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The evolution of altruism through war is highly sensitive to population structure and to civilian and fighter mortality.

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The importance of warfare in the evolution of human social behavior remains highly debated. One hypothesis is that intense warfare between groups favored altruism within groups, a hypothesis given some support by computational modeling and, in particular, the work of Choi and Bowles [J.-K. Choi, S. Bowles, Science 318, 636-640 (2007)]. The results of computational models are, however, sensitive to chosen parameter values and a deeper assessment of the plausibility of the parochial altruism hypothesis requires exploring this model in more detail. Here, I use a recently developed method to reexamine Choi and Bowles' model under a much broader range of conditions to those used in the original paper. Although the evolution of altruism is robust to perturbations in most of the default parameters, it is highly sensitive to group size and migration and to the lethality of war. The results show that the degree of genetic differentiation between groups (FST ) produced by Choi and Bowles' original model is much greater than empirical estimates of FST between hunter-gatherer groups. When FST in the model is close to empirically observed values, altruism does not evolve. These results cast doubt on the importance of war in the evolution of human sociality.



agent-based modeling, altruism, parochial altruism, population structure, war, Altruism, Armed Conflicts, Cooperative Behavior, Cultural Evolution, Humans, Models, Psychological, Mortality

Journal Title

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences