Hamilton(?)/Price theory

pete (VINCENT@reg.Triumf.CA)
14 Nov 1996 21:34:10 GMT

Here's a new topic: I recently read an article about an american
journalist named Price; it was just long enough ago that I've forgotten
a few of the particulars, but mostly it was the story of a strange
and tragic life. This guy had encountered some theories about
altruistic behaviour (a la Dawkins) and was profoundly affected by them.
The bulk of the story was about his personal response to the
implications, which involved him giving up his possessions, dedicating
all his salary to charity, and living in a squat, eventually committing
suicide. But the interesting thing from the point of view of this
newsgroup was in a brief offhand remark about the content of the
theories. Apparently in his desire to reject the selfish roots of
altruism, he made contributions to the development of mathematical
formulations of a theory previously proposed by (IIRC) a Hamilton.
The resulting Hamilton/Price equations were claimed to be predictive
of social group size and geographic distribution from observed
degrees of altruism in the group. The example given in the article
was that if groups lived along a strip of land such as a river bank
or seashore, it would develop a diffeerent degree of altruism from
groups which clustered in open savannah. This all seems very intriguing
to me, and appears to have some relevance to the Perennial Argument.
It also seems to me to be rather optimistic in the amount of math
that can be legitimately applied to social groups.

Anyway, does anyone know anything about this stuff?

vincent@triumf.ca <== faster % Pete Vincent
vincent@vcn.bc.ca (freenet) % Disclaimer: all I know I
% learned from reading Usenet.