[ExI] Survival of the nicest: have we got evolution the wrong way round?

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Tue Apr 9 12:09:15 UTC 2024

BOOK REVIEW      08 April 2024

Survival of the nicest: have we got evolution the wrong way round?
How humans, animals and even single-celled organisms cooperate to
survive suggests there’s more to life than just competition, argues a
cheering study of evolutionary biology.
By: Jonathan R. Goodman


Selfish Genes to Social Beings: A Cooperative History of Life Jonathan
Silvertown Oxford Univ. Press (2024)

The fact that all life evolved thanks to natural selection can have
depressing connotations. If ‘survival of the fittest’ is the key to
evolution, are humans hardwired for conflict with one another? Not at
all, says evolutionary biologist Jonathan Silvertown in his latest
book, Selfish Genes to Social Beings. On the contrary, he argues, many
phenomena in the natural world, from certain types of predation to
parasitism, rely on cooperation. Thus “we need no longer fret that
human nature is sinful or fear that the milk of human kindness will
run dry”.
The author argues against the idea that cooperation is fundamentally
at odds with competition — a view that emerged as a consequence of the
sociobiology movement of the 1970s, in which some biologists argued
that all human behaviour is reducible to a Darwinian need to be the
‘fittest’. The reality, as Silvertown shows, is not black and white.

Fundamentally, Silvertown proposes, cooperation in each of these
situations stems from selfishness. Animals did not evolve to act for
the benefit of their species, but to spread their own genes.
Cooperation happens because mutual benefits are better, biologically
speaking, than working alone, as the case of lichens effectively

Does this research indicate that even hard-core libertarians would be
better off co-operating with others?


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list