Biological Theory

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 311–321 | Cite as

Distinguishing Natural Selection from Other Evolutionary Processes in the Evolution of Altruism

  • Pierrick BourratEmail author
Orginal Article


Altruism is one of the most studied topics in theoretical evolutionary biology. The debate surrounding the evolution of altruism has generally focused on the conditions under which altruism can evolve and whether it is better explained by kin selection or multilevel selection. This debate has occupied the forefront of the stage and left behind a number of equally important questions. One of them, which is the subject of this article, is whether the word “selection” in “kin selection” and “multilevel selection” necessarily refers to “evolution by natural selection.” I show, using a simple individual-centered model, that once clear conditions for natural selection and altruism are specified, one can distinguish two kinds of evolution of altruism, only one of which corresponds to the evolution of altruism by natural selection, the other resulting from other evolutionary processes.


Altruism Evolution Hamilton’s rule Kin selection Multilevel selection Natural selection 



I am thankful to Patrick Forber, Arnaud Pocheville, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. I am particularly thankful to Arnaud Pocheville for his extensive help on the most technical parts of the paper and for his thorough proofreading. This research was supported under Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (Projects DP0878650 and DP150102875).


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Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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