Memetics Books


This is a collection of books related to the topic of altruism. The list is associated with my 2011 "Memetics" book - which is now available. For the main list of memetics books, see here.

Memetics: Memes and the Science of Cultural Evolution by Tim Tyler (2011)
Memetics is the name commonly given to the study of memes - a term originally coined by Richard Dawkins to describe small inherited elements of human culture. Memes are the cultural equivalent of DNA genes - and memetics is the cultural equivalent of genetics. Memes have become ubiquitous in the modern world - but there has been relatively little proper scientific study of how they arise, spread and change - apparently due to turf wars within the social sciences and misguided resistance to Darwinian explanations being applied to human behaviour. However, with the modern explosion of internet memes, I think this is bound to change. With memes penetrating into every mass media channel, and with major companies riding on their coat tails for marketing purposes, social scientists will surely not be able to keep the subject at arm's length for much longer. This will be good - because an understanding of memes is important. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Common searches: [Meme] [2009] [2010] [2011] [Clear search filters]
ImageTitle, author, date and description
A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis (2011)
Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin. In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis--pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior--show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Why Humans Cooperate: A Cultural and Evolutionary Explanation by Joseph Henrich and Natalie Henrich (2007)
Cooperation among humans is one of the keys to our great evolutionary success. Natalie and Joseph Henrich examine this phenomena with a unique fusion of theoretical work on the evolution of cooperation, ethnographic descriptions of social behavior, and a range of other experimental results. Their experimental and ethnographic data come from a small, insular group of middle-class Iraqi Christians called Chaldeans, living in metro Detroit, whom the Henrichs use as an example to show how kinship relations, ethnicity, and culturally transmitted traditions provide the key to explaining the evolution of cooperation over multiple generations. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life by Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd and Ernst Fehr (2006)
Moral Sentiments and Material Interests presents an innovative synthesis of research in different disciplines to argue that cooperation stems not from the stereotypical selfish agent acting out of disguised self-interest but from the presence of 'strong reciprocators' in a social group.Presenting an overview of research in economics, anthropology, evolutionary and human biology, social psychology, and sociology, the book deals with both the theoretical foundations and the policy implications of this explanation for cooperation. Chapter authors in the remaining parts of the book discuss the behavioral ecology of cooperation in humans and nonhuman primates, modeling and testing strong reciprocity in economic scenarios, and reciprocity and social policy. The evidence for strong reciprocity in the book includes experiments using the famous Ultimatum Game (in which two players must agree on how to split a certain amount of money or they both get nothing.) View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Genetic and Cultural Evolution of Cooperation (Dahlem Workshop Reports) by Peter Hammerstein (2003)
Current thinking in evolutionary biology holds that competition among individuals is the key to understanding natural selection. When competition exists, it is obvious that conflict arises; the emergence of cooperation, however, is less straightforward and calls for in-depth analysis. Much research is now focused on defining and expanding the evolutionary models of cooperation. Understanding the mechanisms of cooperation has relevance for fields other than biology. Anthropology, economics, mathematics, political science, primatology, and psychology are adopting the evolutionary approach and developing analogies based on it. Similarly, biologists use elements of economic game theory and analyze cooperation in 'evolutionary games.' Despite this, exchanges between researchers in these different disciplines have been limited. Seeking to fill this gap, the 90th Dahlem Workshop was convened. This book, which grew out of that meeting, addresses such topics as emotions in human cooperation, reciprocity, biological markets, cooperation and conflict in multicellularity, genomic and intercellular cooperation, the origins of human cooperation, and the cultural evolution of cooperation; the emphasis is on open questions and future research areas. The book makes a significant contribution to a growing process of interdisciplinary cross-fertilization on this issue. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies by Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, Samuel Bowles, Colin Camerer, Ernst Fehr, Herbert Gintis (2000)
This path-breaking book addresses the nature of human sociality. By bringing together experimental and ethnographic data from fifteen different tribal societies, the contributors are able to explore the universality of human motives in economic decision-making, and the importance of social, institutional and cultural factors, in a manner that has been extremely rare in the social sciences. Its findings have far-reaching implications across the social sciences. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
Kin selection
The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman (2011)
Survival of the fittest or survival of the nicest? Since the dawn of time man has contemplated the mystery of altruism, but it was Darwin who posed the question most starkly. From the selfless ant to the stinging bee to the man laying down his life for a stranger, evolution has yielded a goodness that in theory should never be. Set against the sweeping tale of 150 years of scientific attempts to explain kindness, The Price of Altruism tells for the first time the moving story of the eccentric American genius George Price (1922–1975), as he strives to answer evolution's greatest riddle. An original and penetrating picture of twentieth century thought, it is also a deeply personal journey. From the heights of the Manhattan Project to the inspired equation that explains altruism to the depths of homelessness and despair, Price's life embodies the paradoxes of Darwin’s enigma. His tragic suicide in a squatter’s flat, among the vagabonds to whom he gave all his possessions, provides the ultimate contemplation on the possibility of genuine benevolence. 24 black-and-white illustrations
Narrow Roads of Gene Land: The Collected Papers of W. D. Hamilton Volume 1: Evolution of Social Behaviour by W. D. Hamilton (2011)
Why is `blood thicker than water'? Are we innately violent or pacific? Why are plants and animals sexual? Why do we grow old and die? Such questions have motivated the life-work of W.D. Hamilton, widely acknowledged as the most important theoretical biologist of the 20th century. His papers continue to exert an enormous influence and they are now being republished for the first time. This first volume contains all of Hamilton's publications prior to 1981, a set especially relevant to social behavior, kinship theory, sociobiology, and the notion of `selfish genes'. Each paper is introduced by an autobiographical essay written especially for this collection. Accessible to non-specialists, this fascinating volume features several of the most read and famous papers of modern biology.
