The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness
Lee Alan DugatkinISBN: 0691125902; 9780691125909;
If evolution involves a competition for survival, then how can we explain altruism? Biologist Dugatkin ( Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees: The Nature of Cooperation in Animals and Humans ) splendidly narrates a fast-paced tale of scientific breakthrough, genius and intellectual history as he examines the lives of seven scientists—from T.H. Huxley through Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson—whose groundbreaking work attempts to answer this question. Darwin's "bulldog," T.H. Huxley, believed altruism was rare, and that blood kinship provided the key to an evolutionary understanding of altruism. The Russian anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, on the other hand, believed altruism was widespread and unrelated to kinship. But the idea of the kinship link won out, and in the 1960s, William Hamilton developed a cost-benefit analysis to explain the genetic basis of altruism: "If a gene for altruism is to evolve, then the cost of altruism must somehow be balanced by compensating benefits to the...