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The first fully explicit argument is given that broadly supports a widespread belief among whole-organism biologists that natural selection tends to lead to organisms acting as if maximizing their inclusive fitness. The use of optimization programs permits a clear statement of what this belief should be understood to mean, in contradistinction to the common mathematical presumption that it should be formalized as some kind of Lyapunov or even potential function. The argument reveals new details and uncovers latent assumptions. A very general genetic architecture is allowed, and there is arbitrary uncertainty. However, frequency dependence of fitnesses is not permitted. The logic of inclusive fitness immediately draws together various kinds of intra-genomic conflict, and the concept of 'p-family' is introduced. Inclusive fitness is thus incorporated into the formal Darwinism project, which aims to link the mathematics of motion (difference and differential equations) used to describe gene frequency trajectories with the mathematics of optimization used to describe purpose and design. Important questions remain to be answered in the fundamental theory of inclusive fitness.

Original publication




Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date





541 - 563


Adaptation, Biological, Animals, Gene Frequency, Genetic Variation, Genome, Models, Biological, Phenotype, Selection, Genetic, Social Behavior