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A problematic model: Reply to John Price

by FRANS ROES, Lauriergracht 127II, 1016 RK Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In the model ('A fishy example') of John Price (ESS-Newsletter 42: 6-8) of a situation where group-selection might be an important selective pressure, there appears to be an assumption which in my view cannot be made. Price describes two variants of schooling prey-fish of one species. One variant turns to the right if it senses a small predator, the other to the left.
(It is quite fashionable and maybe also correct to assume that individual fishes instead try to hide themselves in the middle of the school: "An attack might be seemingly directed at the school but would usually result at a single fish's being taken out. Under these circumstances, the safest place for one of the prey was probably deep in the school... The extreme compactness of many schools is attributable to the reluctance of its members to be on the periphery... This explains why schooling may be intensified as a reaction to danger, or to the absence of cover. It explains why schooling almost completely disappears at night in nearly all known cases." Williams, G.C., Adaptation and Natural Selection, 1966, 1996: 213-16).
    Then Price writes: "... if there is not much genetic exchange between schools of fish, some schools will become fixed as left-turners, whereas other schools will become fixed as right-turners." Now as I see it, this is an as sumption that cannot be made, because in the kinds of schools or herds that Price describes, individuals are not territorial, they do not recognize or exclude other individuals, and there is no reason to expect them to evolve territorial behaviour. "Two separate schools can merge and mingle with no apparent resistance, and a single school can divide with equal ease." (Williams, G.C., 1966, 1996: 216). So substantial genetic exchange is inevitable.

World Wide Web

Research Committee # 12 (Biology and Politics) of the International Political Science Association (IPSA) has a new site on the world wide web. The URL is:
    The ESS also has the intention to open a site on the world wide web. ESS members are requested to send their e-mail addresses and (if available) URLs to the Editor.

"Society has to be a network of lies and deception"

Interview with Richard Alexander

by FRANS ROES, Lauriergracht 127II, 1016 RK Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Richard Alexander is one of the most influential theoreticians on evolution and human behavior. Among his many publications are Darwinism and Human Affairs (1979) and The Biology of Moral Systems (1987), and he is the co-editor of The Biology of the Naked Mole-Rat (1991). The following interview took place at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, July 2th. 1996.

Life of an individual organism is seen by Darwinists as a strategy of a group of genes. Why?
When I am lecturing about this, I tell a story about my brother who is a farmer and was selling a bull to a man. The man was very nervous about buying the bull. He said: "If I buy this bull, with my luck he'll be sterile". And my brother said: "Well, he comes from a long line of fertile ancestors".
We all come from a long, unbroken line of ancestors, and it's the genes that persist from generation to generation. What we see of living organisms is the product of genes and the environment. The strategy of it, which looks at first to be teleological, is that the development of the organism has evolved in such a way that the product of the development is so designed as to make it through the current environment. This gives a teleological, looking-ahead effect, because you can predict that the organism will be, to some degree at least, ready for each environmental thing that comes along during its lifetime. So it is not strategy in the sense that the genes are designing in the way we are designing using our human minds. This confuses people deeply, more deeply than many realize. There are still very sophisticated philosophers who can't grasp that when you speak of the interests of organisms, such as humans, you are not merely talking about their conscious interests, you are talking about all their interests, whether they are conscious or deliberate or not.

Why are organism assumed to maximize their reproductive success or inclusive fitness?
J.B.F. Haldane pointed out a long time ago, in the thirties, that you can show mathematically that, other things being equal, whoever makes the largest number of copies of themselves will eventually predominate, and even come to be the only copies among competitors because the more you reduce the relative numbers of one form, the greater the likelihood that the rare form will go extinct by accident. But whenever you have juveniles or descendants that you can help a lot, then it is not just numbers but how good they are in doing what they need to do. If you are a cod-fish, and all you are doing is laying eggs, and you don't have any other effect on them, the best thing you can do is to create the largest number of eggs. But the more you tend them, and the farther in the future you tend them, the more you should expect the organism to reduce the number it produces in favour of investing in each one. That's still maximizing the likelihood of persistence, it's not maximizing numbers in the simple sense of that first organism.

Some species live in groups, while many, more or less permanently, live solitary. What are the disadvantages of living in groups?
There are lots of disadvantages of living in groups, and to understand why sexually reproducing organisms who are competing with one another live in groups you always have to find some definite advantages. It is not advantageous to just cluster, because when you do this, there are many individuals competing for the same food in one place, you may have to eat food that another animal already walked over or picked over, you have to defend your mates or fight for mates, etcetera. If you think in terms of Darwin's "hostile forces of nature", you just go down through them one by one, you will find that living in a group is potentially harmful to almost everyone.

Yet several species do live in groups.
I think there are only a few major classes of advantages of group-living. Hunting-dogs can bring down large prey like zebras which is virtually impossible for a single hunting-dog. So if food comes in big chunks, than group-living can be advantageous on that basis. Sometimes it is advantageous to be in a group just as cover, if you can manage to get somebody else's body between yours and the predator. As Hamilton pointed out, in herds the largest and strongest animals tend to be in the safest places. Sometimes these herds become the places to go, because if you are alone, you are an easy target. Another possibility is aggressive defence by groups. Elephants are very good in protecting themselves and their young, and as the young are vulnerable, we would expect aggressive defence to start with protection of the young.

Why do humans live in large groups? There is not a predator big enough to force us to live in very large groups.
How did human group-living began? I think that most people accept the hypothesis that early human group-living evolved as group-hunting or group-foraging, but why did human groups kept on growing, even when we were able to subdue our predators, and bigger groups would not do any good? My hypothesis, though Darwin and others had the same ideas, is that eventually other human groups became a very important force in causing human groups to get bigger and stronger. We know that today it is definitely other human groups that we see as our most important adversaries, and we design our social life to a large extend around those other groups. We have a hard time in escaping the tendency to divide the world in 'us' and all those other guys.