Social Evolution by Robert Trivers (1985)
This textbook provides a good overview of social evolution. It is written in simple, easy-to-understand language and is accessable to most readers.
Reciprocal altruism
The Evolution of Cooperation: Revised Edition by Robert Axelrod (2006)
The Evolution of Cooperation provides valuable insights into the age-old question of whether unforced cooperation is ever possible. Widely praised and much-discussed, this classic book explores how cooperation can emerge in a world of self-seeking egoists-whether superpowers, businesses, or individuals-when there is no central authority to police their actions. The problem of cooperation is central to many different fields. Robert Axelrod recounts the famous computer tournaments in which the “cooperative” program Tit for Tat recorded its stunning victories, explains its application to a broad spectrum of subjects, and suggests how readers can both apply cooperative principles to their own lives and teach cooperative principles to others.
The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models of Competition and Collaboration by Robert Axelrod (1997)
Robert Axelrod is widely known for his groundbreaking work in game theory and complexity theory. He is a leader in applying computer modeling to social science problems. His book The Evolution of Cooperation has been hailed as a seminal contribution and has been translated into eight languages since its initial publication. The Complexity of Cooperation is a sequel to that landmark book. It collects seven essays, originally published in a broad range of journals, and adds an extensive new introduction to the collection, along with new prefaces to each essay and a useful new appendix of additional resources. Written in Axelrod's acclaimed, accessible style, this collection serves as an introductory text on complexity theory and computer modeling in the social sciences and as an overview of the current state of the art in the field. The articles move beyond the basic paradigm of the Prisoner's Dilemma to study a rich set of issues, including how to cope with errors in perception or implementation, how norms emerge, and how new political actors and regions of shared culture can develop. They use the shared methodology of agent-based modeling, a powerful technique that specifies the rules of interaction between individuals and uses computer simulation to discover emergent properties of the social system. The Complexity of Cooperation is essential reading for all social scientists who are interested in issues of cooperation and complexity.
The Extended Organism: The Physiology of Animal-Built Structures by J. Scott Turner (2002)
Can the structures that animals build - from the humble burrows of earthworms to towering termite mounds to the Great Barrier Reef--be said to live? However counterintuitive the idea might first seem, physiological ecologist Scott Turner demonstrates in this book that many animals construct and use structures to harness and control the flow of energy from their environment to their own advantage. Building on Richard Dawkins's classic, The Extended Phenotype, Turner shows why drawing the boundary of an organism's physiology at the skin of the animal is arbitrary. Since the structures animals build undoubtedly do physiological work, capturing and channeling chemical and physical energy, Turner argues that such structures are more properly regarded not as frozen behaviors but as external organs of physiology and even extensions of the animal's phenotype. By challenging dearly held assumptions, a fascinating new view of the living world is opened to us, with implications for our understanding of physiology, the environment, and the remarkable structures animals build.
The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson (2008)
The Superorganism promises to be one of the most important scientific works published in this decade. Coming eighteen years after the publication of The Ants, this new volume expands our knowledge of the social insects (among them, ants, bees, wasps, and termites) and is based on remarkable research conducted mostly within the last two decades. These superorganisms—a tightly knit colony of individuals, formed by altruistic cooperation, complex communication, and division of labor—represent one of the basic stages of biological organization, midway between the organism and the entire species. The study of the superorganism, as the authors demonstrate, has led to important advances in our understanding of how the transitions between such levels have occurred in evolution and how life as a whole has progressed from simple to complex forms. Ultimately, this book provides a deep look into a part of the living world hitherto glimpsed by only a very few.
