A week of links

Links this week:

  1. Brandon Keim discusses a new Science paper by Douglas Fry and Patrik Söderberg questioning how warlike human nature is. My two cents: a war to personal violence ratio is a poor way to look at this. If we interpret the ratio in the other direction, we could say that human nature inclines us to high rates of interpersonal violence. I’d prefer examination of baseline rates.
  2. Larry Arnhart has continued his series of posts on the Mont Pelerin Society Meeting in the Galápagos. Two posts of note: Leda Cosmides and John Tooby on liberalism and mismatch; and Richard Wrangham on the evolution of war (the Wrangham post directly addresses the Science paper linked above).
  3. Nicholas Christakis proposes a shake up of the social sciences. Andrew Gelman responds, Christakis comments and Gelman responds again.
  4. Paul Frijters goes on a rant on magical explanations for the rise of obesity.
  5. Baba Brinkman schools Jeremy Yoder.
  6. Abstract submission for the Cooperation and Conflict in the Family Conference is open, closing 30 August. Registration will be opening soon.

3 comments

  1. “a war to personal violence ratio is a poor way to look at this.”

    Yes, the absolute level is important, but the ratio can also be important. The article if Brandon Keim only hints at it by asking Bowles for comments, but if this result holds, it would be a strong argument against multi-level selection (group selection) theories.

    Already now many people hold the assumption needed for this theory to be unrealistic, that is the low level of inner-group competition and the higher level of between-group competition. If most of the violence is actually within the group and not between the groups, that would make group selection (by itself) even weaker as evolutionary force.

    One way out may be not to equate competition with violence as has been done in the past too easily. Al you need for evolutionary success is a higher (long-term) reproduction, there is no need to kill all your competitors yourself. In fact, killing near equals is highly dangerous as likely bad for your reproductive success.

    1. I can see how the ratio point is relevant to Bowles’s argument, but to be honest, I don’t take his arguments about genetic group selection through warfare particularly seriously. The mixing of populations when one group takes over another – through, say, taking the losing group’s women and children – is far too much to allow group selection to occur. It could be possible to argue for intergroup conflict to drive cultural group selection (as Boyd and Richerson do), but the ratio point is possibly of less relevance in that case.

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