Talk:Spiteful mutant hypothesis

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This Pseudoscience related article has been awarded BRONZE status for quality. It's getting there, but could be better with improvement. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.

Editorial notes

To do[edit]

Dutton argues left-wingers on average are worse looking (physical health and attractiveness) than conservatives. I have seen conflicting studies on this (some say the opposite). It's often the case with Dutton he cherry-picks studies to support his view and ignores studies saying something different.

Search spiteful mutant on Twitter for some funny stuff like this:

Sure these Antifa people are pretty weird-looking and ugly but if you also google white supremacist criminals you find as many strange looking people. Flight (talk) 03:01, 13 September 2020 (UTC)

Added the rated template to the talk page. You can add these there :) The 𝗦𝗾𝗿𝘁-𝟭 talk stalk 14:12, 13 September 2020 (UTC)


'Spite/spiteful' implies a degree of agency that mutation-as-a-process does not and cannot have. Mutations are 'indifferent to the consequences of their actions' - it is the feedback loop that is significant (the entity is more or less viable in the given environment, the mutation has no particular consequences (eg most human eye and hair colours, and blood types), etc. Anna Livia (talk) 12:22, 13 September 2020 (UTC)


I appreciate user:Flight putting this article together. There is more info on with a similar page. As noted "The main proponent of this theory, Dr. Michael A. Woodley of Menie, argued in a live stream that social epistasis amplification was possibly a major cause of the modern incel epidemic." So I'll add the incel section that isn't covered. (talk) 12:50, 24 September 2020 (UTC)

recessive genes[edit]

So I am trying to understand the difference between this concept and "recessive genes". Obviously recessive genes only affect the individual and two copies are necessary for them to have any effect. They are recessive because when they are fully expressed they reduce the individuals fitness, lifespan, reproductive capacity or whatever.

They manage to avoid being evolved out of the species by being recessive.

But in this hypothesis (spiteful mutant) the genes are presumably dominant and have a negative effect on both the individual and (somehow) those around them. If I understand it correctly.

So from an evolutionary standpoint it already sounds pretty dubious; as it's the sort of thing evolution would either get rid of or at least make recessive.

But the the article states that in some highly-cooperative social species the "spiteful mutant" might "make sense". But I can't see how. Perhaps an explanation of the process works in social insects might help?Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 12:23, 25 September 2020 (UTC)

There's now a section on social epistasis in bees. (talk) 16:05, 25 September 2020 (UTC)
OK. But I am not asking about social epistasis. I am asking why spiteful mutant genes would be retained. Presumably they provide some benefit or they wouldn't be conserved in those insect communities. What is that advantage and can you include an example?Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 16:49, 25 September 2020 (UTC)
I don't think any of the insect studies show negative social epistasis but positive. Where does the negative/harmful social epistasis ("spiteful mutation") stuff come from? It seems Woodley bases it entirely on a study of mice. The argument seems to be relaxed selection leads to rapid mutation accumulation. This isn't covered on the article, but Woodley and Dutton have argued for relaxed selection in humans. Woodley has argued for reduced natural selection pressures since the industrial revolution. I will cover this on article as it's missing. (talk) 17:19, 25 September 2020 (UTC)
I'll come back and do the industrial revolution relaxed selection stuff tomorrow. (talk) 17:23, 25 September 2020 (UTC)
Just putting this other links here for now: (talk) 17:25, 25 September 2020 (UTC)
Are you - IP - the same editor as user Flight? I want to make sure I'm talking to the person who wrote the stuff I am asking about.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 17:30, 25 September 2020 (UTC)
In any event I see you have now deleted the line: "The spiteful mutant hypothesis only makes sense for eusocial species, for example termites, ants, and naked mole rats that live among close genetic relatives within colonies in which the vast majority of individuals cooperate to aid relatively few reproductive group members.". This was the thing I was questioning. How could such a doubly damaging quality "make sense". But as you have deleted it I no longer have a question about it.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 17:40, 25 September 2020 (UTC)

So does the "Spiteful Mutant" exist in any context?[edit]

I'm still not sure if the article is suggesting that "Spiteful Mutants" might somehow exist in some insect societies.

Because I'm not seeing it.

Depending on your focus you can consider evolution acting at the level of the gene, the individual or the species.

At the genetic level mutations which are deleterious hide as recessive. At the individual level they reduce fitness and either don't get passed on or become recessive and at the species level they also reduce fitness and tend to get weeded out.

But these "spiteful mutants" - if I understand them properly - reduce fitness at both the individual and species level. Consequently they will be doubly selected against. Which makes me doubt they even exist.

And if they don't exist then we don't really need to spend the first few paragraphs talking about insect species in a language which is not particularly accessible to the average reader. We just need to say there are no examples.

Obviously, if there are examples of "spiteful mutants" in nature then that would change things. But if there are - what are they?Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 19:47, 27 September 2020 (UTC)