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Darwin-L Message Log 3:60 (November 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<3:60>From mayerg@cs.uwp.edu  Mon Nov 15 12:21:43 1993

Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1993 11:54:36 -0600 (CST)
From: Gregory Mayer <mayerg@cs.uwp.edu>
Subject: Re: Haldane and beetles
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

	The story of Haldane's conclusions regarding the nature of the
Creator brings to mind another famous and possibly apocryphal story about
Haldane.  Like the story of the beetles, I heard this first as an
undergraduate or graduate student; unlike the story of the beetles, I do
not know of a published version of the story.  It may thus be a purely
oral tradition.  The story involves Haldane's discovery and quantitative
understanding of the theory of kin selection long before W.D. Hamilton's
formal development of the theory in 1964.  The story goes as follows:
	Haldane is reputed to have been in a pub one day when conversation
turned to the subject of for what someone might be willing to risk their
life.  The question arose whether someone should risk their life to save a
drowning man.  The question was put to Haldane, who, after a few moments
consideration, including some scribbling on the back of a napkin, replied
"No, but I would do it for two brothers or eight cousins."
	Two sibs or eight first cousins _is_ the break-even point in
Hamilton's theory when an act involves loss of life to the aid donor but
the saving of the lives of the aid recipients.  James Crow (_Basic Concepts
in Population, Quantitative, and Evolutionary Genetics_, Freeman, 1986)
notes that Haldane was aware of the principles of kin selection, but that
it was not developed until Hamilton.  The story might be an explanation,
perhaps even correct, for how Haldane came to appreciate kin selection.
If there is no published source for this story, then it is an oral
tradition passed on to students of evolution over several decades (Haldane
died in 1964), and across at least two continents.

Gregory C. Mayer
mayerg@cs.uwp.edu

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