Again. ScienceBlogling razib discusses some noises various biologists are making about levels of selection (I’ve touched on this topic before in the context of group selection). Sweet Baby Intelligent Designer, save us from this madness.
I’ve been through this before–hell, I’ve even published stuff related to the topic**, and there isn’t much there except for
intellectual masturbationuninteresting and bad philosophy. If it doesn’t provide me with testable hypotheses and the conceptual tools to do so, it’s just not useful. That’s what happened the last go around with this in the late 80s and early 90s. Do the experiments and I’ll be interested, because the last time it was a lot of yak and very little data.
I have a hunch that I’m just going to become depressed watching a bunch of very bright people waste their time over this.
Related note: The popularization of this discussion is going to be even more infuriating, as any philosophical and analytical rigor that is actually applied to the topic will go by the wayside in the popular press.
*Here’s the abstract cuz the article is probably behind a firewall (and it’s not listed at Medline):
Previous analyses of the selective forces operating on allorecognition systems in colonial marine invertebrates have suggested that advantages to fusion with kin have selected for the ability to recognize and fuse with related colonies. While this explanation is compatible with the observation of aggregated settlement offusible larvae in an ascidian species, it is not compatible with two other prominent features of allorecognition systems-the extensive allorecognition allele polymorphism commonly observed in natural populations and the recently reported instability of chimeric colonies. We suggest that selection for fusion with self rather than fusion with kin, oflets a more parsimonious explanation for the two features listed above. Consequently, self fusion may be a major selective force acting on allorecognition systems ‘in colonial invertebrates.