The Inclusive Fitness Controversy: Finding a Way Forward

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Birch, Jonathan
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This paper attempts to reconcile critics and defenders of inclusive fitness by constructing a synthesis that does justice to the insights of both. I argue that criticisms of the regression-based version of Hamilton’s rule, although they undermine its use for predictive purposes, do not undermine its use as an organizing framework for social evolution research. I argue that the assumptions underlying the concept of inclusive fitness, conceived as a causal property of an individual organism, are unlikely to be exactly true in real populations, but they are approximately true given a specific type of weak selection that Hamilton took, on independent grounds, to be responsible for the cumulative assembly of complex adaptation. Finally, I reflect on the uses and limitations of “design thinking” in social evolution research.