Group selection, kin selection, altruism and cooperation: when inclusive fitness is right and when it can be wrong.

Research paper by Matthijs M van Veelen

Indexed on: 05 May '09Published on: 05 May '09Published in: Journal of Theoretical Biology


Group selection theory has a history of controversy. After a period of being in disrepute, models of group selection have regained some ground, but not without a renewed debate over their importance as a theoretical tool. In this paper I offer a simple framework for models of the evolution of altruism and cooperation that allows us to see how and to what extent both a classification with and one without group selection terminology are insightful ways of looking at the same models. Apart from this dualistic view, this paper contains a result that states that inclusive fitness correctly predicts the direction of selection for one class of models, represented by linear public goods games. Equally important is that this result has a flip side: there is a more general, but still very realistic class of models, including models with synergies, for which it is not possible to summarize their predictions on the basis of an evaluation of inclusive fitness.