Friday, October 8, 2010

279 / The Group

The Nation Magazine is the oldest weekly magazine still being published in the United States. In "The Group," an article that appeared recently in The Nation's "Books & the Arts" section, Miriam Markowitz explores the life of George Price, with particular attention to an equation Price derived that is said to prove that "group selection" is the real way that evolution works.

I'm not good with numbers. Books and articles that contain formulas make me want to turn the page. I just don't get it.

I do get the idea, however, that "we" are more important than "I."

If you're mathematically inclined, maybe you'd like to track down the Price equation. I'm satisfied, myself, that we are all in this together, and that we need to "cooperate," not "compete" if we hope to survive.


  1. please see the reader letter below which The Nation refused to publish neither in print nor online; tell me about esprit du corps.
    Miriam Markowitz did not do her home work for an article that contains way too many platitudes imported from secondary sources. Just two examples.
    A) Markowitz writes that Darwin’s “only explanation for the evolution of sterile insects was the good of the group.” This is a lie long peddled by Hamilton and his sycophants. In the The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote clearly that “This difficulty, though appearing insuperable, is lessened, or, as I believe, disappears, when it is remembered that selection may be applied to the family, as well as to the individual, and may thus gain the desired end. Breeders of cattle wish the flesh and fat to be well marbled together. An animal thus characterized has been slaughtered, but the breeder has gone with confidence to the same stock and has succeeded” []. Here “the family” does not stand for the mafia and “stock” does stands for a kin group. These passages and others by Darwin about “kin selection” are highlighted and justly celebrated in DJ Futuyma’s textbook of reference Evolutionary Biology and in EO WIlson’s Sociobiology. This intellectual heist by the late Hamilton and his sycophants is perhaps the most brazen ever, since it’s literally Darwin whom they insist(ed) in trying to rob!
    B) Markowitz treats Dawkins as a scientist but he is not. In the said “Evolutionary Biology” textbook, e.g., Dawkins’ popular-science books are cited for the metaphoric syllogism about genes with intentionality; otherwise there is only a citation for a paper with trivial applied-math. Dawkins indeed has never made a discovery. Had Markowitz talked to say E.Sober or even Futuyma, she would have written a much better article.
    Given the above and much much more, Nation readers stand warned that almost nothing in Markowitz article has any depth, especially her cheapo-melodramatic pieties towards the end (albeit certainly not because Dawkins and Co. are right about anything).

  2. As indicated in my posting #279 last year, on which you have made such a thoughtful comment, I disavow any claim to a facility with numbers and formulae. Similarly, I want to disavow any expertise in evolutionary biology.

    This comment may be "right on." I still believe, though, from a political perspective, that there are essentially two political "parties" (two approaches towards structuring our lives). There is the "we" party and the "me" party.

    Evolutionary biology may or may not speak to this divide. Political history does. At least in my view.

    I am a long time reader of The Nation. For what it's worth, I am sorry that your letter was not published. As a reader, I would have benefitted from your comment!


Thanks for your comment!