Unit of selection

Xuhua Xia xia at cc.umanitoba.ca
Wed Jan 12 18:08:10 EST 1994

In <jaboweryCJHruH.506 at netcom.com> jabowery at netcom.com (Jim Bowery) writes:

>In sci.bio.evolution there is a discussion of "Gene vs Individual vs Group"

>I honestly don't understand the arguments for Individual and Group 
>selection.  They seem like utter nonsense to me so I can't really respond 
>to what people are saying without coming off as insulting.

>Are there any molecular biologists who understand evolution who 
>understand these arguments for individual or group selection?
>The promotion of politics exterminates apolitical genes in the population.
>  The promotion of frontiers gives apolitical genes a route to survival.

It's a matter of identifying what unit is heritable with fitness-related 
variation (fitness of the unit is the propensity of the unit passing on to
the next generation). Some argue that the unit is the gene because genes
are apparently heritable, and it mutates and affects fitness. Some argue 
that the unit is the individual in a population because, for example, we
produce children who are similar to us but variable, and this variation
may be fitness related. Still some argue that the unit can also be the 
group of individuals sharing certain traits. 

For the time being, all three units seem to be valid candidates for natural 
selection to operate on and this is not particularly controversial among
evolutionary biologists. What matters is selection at which unit is the most
resposible for the biotic world we are living in. This is very 
controversial and will perhaps remain so forever until we refuse
to listen to the topic.

Xuhua Xia

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