A battle is being waged over kin and kind: Did cooperation evolve in humans and other animals because it helped relatives? Or because it promoted group living?
A school of thought known as inclusive fitness theory—or kin selection—sits at the center of the conflict. Most biologists consider it to be the leading explanation for the evolution of cooperation and altruism. But one of the most famous evolutionary biologists in the world, Edward O. Wilson, has challenged the concept and published a book promoting group selection as a replacement. He’s probably wrong, but his book may have reached more people than any scientific publication about cooperation since kin selection was proposed 50 years ago.
What does looking back tell us about the way forward?