biological competition/cooperation and the lists

Chris Burford 100423.2040 at
Thu Aug 22 07:00:56 MDT 1996

I wanted to welcome a post that Lisa wrote almost a fortnight ago,
that passed by,
and which looks  relevant again with Spoons announcement of
reorganizing of Marx space. (see below)

I want to say that silence does not necessarily imply lack
of interest. One of the problems of the subject of "marxism" is
not only the many different types of self-proclaimed marxists but the
enormous interdisciplinary range of subjects that seem
relevant. The sheer volume of interesting material
made it difficult to pick this post up on marxism1.

There is  also for me, as an admirer of chaos theory, the problem
of fractal detail, that things can be  as complex at the
microscopic level as at the global level. I think the comparison
Lisa was making between competition within cells and competition
between human economic cooperative units, was very interesting. Also
the observation that

>>Technically, symbiosis includes several categories, one of which is
parasitism, which harms one party, and only one of which actually
benefits both parties.<<

Assuming that these categories are not static, this could be
interesting for understanding the connections between dialectics
and biology.

The founding statement of this list hoped that it would
be interdisciplinary, and perhaps that will have to be achieved by a
network of lists rather than one list.

But cross fertilization would help.

I understand that in the early days of M2 it seemed right to ban
cross posting. I would ask that moderators have a flexible policy
towards cross posting in marxism-space, in order to help people more
quickly share information
about which threads and people are most involved in which discussions,
where. It may be important to know who is reading which list.
If a group of marxism-moderators comes into being, could they
publish a regular list of posts?



From: Lisa Rogers <LROGERS at>
Date: Fri, 09 Aug 1996 16:19:53 -0600
Subject: biological coop / compet.

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.]

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