Browsing All Posts published on »June, 2012«

Jonathan Haidt: To See Group Selection, Look at Groupishness during Intergroup Competition, Not Altruism during Interpersonal Competition (a comment on Steven Pinker)

June 30, 2012 by


[The post below was Haidt's first draft of a response to Pinker. To see his final draft, click here:] If you want to see fish, look in the water, where fish are most likely to be found. If you want to see evidence of group selection, look at small groups in competition, which is […]

Peter J. Richerson: Comment on Steven Pinker’s Edge essay

June 28, 2012 by


In these remarks I concentrate on the Steven Pinker’s misconceptions about cultural evolution, cultural group selection, and gene-culture coevolution.  The problems in his essay begin with the idea that mutations have to be random with respect to fitness for natural selection to occur. Since cultural evolution manifestly includes the inheritance of acquired variation (if I […]

Herbert Gintis: On the Evolution of Human Morality (a comment on Steven Pinker)

June 27, 2012 by


Steven Pinker’s thoughtful remarks concerning group selection present a useful occasion for clearing some misconceptions surrounding recent developments in the behavioral sciences concerning our understanding of moral vs. self-interested behavior. Initiated in 1966 by George C. Willams’ Adaptation and Natural Selection  and followed a decade later by Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologists in […]

Michael Hochberg: There is no (Single) Holy Grail (a comment on Steven Pinker)

June 27, 2012 by


Much of the discussion regarding group selection has been fueled by its fuzziness for many, yet the appeal to many of holy-grail, single-process explanations for human social behaviors. Steven Pinker’s essay is provocative and as such important in educating readers, but I believe that he is incorrect in applying Occam’s razor to say that simpler, […]

The ‘Big Mistake’ and ‘Grand Deception’ Hypotheses: Alternatives to CMLS?

June 24, 2012 by


If CMLS (cultural multilevel selection) doesn’t help to explain human social evolution, how did human ultrasociality (ability to cooperate in huge groups of unrelated individuals) evolve? Steven Pinker falls back on the ‘usual suspects,’ kin selection and reciprocal altruism: “The huge literature on the evolution of cooperation in humans has done quite well by applying […]

Harvey Whitehouse and Ryan McKay: Intelligent Design Versus Random Mutation? (A comment on Steven Pinker)

June 22, 2012 by


According to Pinker, group selection “adds nothing to conventional history” as an explanation of cultural change. Rather than arising from processes of random mutation and indifferent selection, he argues, cultural traits arise and spread as a result of the complex intentions and interactions of agents: “Conquerors, leaders, elites, visionaries, social entrepreneurs, and other innovators use […]

Steven Pinker on “The False Allure of Group Selection”

June 21, 2012 by


A recurrent idea in Steven Pinker’s essay is that group selection “adds little to what we have always called ‘history’.” I argue, on the contrary, that cultural multi-level selection (CMLS) provides a highly productive theoretical framework for the study of human history, including (and integrating over) both modeling and empirical approaches. Notable examples developed during […]


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