A reader just informed me that Bob Trivers just won the Crafoord Prize in bioscience! For those who would like to become more familiar with Trivers’ work, I highly recommend Natural Selection and Social Theory. Genes in Conflict is also a good read if you want some molecular level evolutionary exposition. Finally, Trivers looms large in both Mother Nature and Defenders of the Truth. If you don’t know anyting about Trivers, I suggest this Edge Special Event.
Robert Trivers introduced concepts such as reciprocal altruism in the 1970s which revolutionized social theory, and serve as the atomic units upon which higher order explanations of animal (and human) behavior often build. In Defenders of the Truth Ullica Segerstrale chronicles how Trivers was in many ways the “mad genius” (literally, he has bipolar disorder) behind E.O. Wilson leading up the publication of Sociobiology. In many ways Trivers’ approach in evolutionary biology is that of a neoclassical economist, reductionistic, logical and couched in simplifying formalisms. Of course this has its draw backs, but, I believe it is an essential base on which other models and paradigms may be scaffolded.