Evolution Leads To Cooperation

Dr. Michael LaitmanQuestion: The idea of the interaction of two opposites rarely went beyond the limits of purely philosophical exploration and cultural discourse. You revive it again, although humanity is tired of the attempts to implement it.

Answer: The person asking this question is probably a philosopher, so here is an excerpt from my new book: “The very idea that the course of evolution is defined by the interaction of two opposites emerged a long time ago. Suffice it to recall a dual opposition of yin and yang in Chinese mythology and philosophy, the Love and Strife philosophy of Empedocles, a conflict between Good and Evil in the Abrahamic religions, and the Hegelian Dialectic.

In scientific evolutionism of the second half of the 19th century, Herbert Spencer based his theory on the opposition of differentiation and integration. Throughout each era, this universal idea received new additions, a new meaning, depending on the level of human spiritual development.

Therefore, it is important that in modern evolutionism, a new theory of coevolution emerged. According to this theory, the development of the inanimate and animate natures is determined by the interaction of two principles: “cooperation” (coevolution) and “competition,” and what is more, the focus is placed on the first, but not the second principle.

It should be noted that coevolutionary processes—the reciprocal development of systems (or elements inside a system) with mutual selective demands—had long been detected in biology. However, they were considered “peripheral,” minor, and were limited only to various types of symbiotic relationships (parasitism, protocooperation, commensalism, mutualism, and so on).

In recent decades, the term “coevolution” went far beyond biology, acquired a much wider, essentially, philosophical meaning, and provided a basis for the formation of a new scientific cognitive model that has a significant impact not only on natural sciences, but also on humanitarian thought and is included in the study of processes occurring at all the levels of the animate and inanimate natures, from the sub-atomic and molecular-genetic to social life and the coevolution of ideas.

This idea has considerably undermined the established stereotypes of competition as the main driving force of evolution: The coevolutionary approach destroys the old image of Nature as “the war of all against all” and a ruthless struggle for existence.

In fairness, it should be noted: Charles Darwin warned that he used the concept of “the struggle for existence” “in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another.”

This principle extended to social life. “A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to give aid to each other and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”

Nonetheless, for a long time, the words “the struggle for existence” were taken literally and found its extreme expression in Social Darwinism, insisting that the strongest wins. And the fact that the role of coevolutionary processes and cooperation is realized nowadays is significant.

This is an indicator of important transformations in the consciousness of a modern person, in his system of values. Even if competition is not giving way to the ideals of cooperation, mutual help, and solidarity, it is visibly losing ground and is no longer perceived as the fundamental law of Nature, justifying ego-centrism in all its manifestations.

It is no accident that proponents of the coevolution theory believe that its dissemination will help to rebuild the relationships between humans and nature and even create a new type of civilization based on cooperation, nonviolence, and dialogue.”

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