Saturday, March 04, 2006

Social Darwinism, Anyone?

Very good post on why not over on GreyThumb.Blog:

One of my favorite papers in evolutionary biology, which I have mentioned here before, is this:

Muir, W.M., and D.L. Liggett, 1995a. Group selection for adaptation to multiple-hen cages: selection program and responses. Poultry Sci. 74: s1:101.*

It outlines the group selection effects observed when trying to breed chickens for increased egg production in multiple-hen cage environments. In short, selecting individual chickens for increased productivity in a group environment didn't select for increased productivity. Instead, it selected for mean chickens. The result was an overall reduction in productivity. Only by selecting at the group level was productivity increased.This is a great experiment because it illustrates why evolutionary theory cannot be reduced to the phrase "survival of the fittest."

That phrase isn't technically wrong, but it neglects so much that it might as well be. "Survival of the fittest" is either meaningless or misleading. It's like saying that mountain climbing is just "walking upward" while neglecting to discuss proper supplies, fitness training, establishment of base camps, selecting the proper climbing group, atmospheric oxygen considerations, and... the fact that you don't always walk upward. Sometimes you have to walk sideways, or downward, to get to the top.

So how does this chicken paper relate to Enron? Well, it turns out that Enron sorta reproduced this experiment through their corporate human resources policies. (Are you shuddering yet?)

Read on:,-asshole..html

(Oh, and BTW? This is why Zelda's ( Least Favorite Professor is wrong to scoff at the school of Poultry Science, up there on the hill. Just for the record.)

No comments: