Remember when evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson was insulting pastors by writing them Dear Pastor letters (but he no longer believed in anything they did)?
Later, he started a huge row by turning his back on his big theory, group selection, insisting that Darwin’s natural selection could do it all (selfish gene style?) He had friends, too, once he repented of his sins against absolute Darwinism: “Group selection has become a scientific dust bunny, a hairy blob in which anything having to do with ‘groups’ clings to anything having to do with ‘selection,'” famed Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in a 2012 attack on group selection.”) So that settled it. Darwin’s heirs ruled.
Some now claim to have come up with evidence for group selection:
Along rivers in Tennessee and Georgia, scientists have been studying brownish-orange spiders, called Anelosimus studiosus, that make cobwebby nests “anywhere from the size of a golf ball to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle,” researcher Jonathan Pruitt says. The individual spiders are only the size of a pencil eraser, but they form organized groups that can catch prey ranging from fruit flies to small vertebrates. “We have found carcasses of rats and birds inside their colonies,” Pruitt says. Unlike most spiders, which are solitary, these social spiders work together in groups.
Now new research shows that they evolve together in groups, too.
Say “group selection” among some groups of evolutionary biologists and you won’t be invited back to the party. But Jonathan Pruitt, at the University of Pittsburgh, and Charles Goodnight, at the University of Vermont, have been studying generations of these Anelosimus spiders — and have gathered the first-ever experimental evidence that group selection can fundamentally shape collective traits in wild populations.
Their results are presented in the Oct. 1 online edition of the journal Nature.
“Biologists have never shown an adaptation in nature which is clearly attributable to group selection,” Goodnight said. “Our paper is that demonstration.”
What? “Say “group selection” among some groups of evolutionary biologists and you won’t be invited back to the party”?
Because those people care only about control, not about facts, as long as the rest of us fund their follies? Say “Darwin” and that figures.
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