Evolutionary psychology News

New “twist” on evolution theory “explains” racism

Spread the love

So we are told at ScienceDaily:

According to this new model developed by researchers DB Krupp (Psychology) and Peter Taylor (Mathematics and Statistics, Biology) at Queen’s and the One Earth Future Foundation, individuals who appear very different from most others in a group will evolve to be altruistic towards similar partners, and only slightly spiteful to those who are dissimilar to them.

However, individuals who appear very similar to the rest of a group will evolve to be only slightly altruistic to similar partners but very spiteful to dissimilar individuals, often going to extreme lengths to hurt them. Taken together, individuals with ‘common’ and ‘rare’ appearances may treat each other very differently.

This finding is a new twist on established evolutionary theory and could help explain racism and corresponding forms of prejudice in humans and other species.

“Similar individuals are more likely to share copies of each other’s genes and dissimilar individuals are less likely to. As a consequence, evolutionary theory predicts that organisms will often discriminate, because helping similar partners and harming dissimilar ones increase the fraction of the discriminating party’s genes in future generations,” says Dr. Krupp.


This model is based on the much-disputed inclusive fitness (group selection) theory.*

First, beware of any sciencey claim to “explain” a facet of human nature; it is necessarily based on philosophical assumptions. In this case, they are those of evolutionary psychology, another Darwinian discipline without a subject. The “subject” died a million years ago on the African plains, but the evolutionary psychologist claims to have heard his voice in our genes. Just as the astrobiologist can tell us about space aliens and also why they don’t ever show up.

On a serious note, most racism is driven by specific cultures, as anyone with knowledge of the world will see. Today, it is often fronted consciously for political gain.

Racism declines in situations where it is not accepted, genes notwithstanding. The armed forces of many western nations played a role in this, because once the system itself stopped fronting racism, the chain of command necessarily overruled local prejudice. (Governments “outlawing” racist thinking doesn’t really work; it must be seen as low class or not cool or evidence of stupidity if it is to decline in importance.)

I remember growing up in Canada mid-century when it was a point of pride among our teachers to criticize the southern U.S. states for “backward” attitudes in that respect (since much changed, of course). It was pointed out to us that our own country belonged to a commonwealth of nations of many races, ethnicities, and languages, all of whom had the same head of state, Elizabeth II. And Elizabeth must treat all the citizens of all the commonwealths equally, and honour those to whom honour is due. Thus, an ignorant, obscure Southern belle might refuse to dance with a black man, but Elizabeth, of course, danced with African dignitaries, as was the international custom.

You can think it is all malarkey, but there have been comparatively few race riots in places I have lived where these values were taught and enforced—despite the allegedly awesome power of inclusive fitness, etc.

* For the inclusive fitness dispute, see, for example, Why the uproar around E. O. Wilson’s new “group selection book? And Electrifying the corpse: The reaction to E. O. Wilson disowning Darwinian kin selection (a concept he largely invented) And that’ll likely be as much as you even want to know about this pseudo-discipline.

Here’s the abstract:

The persistence of altruism and spite remains an enduring problem of social evolution. It is well known that selection for these actions depends on the structure of the population—that is, on actors’ genetic relationships to recipients and to the ‘neighbourhood’ upon which the effects of their actions redound. Less appreciated, however, is that population structure can cause genetic asymmetries between partners whereby the relatedness (defined relative to the neighbourhood) of an individual i to a partner j will differ from the relatedness of j to i. Here, we introduce a widespread mechanism of kin recognition to a model of dispersal in subdivided populations. In so doing, we uncover three remarkable consequences of asymmetrical relatedness. First, altruism directed at phenotypically similar partners evolves more easily among migrant than native actors. Second, spite directed at dissimilar partners evolves more easily among native than migrant actors. Third, unlike migrants, natives can evolve to pay costs that far outstrip those they spitefully impose on others. We find that the frequency of natives relative to migrants amplifies the asymmetries between them. Taken together, our results reveal differentiated patterns of ‘phenocentrism’ that readily arise from asymmetries of relatedness. (paywall) – D. B. Krupp, P. D. Taylor. Social evolution in the shadow of asymmetrical relatedness. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 282 (1807): 20150142 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0142

Follow UD News at Twitter! Search Uncommon Descent for similar topics, under the Donate button.

