Much ado about nothing: Nowak et al.’s charge against inclusive fitness theory


François Rousset, CC065, ISEM, USTL, Pl. E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier Cedex, France.
Tel.: +33 4 67 14 36 22; fax: +33 4 67 14 36 28; e-mail:


In a recent article, Nowak et al. claim that the mathematical basis of inclusive fitness theory does not stand to scrunity and to have found an alternative explanation for eusociality. We show that these claims are based on false premises, many of which have been exposed more than 25 years ago, such as misrepresentations of the basic components of inclusive fitness and fallacious distinctions between individual fitness and inclusive fitness. Moreover, some limitations ascribed to inclusive fitness are actually limitations of current evolutionary theory, for which Nowak et al. propose no new solution. Likewise, their assertedly ‘common sense’ empirical alternative to estimating inclusive fitness is not applicable in cases of interest. Finally, their eusociality model merely confirms the importance of all the components of inclusive fitness. We conclude by discussing how rhetorical devices and editorial practices can impede scientific endeavours.