Group selection
Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior by Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson (2000)
In Unto Others, philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson bravely attempt to reconcile altruism, both evolutionary and psychological, with the scientific discoveries that seem to portray nature as red in tooth and claw. The first half of the book deals with the evolutionary objection to altruism. For altruistic behavior to be produced by natural selection, it must be possible for natural selection to act on groups - but conventional wisdom holds that group selection was conclusively debunked by George Williams in Adaptation and Natural Selection. Sober and Wilson nevertheless defend group selection, instructively reviewing the arguments against it and citing important work that relies on it. They then discuss group selection in human evolution, testing their conclusions against the anthropological literature. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed by Martin Nowak and Roger Highfield (2011)
EVOLUTION IS OFTEN PRESENTED AS A STRICTLY COMPETITIVE ENDEAVOR. This point of view has had serious implications for the way we see the mechanics of both science and culture. But scientists have long wondered how societies could have evolved without some measure of cooperation. And if there was cooperation involved, how could it have arisen from nature “red in tooth and claw”? Martin Nowak, one of the world’s experts on evolution and game theory, working here with bestselling science writer Roger Highfield, turns an important aspect of evolutionary theory on its head to explain why cooperation, not competition, has always been the key to the evolution of complexity. He offers a new explanation for the origin of life and a new theory for the origins of language, biology’s second greatest information revolution after the emergence of genes. SuperCooperators also brings to light his game-changing work on disease. Cancer is fundamentally a failure of the body’s cells to cooperate, Nowak has discovered, but organs are cleverly designed to foster cooperation, and he explains how this new understanding can be used in novel cancer treatments. Nowak and Highfield examine the phenomena of reciprocity, reputation, and reward, explaining how selfless behavior arises naturally from competition; how forgiveness, generosity, and kindness have a mathematical rationale; how companies can be better designed to promote cooperation; and how there is remarkable overlap between the recipe for cooperation that arises from quantitative analysis and the codes of conduct seen in major religions, such as the Golden Rule. View on Google Books the book page, the author page, or the book contents.
The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness by Lee Alan Dugatkin (2006)
In a world supposedly governed by ruthless survival of the fittest, why do we see acts of goodness in both animals and humans? This problem plagued Charles Darwin in the 1850s as he developed his theory of evolution through natural selection. Indeed, Darwin worried that the goodness he observed in nature could be the Achilles heel of his theory. Ever since then, scientists and other thinkers have engaged in a fierce debate about the origins of goodness that has dragged politics, philosophy, and religion into what remains a major question for evolutionary biology. The Altruism Equation traces the history of this debate from Darwin to the present through an extraordinary cast of characters-from the Russian prince Petr Kropotkin, who wanted to base society on altruism, to the brilliant biologist George Price, who fell into poverty and succumbed to suicide as he obsessed over the problem. In a final surprising turn, William Hamilton, the scientist who came up with the equation that reduced altruism to the cold language of natural selection, desperately hoped that his theory did not apply to humans. Hamilton's Rule, which states that relatives are worth helping in direct proportion to their blood relatedness, is as fundamental to evolutionary biology as Newton's laws of motion are to physics. But even today, decades after its formulation, Hamilton's Rule is still hotly debated among those who cannot accept that goodness can be explained by a simple mathematical formula. For the first time, Lee Alan Dugatkin brings to life the people, the issues, and the passions that have surrounded the altruism debate. Readers will be swept along by this fast-paced tale of history, biography, and scientific discovery.
The Calculus of Selfishness by Karl Sigmund (2011)
How does cooperation emerge among selfish individuals? When do people share resources, punish those they consider unfair, and engage in joint enterprises? These questions fascinate philosophers, biologists, and economists alike, for the "invisible hand" that should turn selfish efforts into public benefit is not always at work. The Calculus of Selfishness looks at social dilemmas where cooperative motivations are subverted and self-interest becomes self-defeating. Karl Sigmund, a pioneer in evolutionary game theory, uses simple and well-known game theory models to examine the foundations of collective action and the effects of reciprocity and reputation. Focusing on some of the best-known social and economic experiments, including games such as the Prisoner's Dilemma, Trust, Ultimatum, Snowdrift, and Public Good, Sigmund explores the conditions leading to cooperative strategies. His approach is based on evolutionary game dynamics, applied to deterministic and probabilistic models of economic interactions. Exploring basic strategic interactions among individuals guided by self-interest and caught in social traps, The Calculus of Selfishness analyzes to what extent one key facet of human nature - selfishness - can lead to cooperation.
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley (2006)
If, as Darwin suggests, evolution relentlessly encourages the survival of the fittest, why are humans compelled to live in cooperative, complex societies? In this fascinating examination of the roots of human trust and virtue, a zoologist and former American editor of the Economist reveals the results of recent studies that suggest that self-interest and mutual aid are not at all incompatible. In fact, he points out, our cooperative instincts may have evolved as part of mankind's natural selfish behavior - by exchanging favors we can benefit ourselves as well as others. Brilliantly orchestrating the newest findings of geneticists, psychologists, and anthropologists, The Origins of Virtue re-examines the everyday assumptions upon which we base our actions towards others, whether in our roles as parents, siblings, or trade partners. With the wit and brilliance of The Red Queen, his acclaimed study of human and animal sexuality, Matt Ridley shows us how breakthroughs in computer programming, microbiology, and economics have given us a new perspective on how and why we relate to each other.


Tim Tyler | Contact |