July 31, 2007

Cooperation Is Key to Evolution

The fittest cooperate:

... When biologists speak of cooperation, they speak more broadly than the rest of us. Cooperation is what happens when someone or something gets a benefit because someone or something else pays a cost. The benefit can take many forms, like money or reproductive success. A friend takes off work to pick you up from the hospital. A sterile worker bee tends to eggs in a hive. Even the cells in the human body cooperate. Rather than reproducing as fast as it can, each cell respects the needs of the body, helping to form the heart, the lungs or other vital organs. Even the genes in a genome cooperate, to bring an organism to life.

In recent papers, Dr. Nowak has argued that cooperation is one of the three basic principles of evolution. The other two are mutation and selection. On their own, mutation and selection can transform a species, giving rise to new traits like limbs and eyes. But cooperation is essential for life to evolve to a new level of organization. Single-celled protozoa had to cooperate to give rise to the first multicellular animals. Humans had to cooperate for complex societies to emerge. ...

An interesting take on the Prisoner's Dilemma, reputation-building, defecting, shunning defectors, and all manner of cooperation related program activities.

The popular model of biology and living systems seems to heavily emphasize competition. Certainly, it make very exciting footage to capture lions chasing gazelles for their next meal. Not so visually exciting are the many symbiotic systems of mutual support that exist, though they are just as important

Posted by natasha at July 31, 2007 10:43 PM | Science | Technorati links |