Darwin-L Message Log 2:83 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<2:83>From CHARBEL%BRUFBA.BITNET@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU  Thu Oct 14 15:09:21 1993

Date: Thu, 14 Oct 93 15:13:38 BS3
Subject: A reference in altruism
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

   As soon as I can I will write something longer about altruism.
I have been working for one year and a half in this theme. Now, I
would like to refer to an article by Martin Nowak and Robert May, which
was published in *Nature*, in october 1992, *Evolutionary Games and Spatial
Chaos*. I am really sorry, now I see... I forgot the number of the journal
and the pages. Well, I think you can find the article...
   These authors developed a spatial version, in a bi-dimensional matrix,
for a classical metaphor in altruism debate, *Prisoner's Dilemma*. They
concluded, in general words, that the cooperative behaviour can result in
selective advantage simply because cooperators are capable of giving rise
to coherent groups.
   It is curious that this same proposition was put forward by Kropotkin,
a russian anarchist, in 1902. The object of my study, in this issue, is the
hypothesis that we can detect the fundamental core in polemics like that of
altruism, if we examine the history of the polemics. Since this core is
detected, it is easier to group the different propositions in the discussion,
and, so, to have a general view of the sides in the polemics.
   In altruism, I believe, the discussion is related to the difficulty that
modern scientists have in treating with the extreme poles in the natural
processes; Non-contradiction, one of the principles in the logic underlying
modern science, attach the scientists always to one of the extremes: altruism
is an advantage in the process of evolution or altruism is not. In fact, we
deal here with the opposition between a dialectical view of nature and a
mechanistic one. Kropotkin, working in a dialectical perspective, can see
that darwinists do not take in account the prevalence of the cooperative
behaviour in nature, and for him it is clear that, depending upon the specific
context in which the selective process takes place, both cooperative and non-
cooperative behaviours can lead to an advantage in selection. I agree with him.

     Charbel Nino El-Hani
     Institute of Biology/MsC in Education
    Area of Research: Historical Epistemology
   Federal University of Bahia, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
     Address: Charbel@Brufba

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