Kin Selection, Group Selection, and the Varieties of Population Structure

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The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

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Birch, Jonathan
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Various results show the ‘formal equivalence’ of kin and group selec- tionist methodologies, but this does not preclude there being a real and useful distinction between kin and group selection processes. I distinguish individual- and population-centred approaches to drawing such a distinction, and I proceed to develop the latter. On the account I advance, the differences between kin and group selection are differences of degree in the structural properties of popula- tions. A spatial metaphor (‘K-G space’) provides a useful framework for thinking about these differences: kin and group selection may be conceptualized as large, overlapping regions of K-G space. I then consider some implications of the account, defend it from possible objections, and further argue that the structural features characteristic of both kin and group selection may recur at multiple levels of biological organization.