Evolutionary Restraints: The Contentious History of Group Selection
Much of the history of the evolutionary debate since Darwin has focused on the level at which natural selection occurs. Most biologists acknowledge multiple levels of selection - from the gene, the trait, and the organism, to the family, the group, and the species. However, it is the debate about group selection that Evolutionary Restraints focuses on.
Tracing the history of biological attempts to determine whether selection could lead to the evolution of fitter groups, the author takes as his focus the British naturalist V. C. Wynne-Edwards, who proposed that animals could regulate their own population levels and thereby avoid overexploitation of their food and other resources. The resultant interpretations and arguments bled out into broader conversations about population regulation, environmental crises, and the evolution of human and animal social behavior.
"Group selection has a turbulent history, and this book, about a theory that was prematurely rejected and subsequently accepted, covers an important episode in the history of science that is more timely than ever before. Now that evolution as a multilevel process is becoming widely accepted, a proper history is badly needed; Evolutionary Restraints provides that."
- David Sloan Wilson, author of Darwin's Cathedral
Mark E. Borrello is associate professor of the history of science in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota.
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