About Me

I have been an evolutionary biologist since the fall of 1965 when I first learned that natural selection is the key to understanding life and that it favors traits that give individuals an advantage (in producing surviving offspring). Spring of 1966 I learned Hamilton’s kinship theory, which extended one’s self-interest to include not only one’s own offspring but also
those of relatives, each devalued by the appropriate degree of relatedness.

I was eager to contribute to building social theory based on natural selection, because a scientific system of social theory must, by logic be based on natural selection, and getting the foundations correct would have important implications for understanding our own psyches and social systems. A general system of logic that applies to all creatures also vastly extends the range of relevant evidence.

I then published a series of papers on social topics: reciprocal altruism (1971), parental investment and sexual selection (1972), the sex ratio (1973), parent-offspring conflict (1974), kinship and sex ratio in the

social insects (1976), summarized in my book Social Evolution (1985).  All of these papers can be downloaded under Publications and links to buying books are found under Books. One book reprinting these papers and how they were written was entitled Natural Selection and Social Theory: Selected Papers of Robert Trivers (2002) and can be downloaded under Publications.

I devoted 1990 to 2005 to mastering genetics, in particular Selfish Genetic Elements, which typically are harmful to the organism as a whole but spread through within-individual genetic conflict. They infect all known organisms, including ourselves, come in a zoo of forms but can be understood by a logic of genetic conflict continuous with the kind that operates at the individual level (with no internal conflict). The entire subject is reviewed in my book with Austin Burt (2006) and a pdf of it can be downloaded under Publications.

Finally, I have recently attempted to master the scientific literature on self-deception and to sketch out some of the many applications of the resulting view. Links to this book are found here on the front page. Links to earlier papers on the subject can be found in the ‘Publications’.