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Reasons for Being Nice and Having Sex

Andrew Berry: W.D. Hamilton

6 February 2003
Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W.D. Hamilton. Vol. II: The Evolution of Sex 
by W.D. Hamilton.
Oxford, 872 pp., £50, January 2001, 0 19 850336 9
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... Early in the first volume of his collected papers, the evolutionary biologist W.D. Hamilton retells a Victorian joke. Two ladies are conversing, and one says: ‘Have you heard that Mr Darwin says we are all descended from an ape?’ The other replies: ‘Oh, my dear – that surely cannot be true! … But, if it should be true, let us pray that at least it will not become generally known!’ Hamilton sees this response as being as relevant today as it was then: people have ‘an instant, automatic wish for both the evidence and the idea to go away’ because evolutionary notions ‘have the unfortunate property of being solvents of a vital societal glue ...

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