Question 1 Answer:

Group selection is the idea that natural selection can sometimes
act on a group of individuals at a time, favoring some groups over
others, eventually leading to the evolution of traits beneficial to the group
as a whole. In my opinion, migration and genetic mixing does pose as a problem
for Darwin’s theory of group selection. This is because this theory was formed
on the basis that organisms with more complex social organization will help to
increase the survival and reproduction of the group, at the cost of the
organism. However, if migration between discrete groups occurs, the individuals
will inevitably breed and produce offspring. This means the resulting offspring
will have genetic components of both discrete groups.

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Consequently, if these groups that were once separate begin
to migrate and partake in genetic mixing, wouldn’t the group’s genetic
components change? Why would individual organisms continue to sacrifice their
wellbeing for that of the group if some individuals are not even a part of the
group or kin? Given the above, we can conclude that the intensity of movement of
individuals between populations should be suitably low in order for group
selection to be viable. Thus, the two important musts to group selection are
spatial proximity and relatedness. Individuals will be more willing to perform
acts of group selection when the group is within close proximity and closely
related to that individual. In this way, migration and genetic mixing can pose
as an issue since this can disturb the level of relatedness between individuals
in the vicinity.

Question 2 Answer:

(a)
According to Lorenz, aggressiveness is beneficial and allows for the success
and survival of populations of species over the course of evolution. He claims
that inter-specific aggression – aggression between predator and prey – has an
obvious survival benefit. This type of aggression allows species to defend
their territory from
competitors that are hunting for food or seeking their resources. This
aggression also helps predators catch their prey in an attempt to subsist.

However, Lorenz was more specifically interested in the trait
of intra-specific aggression – aggression between members of the same species.
This type of aggression also seems to promote the survival of the species as a
whole, only if the aggression does not escalate to the level of total combat
within species. He remarks a shared instinct of individuals to defend their
territory from intrusion by animals of the same species and defeat a rival for
a desired female. He states that such aggression benefits the animal kingdom since
it results in the balanced distribution of animals of the same species over the
available environment and insures that resources are shared equally.

Additionally, intra-specific aggression gives rise to a healthier
gene pool that is continually modified toward strength. Another instinct of
individuals to protect the young and defenseless of the species allows an increase
in the likelihood of the young of a species growing to adulthood. In these ways
Lorenz shows how aggression actually helps to preserve the species, regularly
improving it to make it more adaptive to the environment. Additionally, Lorenz
attributes aggression to playing a huge role in developing social structure within
species. This is due to aggression’s critical role in clarifying the ranking
order of the members of a group; when met with hostility, the position of the
stronger individuals will rank above weaker individuals.

In his 1966 book ‘On Aggression’, Lorenz argued that though
animal and human aggressive behaviour was motivated by survival, aggressive
behaviour in humans is not appropriately shaped and modified. Lorenz stated that
the degree of violence that humans direct toward their own kind is unmatched by
any other organism in the animal kingdom. He talks about the fact that humans
have gone through alarming escalations in aggression through technology,
allowing us to kill each other from a distance. This is well represented
through the illustration of war; the invention of nuclear bombs threatens this
species-preserving function of aggression because inhibitory factors such as
empathy for the victim are not activated.

 (b) Group-level selection is defined as selection in
which traits evolve according to the survival and reproductive success of the
group, even if it results in the decreased chance of individual survival. On
the other hand, species-level selection is the process responsible for the
explosion of species that have lower extinction rates and higher
speciation rates.  I think it is useful to differentiate group-level
selection from species-level selection because they are two different process
that can easily be confused. Over time group-level selection can lead to the
extinction of species because, at the end of the day, sacrificing yourself for
the improvement of the whole group does not pose any real benefits. On the
other hand, species-level selection is accountable for an increase in
speciation, allowing species to prosper with lower extinction rates.

Question 3 Answer:

In these series of paragraphs, Dawkins takes the perspective
of a group selectionist into consideration. The argument of a group
selectionist is that species or populations with members who are willing to
sacrifice themselves for the welfare of the group may be less likely to go
extinct than a rival group whose individual members place their own selfish
interests first. Thus, the world becomes occupied mainly by groups consisting
of self-sacrificing individuals. He states that we all know that evolution
works by natural selection, and natural selection means survival of the
fittest. Now, what we don’t know is at what level organisms are competing with
each other. It could be the fittest individual, the fittest races, or the
fittest species. If it were to be the fittest species, that means individuals
would easily sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the whole.

This seems to make sense at first, but Dawkins quickly
knocks down the argument by saying that even in the group of altruists there
will be a small number of selfish individuals that refuse to sacrifice
themselves for the betterment of the group. The presence of just one selfish
individual means that individual is more likely to survive and produce
offspring in comparison to the rest of the group. Consequently, the selfish
individual’s offspring will likely inherit the trait of selfishness. After
generations of natural selection, the new selfish individuals will inevitably
overrun the group of altruistic individuals. Dawkins then goes on to state that
even if a group of pure altruistic individuals exists, though unlikely, there
is not much that would stop selfish individuals from migrating and contaminating
the altruistic group.

However, groups can die out, and whether or not a group goes
extinct may be influenced by the behaviour of the individuals in that group.
Dawkins also mentions that although it may be true that the selfish behaviour
of the individual jeopardizes the fitness of the group, group extinction is a very
slow process in contrast to individual competition. Granting a group is headed
towards extinction, the selfish individuals will prosper in the short term at
the expense of the altruistic individuals. This serves as an advantage to
organisms with selfish motives because they will benefit while altruistic
individuals continue to sacrifice their well-being in an attempt to help the overall
group prosper.

So, if being
altruistic does not do any good for a group in the long term, wouldn’t it be
more advantageous for individuals to act in a selfish manner? One of the reasons
that the group selection theory has been so appealing to biologists is because it
is in line with the moral and political ideals that most humans share. Darwin
proposes that we may at times act selfishly at the individual level, but in our
more principled moments as a group we look up to and admire individuals who put
the welfare of others before their own. As a result, this theory seems logical
and plausible since we believe that being altruistic is the right thing to do
for group benefit.