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Get the Mosquitoes!

John Whitfield: Selfish genes, 30 November 2006

Genes in Conflict: The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements 
by Austin Burt and Robert Trivers.
Harvard, 602 pp., £21.95, January 2006, 0 674 01713 7
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... detrimental to the evolutionary interests of the organisms that carry them. Austin Burt and Robert Trivers call such genes ‘selfish genetic elements’. That such elements should evolve is no more surprising than that viruses should exist. An organism results from the co-operation of a set of genes, and natural selection favours those organisms ...

Better to go to bed lonely than to wake up guilty

Tim Lewens: Self-Deception, 21 November 2013

Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others 
by Robert Trivers.
Penguin, 416 pp., £10.99, January 2014, 978 0 14 101991 8
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... manipulation. The contrast between these two views is perhaps brought out most clearly in Robert Trivers’s seminal article from 1974 on the conflict between parents and offspring. A natural theologian is likely to assume that parents and their developing offspring are engaged in a largely harmonious project, directed at the efficient production ...

Altruists at War

W.G. Runciman: Human Reciprocity, 23 February 2012

A Co-operative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution 
by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis.
Princeton, 262 pp., £24.95, July 2011, 978 0 691 15125 0
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... in return. But so-called ‘reciprocal altruism’ isn’t authentically unselfish (as admitted by Robert Trivers, who coined the phrase) if the anticipated benefit is greater than the immediate cost. It’s therefore just as well for us all that altruism takes other forms too. People often bear costs not only in reproductive fitness but in material ...

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