biological coop / compet.

Lisa Rogers LROGERS at
Fri Aug 9 16:19:53 MDT 1996

Kurt Milton Pickett wrote:

>... the most highly regarded modern theory regarding the origin
>of eukaryotes is unique among all previous evolutionary thought.
The>concept, proposed by Lynn Margulis, known as the Endosymbiant
Theory,>contends (in general) that eukaryotic evolution is the result
of a>COOPERATIVE engagement of life.  This is the first valid theory
to holds that>life may have, at least in part, been the result of
cooperation--all previous>work holds that life is the result of
Darwinian competition  (we touched on>this last month).

Yes, I think it is the best hypothesis and that it is generally
recognized as such, in fact I'm not aware if it has any significant
'competition'.  I mean, when you see something with its own DNA
multiplying and dividing inside of a larger cell, it's origin as
parasite/symbiont seems almost obvious, at least in hindsight.  And
yes, the way I understand it, it could have started as a parasite.
Technically, sybiosis includes several categories, one of which is
parasitism, which harms one party, and only one of which actually
benefits both parties.

The same idea applies to chloroplasts.  Small, prokaryotic
photosynthesizers such as blue-green algae, all carry out photosyn.
_without_ chloroplasts.  Eukaryotic algae all have chloroplasts,
which are specialized for that job, contain their own DNA, make
chlorophyll and multiply themselves by dividing just like tiny cells,
i.e. just like mitochondria.

However, it is not the first or only idea of the evolution of
"cooperation" or evol by coop.  The idea that evolutionary theory had
otherwise only focussed on a naive notion of competition is mistaken,
tho commonly served as a straw herring.  To the extent that some did
or do so, they are mistaken, but they do not represent the field as a

Most evolutionary work, thought and research has been having a much
more sophisticated view of competition and cooperation than is
commonly thought by those outside the field.  For instance, it makes
no sense to think of these things [c/c] as simply opposites.

To extend Rahul's factory analogy, consider a co-op with
profit-sharing perhaps.  Say everyone within the shop is equally
dedicated to cooperating with co-workers for mutual, equal benefit.
Yet the product must be sold, in competition with other factories, in
order for profits to accrue to the members of that one coop.

This is very much the situation that multicellular organisms often
face.  No one cell is capable of living without the others, and at
the same time, the whole critter will do better or worse than other
critters when it is in competition with them for food, shelter, etc.

"Cooperation" cannot be the result of natural selection unless it
actually benefits the cooperators, which, under some circumstances,
it does.  But if cooperators do better than non-coops, then they are
actually competing by cooperating ... get it?  One can cooperate in
one aspect and compete in another at the same time, and one thing can
serve the other.

Also, there are several different kinds of "cooperation", but that
would be a much longer post.  Besides, I think it would be a good
idea to use another list for these kinds of interdisciplinary
discussions, such as relations of marxism/economics/biology, and many
other topics.  I suspect a lot of people here are not interested in
this sort of talk, and those who are could certainly sub to both

I'm considering starting one up, so please reply privately and give
me about a week to get back to you, if you would be interested in
joining such a list. [Anybody can propose a specific topic or project
kind of list, if they want.]

BTW, Rahul, you didn't intend to equate competition and exploitation
in the following, did you?  And what touchy-feelyism, something in
what Kurt wrote?  I doubt that Margulis is guilty of such a charge
[although I haven't read the original, as I learned the hypothesis in
school as pretty standard stuff.]


Rahul wrote:  As Marx mentioned somewhere, one can easily view the
factory under capitalism as an embodiment of cooperation, as well as
of competition and exploitation. The analytical principles necessary
to distinguish between the two involve larger social considerations,
and the distinction is very difficult to make solely by analysis of
the factory as a whole, without considering its embedding in society.
Such a context, it would seem to me, does not obtain when one
considers a eukaryotic cell, and certainly the ethical context which
is clearly there somewhere down deep in the distinction between
cooperation and exploitation is lacking. Just as well to say that the
eukaryotic cell ruthlessly appropriates the surplus energy created by
the mitochondria as to say that they form a perfect communist system
in which each element contributes according to its ability and is fed
according to its needs.

There's far too much touchy-feelyism invading biology, IMHO.


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