In many group-living animals, either the males, or the females, or both are genetically closely related to one another, while this is not so in large human societies. Therefore you would expect intense conflicts of interest. Why don't large human groups split as a result of such conflicts?
We have these things that philosophers call 'moral systems'. It is instructive to realize that these systems tend to just go to the boundaries of the group, they tend not to include the members of other groups. Across the decades moral philosophers and other people have gradually come to the idea that moral systems are systems for keeping competing individuals together, by describing not to infringe beyond a certain point on the rights of others. I think that morality might have begun as the honouring by males of the pairbonds between other males and females. That would involve something very dear to everyone, namely the integrity of the family, and it would also involve that thing which is distinctly human, namely that we are able to get along with multiple males. For example in Yanomamö Indians, any group that drops below seven healthy males, is said to be certain to disappear, by being taken over by another group. So moral systems are systems of control ling the tendencies of individuals to behave selfish.

You wrote that nearly all communicative signals, human or otherwise, should be expected to involve significant deceit. Why would you expect this?
I think this is so extreme, that I believe most organisms that communicate are prepared to deliver large amounts of true information, for only one purpose, and that is to stick in one piece of deceit. Because that little piece of deceit may be so important. The reason is that sexually reproducing organisms have different sets of genes, so they are in competition with one another reproductively. And it is not easy to imagine that they would evolve to transmit accurate information to one another. Someone said, if you have a bit of true information, the last thing in the world you should do is give it to your competitor. Even parents and offspring are competitive, because a parent has the interest of its entire brood of offspring, and each offspring has a lesser interest in its siblings than it does in itself. And so therefore, the parent and the offspring as Trivers pointed out a long time ago, will differ in their view how much the parent should do for each offspring. So even between parents and offspring you expect deceit. If there is a lot of deceit, as in human communication, the only way you can counter the deceit, is by being very good at detecting it, and then of course you have to be very good at delivering it. Put those two things together as processes that go on for thousands of generations, and you wind up with a very complicated system of communication.
What you really have to study is honest communication; that becomes the difficult thing to explain, which is sort of counter to our own views of ourselves, which makes it even more difficult. I once wrote that society has to be a network of lies and deception, and gosh, everyone thought that was a horrible statement. And it is a horrible statement if you take it as a moral suggestion. But I was giving it as an analysis; we have to suppose, at the outset at least, that there is an enormous amount of deception. I always say to my students: Think of what people do early in the morning. They look in the mirror, shave or use make-up, put deodorant under their arms, use clothes that make their shape look better, and go into their office with a big smile and say "Good morning!", while they may not feel like that at all. Right from the time you get up in the morning, you set out to deceive everybody. It is almost a humorous thought.

We presumably are evolved to be selfish in a certain sense, but you write that it is not in our interest to show our selfishness. Why?
Everyone wishes to have around him people who regard his interests as important as theirs. So it is in our interests to advertise our abilities and tendencies to help other people with their interests, and not to our advantage to continually advertise our selfish tendencies. This is so complex that it is almost impossible to think about. If you say to somebody: "You are evolved to reproduce, and you are not evolved to do anything else", you will get immediate bristling, and people will say: "That is not true, I am considerate of others, I am kind", and they will go through a whole litany of things which may be true in the way that they state it, but they have to always be analyzed in terms of selfishness and altruism. We are evolved, I believe, to deceive ourselves quite deeply on this issue of when we are being selfish and when we are being selfless. And it is in our interest to do that, because people can be fooled, people can be led to commit altruistic acts in our benefit by us; and if they can be, it is in our interest to do so, at least up to a point. And if they can be, it is in their interest to give the indication that they are moral people who are benevolence givers. Who doesn't gain a little in reputation by saying: "I just gave blood, or I gave X million to charity"? It is very beneficial to us to have those things being told about us.

You wrote that "The more a theory of ourselves explains, the more difficult it will be to gain its widespread acceptance".
Some of us academicians are just dying to think about the worst possible things that we can dream of, but most people don't wish, for example, to seriously think about themselves as self-deceivers. If we evolved to deceive ourselves about our motivations, then somehow that should be in our benefit. So that means it is not in our benefit to be fully aware of everything we are doing in a selfish sense. Even though it seems to us that our consciousness is everything in our intellect, consciousness may only be a small portion of our actual make-up. There are organisms out there who are living their lives perfectly well in very complicated ways, and we have no particular reason to impute anything we would call consciousness. If most of our motivation is unconscious, there must be a reason. If we consciously had to pay attention to breathing or our heart beating, we probably would not do it right.


A.H. Harcourt & F.B.M. de Waal (Eds.) Coalitions and Alliances in Humans and Other Animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-19-854273-9 (cloth) US$87.00. ISBN 0-19-854096-7 (paper) UK£17.15. Pp. 531.

by RICHARD W. BYRNE, Scottish Primate Research Group, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU, Scotland.

