Why Cooperation is More Evolved

In the hey-day of neo-Darwinian admonishments to compete or die the anarchist Peter Kropotkin wrote an intelligent and observationally based rebuttal called Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.  “Sociability” he said “is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle.”  111 years later science is showing how important co-operation is in the evolution of species.

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I’m not sure ‘generous’ is the right word here.  Co-operation seems right to me, however:

“Ever since Darwin,” Plotkin said, “biologists have been puzzled about why there is so much apparent cooperation, and even flat-out generosity and altruism, in nature. The literature on game theory has worked to explain why generosity arises. Our paper provides such an explanation for why we see so much generosity in front of us.”

… “When people act generously they feel it is almost instinctual, and indeed a large literature in evolutionary psychology shows that people derive happiness from being generous,” Plotkin said. “It’s not just in humans. Of course social insects behave this way, but even bacteria and viruses share gene products and behave in ways that can’t be described as anything but generous.”

“We find that in evolution, a population that encourages cooperation does well,” Stewart said. “To maintain cooperation over the long term, it is best to be generous.”

Science Online

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