10 Replies to “New “twist” on evolution theory “explains” racism

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    “Similar individuals are more likely to share copies of each other’s genes and dissimilar individuals are less likely to. As a consequence, evolutionary theory predicts that organisms will often discriminate, because helping similar partners and harming dissimilar ones increase the fraction of the discriminating party’s genes in future generations,” says Dr. Krupp.

    selfish gene writ large?
    There are a couple of problems with their ‘selfish gene’ hypothesis. Number 1 problem, contrary to what Darwin presupposed, it is found that the differences between individuals in a population are far greater than differences between populations:

    Genetic Similarities Within and Between Human Populations – 2007
    Excerpt: The proportion of human genetic variation due to differences between populations is modest, and individuals from different populations can be genetically more similar than individuals from the same population. Yet sufficient genetic data can permit accurate classification of individuals into populations.

    Race in a Genetic World – May-June 2008
    Excerpt: ,,85 percent occurs within geographically distinct groups, while 15 percent or less occurs between them. (Agassiz 1972)

    Number 2 problem with their hypothesis is that the concept of the selfish gene is now shown to be false:

    Die, selfish gene, die – The selfish gene is one of the most successful science metaphors ever invented. Unfortunately, it’s wrong – Dec. 2013
    Excerpt: But 15 years after Hamilton and Williams kited [introduced] this idea, it was embraced and polished into gleaming form by one of the best communicators science has ever produced: the biologist Richard Dawkins. In his magnificent book The Selfish Gene (1976), Dawkins gathered all the threads of the modern synthesis — Mendel, Fisher, Haldane, Wright, Watson, Crick, Hamilton, and Williams — into a single shimmering magic carpet (called the selfish gene).
    Unfortunately, say Wray, West-Eberhard and others, it’s wrong.

    Modern Synthesis Of Neo-Darwinism Is False – Denis Noble – video
    ,, In the preceding video, Dr Nobel states that around 1900 there was the integration of Mendelian (discrete) inheritance with evolutionary theory, and about the same time Weismann established what was called the Weismann barrier, which is the idea that germ cells and their genetic materials are not in anyway influenced by the organism itself or by the environment. And then about 40 years later, circa 1940, a variety of people, Julian Huxley, R.A. Fisher, J.B.S. Haldane, and Sewell Wright, put things together to call it ‘The Modern Synthesis’. So what exactly is the ‘The Modern Synthesis’? It is sometimes called neo-Darwinism, and it was popularized in the book by Richard Dawkins, ‘The Selfish Gene’ in 1976. It’s main assumptions are, first of all, is that it is a gene centered view of natural selection. The process of evolution can therefore be characterized entirely by what is happening to the genome. It would be a process in which there would be accumulation of random mutations, followed by selection. (Now an important point to make here is that if that process is genuinely random, then there is nothing that physiology, or physiologists, can say about that process. That is a very important point.) The second aspect of neo-Darwinism was the impossibility of acquired characteristics (mis-called “Larmarckism”). And there is a very important distinction in Dawkins’ book ‘The Selfish Gene’ between the replicator, that is the genes, and the vehicle that carries the replicator, that is the organism or phenotype. And of course that idea was not only buttressed and supported by the Weissman barrier idea, but later on by the ‘Central Dogma’ of molecular biology. Then Dr. Nobel pauses to emphasize his point and states “All these rules have been broken!”.
    Professor Denis Noble is President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences.

    “Physiology Is Rocking the Foundations of Evolutionary Biology”: Another Peer-Reviewed Paper Takes Aim at Neo-Darwinism – Casey Luskin March 31, 2015
    Excerpt: Noble doesn’t mince words:
    “It is not only the standard 20th century views of molecular genetics that are in question. Evolutionary theory itself is already in a state of flux (Jablonka & Lamb, 2005; Noble, 2006, 2011; Beurton et al. 2008; Pigliucci & Muller, 2010; Gissis & Jablonka, 2011; Shapiro, 2011). In this article, I will show that all the central assumptions of the Modern Synthesis (often also called Neo-Darwinism) have been disproved.”
    Noble then recounts those assumptions: (1) that “genetic change is random,” (2) that “genetic change is gradual,” (3) that “following genetic change, natural selection leads to particular gene variants (alleles) increasing in frequency within the population,” and (4) that “inheritance of acquired characteristics is impossible.” He then cites examples that refute each of those assumptions,,,
    He then proposes a new and radical model of biology called the “Integrative Synthesis,” where genes don’t run the show and all parts of an organism — the genome, the cell, the body plan, everything — is integrated.