Modern interest in all forms of cooperative behaviour among animals (and plants) stems from the triumphant success of sociobiology in explaining data that were formerly seen as evidence of 'group selection', but in ways consistent with the genetical theory of natural selection. Time after time, apparent puzzles of 'altruism' among animals, when examined more closely, have neatly fitted the predictions of W.D. Hamilton's kin selection. Now, cooperation is no longer an embarrassment to Darwinists, and whole animals are viewed as intricately symbiotic collections of what were once independent microorganisms.
    Sociobiology has been dominated by genetical causation, whereas it has been known since R. Trivers' description of reciprocal altruism that this is not necessary: under certain circumstances, we should expect 'altruistic' cooperation to occur, based on memory of previous help or on the expectation of future help in return. Involvement of learning, memory and expectations brings sociobiology excitingly into the realms of psychology, especially when we remember that the special conditions favouring reciprocal altruism - persisting social groups of individuals who recognize each other as such, and have good memories - are met most closely among some species of nonhuman primates. The way seems set for a proper understanding of the evolution of human helpfulness and trust, revenge and suspicion, and even perhaps moral and ethical codes. But the data have so far failed to match the hopes: well-documented cases of reciprocal altruism are rare, although frustratingly many cases of animal coalitions seem consistent with such interpretation. What is evidently needed is a careful study of the many cases of coalition and alliance usage, recorded mostly but not entirely among primates; and Harcourt and de Waal have done sociobiologists a valuable service in providing it.
    Coalitions and Alliances in Humans and Other Animals is an impressively scholarly collection of papers on the subject, well organized and strongly edited into a valuable research resource. Its first section describes the effects that extensive coalitional behaviour can have on society, with several papers exploring the way female kin-based alliances cause 'inheritance' of rank in Old World monkeys, and I have never seen the large and complex body of evidence as well summarized as in the chapters by Chapais and Datta. In male-bonded apes, the consequences of intergroup hostility become important for relations within the social group: Boehm's explicit comparison of chimpanzees and humans in their intercommunity warfare and their power ful male kin-alliances is particularly fascinating, and he makes a number of long-overdue points. Zadel et al.'s study of coalitions among young hyaenas, rests uneasily among this group of studies, but the simplicity of their proposed explanation for 'monkey-like' behaviours in hyaenas is in interesting contrast to the frequent assumption of cognitive complexity made by primatologists.
    The next group of studies investigate the rules of alliance making and breaking, in monkeys, apes and people. De Waal's brilliantly clear review of chimpanzee coalitions and reciprocation shows that his early use of 'political' to describe their behaviour was no exaggeration, and Falger's analysis of international politics as alliance-behaviour drives the point home. The approach throughout the book is strongly functional, and I couldn't help wondering, while reading Grammer's nice analysis of children's conflict interventions, and Noë's elegant use of game theory to analyse baboon alliance strategies - are baboons' and children's mental processes the same, when they make these decisions? And if so, what are they? Such heretical ponderings are given little encouragement by the editors or their team of contributors, and readers determined to go on believing that people 'think', whereas brute beasts get no further than a few ESSs and simple rules-of-thumb for making their decisions, can continue to do so.
    Is it fair to wish that a book, explicitly directed at explaining how behaviours relate to their functional consequences, has a serious discussion of possible cognitive mechanisms for the many subtle and complex behaviours described? Perhaps not, but the editors invite it by evoking Kummer's amusing sideswipe at seductive terminology, 'If I find a bottle labelled "Chateau Lafite-Rothschild" I am more motivated to ascertain whether that is really true than when the label says "Fermented grape juice of undetermined quality"'. Surely the great energy and interest that has been devoted to the study of coalitions and alliances has its origin in just such 'wishful' possibilities? In the normal discourse from which ethologists have borrowed them, the terms suggest planning, scheming and calculating in the animals' minds. Nobody could complain if the data had happened to come out quite other wise. In fact, if a few simple, genetically coded algorithms can cause behaviour so wonderfully flexible that it simulates the devious efforts of great human minds, this would be a satisfying finding in itself. But we should be told!
    Given the editors' functional stance, it's no surprise that the final, evolutionary section of the book has some fine contributions. Van Hooff and van Schaik give a masterly review of the ecology of primate relationships, show ing how the complicated patterns of bonding can be explained by the operation just a few principles in different ecologies. Lee and Johnson examine the mechanics of how young monkeys of both sexes gain rank, a contribution closely related to the book's opening chapters. Connor et al.'s dolphin data will be a revelation to many, since even primates seldom reach the point of having alliances among alliances, and Boyd sounds a note of caution in his analysis, of what happens when more realistic conditions are added to the standard models of reciprocal altruism, by showing how small changes in circumstances can mean very different predictions. Reciprocity is evidently hard to detect empirically, but perhaps this is not bad luck, rather an intrinsic part of reciprocation. Harcourt comes closest to tackling the mental mechanism issue head on, in a chapter asking whether primates' alliances are more 'complex' than those of non-primates, or not. While admitting the possibility of widespread species-bias, he concludes that primates do stand out, on present evidence. Only primates reciprocate support; only primates take into account the rank and power of possible allies when choosing their friends, preferentially grooming dominant individuals; only primates compete for these 'good' allies. It looks as if primates calculate the odds, non-primates follow simple rules: is that what we should conclude? Or is it that primates follow less simple rules, thus showing more flexibility?
    Harcourt sums up by saying that primates use alliances 'tactically'. In my work on deception, I've always used 'tactical' in the sense of showing flexibility and choice from occasion to occasion, and 'intentionally tactical' for the very different case where the actor understands the situation and calculates its actions in advance. In the elaborate world this book documents - of alliances, coalition formation, reconciliation behaviour, reciprocation of help - I have seen no strong evidence that any thinking is going on in the animals' minds, any symbolic calculation of situations and outcomes. Complexity of behaviour there is in plenty, but complexity can be an outcome of genetically specified rules and/or trial-and-error learning. Only by paying attention to cases where species-general rules cannot apply will any evidence be obtained against this bleak assessment. This may mean ethologists having to 'dirty their hands' with data that is not readily replicable, and not easily brought under experimental control in the laboratory (like poor old astronomers and social scientists do all the time!); new principles will be needed to decide objectively among competing hypotheses, and perhaps a very different picture will then emerge of these socially complex animals.
    Never mind! For now, Harcourt and de Waal have done a fine job in editing this authoritative collection of papers on the important subject of alliances and help in coalitions. Each section is helpfully introduced by an editorial, and the editors' historical chapter at the beginning, and suggestions for future research at the end, are important contributions in their own right. I shall be using this book as a source for years to come, and its appearance in paperback is a boon for graduate students.

