Distinguishing natural selection from other evolutionary processes in the evolution of altruism


Altruism is one of the most studied topics in theoretical evolutionary biology. The debate surrounding the evolution of altruism has generally focused on the conditions under which altruism can evolve and whether it is better explained by kin selection or multilevel selection. This debate has occupied the forefront of the stage and left behind a number of equally important questions. One of them, which is the subject of this article, is whether the word ‘‘selection’’ in ‘‘kin selection’’ and ‘‘multilevel selection’’ necessarily refers to ‘‘evolution by natural selection.’’ I show, using a simple individual-centered model, that once clear conditions for natural selection and altruism are specified, one can distinguish two kinds of evolution of altruism, only one of which corresponds to the evolution of altruism by natural selection, the other resulting from other evolutionary processes.

Biological Theory, 10(4), 311–321.
Pierrick Bourrat
Pierrick Bourrat
Senior Lecturer & DECRA Fellow

My research interests include the concepts of evolutionary theory, causation and the interplay between biological and cultural evolution.