Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Neither group nor kin: how altruism arises in Homo sapiens

Moi - in altruisitic mode
  Sethren, I have spent the night in study.
  You must excuse me if I forego the usual honeyed pleasantries.  I'm fucked.
  Here is the final word on group selection.  The red herring is rotten, good only for compost.  Group selection is merely a convenient trope magicked up by sociologists and the religious.
  A group is not an entity.  It is a conceptual envelope, permeable and polymorphous, that bags up individuals, typifying them by certain shapes, behaviours or other categorising concepts.
What needs explaining:
  Population viscosity (low dispersal) can cause altruism (relatedness) but also intra-group competition (proximity).  Don't let it bother you that this seems opaque.  I have compressed an apparent contradiction, soundly expressed, until it is almost empty of meaning.  It is merely a flag for the sort of conundrum Groupies pretend can be explained only by Group Evolution.  In fact, all human behaviour which is not an expression of innate structures, ultimately genetically and epigenetically determined, is a derivative of culture (think the difference between blinking and wiping your arse, sethren).  Quite, sether Sampath.
How altruism arises in the Homo sapiens organism.
  Altruism is a misleading word, redolent of human sentiment such as “Greater love hath no man [sic] than this, that he will lay down his life for his friend”.
  When a prairie dog or whatever it is gives a warning of an approaching eagle, it is not laying down its life for its kin group.  It is merely genetically predisposed (variation) to shriek when it sees a predator coming.  That is all.  If the putative [shriek when you see a predator] gene is recessive, it may be carried by a large proportion of the shrieker's kin, who will adventitiously have benefited from its warning.  If the eagle then zaps it, the shrieker will not have died altruistically, it will have died from responding sub-optimally to a dynamic episode in its material environment.  But it may well not die anyway.  The eagle guidance system may be switched to vision, not hearing.  The shrieker may not be the closest dawg to the predator.  Also, the shrieker clearly saw it coming, and may have time to shriek and take evasive action.
  I don’t at the moment have to hand the several pages of equations that prove this.  I must tidy my desk.
  Of course all the dawgs in the shrieker's vicinity may not be kin, and they will benefit anyway.  The whole group benefits.   But it beats me, sethren, how you could possibly argue that selection on the shrieking trait is by the group.
So, how altruism arises in the Homo sapiens organism.
  Two Homo sapiens organisms lifting a stone — by the way, for this explanation, cultural evolution has to be taken seriously, not just as phatic gobshite. 

  Two Homo sapiens organisms lifting a stone.  There arises in one of them (variation) a genetic and epigenetic tendency with a [lift a stone when another Homo sapiens organisms lifts a stone, and make it the same stone] attractor (here is a place where mirror neurons might be useful); but the attractor, once the stone has been lifted, becomes part of evoculture, as an act in the metaverse (in the senses used in the Jeroan taxonomy of evoculture).  It is on the act that selection in the metaverse can be made.  The results of the act, which in this case can be made by, minimally, two humans, may become part of the physical environment; a shelter, an arrow head.  This alteration of the environment (result of an act which was the result of a predisposition in the organism) may in turn select on the organism, and other organisms like it.  But it is the act, which may become part of a praxis (in the Jeroan taxonomy) such as building or stone knapping, or indeed of a superordinate praxis, co-operation, which may differentially benefit any human organism whose ideoverse includes that act.
Note that it would be inexplicable if the concept (let’s lift the stone together) preceded, in evolutionary space, the act (one human lifts a stone when another lifts a stone, and it is the same stone).
  If you actually accept cultural evolution (see note on phatic gobshite above), then in Homo sapiens there is no necessity to explain cooperation as something evolving at the level of the group.  Reiteration and variation of ideas, behaviour, things, take place only at the level of the neural substrate.  The processes of each neural substrate are an individual ideoverse, and each ideoverse, in an E=mc2 universe, is in a continuum with the metaverse and with the world.  The third evolutionary stage, selection, can take place in a number of spaces; the ideoverse where the reiteration with variation initially took place; another ideoverse; the solid world (a better mousetrap, perhaps).
  Anything else is sociology or religious bias.
  I realise that some new terminology may sound sci-fi/religious bonkers.  In fact it is, I hope, quite practical, and an attempt to get away from camouflaged essentialism.

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