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Group Selection

  Group selection, in the life sciences, is the idea that behaviour which is beneficial to a group but not to an individual can arise by natural selection. Group selection was proposed to explain ostensibly altruistic behaviour which did not appear to be explained by the traditional view of kin selection. However, it is a controversial concept because Darwinian natural selection can only act upon the individual, conserving genes which confer benefits. Group selection is an attractive concept in sociological terms but does not appear to occur in biology, where behavioural adaptations are studied in terms of genetics. An individual gene can only be selected if it is advantageous and therefore the situation in which one gene reduces its likelihood of selection, while enhancing the chances of a different gene, cannot arise; in other words, a gene which might promote an altruistic act is likely to be selected against and to be deleted from the gene pool. Apparent cases of group selection can be adequately accounted for when the genetic relationship between the individuals is investigated. Often, apparent instances of group selection are the result of anthropomorphic observation of a non-human system. RB

See also altruism.Further reading Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene; , John Maynard-Smith, The Theory of Evolution.



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