Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert L. Trivers

Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert L. Trivers

Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert L. Trivers

Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert L. Trivers

Synopsis

Robert Trivers is one of the leading figures pioneering the field of sociobiology. For Natural Selection and Social Theory, he has selected eleven of his most influential papers, including several classic papers from the early 1970s on the evolution of reciprocal altruism, parent-offspring conflicts and asymmetry in sexual selection, which helped to establish the centrality of sociobiology, as well as some of his later on deceit in signalling, sex antagonistic genes, and imprinting. Trivers introduces each paper, setting them in their contemporary context, and critical evaluating them in the light of subsequent work and further developments. The result is a unique portrait of the intellectual development of sociobiology, with valuable insights of interest to evolutionary biology, anthropology, and psychology.

Excerpt

This book is a collection of some of my scientific papers, along with accounts of how they were written and short postscripts that attempt to bring the reader up-to-date. I have naturally concentrated on my early papers, the five between 1971 and 1976 that had such a strong influence. in addition to these I have included an empirical paper on lizard size and reproductive success. I have also included a paper (with Jon Seger) showing a bias in female choice toward the interests of daughters, a widely neglected paper that I hope this volume will help resurrect. My thinking on self-deception is scattered in various places, including chapter 16 of my book Social Evolution. Here I reproduce a paper with Huey Newton analyzing the contribution of self-deception to the crash of an airplane, along with a paper just published that summarizes my current understanding of the subject. Since finishing my book on Social Evolution in 1985, I have largely been occupied trying to understand the genetics and evolution of selfish genetic elements, a vast subject from which I reproduce here only a chapter with Austin Burt on genomic imprinting, itself one of the most interesting discoveries in mammalian genetics in the past twenty years. I close with a brief summary of the results of the only long-term study of fluctuating asymmetry (and the 2nd: 4th digit ratio) in humans.

The postscripts are meant to lead the reader to some usefulworkpublished after the paper itself. I have not kept up in depth with many of these topics, but when I know of important work I try to draw the reader's attention to it, and I also try to give a set of recent references that can quickly lead the reader to the larger subject. Having said this, I must emphasize that with modern computer-driven search engines (such as Web of Science) the interested reader has only to find the “cited reference search” and type in the referenceto my paper, and the computer will spew out very recent references on the topic.

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