This review was published earlier in the Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 1996, Vol. 19, #2, pp. 193-195. © JAI Press.


E.O. Wilson (1994) Naturalist. Washington DC: Island Press. ISBN 1-55963- 288-7 (cloth). Pp. xii + 380. U$24.95 Dfl.56.00

by JAAP G. de JONG, Heemsteedse Dreef 123, 2101 KB HEEMSTEDE, The Netherlands.

The first time I read Naturalist (now available in paperback) I found it rather disappointing. This was not just the disappointment of a reader who, having waited for over 300 pages for an extensive horse's-mouth account of sociobiology's stormy origins, discovers that Wilson (b. 1929) himself cannot wait to move on to his current passion, biodiversity. Wilson's book also suffers from numerous digressions more suited to his earlier Diversity of Life or Ants than to an autobiography. Even when dealing with what should be the stuff of biography - forebears and family members - he tends to get carried away in irrelevant detail as for example the over-meticulous reconstruction of a church service that took place over fifty years ago. On the other hand, his characterizations of colleagues - in particular those of Robert MacArthur and Dick Lewontin - are fascinating, which is all the more striking because Wilson himself, the ostensible subject of the book, chooses to remain carefully in the background. Jonathan Beard's characterization of the book as 'wildly uneven' (New Scientist, 4 Jan. 1995) struck me as highly accurate.
    It is only upon rereading the book that one discovers behind Wilson's self- imposed shadow a thoroughly amiable human being, an out-and-out scientist for whom the best is never good enough and who is permanently conscience- stricken by errors and haunted by self-doubt, someone who does not readily accept that there are limits to what he can know and do. His youthful at tempts to better the four-minute mile using a method of his own devising are frankly touching.
    Wilson had already settled on a career in biology at an early age. His choice of entomology was determined by two physical disabilities: blindness in one eye as the result of a sting from the dorsal fin of a perch and an inability to distinguish high-frequency sounds: "I was destined to become an entomologist... not by any touch of idiosyncratic genius... but by a fortuitous constriction of physiological ability" (p. 15). From that moment Wilson's life story advanced 'arrow-like to its target' (Steven Rose in the London Review of Books, vol. 17, no. 14, p, 27). Still a young boy at the time of his parents' divorce and already a loner, this natural introvert trekked around with his father, a government accountant (often drunk or depressed), from one South ern American state to another, from one school to another, from one set of fellow-pupils to another. Increasingly, the only constant in this changeable, unsettling decor was the sweeping, still fairly unspoilt nature. The habit of being alone, at best in the company of a single friend, set the stage for his later methodology.
    The single-mindedness he developed during this period was reinforced by a short stay at the Gulf Coast Military Academy when he was about seven. This small private school taught him a code of behaviour that was to stay with him all his life: "civility and good manners, altruism and devotion to duty", "practices... scarce among the often hard-edged, badly socialized scientists with whom I associate" (p. 25). His later enthusiasm for the Boy Scouts (eight pages!) is all of a piece with this. Wilson saw quite early in life that he was a workaholic; and so he remained. And although he never gives the impression of being interested in anything other than biology, he applied himself to it in its broadest sense. He is fully justified in regarding himself as a synthesist and an encyclopedist. But above all he is a naturalist, one with such an abiding love for his work that he is often willing to endure the most incredible hardships for its sake.
    The claim made in 1989, that Sociobiology "was edging out even Darwin's 1872 classic The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" (p. 331), makes it tempting to compare the two naturalists, Darwin and Wilson. Both, it turns out, are singularly gifted (except for mathematics). Both are devoted to the practice of naturalism wherever that may take them and whatever inconveniences it entails. Although there is a world of difference between Darwin's comfortable childhood in the bosom of a loving, well-to-do family and Wilson's financially strained, gypsy existence, both boys discovered their vocation in nature early in life and did not relate well to their peers: Darwin tried to attract their attention by boasting that he could change the colour of flowers, Wilson by pretending to be deaf and dumb. Both, at that stage of their life, wondered why anybody would strive to become anything other than an entomologist. They also have in common the discovery of untold new species, a preference for islands and a habit of filling notebook upon notebook. Both are inveterate collectors. Both men are mild vis à vis their fellow scientists with the exception of Richard Owen (Darwin to Huxley: "I believe I hate him more than you [do]") and James Watson (Wilson: "the most unpleasant human being I had ever met"). While Darwin concentrated on beetles, and later on barnacles, Wilson has devoted his life to the study of ants. But it has to be said that there was never much wrong with the state of Wilson's health. There is, however, an even more striking parallel. The furore caused by what Darwin wrote towards the end of the final chapter of Origins ("[through the study of evolution] light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history"), is echoed in the storm caused by chapter 27 of Wilson's Sociobiology. "Perhaps," he writes in Naturalist, "I should have stopped at chimpanzees when I wrote the book. Even several of the critics said that Sociobiology would have been a great book if I had not added the final chapter, the one on human beings... Still I did not hesitate to include Homo sapiens, because not to have done so would have been to omit part of biology" (p. 328). Compare this with Darwin's reflections: "I can see no necessity for calling in an additional and proximate cause in regard to man".
