Friday, March 30, 2012

what does e.o. wilson mean by "a social conquest of the earth"?

Smithsonianmag | In his new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, E.O. Wilson explains his theory of everything—how hominids evolved, why war is common, how social insects became social, and why ants and bees and humans are so successful. Science writer Carl Zimmer spoke with Wilson.

When you use the phrase “the social conquest of earth” in the title of your book, what do you mean by that? How have social animals conquered the earth?
The most advanced social insects—ants, termites, many species of bees and wasp—make up only about 3 percent of the known species of animals on earth. But on the land they make up in most habitats upwards of 50 percent of the biomass. And of course humans, one of the very few of the largest animals that have reached the social level, has dominated in every respect.

And you see their social behavior as being key to these two kinds of animals having become so dominant?
When you study social insects, as I have, you see directly why eusocial, advanced social issues overall dominate because they will organize groups of individuals in seizing territory, in appropriating food, in defending their nest and generally controlling the parts of the environment for which they’re specialized.

How do you see the process by which you go from asocial species where insects are living as individuals to these incredibly highly organized societies? What do you see as being the progression through natural selection?
It’s actually fairly clear-cut when you take into account what we know about the evolutionary steps leading from completely solitary to eusocial or advanced social behavior. A great many solitary species—let’s say bees, wasps, the primitive cockroach—in the first stage build a nest and care for the young.

In the next stage, the mother or the mated pair stays with the nest and rears the young, defending them and securing food for them. In the next stage, whereas ordinarily the young would disperse upon reaching maturity, now they remain with the mother or the parents. And if that happens, and they work together as a group, then you have the advanced stage of social behavior.

A lot of scientists see social behavior as being partly the product of what’s called “inclusive fitness,” the effect that genes have not just in terms of an individual animal’s number of offspring but how many offspring their relatives may have. You’ve argued that inclusive fitness is not necessary and that you can focus on natural selection on individuals and on what you call “group selection” to explain how these social animals, like the social insects or humans, evolve their behavior. What do you mean when you use the term group selection?
As you might know, group selection became almost taboo in discussions on social behavior. But it comes back forcefully in the new theory developing about the origin of advanced social behavior.

The way I define it, group selection operates on the fitness, or lack thereof, of the social interactions in the group. In other words, it’s not simply group versus group in that sense but what actions individuals take that affect the group. And that would of course be communication, division of labor and the ability to read others’ intentions, which leads to cooperation.

When it’s an advantage to communicate or cooperate, those genes that promote it are going to be favored in that group if the group is competing with other groups. It gives them superiority over other groups and the selection proceeds at the group level, even as it continues to proceed at the individual level.

23 comments:

Dale Asberry said...

Build your tribe. Self-select higher genetic, epigenetic and other 'skill' fitness through your tribe in addition to your familial contributions. It can increase group fitness through genetic diversity. It might then be able to outcompete  the less fit groups self-selecting through Dunning-Krueger...

CNu said...

 "self-selecting through Dunning-Krueger" - bears repeating...,

Dale Asberry said...

The tribal building arrangement itself is so successful that even defective kinship groups are more successful than isolated high quality genetics, etc. individuals.

CNu said...

One of the reasons you will NEVER catch me criticizing Islam, is precisely because Islam was a brilliant piece of social engineering devised precisely to undermine tribalism. For the better part of its active operation in the world, Islam magnificently served the purpose of massive-scale cross-pollination of human genes and human cultures in a manner unparalleled to my knowledge either before or after its heyday.

One of the more interesting underlying fracture points between the Abrahamic faiths centers on their respective genetic propagation paradigms. They are each quite thoroughly distinct from one another.

Big Don said...

Jews do all right with "isolated high-quality genetics..."  They are sufficiently smart to control the media and maintain their superiority by promoting e.g. miscegenation,  uncontrolled immigration, IQ-75 OOW breeding,  causing the rest of humanity to pollute its bloodlines thereby regressing to a separate mediocre mean...

CNu said...

causing the rest of humanity to pollute its bloodlines

rotflmbao..., you would turn gay tricks in the old folks home for an infusion of my profoundly miscegenated genetic material into your Dunwich Horror lineage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dunwich_Horror

As for the congenitally defective khazars peopling the garrison state of israel, do you REALLY imagine that that still traumatized speck of humanity has maneuvered its genetic self into anything short of a terminal blind alley?!?!?!?!?!

