I was going through some of my hard-copy magazines and other reading materials the other day, and stumbled upon a few issues of SEED Magazine. They have a feature where they create “curves" (this curve being interpolated from selected watershed events, which are ranked categorically) that represent the trajectory of a given research field. Inasmuch as one can quantify changes, major advances, and crises in various fields, they provide us with a good heuristic. The point of the graphic is to assure us that science does not proceed in a straight line. 

Since I could not find a virtual copy of this, I re-created the curve for group selection theory in the image above. The major landmarks were determined by the staff at SEED, and many lead-up events (lesser-known papers or influence from other fields or strong personalities) are not specified. The graph ends in 2010 at the publication of [6]. The future trajectory of the field is of course unknown, and in this case it is really unknown, as there was significant pushback and other discussion about this article in Nature and in the blogosphere (examples can be found here and here). In any case, hope you find this useful as a conversational stimulant.


[1] Wilson, D.S. (1983). The Group Selection Controversy: history and current status. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 14, 159-187.

[2] Hamilton, W. (1964). The genetical evolution of social behaviour. Journal of Theoretical Biology 7 (1): 1–16. Also see the following review: Dugatkin, L.A. (2007). Inclusive Fitness Theory from Darwin to Hamilton. Genetics, 176(3), 1375-1380.

[3] Williams, G.C. (1966). Adaptation and Natural Selection. AND (1971). Group Selection.

[4] Margulis, L. (1981). Symbiosis in cell evolution: life and its environment on the early Earth. 

[5] Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. 

[6] Nowak, M.A., Tarnita, C.E., and Wilson, E.O. (2010). The evolution of eusociality. Nature, 466(7310), 1057–1062.

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