Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 431–449 | Cite as

A Critique of R.D. Alexander's Views on Group Selection

  • David Sloan Wilson


Group selection is increasingly being viewed as an important force in human evolution. This paper examines the views of R.D. Alexander, one of the most influential thinkers about human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, on the subject of group selection. Alexander's general conception of evolution is based on the gene-centered approach of G.C. Williams, but he has also emphasized a potential role for group selection in the evolution of individual genomes and in human evolution. Alexander's views are internally inconsistent and underestimate the importance of group selection. Specific themes that Alexander has developed in his account of human evolution are important but are best understood within the framework of multilevel selection theory. From this perspective, Alexander's views on moral systems are not the radical departure from conventional views that he claims, but remain radical in another way more compatible with conventional views.

altruism evolutionary ethics group selection human behavior moral systems multilevel selection R.D. Alexander superorganism 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Sloan Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBinghamton University, State University of New YorkBinghamtonU.S.A. e-mail

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