    At the University of Tennessee, in between Wilson's first university, Alabama, and what would turn out to be his third and last, Harvard, the young teacher tried to provoke a repeat of the Scopes trial by giving classes on the recent discovery of the first of the South-African man-apes (a key missing link between remote apelike ancestors and Homo erectus); Wilson had learned that the anti-evolution law had not been revoked. To his chagrin, there was no reaction. Wilson writes of this episode: "I learned a lesson of my own in Tennessee: the greater problems of history are not solved, they are merely forgotten" (p. 132).
    No storm at that stage then, but what a tempest followed the publication of Sociobiology! There was no Wilberforce and no religious orthodoxy but 'nurture' was to prove an equally tenacious dogma. Political ideologues leapt into the fray led by Marxist and New Left scholars such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. And indeed, although there had been plenty of Huxleys around when Harvard was doing battle with McCarthyism, precious few now came to Wilson's defence. Having earned his spurs in the battle against molecular biologists in the late 1950s, Wilson had reckoned on differences of opinion at a scientific level but, politically naive as he was, he had not foreseen the political passions that would erupt, culminating in the pitcher of ice-water thrown over him by a demonstrator in 1978. "The ice- water episode may be the only occasion in recent American history on which a scientist was physically attacked, even mildly, simply for the expression of an idea" (p. 307). In fact something of the sort had been in the air for some time, witness a draft motion of the American Anthropological Society to censure sociobiology formally and to ban two symposia on the subject scheduled earlier on. As a result of intervention, in particular by Margaret Mead who condemned it as a "book burning proposal", the motion was defeated, but not by a very big margin.
    Considering how sociobiology has developed during the last 20 years, as also the various forms of 'opposition' to it, Chapter 17, 'The sociobiology controversy', is of mainly historical interest. It is entirely typical of Wilson that he should have felt it necessary to fill a (perceived) gap in his education by taking lessons in Marxism. Whether it brought him any nearer to under standing his opponents is another matter. He laconically quotes Lewontin/ Levins: "There is nothing in Marx, Lenin or Mao that is or can be in contradiction with the particular physical facts and processes of a particular set of phenomena in the objective world" (p.346).
    Historically speaking I find the previous chapter, Chapter 16, more interesting. We read there that the term sociobiology first appeared in 1956, when it was used by the primatologist Stuart Altmann, although he had in turn borrowed it from a sub-group of the Ecological Society of America. Owing to a lack of expertise and interest on the part of other teachers, Altmann's doctoral research into the social behaviour of free-living rhesus monkeys was assigned to Wilson even though the latter's expertise was restricted to the social life of insects. A visit to the area in Puerto Rico where Altmann had carried out his research was an eye-opener for Wilson. Nonetheless, he concluded that the conceptual tools needed to advance sociobiology were as yet lacking. We read here how the concept gradually took shape in his mind, especially after he had read Hamilton's 'classic' work, "The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour". Wilson's first public admission of interest in sociobiology came in The Insect Societies (1971):
    The optimistic prospect for sociobiology can be summarized briefly as follows. In spite of the phylogenetic remoteness of vertebrates and in sects and the basic distinction between their respective personal and impersonal systems of communication, these two groups of animals have evolved social behaviors that are similar in degree of complexity and convergent in many important details. This fact conveys a special promise that sociobiology can eventually be derived from the first principles of population and behavioral biology and developed into a single, mature science. The discipline can then be expected to increase our understanding of the unique qualities of social behavior in animals as opposed to those of man. (Harvard University Press, p. 460)
    Despite its modest tone, Naturalist does not attempt to conceal the considerable number of honours that have been heaped on Wilson in the course of his 65 years, among them two Pulitzer prizes for nonfiction: the only scientist to have won this prize twice. The book is a monument to a unique figure whose restless ambition has enriched our knowledge in numerous fields. It is only a pity that there is no bibliography to illustrate the point.


