evolutionary transition occurs and the group becomes a new higher level organism.  Within groups, altruistic behavior is selectively disadvantageous, but it may be favored between groups and thus counteract the within group selection.  The big question is whether or not this between group selection is always weak so that it is unimportant.  The answer seems to be that between group selection is only rarely strong, but that does not mean that it is unimportant. Wilson states: “All species of eusocial insects are thought to be derived from only 15 original transitions.”    It is thought that it occurred only once among primates to create humans.

A major transition requires mechanisms that suppress conflicts among individuals-internal social control mechanisms.  In humans, moral systems guarded egalitarianism that characterized hunter-gatherer societies.  Members’ motivation to punish selfish behavior results in high levels of cooperation.  Moral intuition comes first and is only partially overridden by moral reasoning.  Multilevel selection theory explains why ingroup favoritism and outgroup hostility are the hallmarks of social psychology.

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