Re: 50/50 elections

From: Dylan Hirsch-Shell <dylanhs_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Mon Dec 01 2008 - 22:35:16 CST

> Only slightly off-topic - a population of skinny people disappear because
> when the famine comes, there's no reserves.
> A population of overweight people disappear because they can't run away
> from, nor hunt down, predators.
> All populations have fat and skinny people as a result. Is it possible
> that all populations have idealistics and cynics, self-centered jerks and
> magnanimous angels ... right and left wingers?

One possible explanation for the existence of both self-centered jerks and
magnanimous angels in a population is the evolutionary conflict that arises
between the costs/benefits of being ultra-selfish on the one hand, and on
the other hand the costs/benefits of helping out those with whom you share a
significant fraction of your genes, or even the costs/benefits of helping
out complete strangers -- whom you might have a reasonable expectation of
helping you out somewhere down the road. The latter idea is well-developed
in game theory and might help to explain the existence of widespread
altruism in human societies when a more narrow view of genetic evolution
might otherwise predict that it should be every man/woman for him/herself
and his/her children (and possibly his/her siblings/cousins).

It seems plausible that having a mix of idealists and cynics in a modern
human population would make that society more capable of dealing with major
crises, and therefore more likely to stick around for a long time. However,
it's not immediately clear to me how game theory or evolutionary theory
could be used to explain the existence of the two traits. I don't subscribe
to group selection theory, which says that, "alleles can become fixed or
spread in a population because of the benefits they bestow on groups,
regardless of the alleles' effect on the fitness of individuals within that
group, <>" so there would have
to be a plausible mechanism for selection to occur at the individual level
(i.e. idealists are more likely to survive in situation X, whereas cynics
are more likely to survive in situation Y). The only examples I can think of
involve situations that seem way too modern to have any parallels in human
evolutionary history. Any ideas?

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Received on Wed Dec 31 23:17:02 2008

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