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STRATEGIES FOR MITIGATING RISK AMONG JEWISH GROUPS

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I. INTRODUCTION: JUDAISM AS A GROUP EVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY Mainstream Darwinism has emphasized natural selection at the level of the gene or the individual, not the group. As a natural corollary of this model of individual selection, applications of evolutionary theory to human behavior have tended to focus on the individual. Individuals are viewed as free agents whose self-interested behavior has been shaped by evolutionary forces acting on psychological mechanisms. Human social relationships are viewed as permeated by conflicts of interest, but research has tended to focus on the individual actor confronting an infinitely fractionated social space. Within that social space, individual strategy is viewed as depending crucially on biological relatedness to other individuals (the result of kin selection theory [Hamilton 1964]), as well as on several other individual difference variables such as sex, age, and resource control. Within this individualist perspective the group is nothing more than a concatenation of self-interested individuals. Cooperation among individuals is understood as depending on perceived benefits to each individual. The result is that we have paid scant attention to groups and how they are able to structure themselves in order to become an important force so that it is meaningful and important to talk about the group as the vehicle of selection (Wilson & Sober 1995). Within this conceptualization there is no requirement that human group evolutionary strategies have evolved as the result of natural selection favoring altruistic groups. The idea is that humans are able to create and maintain groups that minimize the differences between group and individual interests. I argue that in some of the more interesting examples, the fundamental mechanisms involved rely ultimately on human abilities to monitor and enforce group goals and to create ideological structures that rationalize group aims both to group members and to outsiders. This perspective is consistent with the idea that natural selection has been most powerful at the individual level. The difficulty confronting those attempting to develop theories of groups is that there would always be natural selection within groups for selfish individuals. However, humans, presumably unlike other animals, are able to monitor the behavior of other members of the group and enforce sanctions against those who fail to adopt behaviors agreed to by other members of the group. In fact, traditional Jewish groups developed a wide range of sanctions against behaviors viewed as inimical to group goals (MacDonald 1994). Within this perspective, the evolved goals of humans, such as achieving social status, were determined by our evolutionary past. But there are few, if any, constraints on how humans can attempt to achieve these goals. Of critical importance for understanding human adaptation in uncertain and novel environments is the evolution of domain-general cognitive abilities (MacDonald 1991; MacDonald & Geary 2000). There is little doubt that humans have evolved a set of domain-specific psychological mechanisms designed to solve recurrent problems in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA)—the environment humans evolved in and

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