Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cooperation vs Competition

With Elinor Ostrom winning the Nobel Prize in Economics it is tempting to think that theorizing about cooperation is gaining traction relative to theorizing based on self-interest. But even that didn't prepare me for Matt Funk's claim, in On the Origin of Mass Extinctions: Darwin’s Nontrivial Error, that cooperation was as fundamental as he suggests. Here's the abstract.

Darwin's "Origin" launched evolution into theoretical orbit and it continues to influence its course. This magnum opus detailed a tenable solution to the most fundamental problem of human existence,and although this Promethean vision contains a few minor errors, there is one nontrivial error which misguides several crucial developments – not only in the evolving structure of evolutionary theory, but across the entire spectrum of science, including politico-economics. This problem has led theorists to mistakenly favour earth-based inputs over cosmic inputs, to over- emphasize biological evolution, and to under-emphasize stellar evolution. These perceptive, methodological, and logical errors have, in turn, emphasized the significance of the individual “struggle against competitors” over the cooperative “struggle against inclement environments”, and thus fashionable theories relating to Global Warming, The Problem of Sustainable Economic Development, and The Tragedy of the Commons have been erected upon false and sandy foundations and suggest evolutionarily unstable solutions. And to this point, in light of the discoveries presented here, we conclude that largely redirected global threat mitigation efforts will require unprecedented levels of international cooperation if long-term human survival is to be achieved.

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