The Origins of Multilevel Selection Theory (with Elliott Sober)

One of the high points of David’s professional life has been to work with Elliott Sober, Hans Reichenbach Professor and William F. Vilas Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin. Elliott has made foundational contributions to many topics in evolutionary science, including his and David’s collaboration on multilevel selection (MLS) theory.

In this conversation, they discuss the roots of MLS theory and more, including the subtlety of Darwin, what Bret Weinstein misses about group selection, the problem of the averaging fallacy, and path dependency in scholarship.

Links from the Episode

1:05- Upcoming Debate with David Sloan Wilson (video) and also see “What Bret Weinstein Gets Wrong About Group Selection” (TVOL article)
1:42- Elliott Sober’s 1993 book, The Nature of Selection: Evolutionary Theory in Philosophical Focus
1:50-1:57- “Reviving the Superorganism” (Wilson & Sober 1989), “Reintroducing Group Selection to the Human Behavioral Sciences” (Wilson & Sober 1994), and their book, Unto Others (1998).
2:12- Elliott Sober’s 2010 book, Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards? Philosophical Essays on Darwin’s Theory
22:58- “Altruism in Mendelian Populations Derived from Sibling Groups: The Haystack Model Revisited” (Wilson 1987)
31:20- Michael Gilpin’s 1975 book, Group Selection in Predator-Prey Communities

Elliott Sober

Elliott Sober


Elliott Sober teaches philosophy at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research is in the philosophy of science, especially in the philosophy of evolutionary biology. Sober’s books include The Nature of Selection(1984), Reconstructing the Past — Parsimony, Evolution, and Inference (1988), Philosophy of Biology (1993),Unto Others — The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (1998, coauthored with David Sloan Wilson), Evidence and Evolution – the Logic Behind the Science (2008), Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards? (2011), and Ockham’s Razors – A User’s Manual (2015).