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Author Topic:   Kin Selection & Altruism
Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 270 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 1 of 136 (257455)
11-07-2005 9:35 AM


I'm shall assume most of you reading this post are familiar with the concept of
Kin Selection
and save you a repeat explanation.

Traditionally, Kin Selection has been offered only as an explaination for altruism among closely related members and then more generalised applications of Game Theory are brought in to explain it outside of family groups. It seems to me that this is an error brought out by the typical usage of "genetic similarity". We typically talk about a child as sharing 50% of its genetic material with its parents, yet this is not the case, in fact you share roughly 99.9% of your genetic with every other living human being (according to recent data on the subject).

Can not this common section of genetic code allow the same principles as allow for the explanation of altruism among related individuals to be applied more generally to the population at large? If not, why not?

Edit: corrected the formatting after the admins added the Kin Selection link

This message has been edited by Mr Jack, 11-07-2005 10:08 AM


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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1132 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 2 of 136 (257470)
11-07-2005 11:06 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 9:35 AM


Parallel Tracks
Hi, Mr Jack. Because of recent discussions of altruism in chimps and monkeys, I've also been giving this some thought. I think your point is well taken.

It has also occurred to me that, as is the case in other behaviors, we need to look at the environment in which any "altruistic genes" were selected for: e.g., we eat badly now (too much fat and too much bingeing) because it once made sense in a world of uncertain and intermittent food supply.

If altruistic traits evolved in clan/tribal living arrangements, those traits evolved in a context where everyone was related--in which case there would not necessarily be any selection for a finer discrimination: anyone would by definition genetically qualify to benefit from an altruistic act.

People risk their own lives to save strangers. You and I have looked at this from different angles but arrive at the same point:

Do not ask for whom the altruistic gene was selected--it was selected for thee. ;)


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6621
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 3 of 136 (257472)
11-07-2005 11:13 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 9:35 AM


I have never seen how being related has anything to do with altruism.

The only thing that "being related" does is to ensure that the individuals in the tribe/herd/pack also have the same gene or set of genes for altruism. So when an individual behaves altruistically, it ensures that the other members that are also altruistic benefit, so it would appear that altruistic behavior simply increases the number of individuals with genes for altruism. Any other genes in the other individuals' genomes just tag along, whether or not they are shared by the particular individual behaving altruistically. Although I don't usually like Dawkin's "selfish gene" idea, this is one case (paradoxically) where it makes sense, at least to me.


"Intellectually, scientifically, even artistically, fundamentalism -- biblical literalism -- is a road to nowhere, because it insists on fidelity to revealed truths that are not true." -- Katha Pollitt
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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 270 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 4 of 136 (257477)
11-07-2005 11:45 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Chiroptera
11-07-2005 11:13 AM


Yes, I pondered this myself.
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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 270 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 5 of 136 (257480)
11-07-2005 11:55 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Chiroptera
11-07-2005 11:13 AM


I've thought some more.

Kin Selection should "fix" in the population. While, initially, the kin selection will only have selfish self-propogation driving it forward that effect should quickly drive it into a position of largely total coverage. Once we've reached this point, imagine we have a new mutant who's kin selection is, for whatever reason, shot. Now the mutant's children (who are the only ones carrying the new gene) will be less likely to survive than those around them who carry the kin selection genes because they're not benefiting from the additional help of those around them who are closely related to them.

Make sense?


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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 270 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 6 of 136 (257481)
11-07-2005 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 11:55 AM


I've just answered my own question, haven't I?
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1132 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 7 of 136 (257487)
11-07-2005 12:46 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Chiroptera
11-07-2005 11:13 AM


Not that kinda gene
But we would not expect the altruistic gene(s) absolutely to determine behavior--nor do we see universal altruistic behavior.

Instead, we see a range of behaviors/predispositions: strikingly altruistic behavior, moderately altruistic behavior, and strikingly nonaltruistic behavior.

You know, like Socialists, Democrats, and Republicans :D

If we start with a mutation that merely makes altruism possible, then we would expect there to be other factors in play: familial bonds, or social bonds that promote empathy, would be good candidates.

If we simplify to a single gene, we might have a recessive (Aa) that makes altruism possible in the presence of potentiating social factors, an (aa) that makes it almost inevitable, and an AA that makes it exceedingly unlikely. The fitness of each of these might well vary in different scenarios: an AA might be more fit in a catastrophic environment where every-monkey-for-himself is more successful. Thus, I would't expect an invariant altruism characteristic to fix in the population.

Nor would I expect such complex behavior to hinge on a single gene, so the calculus is probably way more complex.

Sorry this is a bit disjointed: I'm typing as I think...


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6621
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 8 of 136 (257490)
11-07-2005 1:10 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Omnivorous
11-07-2005 12:46 PM


Re: Not that kinda gene
It is true that perfect altruism would be an evolutionary disadvantage. If it could, somehow, come about that the entire population is altruistic, then the situation would be very unstable. Should a mutant for selfishness occur, that individual would be at a huge advantage -- it could take advantage of the altruism of its neighbors while never contributing anything in return. In a very short time, egoists would dominate and altruism would be lost.

However, the work of people like Axelrod has shown that altruism-plus-recognition (that is the ability to recognize and punish non-contributors) is a very robust combination, and could conceivable dominate a population very quickly.


"Intellectually, scientifically, even artistically, fundamentalism -- biblical literalism -- is a road to nowhere, because it insists on fidelity to revealed truths that are not true." -- Katha Pollitt
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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6621
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 4.8


Message 9 of 136 (257491)
11-07-2005 1:16 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 11:55 AM


Hi, Mr. Jack.

