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Kin Selection in the Age of “—omics”: New Evidence for a Powerful Paradigm (Grand Rapids)

April 27, 2016
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The Sweet House
254 E. Fulton
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 United States

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Organized by:
Jennifer Beahan
Phone: 616-698-2342 x801
Email: jbeahan@centerforinquiry.org


Kin selection is a long-standing paradigm for understanding the evolution of “altruistic” behavior. However, kin-selection, properly understood is really about selfishness. Altruistic acts are best understood as a strategy to serve the “selfish” evolutionary interests of the genes that reside within organisms. This view was popularized by the book The Selfish Gene, written by Richard Dawkins 40 years ago, and while this understanding of kin selection is widely accepted in evolutionary biology, it has persistently been misunderstood in the public arena, spawning intense controversy at times. Even within evolutionary biology, a minority of vocal and persistent advocates continue to argue that another paradigm, group selection, is a better framework for understanding altruistic behavior.

In this talk, Henshaw will describe these perspectives in a “levels-of-selection” framework, which emphasizes how the unit of competition in selection determines the nature of adaptation. By examining the unique altruistic adaptations within the social insects, he’ll argue that kin selection is a more suitable explanation for altruism than group selection, and that, despite this continuing debate, support for the importance of kin selection continues to accumulate, aided by increasingly sophisticated molecular and genetic techniques, including genome sequencing, gene expression studies, and studies of epigenetics. Meetings are open to the Public

After the meeting, join us at Vitale’s Restaurant, 834 Leonard NE, Grand Rapids, MI to socialize. View Map

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About Mike Henshaw, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology, Grand Valley State University

Mike Henshaw is an Associate Professor of Biology at Grand Valley State University where he specializes in Animal Behavior and Evolutionary Biology. For most of his career, Mike has studied cooperation in social wasps. Using genetic techniques, he has helped to demonstrate that social insect colonies, while paragons of familial cooperation, in fact must navigate a fair amount of conflict within the family. Recently, the focus of his work at GVSU has shifted to the genetics and behavior of the bold jumping spider, Phidippus audax, which have unusually acute vision, striking and elaborate sexual displays, and a remarkable capacity for learning and problem solving. Mike grew up in Rockford, MI before moving to Africa with his missionary parents and graduated from Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. Mike attended GVSU as an undergraduate student, then Rice University in Houston, the University of Massachusetts, and James Cook University in Townsville, Australia for graduate school and a series of postdoctoral research positions. It was a long trip back to West Michigan, but one He is glad to have made, as there has been a dramatic improvement in the beer situation!