Anne Campbell (1993) Men, Women and Aggression: From Rage in Marriage to Violence in the Streets - How Gender Affects the Way We Act. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-09217-9 (cloth) US$22.00. ISBN 0-465-04450-6 (paper) US$13.00. Pp. xi + 196.

by PETER K. SMITH, Psychology Department, Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, England.

For a long time the literature on aggression has been dominated by the assumption that men are more aggressive than women and that aggression is largely a male phenomenon (and a male problem). But the last few years have seen an increased interest in the nature of female aggression. Anne Campbell's work, including this book, provides an important contribution to this broadening of our outlook. Campbell has worked in both the US and the UK, and has made a particular study of girls gangs published in an earlier book (1984). Besides drawing on this work, she has also utilised tape-recorded discussions of men, and women, discussing personal experiences of anger and aggression; and she has drawn on a considerable body of psychological theorising.
    Campbell's central argument is that both men and women equally may feel anger, but they deal with it in different ways. Men deal with it instrumentally; they take control of the anger, and use it in ways which attempt to ensure that their status is maintained. They may also use aggression purely instrumentally, to gain resources (such as money, in street robberies which are very predominantly male). Women, by contrast, see anger and aggression in expressive terms. They fear losing control of their emotions, and are likely to repress anger and avoid aggression unless pressed to the limit. At the limit - as in cases of some marital quarrels, for example - they may explode into verbal or physical aggression, which they subsequently feel guilty about. Men are more likely to brag about their own aggression, so long as it succeeded in upholding their status or self-esteem.
    Campbell goes on to discuss the origins of these differences between men and women. While not discounting biological influences, she primarily advocates a cultural learning explanation in terms of the social representations of aggression. "Genes may explain the sex difference in rates of aggression, but the distinct pattern that characterises men's aggression is acquired from a culture that rationalises and even glorifies male violence... Girls... learn different lessons about aggression than boys do." (pp.19, 20). Parental ways of dealing with aggression, typical family structure, peer group influences and media portrayals provide the direct links between the social representations of aggression in western culture, and the learning experiences which Campbell postulates bring about the typical patterns of male and female aggression she has identified.
    Campbell then fills out her analysis by considering particular kinds of aggression; for example, street robberies (primarily instrumental and male), violence within marriage (more equally balanced between the sexes), and street gangs. Gangs are usually male, but Campbell argues that in female gangs, young women are to some extent adopting the social representations of male aggression, while still evidencing some differences in motivation (for example, being more concerned with issues of romantic jealousy, and also of preventing their own victimisation, in contrast to the more instrumental concerns of acquiring money or power characteristic of boys gangs).
    Campbell ends her book with a plea for more recognition of the nature of female aggression and the needs of females, which she argues have been too often concealed, denied or redefined by a male-dominated society. For example, wives who get upset with their husbands are accused of having premen strual syndrome, and their grievances thus denied. Or, battered women who finally turn on their abusive husbands find it difficult to get justice, with their anger being redefined. A greater understanding by both sexes of the nature of each others aggression is called for.
    This book makes eloquent reading and, together with one or two other books on the topic, has clearly set the topic of women's aggression on the scientific agenda. The instrumental/expressive distinction is a challenging one, though it may not finally be the most useful way of conceptualising sex differences; in particular, it may underestimate the instrumental nature of certain kinds of female aggression. Parallel with Campbell's work, forms of aggression have been redefined into direct and indirect (Björkqvist, Lagerspetz & Kaukainen, 1992), or direct and relational (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995), with girls and women showing more indirect or relational aggression than boys or men (Rivers & Smith, 1994). Such indirect aggression has its own effects, affecting the self-esteem and status of other females by, for example, denigrating their sexual behaviour or desirability or trustworthiness. In other words, whereas direct and especially physical aggression damages male forms of self-esteem such as physical prowess, indirect/relational aggression damages female forms of self-esteem such as desirability as a partner.
    This latter view would be compatible with an evolutionary view of aggression which sees it as a way of instrumentally enhancing one's self-esteem or status, but in sex-differentiated ways. Of course, an evolutionary view is not incompatible with social learning, but it would predict greater cross-cultural uniformity in forms of aggression than is suggested by the considerable emphasis on social representations in Campbell's account, which draws almost entirely on western cultural examples. Campbell has in fact herself moved towards a more explicitly evolutionary account in her more recent work (1995). In any event, her book can be recommended as readable, though-provoking, and making a significant advance to this emerging topic.


Björkqvist, K., Lagerspetz, K & Kaukainen, A. (1992). Do girls manipulate and boys fight? Developmental trends in regard to direct and indirect aggression. Aggressive Behaviour, 18, 117- 127.
Campbell, A. (1984, 2nd ed. 1990). The Girls in the Gang. Oxford & Boston: Basil Blackwell.
Campbell, A. (1995). A few good men: Evolutionary psychology and female adolescent aggression. Ethology and Sociobiology, 16, 99-123.
Crick, N.R. & Grotpeter, J.K. (1995). Relational aggression, gender, and social-psychological adjustment. Child Development, 66, 710-722.
Rivers, I. & Smith, P. K. (1994). Types of bullying behaviour and their correlates. Aggressive Behaviour, 20, 359-368.


Piero and Alberto Angela (1993) The Extraordinary Story of Human Origins. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-803-1 (cloth) US$26.95. Pp. 328.

by PAUL STORM, Henri Duparcplantsoen 25, 2551 XT The Hague, Netherlands.

I often wonder how many (popular) books have been published about human evolution - it must be many. I cannot help asking, with every new book, why was this book written? Personally, I like books which offer new information, tell me about finds I did not know about, and especially books which present points of view I have never heard of or thought about. This book The Extraordinary Story of Human Origins is, however, clearly not one of these. In itself, this is no problem; "the general story must be told". Over views can be useful; it is important that books should be written for a broad er audience; people tend to forget things and it is no tragedy to read things over again. The point here is that I have problems with the way in which the authors tell their story.
    On looking at the title with the illustration of a hominid staring at the moon at the front flap of this hardback volume, and turning over the pages of the book (with 65 drawings), Misia Landau's storytellers started to buzz through my head. On reading the book, the buzz became even stronger. Many palaeoanthropological stories have already been told and will be told in the future, no difficulty with that, but in this case the story is so extraordinary. What can I say about the title of the book, or a title like that of chapter 14: "The Star: Sapiens sapiens"? It is such a contrast with one of my favourite titles, and books, Robert Foley's "Another Unique Species". Foley explains the title of his book in the preface: "In using the title - Another unique species _ I hope to show that uniqueness is paradoxically a characteristic of all species, not just humans". Accordingly, it is difficult to accept the notion that our evolution is extraordinary or to see our species as a 'star'.
    However, lets try to be positive. The book covers many palaeoanthropological subjects and it is up-to-date. The book came out in 1993, and on page 36 it mentions the new finds from Ethiopia made in 1992 and 1993 that fall into the "intriguing period (4-5 million years ago)". The illustrations are clear and well distributed throughout the book. In figure 43, page 174, one notices a sense of humour: Homo erectus running away from a King Kong like figure, Gigantopithecus, that comes out of the bushes. Trying to be positive appears difficult, for alas one reads in the text under this figure: "Coming upon it for the first time must have been a terrifying experience; but the erectus learned to hunt this huge animal." To write that "erectus learned to hunt this huge animal" as a given fact is, for the nonspecialist, misleading. Fortunately, the writers elsewhere provide a much better approach to palaeoanthropology, i.e., with more nuances and discussion, as in chapter 3 (page 45-58) on bipedalism where opinions of various researchers are given.
    At the end of the book one finds a very clear, short, paragraph with which I cannot agree. On page 266 Piero and Alberto Angela write (italics are mine):

Biological evolution, that long road that led from Australopithecines to the people of Lascaux, has come to an end. After over three and a half million years, the footprints at Laetoli, from where we started, have taken us to modern human beings. This is where biological history ends and cultural history begins.

