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Evolution Doesn't Favour the Mean or Selfish

Science & Tech  (tags: research, science, investigation, discovery, animals, evolution, society )

- 1782 days ago -
Evolution does not favour selfish or mean people and groups, a new study suggests. The study, published in Nature, contradicts a previous theory published in 2012 that said putting yourself first was preferred.

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Michael O (176)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 7:56 am
"We found evolution will punish you if you're selfish and mean," said lead author Christoph Adami, a Michigan State University professor of microbiology and molecular genetics.

Adami and Arend Hintze, the two MSU researchers in charge of study, used evolutionary game theory (EGT) to show how co-operative populations tend to fare better and be more successful than selfish ones.

Game theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with the statistics of decision-making.

Researchers used a classic test used in game theory called the "prisoner's dilemma," where two prisoners in a hypothetical scenario are offered their freedom if they inform on the other. The party who informed will only get freedom, however, if the other does not choose to do the exact same thing. If both prisoners inform on each other they will receive some time. If both remain silent they will both receive less time.

Mathematician John Nash said since there was no way for the two prisoners to communicate and plan what they would say, the best strategy would be to only think of yourself — since co-operation would hinge on assuming you could predict the action of the other party.

According to Adami, that particular anecdotal game fails at taking communication — a real world factor — into account. If they were allowed to communicate, the outcome would be quite different because "communication is critical to co-operation."

A 2012 study said that the method that helped one party "win” against the less selfish, co-operative one was called “zero-determinant” (ZD). That concept led Adami and Hintze to ask questions about how effective the ZD actually was.

To test their theory they used high-powered computers with thousands of games, eventually concluding that ZD strategies were ineffective if both players were using them.

In further tests, the researchers found that even when selfish players (using ZD) eliminated players who were co-operative, they eventually had to evolve as well, otherwise selfish players would essentially eliminate each other and go extinct.

JL A (281)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 8:57 am
Is this the real problem some have with the science of evolution--that it doesn't value [their] selfishness?

Alice Mullen (22)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 9:05 am

Ravenna C (20)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 12:26 pm
If there are any Ayn Rand fans that read this they are going to go Nuts!

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 12:34 pm
There are so many factors that would need to be considered. When things get crowded and supplies are few and in between human nature for the majority comes down to me first, not to mention the increase of sexual deviance; crime and violence. Maslowe proved that. I guess if they state that it is the mean and selfish species who will not survive then that could rule out a great percentage of humanity.

Muriel Servaege (53)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 1:58 pm
I could have reached the same conclusion. It is simply obvious!

Barbara V (51)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 2:04 pm
Mean and selfish doesn't have anything to do with evolution. Mean and selfish come from sick societies and the people in them.

Lona G (80)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 3:12 pm
It's the same misinterpretation of Darwin's 'fittest' again and again. Fittest doesn't mean strongest or healthiest, or most selfish for that matter. It pertains to the individual most suited to its particular environment by behaviour, physiology or any other characteristic which enables it to transmit these vital characteristics to its offspring. It may well be that for some species in a certain environment it pays of to be 'mean and selfish' and for others in a different environment it pays of to share and put the group before the individual.

Besides, selfish and altruistic are psychological constructs used by humans to label animal behaviour they think they recognise. In fact it may have nothing to do with selfish or altruistic for the animal at all. And evolution doesn't favour, it isn't some outside force that selects at will.

All in all, the experiment is intriguing in itself, but generalizes its conclusions far beyond its scope conclusions.

Nelson Baker (0)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 4:18 pm
Thank you.

Eternal Gardener (745)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 4:50 pm
So what went wrong with humanity? How come we need to serve the mean and selfish and the epitome of these: holy corporatism???
Because the mean and selfish have forged a very unnatural system in a way to sever us from Nature....they are blinded by greed and hunger for power and will pull us all down into extinction. Sorry to get off topic, just can't help it...thank you very much for this posting Michael.

Joanne D (38)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 5:11 pm
I think it's a real stretch that game theory might apply to evolution at all.

Birgit W (160)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 5:31 pm

marie C (163)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 5:39 pm
Noted thank you

Sheila D (194)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 6:46 pm
Who's the mean and selfish one keeping those meercats in such a place??

Mean and selfish are learned, which many times can be unlearned...if someone hasn't gone past the point of no return. Who defines that point anyway? That point could be very flexible, depending on the persons involved. What future for the GOP/TP according to this study?

Noted with a bit of disbelief at studies like this. Thank you.

Hartson Doak (39)
Saturday August 3, 2013, 11:38 pm
Children naturally share. It is unlearned in our self centered society. If this concern for others did not exist, we would never have developed into any kind of society. We would still be running around in small groups throwing sticks at each other. It is this inherent empathy for others that allows a selfless approach to then build ever larger groups. We have now developed to the point that we see all humanity as one species. We are all brothers and sisters. We all are living on one small mote of dust in a vast expanse of remoteness. This make everyone, that much more precious.

Lynda G (122)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 12:29 am
I agree 100% with Lona.

The results of “game theory” may well offer a possible insight into evolutionary preference, but it’s only relevant to humans and only when the game is between people of equal status and power.

Cooperative people establish a better society and support system, and manipulative people have ALWAYS taken advantage of it - this is even seen in primate colonies. The manipulative minority abuse charity, generosity and even laws to get what they want, which is usually power over others. They are a minority, but too often control and dominate our lives.

Having worked with children for years, I have to completely reject the notion that “mean and selfish are learned”. It is an instinct for survival mixed with a lack of conscience and empathy, and as such it is rarely unlearned. I used to get so distressed and angry at the behaviour of these greedy megalomaniacs, but now I know their actions are truly beyond their control I cannot hate them. I even feel sorry for them: while they accumulate wealth they are never happy or loved. I just wish we could prevent them from causing so much grief.

Patricia H. (440)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 4:16 am

Kath P (9)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 6:36 am
"...selfish players would essentially eliminate each other and go extinct." LOL

Past Member (0)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 6:42 am
It's just the matter of the best

Kathleen R (138)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 12:22 pm
noted & read

Winnie A (179)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 5:12 pm

Debra Tate (17)
Sunday August 4, 2013, 7:32 pm

Melania P (122)
Monday August 5, 2013, 12:25 pm
I think it depends on the situation and the species, but this is very interesting. There is so much we don´t know....
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