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Stearns Stephen | Fellow Visitor
| Research area: Cognition and Sociality
Hierarchical Selection and the Human Condition
The planned book will focus on a key element of the human condition — the pervasive tension between the interests of the individual and the interests of the group — using insights from hierarchical selection theory, evolutionary game theory, and behavioral ecology. Those insights will be applied to the political, economic, and religious problems that surfaced when humans moved through the transition from living in small groups of closely related individuals at low population density to living in large groups of distantly related individuals at high population density. This transition was made possible by the agricultural revolution, which occurred 300-500 generations ago, recently enough to have left traces in our genes. I am particularly interested in how the evolution of altruism, cooperation, and self-sacrifice have produced innate susceptibilities that interact with cultural forces to shape observed behavior. This perspective also raises the issue of major transitions in evolution and the question of what the next transition might be. I would like to know whether we are currently caught in an uncompleted transition from the individual through the family to the larger group, a transition that is being prevented by a shift in the balance of forces generated by hierarchical selection that occurred when the agricultural revolution decreased degree of relationship and increased the size of interaction groups.