Yes; you seem to be assuming that altruism occurs with combination with the ability to reject those who aren't behaving altruistically (which, I believe, is how it works in the actual world).

I wasn't speaking of any kin selection in my post -- for simplicity I assumed that the altruism would be "helpful" to anyone it encounters without regard to kinship relation. Of course, I can see how the combination altruism-with-kinship-recognition might, in some contexts, be even more beneficial -- the benefits of altruism without wasting energy and resources being helpful to those one may never see again (and thus never benefit from reciprocated help).


"Intellectually, scientifically, even artistically, fundamentalism -- biblical literalism -- is a road to nowhere, because it insists on fidelity to revealed truths that are not true." -- Katha Pollitt
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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1132 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 10 of 136 (257498)
11-07-2005 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 11:55 AM


Known/unknown altruism status
imagine we have a new mutant who's kin selection is, for whatever reason, shot. Now the mutant's children (who are the only ones carrying the new gene) will be less likely to survive than those around them who carry the kin selection genes because they're not benefiting from the additional help of those around them who are closely related to them.

The mutant's children would still benefit from the altruism of others unless/until they betray their selfishness. Given our powers of deception, this might never happen; on the other hand, as Chiroptera as suggested, we would expect altruism participants to improve over time at detecting the Repub...ooops, selfish mutants.

Still, back in the real world, we encounter daily stories of people dying in an attempt to save the lives of perfect strangers, strangers whose altruistic status the altruist cannot know. This is the case that most interests me for it seems to elude any kin selection altriusm or altruism-with-recognition analysis. This scenario led me to consider the emergence of altruism in a social environment where kinship is a given.

Perhaps we are looking at two different kinds of altruism: one where the context can be known and considered, and one that is activated as directly as is the case of a sudden, urgent threat to oneself. IIRC, some threat responses occur prior to conscious apprehension, and some do not. Perhaps there are similar flavors of altruism...


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Omnivorous
Member (Idle past 1132 days)
Posts: 3808
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005


Message 11 of 136 (257499)
11-07-2005 1:46 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Chiroptera
11-07-2005 1:10 PM


Re: Not that kinda gene
Thanks, Chiroptera. RAZD recently made me aware of that work, and I'm still digesting it.

In the meantime, I seem to have thought myself into knots. I'll tug here and there and see what comes loose...


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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.3


Message 12 of 136 (257617)
11-07-2005 10:56 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Omnivorous
11-07-2005 1:46 PM


Re: Not that kin-da gene ??
I'm thinking that a factor that is ignored in the {kin bonding} aspect is the {group bonding} aspect.

Any species that forms groups that are more than extended families need a mechanism for maintaining that group cohesiveness.

Apparantly humans made such a transition in their (relatively recent - sapiens?) past, and this is responsible for a greater adaptation ability to face new environments by combining resources.

This would be done by extending to non-family group members actions that would otherwise only be done in an extended family, and this would include sharing resources, assistance in times of need, and sharing responsibiity for raising young members to fit into the social group (with associated punishments etc as needed).

Then the act of altruism is more dependent on the viewed inclusion of the other person as a member of your group, and the difference in {group perception} would lead to differences in observed {levels of altruistic} behavior.

This could be why the chimps in the study did not behave as altruistically as expected (ignoring the problems with the study that have been discussed), because even though they knew the others socially they did not consider them a part of their {family group}.

This would also be a point that the researchers might have ignored having expected {group bonding} vs {family bonding} to be as important to chimps as it is to humans.

Just my thoughts.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand

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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 270 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 13 of 136 (257651)
11-08-2005 4:58 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Chiroptera
11-07-2005 1:16 PM


Yes; you seem to be assuming that altruism occurs with combination with the ability to reject those who aren't behaving altruistically (which, I believe, is how it works in the actual world).

No, I wasn't. I was refering specifically to Kin Selection Alturism where individuals behave more alturistically towards their own Kin only. In this case those who's genes lead them to either not display this alturism or distribute their alturism without respect to kinship will be at a selective disadvantage against those with the Kin Selection genes because they will not be receiving the same level of alturism from their Kin (who share their genes), or expending more heavily on alturism.


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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.3


Message 14 of 136 (257677)
11-08-2005 7:33 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Dr Jack
11-08-2005 4:58 AM


... or distribute their alturism without respect to kinship will be at a selective disadvantage ...

like democrats versus republicans? :D


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FliesOnly
Member (Idle past 2310 days)
Posts: 797
From: Michigan
Joined: 12-01-2003


Message 15 of 136 (257681)
11-08-2005 7:53 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dr Jack
11-07-2005 9:35 AM


Hi Mr. Jack:

How are you defining altruism? As a student many years ago I had a course during which we spent the entire semester "debating" altruism and one thing I noticed was that those that where in favor of altruism would switch/alter definitions when it suited their needs. It's been a while, but my current understanding of altruism is not that which is given as a definition in the link you provided to explain kin selection.

Altruism, as I remember it, is defined as a behavior on the part of a donor that results in a decrease of direct fitness for the donor while “imparting” a gain in direct fitness for the recipient of the behavior. And then one has to decide if we’re talking about lifetime direct fitness (I say yes) or “seasonal direct fitness” (I think not). Personally, I think the term “altruism” is used far too often in situations where it does not apply, if the preceding definition is used.

So not to be a stick in the mud (I LOVE debating altruism), but how are you defining altruism in this discussion?


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