    At the 10:30 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Trifonov states that the concept of the selfish gene ‘inflicted an immense damage to biological sciences’, for over 30 years:

    Second, third, fourth… genetic codes – One spectacular case of code crowding – Edward N. Trifonov – video

    One may wonder how supposed well trained scientists could be so wrong in their foundational assumptions, but starting with wrong foundational assumptions is just all in a day’s work for Darwinists.

  2. 2
    Jim Smith says:

    Canadians should wait until they have a black queen before they preach to the US about racism.

  3. 3
    johnspenn says:

    If our morals “evolved” through the process of Darwinian evolution (ala Michael Shermer) and racism also has evolutionary origins, then racism is simply a part of our evolved moral code and thus there is nothing inherently wrong with being racist.

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    Evolution cannot explain why discrimination is wrong or why anything is right or wrong for that matter. Nothing is inherently immoral or moral that evolution produces. How could it be? We soulless humans, who evolved from the ancestors of apes, are also products of evolution as are our thoughts, moral views/opinions, etc. So majority rules in the evolutionary paradigm. What was right or wrong yesterday might be right today. We may see an example of this if the supreme court rules in favor of gay marriage. An evolutionary mindset has no principles on which to stand to make moral judgments on anything. They have to borrow from Christianity to do that and they only pick and choose what they like.

  5. 5
    News says:

    Jim Smith at 2, if an heir to the throne married a black woman, we could indeed have a black queen. Did you think that would be a problem? I never heard so. But let’s talk about something else.

  6. 6
    Jim Smith says:

    News @ 5 I didn’t write “could indeed have” I wrote “have” which is how I meant it. I agree, let’s talk about something else. You go first…

  7. 7
    Robert Byers says:

    Racism is a invention of the left wing and aggressive identities that immigrato a natives homeland. There is NO such thing as racism. any more then sexism , anti-semirism, or homophobia, uglyism.
    All there is in human relationships is conclusions and reactions to ones conclusions from this identity to that.
    Right or wrong, good, or evil its all sincere.
    The loser tries to discredit the conclusions by a discredited conclusion already established. In short ismolgy.
    No different then saying a rebel in the American revolution was a traitor or saying a commie in America was a traitor just because of being a commie.

    its not biological but the stuff of human thought.
    If people don’t like other people because of a identity attribute then its unkind or unjust but the attribute might be true however insulting. Too bad.

    I live in toronto in the middle of great numbers of ethnicities, born here or not.
    ALL have something negative to say about the others and if they trust you will list the negative attributes.
    right or wrong they are sincere in their conviction, let would be called racist by the establishment.
    There is no racism. Just accusations against others .
    If common they are most likely true.

    by the way all candians who visit the south have high praise for Southerners. Most have criticism of Blacks and Cubans and Mexicans etc.
    Its not racism but sincere conclusions even if wrong.

  8. 8
    daveS says:

    Robert Byers,

    There is NO such thing as racism.

    Your post above demonstrates otherwise.

  9. 9
    Robert Byers says:

    Your post makes my point! you give no explanation for your accusation because there is no racism goping on. its opinions and conclusions and actions whether right or wrong and that as the person sees it.
    There is no common law on what is right or wrong. Just aggressive imposition of conclusions from no authority.
    you make my case. Sure you do!

  10. 10
    daveS says:

    Robert Byers,

    its opinions and conclusions and actions whether right or wrong and that as the person sees it.

    Yes, I know you’re just expressing your opinions about matters as you see them. I believe you’re perfectly sincere. But anyone who reads your posts can see that you’re a racist (and just about every other -ist in the book).

    And I have no idea where your assertion that there is no common law on what is right or wrong comes from. Are you sure you’re on the right website??

Leave a Reply