I’m back from camping everyone. I had a blissfully slow week of hiking in Acadia National Park, and I never once checked my email — I didn’t even miss it. Special thanks to juliebyrd and zil of medmd for adding to darwinbookcats in my absence, they did a great job. While I gone, I read some great and not so great books, and got more exciting ideas for evolution posts. I’ll get back to all of them this week and next, but first for a quick update.
The National Academy of Sciences recently published articles resulting from a colloquium series on evolution, In the light of evolution: Cooperation and conflict. The cooperation found in many insect and primate societies once baffled evolutionists and creationists alike. If natural selection really was the “survival of the fittest” and nature “red in tooth and claw”, how could things like cooperation and altruism evolve? But the important breakthrough came in the 1930s with the theory of kin selection. Kin selection, which features prominently in the cooperation and conflict symposium, showed that altruism and cooperation could evolve if individuals could increase their fitness (pass their genes on to the next generation) even if they didn’t leave any children of their own. The answer: help raise the children of your close siblings, which share a large part of your own genetic material. The title of the series comes from Theodosius Dobzhanzky’s essay and assertion that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution“, which is certainly true for the evolution of complex animal societies. All of the colloquium papers are free and open access, so feel free to follow the link and read the articles to your heart’s content. I’m happy to post on any one in detail if you have specific requests.
And speaking of kin selection, I have a beautiful new niece, Camille Elizabeth. I’ve not got about a quarter of my genes represented in the next generation. Wohoo! Congratulations brother and sister-in-law.