February 8, 2009 Cooperation, despite being now considered the third force of evolution, just behind mutation and natural selection, is difficult to explain in the context of an evolutionary process based on competition between individuals and selfish behavior. But this puzzle, that has haunted scientists for decades, is now a little closer to be solved by research about to be published on the journal Physical Review Letters.

Richard Dawkins never tires of reminding us that evolution is based on the survival of the fittest and on selfishness. Every living thing, right down to individual cells, is designed to survive, if necessary at the expense of everything else. On the other hand, cooperation is now considered the third force of evolution, just behind mutation and natural selection. This puzzle has haunted scientists for decades and is difficult to explain in the context of an evolutionary process based on competition between individuals and selfish behavior.

The new research reveals that an increasing range of behaviors among the individuals of a population leads to cooperation, supporting the idea that democracy - where individuals are free to act as they wish - is in fact the path for better societies.