GTFOH with that IQ-75 chindribble....,

CNu said...

 Jews do all right with "isolated high-quality genetics..."

This would be the same Tay Sachs inbred trickle of humanity that Herr Hitler threw up against the wall to the brink of extermination just 70 years ago, correct?

Your backwards-azzed HBBD religion has hamstrung, castrated, and lobotomized your capacity for objectively useful operational analysis BD, you may want to seek help in patching the conspicuous holes in your cognitive bucket.

Fear not old bean, I'm here to slap you back into cold, hard sobriety, whenever you act out expressive of the urgent fact that you need it.....,

Big Don said...

CNu, you need to spend a few weeks in NYC and figger out who's really in charge, running the world show from a position of superiority....

Big Don said...

 Israel speck (with it's NYC connections) has survived quite well surrounded by confused Fuzzlim masses of cognitively inferior genetics....

Tom said...

BD please, you've barely seen a postcard from NYC.  Who runs things there is WASPs.  You get Jewish people involved these days; they've let them in for decades now; but they're a minority in the financial business.  Minority means not so many.  

Sorry, hope I'm not giving you bad news, but Wall Street is run predominantly by WASPs.    As I say no longer 100% true, but the idea that someone (anyone) else runs things requires all kinds of strange suppositions.  You have to ignore the actual biomass.

CNu said...

 Who runs things there is WASPs.

Bears repeating...,

and anyone who's ever attended a money center bank credit committee meeting -  in whatever capacity they were allowed to attend - could speak volumes to you about the underlying reality of who rules the world.

everything else is merely conversation...,

CNu said...

BD, did you utterly and completely miss my archival postings on JOSS at Carnegie Mellon?

Don't you know and understand why the Islamic cultural complex is feared and despised by the anglosphere?

(frankly, I'll disinterestedly let the primitive and magical-thinking adherents of the archangelic inspiration of Michael and Gabriel (Jew vs. Muslim) sort out that arcanery among themselves)

Tom said...

Wife has a solution for BD!  She says if he observes that one particular group seems to have all the power and opportunities, then obviously the thing for BD to do is to assimilate.  Show respect for the culture of success & convert.

CNu said...

 rotflmbao....,

Deep, deep bow in the general direction of the Solomonically wise Mrs!!!

Accept no substitutes...,

Big Don said...

BD defers to bro' JesseJ----> "Hymietown..."

Tom said...

It's beyond me how you ever held a job, BD.

CNu said...

Boeing Aerospace in Seattle must've simply been a scary frikkin place to be, and, the old bean didn't ascend very high in the engineering and engineering management ranks, much less the overall relationship management and leadership ranks. 

I think that accounts in large measure for why his grapes are so vinegary today...,

Big Don said...

BD will see your Tay-Sachs and raise you Sickle-Cell Anemia.  

And talk about Robust_Genes - something that has always fascinated BD is how so many of those Auschwitz et. al. death camp survivors, liberated as absolute skin and bones with tattooed numbers on arm, survived to Ripe_Old_Age in NYC, without any more than the normal spectrum of health problems...

CNu said...

Sickle-cell is an advantageous adaptation to malaria. How many khazars you let breed into your kith and kin?

Tom said...

Early studies of human diversity showed that most genetic diversity was found between individuals rather than between populations or continents and that variation in human diversity is best described by geographic gradients, or clines. A wide-ranging study published in 2004 found that 87.6% percent of the total modern human genetic diversity is accounted for by the differences between individuals, and only 9.2% between continents. In general, 5%–15% of genetic variation occurs between large groups living on different continents, with the remaining majority of the variation occurring within such groups (Lewontin 1972; Jorde et al. 2000a; Hinds et al. 2005).
http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics/skin-color 

Big Don said...

Y'all's obsession with attacking the messenger is a downright utter admission of complete inability to address the issues....

Tom said...

?

You're ignoring my peer-reviewed research?  I'm disappointed.

CNu said...

rotflmbao..., ok - if it makes you feel better to write that, to see it on the screen in front of you - then of course you know it tickles me pink!