Sunday, July 8, 2012

E.O. Wilson and Multi-Level Selection

     My philosophically-inclined friend Jamie Kyne sent this piece by the biologist E.O. Wilson. It is one of the most thought-provoking things I have read in years. It seeks to explain good and evil by looking at natural selection.
     The idea is that natural selection is happening at both the individual and tribal levels, simultaneously. Individual selection promotes selfishness, which we think of as evil. On the other hand, selection at the tribal level promotes altruism within the group, which we think of as good. Somewhat controversial, I know, but it seems logical to me that, when resources are scarce, a group whose members cooperate has improved chances of beating out a group whose members are fighting among themselves. And both groups would tend to beat individuals who are not in a group.

     I would like to have more insight into the the multi-level-ness of things, not just biology, in time.  I tend to think reductionistically, so, it is helpful to get this prod from Wilson.