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Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor. Social behaviors can be categorized according to the fitness consequences they entail for the actor and recipient.
- Mutually beneficial – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient
- Selfish – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the actor, but the recipient suffers a loss
- Altruistic – a behavior that increases the direct fitness of the recipient, but the actor suffers a loss
- Spiteful – a behavior that decreases the direct fitness of both the actor and the recipient
This classification was proposed by W. D. Hamilton. He proposes that natural selection favors mutually beneficial or selfish behaviors. Hamilton's insight was to show how kin selection could explain altruism and spite.
In 2010, famed Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, a founder of modern sociobiology, proposed a new theory of social evolution. He argued that the traditional approach of focusing on eusociality had limitations, which he illustrated primarily with examples from the insect world.
A parallel theory of progressive social evolution has been advanced by followers of Herbert Spencer (1820–1903). This theory rejects the conventional religious concept of human sin, which was based on the idea that, after the fall from grace, the human condition was eternally corrupt.
- see, e.g., Evolution and culture. Ed. by Marshall David Sahlins and Elman Service. Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1960; Andrey Korotayev, Nikolay Kradin, Victor de Munck, and Valeri Lynsha. Alternatives of Social Evolution: An Introduction. Alternatives of Social Evolution. Vladivostok: Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2009. P.12-59.
- Keim, Brandon (August 26, 2010). "E.O. Wilson Proposes New Theory of Social Evolution". Wired.
- Carver, Thomas Nixon (1935). The Essential Factors of Social Evolution. Chapter links, pp. ix-xi.
- Frank, S.A. (1998). Foundations of social evolution. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.
- Hamilton, W.D. (1964). The genetical evolution of social behavior I and II. — Journal of Theoretical Biology 7: 1-16 and 17-52.
- Korotayev, Andrey (2004). World Religions and Social Evolution of the Old World Oikumene Civilizations: A Cross-cultural Perspective (First Edition ed.). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0-7734-6310-0.
- Alternatives of Social Evolution: An Introduction
- Carneiro R. Stellar Evolution and Social Evolution: A Study in Parallel Processes. Social Evolution & History 2005. Vol. 4(1), pp. 136-159