Biological history has not ended, biological evolution is still a reality, and culture as an integrated part of our behaviour has been with us for a very long time. I am not troubled by differences of opinion; the point remains that I have problems with the way the story is presented. It is intended as a general account of palaeoanthropology and it is clearly written for a broader audience. For such an audience, I would prefer to have more of the hard evidence presented, the bones, and to have a clear distinction made between hard evidence and the various opinions that scientists are able to form on the basis of the fossils. Bones can be characterized as the 'hardware', the given facts, and opinions characterized as the 'software', views that often change through time. In this way it would be made easier for the reader to achieve for himself a better appreciation of the story.


J. Philippe Rushton (1995) Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspec tive. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. ISBN: 1-56000-146-1 (cloth), US$34.95. Pp. xviii + 334.

by DEL THIESSEN, Department of Psychology, Mezes Hall 324, University of Texas, AUSTIN, TX 78712, USA.

According to one version of history a messenger to the King of Persia brings the bad news that the battle with the Greeks is lost. Outraged, the King kills the messenger. In the reality of today's world messengers of bad tidings are still gotten rid of. The most recent example is the attempt of the Behavior Genetics Association, a scientific organization devoted to understanding gene mechanisms of behavior, to purge its past President, Glayde Whitney, of his responsibilities to the association. Whitney's message is that black crime may have a genetic correlate. The authors of The Bell Curve, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, have suffered similar fates by their linking IQ to achievement, the hatred reaching even into the grave for Herrnstein. Other messengers include Arthur Jensen and James Coleman, both who had the temerity to discuss racial issues as they saw them.
    Most loathed is of course the author of Race, Evolution, and Behavior. Philippe Rushton's problem is not so much that he has an unwelcome message, but that he refuses to play dead. Rushton, in case you missed the seminal battle, has been unmercifully whipped, reviled, and abused, even to the point of nearly losing his job at the University of Western Ontario, and being forced by public circumstances to teach his classes with video tape.
    The arrows of outrage continue to fly, yet almost none is directed to a test of Rushton's hypotheses. Consider these barbs from several typical reviews of his book. "The new racism is very like the old variety: it has a superficial scientific wrapping, but very little hard scientific support." (Alasdair Palmer, editor of the Spectator) " ideology dressed up as science." (Waqar Almad, senior research fellow, Policy Research Unit, University of York) "[Rushton]...has been seduced by speculative biology." (Cris Brand, University of Edinburgh) "The low standard of scholarship evident in this book renders it largely irrelevant for modern science." (Douglas Wahlsten, University of Alberta) "...ignored data, twisted teleologies and naïve evolutionary reductionism pervade J. Philippe Rushton's Race, Evolution and Behavior." (Susan Sperline, University of California, San Francisco) "It is time sociobiologists took a long hard look at the standards they adopt in evaluating psychometric evidence that suits their enterprise." (Steve Blinkhorn, Psychometric Research and Development Ltd, UK). And finally, from an avowed sociobiologist, "Rushton argues at length for what he calls the 'principle of aggregation,' which in his hands, means the pious hope that by combining numerous little turds of variously tainted data, one can obtain a valuable result; but in fact, the outcome is a larger than average pile of shit." (David Barash, University of Washington). This messenger is not only abused by reviewers, but he is vilified by the media and shunned by his colleagues. Yet he stands his ground, refusing to sink into it.
    The heartening part of these engagements, at least for some of us, is that he fights back with determination, style, and data. When asked about his message, like Galileo, he pleads that we only look into the telescope. The irony is that Rushton is emerging as a beacon for free speech and scientific tolerance. Let me ask you: If someday you become a vilified messenger, who would you turn to for advice and support?
    What does one see in the telescope of Rushton's book? Ah, it's complex with scratchy surfaces. Yet it is worth the look. In a matter-of-fact way he builds evidence that the intellectual capabilities, and many related traits, distribute themselves differently across Mongolian (Oriental), Caucasoid (white), and Negroid (black) populations. He argues that these groups represent three major races, citing the ability of forensic specialists and others to identify race on the basis of skull configurations, DNA differences, and other biochemical and morphological variations. This argument is central, for if races are merely overlapping and indistinguishable distributions of traits, as the biologist Cavalli-Sforza argues, then there are few differences to explain.
    In an attempt to circumnavigate this issue, Rushton excludes heterogeneous ethnic groups in his samples, such as Arabs, Hindus, Tamils, Veddas, and Egyptians. In addition, he relies on multiple samples and 'aggregated' data in order to reduce variation around means. This may not entirely solve the statistical difficulties, as admixtures of populations abound. Moreover, as the work is mostly synthetic, the numbers come from a variety of sources surely not sharing common methodologies. Critics immediately focus on these obvious problems, crying "foul." Yet, Rushton's methods are little different from those used by investigators of male/female mating strategies, parental investment techniques, criminal behavior, war, or even those who interpret the fossil record. Data are always gleaned from varied sources and are rarely incontrovertible. Ultimately what's important is how the data converge on common themes and bring forth testable predictions. Rushton's efforts have inherent flaws, but like other 'meta-analyses' they lead to testable hypotheses. The attention should center here but does not.
    From a number of perspectives Rushton argues that the rank order of intelligence, brain size, and organizational abilities are Orientals > whites > blacks, while maturation rate, aggressive personality, and reproductive efforts are blacks > white > Orientals. The average rank order for IQ, for example, is 106, 100, and 85, corresponding to average brain sizes of 1,334g > 1,307g > 1,289 for Orientals, whites, and blacks, respectively. Accordingly, Orientals have approximately 13,767 billion neurons, whites have 13.665 billion, and blacks have 13.185 billion. The differences seem small, perhaps, but could have an impact on general adaptive traits.
