Re: [asa] Endosymbiosis

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Wed Nov 04 2009 - 10:55:44 EST

> you are more of a biologist than most of us on the list. would it be fair,
> in your opinion, to say 'cooperative evolution' in natural-physical
> sciences is non-Darwinian? yes, of course C.D. did mention cooperation. but
> his focus was nevertheless more on competition and he 'accepted' H.
> Spencer's 'survival of the fittest' phrase. in other words, can we say that
> Darwin 'exaggerated' the influence of competition?
> this is perhaps important in recognizing a 'non-Darwinian' or
> 'post-Darwinian' (as Margulis calls it) view of biology. people like D.
> Venema just can't turn the corner to say something like 'non-' or 'post-'
> given the centrality they place on C.D. in their 'science.'

In my opinion, "Darwinian" is used so much as a perjorative that it
doesn't really convey useful information except within the specific
context of a study on historical changes in the understanding of
biological evolution.

As Darwin recognized cooperation as a possibility, I don't think that
cooperative evolution is properly labeled "non-Darwinian". I'd
advocate saying "cooperation has played a greater role in biological
evolution than has generally been recognized" rather than using the
confusing "non-Darwinian" label. Sort of like your objections to
unqualified use of "evolution".

Actually, it's not that uncommon to encounter overblown claims in a
paper to find something contrary to standard biological evolutionary
expectations (part of the more general "look at my amazing discovery!"
phenomenon), when in reality all that it does is show that evolution
followed one particular pattern rather than another. In turn, such
statements are popular for out of context misrepresentation as
evidence that many mainstream biologists are finding problems with

As for me, I think of Darwin on evolution primarily in terms of the
basic model of natural selection-organisms vary in fitness; this
fitness is to some degree heritable; this variation in fitness leads
to differences in reproductive success. As a result, populations
change over time. I don't care scientifically about the details of
how he thought it might play out; a modern understanding of genetics
and population dynamics, the various models of how biological
evolution can work (e.g., cooperate, compete, or find a way to avoid
both; gradual or rapid; stabilizing or disruptive), and all the data
that have accumulated since his time are much more relevant to my work
than whether Darwin happened to suggest that it could work in a
particular way.

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Wed Nov 4 10:55:59 2009

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