I've been reading about groups of animals recently and about socials animals and the distinctions that can be drawn between them. The definition is loose and while its clear that a family group does not make a social animal, its not clear really on other things. For instance are giant fruit bats roosting together social animals? I guess not, there isn't much 'cooperation' going on there....
Which isnt to say social animals are all cooperation and no conflict. Read this by a professor at my dept. which explores both aspects among social animals. Lee Dugatkin wrote another book, its a readable book even a good one. But his repetition of his religious beliefs in it and reasonably open admission of his political positions sorta bugged me. Theres no need for it to be in the book, or none that I could see. I believescience is incompatible with religion, I can see how people can do it and do do it, see how we often compartmentalize our lives. But I don't have to like it and don't think it entirely consistent.
But it did get me thinking about somethings. One thing that often slips my mind sometimes: that humans are social animals (I always wonder why people cant just keep to themselves!). To get back to the point: One of the most dismissed ideas in evolutionary biology is perhaps group selection. And yet, according to Dugatkin, there is some theoretical evidence that suggests under very very special conditions it might well be a significant driving force in the evolution of cooperation. One of the necessary (but not sufficient) conditions is great between group selection and low within group selection.
Thinking out loud here, I wonder if human groups are coming to this now. Not necessarily at an evolutionary time scale, but socially, we're so tribal. Look at all the fights between religious groups today, intense cooperation within groups and intense conflict between. Its a bit like ants biting the heads off each other if they come from different nests.