    But this is only one part of Rushton's complex argument. He carefully structures the book, leading us to the final evolutionary hypothesis account ing for intellectual and other differences. In Chapter 1 he discusses the his tory of the nature-nurture debate, replacing it with a life-history approach. This broad approach is used to bind together suites of characters that have coevolved for purposes of survival, growth, and reproduction. Life-history characteristics result in organized racial patterns of behavior, linking such things as intelligence, aggression, rates of development, and reproduction. Rushton is in principle no doubt correct here, as survival and reproductive traits rarely evolve independently. Instead they cluster in integrated ways that optimize benefits. Rushton is not simply arguing racial differences in intelligence. He is referring to mosaics of traits that in combination increased individual fitness within the ecology in which they evolved. While Herrnstein and Murray stress the link between intelligence and social capabilities, Rush ton dives much deeper in looking for the adaptive ties between structures and functions. This is an important message that shouldn't be lost in the hail of criticism aimed at this book. Rushton doesn't seem to care how it shakes down as long as the evolutionary mechanisms are unveiled. Take your pick _ scientific purism or social insensitivity, but not racism.
    Rushton then goes on to show how genes generally impact behavior, discussing a host of traits (including many of those important for his argument) that are controlled at least in part by genes. Following this are discus sions about the general factor g of intelligence, and how populations tend to isolate on the basis of gene similarity, hence evolve as separate populations. He also discusses the strengths and shortcomings of the mental test move ment.
    All these issues are important, not the least the discussion of g, the cortical engine of cognitive abilities and the aspect of intelligence that most clearly differentiates the races. It is the component of intelligence that shows the greatest heritability, regression toward the mean, and inbreeding depression. It is the most stable, most general, and most differentiating quality of intelligence.
    It's easy to be concerned about all of this. The correlations are often small, not all samples or any trait show racial differences, and some arguments appear weak. The differences between racial groups has not been clearly established as genetic (p. 193); adoption studies indicate some changeability of IQ (p. 189-191); and inbreeding studies only weakly support a black-white difference (p. 188). There are then some annoying errors, such as the refer ence to my 1980 critique on assortative mating as dealing with primarily nonhuman considerations (p. 74) and indicating that the human evolutionary line diverged from the African apes about 5 billion years ago (p. 209), long before any life form was evident on earth. One can ignore these, however, as what is really important is the cohesiveness of the arguments and the willing ness of Rushton to accept an interactionist model: "A mixed 50 percent evolutionary and 50 percent environmental model fits the data better than either the 100 percent environmental or the 100 percent genetic alternatives." (p. 255) What, then, is all the fuss? He seems to agree with most theorists.
    Part of the fuss is surely his evolutionary model where he ranks the three races on an r-K dimension of reproductive efforts. According to MacArthur and Wilson species can be roughly characterized as r or K in strategy, with r strategists responding opportunistically to unpredictable environments with high reproductive output, and little parental care. K strategists, in contrast, respond to their predictable environments with greater manipulation of the environment, reduced reproductive output, and higher levels of parental care. Rushton spreads the r-K ruler across the three races, indicating that blacks are more r selected than whites and especially Orientals, the latter two being more K selected. Thus, relative to the two other races, blacks mate opportunistically, with higher rates of reproduction, reduced parental investment, and less attention to the future. The r selected status would thus be related to impulsiveness, higher testosterone levels, aggression, larger genitalia (and sperm production?), and lower intelligence. Rushton purports to support all of these life-history patterns.
    The environmental gradient that drives these differences is latitudinal, with the cold, demanding (yet predictable) environment of Europe and especially Asia, forcing a K adaptive strategy. Those in Africa remained r selected. There is more to it, but that's the kernel.
    I have three problems with this model. The first is empirical. If the harsh environment of the north was a selection pressure for large brains and intelligence, why do Amerindians, derived so recently from Orientals, test lower in IQ than Caucasians who were not subject to the same extreme northern environments? Second, do the lifestyle traits really hang together all that well? Over the centuries Orientals have demonstrated as much aggression and genocide as any other population, some of it indeed recent. Finally, is the r-K dimension genetically fixed as racial traits? Personally I think not. Humans appear to react facultatively to a plethora of environmental changes, becoming monogamous in harsh environments and polygynous at other times, increasing birth rates when infant mortality is high and deferring births when the environment permits, and going to war or staying at peace depending on what's at stake. Individuals no doubt differ in how they lean - r or K - but the question is do races?
    These notions are testable and Rushton doesn't have to have all the details now. The work is still important. But more significant is the scientific philosophy that surrounds it. Should the messenger be served breakfast in the company of his ilk, or should he be killed on the spot?
    To some extent the areas of behavior genetics and sociobiology are suffering from their own success. It's now very clear that genes do affect almost every behavior, human and nonhuman. Similarly, evolutionary theory is powerfully explaining how behaviors arise. But the success is double-edged. Not only do we have theoretical explanations for sexual strategies, parental care, and altruistic acts, we also have explanations for the origin and adaptation of our darker side. Crime, war, and personal brutality fall under the same theoretical umbrella as do more benign patterns of behavior.
    Scientific groups no doubt have good intentions when they stress not only freedom of inquiry but also personal responsibility, as they have with Glayde Whitney, Philippe Rushton, and others, but they must face the truths of their science. We have adaptations for murder and mayhem, and evolution doesn't give us what we want. Populations differentiate, go through periods of random drift, assume different characteristics. We are what we are and we must find out what that is. In the process we must accept unwanted messages from time to time, or at least give them the courtesy of scientific scrutiny. I think that we should forget that Rushton is a messenger. Forget him altogether and look at his data and hypotheses. If you don't like his message don't offer scatological reviews, offer alternatives.

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