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Evolution Means Cooperation, Not Just Competition

We appreciate Andrew H. Knoll's review of Microcosmos (THE SCIENTIST, October 20, 1986, p. 20). It is, however, conservative. In many ways the tradition in biology has been an extension of the capitalist world view. People bridle when they hear that evolution is a cooperative phenomenon, that the biosphere represents the joint activities of those organisms, past and present, adept at surviving in each other's presence. They contrast this with the notion that evolution means competition among ind

Dorion Sagan

We appreciate Andrew H. Knoll's review of Microcosmos (THE SCIENTIST, October 20, 1986, p. 20). It is, however, conservative. In many ways the tradition in biology has been an extension of the capitalist world view. People bridle when they hear that evolution is a cooperative phenomenon, that the biosphere represents the joint activities of those organisms, past and present, adept at surviving in each other's presence. They contrast this with the notion that evolution means competition among individuals.

Yet this is clearly a limited viewpoint. It probably has more to do with the Western cult of individualism, with the capitalist ethic of competition, than it does with biological fact. In fact, "individuals" such as animals are not individuals at all, but clones of billions of nucleated cells integrated with symbiotic colonies of bacteria. When an "individual" such as Andrew Knoll pays lip ser vice to the prevailing status quo that...

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