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Give people more freedom to create less selfish societies says research

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February 8, 2009

Image courtesy of the Character Education page of the Lebanon R-3 School District - what we should be teaching our children and living ourselves.

Image courtesy of the Character Education page of the Lebanon R-3 School District - what we should be teaching our children and living ourselves.

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.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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3 Comments

Cool

Manaen Ma

Cooperation eludes the human race. The extent of human cooperation pales in comparison to that of insects such as ants and bees. If we could humble ourselves by admitting that we can learn from them we will go a long way in our civilisation. Nature has many lessons for us, just lying waiting for us to pause and imbibe such simple elegance, efficiency, beauty, peace...

Moiseraela

I read "The Complete Strategyst" (JD Williams, 1954) in highschool -- this is not a new idea. Look into biological altruism. The "game theory" article on Wikipedia is a good starting place. Dawkins is too narrowly focused (and perhaps too invested) in his theory.

Richard Milward
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