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Jonathan Birch, The Philosophy of Social Evolution, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, x + 268 pp., hardcover

  • Ayelet ShavitEmail author
Book Review

In its festive edition of July 2005, the journal Science ranked the twenty-five ‘big questions’ of the century. Among them, unsurprisingly, was the evolution of cooperation and sociality. It is now 2018, and, as predicted by the journal editors, the challenge of explaining the evolutionary proliferation of traits that reduce one’s reproductive success while advancingthe reproductive success of others, is still very much with us. Discussions on this question still dominate the literature, utilizing multiple abstract models and a few universal mathematical equations (e.g. Fisher’s fundamental theorem, the Price equation, and Hamilton’s rule). In addition, crucial empirical work—observational and experimental—is constantly being done to identify the specific causal factors and processes that could have made the difference in the evolution of social traits and in the evolutionary transition to sociality itself. Much has changed since Darwin’s first mention of altruism as “one special...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Interdisciplinary StudiesTel Hai CollegeKiryat ShmonaIsrael

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