Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 567–590 | Cite as

The robustness of altruism as an evolutionary strategy

  • Scott Woodcock
  • Joseph Heath


Kin selection, reciprocity and group selection are widely regarded as evolutionary mechanisms capable of sustaining altruism among humans andother cooperative species. Our research indicates, however, that these mechanisms are only particular examples of a broader set of evolutionary possibilities.In this paper we present the results of a series of simple replicator simulations, run on variations of the 2–player prisoner's dilemma, designed to illustrate the wide range of scenarios under which altruism proves to be robust under evolutionary pressures. The set of mechanisms we explore is divided into four categories:correlation, group selection, imitation, and punishment. We argue that correlation is the core phenomenon at work in all four categories.

Altruism Group selection Correlation Prisoner's dilemma Evolution 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Woodcock
    • 1
  • Joseph Heath
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Département de PhilosophieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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