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Together against

miércoles 8 de febrero de 2012

Together against


 (A comment to a talk on Kropotkin and the evolutionary role of mutual aid— from Facebook):
"Kropotkin was known as a brilliant scientist, famous for his work on animal and human cooperation, and for his role as a founder of anarchism. Tens of thousands of people followed Prince Peter during two speaking tours that took him around America. Kropotkin’s path to fame was labyrinthine, with asides in prisons, breathtaking 50,000-mile journeys through Siberia, and banishment from most respectable Western countries of the day. In Russia, he went from being Czar Alexander II’s favored teenage page, to a young man enamored with the theory of evolution, to a convicted felon and jail-breaker, eventually being chased halfway around the world by the Russian secret police. Somehow Kropotkin found the energy to write books on a dazzling array of topics: evolution and cooperation, ethics, anarchism, socialism and communism, penal systems, and the coming industrial revolution in the East, to name a few. Though seemingly disparate topics, a common thread–Kropotkin’s scientific law of mutual aid, which guided the evolution of all life on earth–tied these works together. Just like in the animals he watched for five years in Siberia, Kropotkin saw human cooperation as ultimately being driven not by government, but by groups of individuals spontaneously uniting to do good, even when they have to pay a cost to help."
  The Prince of Evolution: A Talk by Lee Dugatkin
El Lunes, 13 de febrero a la(s) 17:30

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    • José Angel García Landa Mutual aid is a powerful force among humans... usually to be exerted against other humans.
    • _____


      Aristocrats know a lot about mutual aid. Anarchists too.

    • The notion that competition between human groups was a powerful engine of human evolution was put forward by Darwin, Spencer, R. D. Alexander...

      Yet mutual aid is also a Darwinian principle. Darwin argued that a tribe consisting of many members, who possessing a high degree of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage and sympathy, are ever ready to help each other, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would triumph over most other tribes, and this would be an aspect of natural selection. (And an instance of group selection, of course).

      Michael Gazzaniga notes that a competitive hypothesis on the origin of the social brain and of the growth of the human brain was put forward by R. D. Alexander, professor of Zoology at the University of Michigan. He emphasized intergroup (not intragroup) selection, and suggested that eventually it was other groups of hominids that became the main predator for hominid species. This resulted in an arms race for weapons and strategies, and a consequent reinforcement of the dynamics of mutual threat  and mutual solidarity between/within groups. (R. D. Alexander,  How Did Humans Evolve? Reflections on the Uniquely Unique Species. (Museum of Zoology, U of Michigan Special Publication, 1). Ann Arbor: U of Michigan, 1990; see Gazzaniga, Human, 2008). And Javier Falgueras, in Hijos de la guerra, has put forward a theory of war as a key dynamics in social evolution.

    • But again it was of course Darwin who emphasized that the struggle for existence is usually more fierce for close competitors within the same ecosystem, and within the same species. We only need to find a compromise between these two seemingly opposite principles, the advantages and disadvantages of social alliances. (Both alliances between individuals and between groups. See my observations on alliances in "El origen de las sociedades").


      A sort of pre-evolutionary forerunner of these reflections is none other than Thomas Hobbes, and his homo homini lupus hypothesis expounded in Leviathan. There is a natural continuity, really, between theories of human sociality and social development and theories of evolution, one perhaps more evident to Darwin than it is to 21st-c. theorists, ridden by political correction and political prudence, and a backing away from the nastier implications of the Darwinian "struggle for life"—for instance, by ascribing it to Spencer and so-called "Social Darwinists", a favourite Aunt Sally for the ugly side of human evolution.


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