Introduction Default hypothesis Selfish genes Groups Religion Ultimate meaning Background of author Why does it matter?

It is immediately apparent to everyone that humans do co-operate and work together in large groups - sometimes sacrificing their own lives for their group.  


Two main ideas have been proposed to account for this self-sacrificing altruism.  Inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism.  These go some way to explaining how groups of organisms can co-operate.


However, human groups, and religious groups in particular, can form on a scale which is an order of magnitude greater than these mechanisms allow.  


This suggests that there is another evolutionary mechanism at play that has yet to be modelled by evolutionary biologists.  One might even suggest that at the phenomenon is so readily observed and so widespread that it is the evolutionary theory that needs working on rather than dismissing the idea that such altruism could be genetically determined.


Alternatively, and perhaps according to the prevalent view, the formation of large groups of cooperating individuals has nothing to do with genes or evolution.  We form these large groups because we are intelligent enough do so.  Or if you take a religious perspective, such formations occur under divine guidance.  



Updated 8/1/2010