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Evolution punishes the selfish and mean

Last Updated: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 11:10

Washington: Two evolutionary biologists from Michigan State University suggest that evolution doesn`t favor the selfish.

They offer new evidence, disproving a theory popularized in 2012.

"We found evolution will punish you if you`re selfish and mean," lead author Christoph Adami, MSU professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, said.

"For a short time and against a specific set of opponents, some selfish organisms may come out ahead. But selfishness isn`t evolutionarily sustainable," he said.

The paper focuses on game theory, which is used in biology, economics, political science and other disciplines.

Much of the last 30 years of research has focused on how cooperation came to be, since it`s found in many forms of life, from single-cell organisms to people.

In 2012, a scientific paper unveiled a newly discovered strategy - called zero-determinant - that gave selfish players a guaranteed way to beat cooperative players.

"The paper caused quite a stir," Adami, who co-authored the paper with Arend Hintze, molecular and microbiology research associate, said.

"The main result appeared to be completely new, despite 30 years of intense research in this area," he said.

Adami and Hintze had their doubts about whether following a zero determinant strategy (ZD) would essentially eliminate cooperation and create a world full of selfish beings.

So they used high-powered computing to run hundreds of thousands of games and found ZD strategies can never be the product of evolution.

While ZD strategies offer advantages when they`re used against non-ZD opponents, they don`t work well against other ZD opponents.

The research is published in the current issue of Nature Communications.


First Published: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 11:10
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