597.04 version. The Selfish Gene Chapter 12+, Richard Dawkins

597.04 version. The Selfish Gene Chapter 12+, Richard Dawkins

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NICE GUYS FINISH FIRST Nice guys finish last. The phrase seems to have originated in the world of baseball, although some authorities claim priority for an alternative connotation. The American biologist Garrett Hardin used it to summarize the message of what may be called 'sociobio- logy' or 'selfish genery'. It is easy to see its aptness. If we translate the colloquial meaning of 'nice guy' into its Darwinian equivalent, a nice guy is an individual that assists other members of its species, at its own expense, to pass their genes on to the next generation. Nice guys, then, seem bound to decrease in numbers: niceness dies a Darwinian death. But there is another, technical, interpretation of the colloquial word 'nice'. If we adopt this definition, which is not too far from the colloquial meaning, nice guys can finish first. This more optimistic conclusion is what this chapter is about. Remember the Grudgers of Chapter 10. These were birds that helped each other in an apparently altruistic way, but refused to help—bore a grudge against—individuals that had previously refused to help them. Grudgers came to dominate the population because they passed on more genes to future generations than either Suckers (who helped others indiscriminately, and were exploited) or Cheats (who tried ruthlessly to exploit everybody and ended up doing each other down). The story of the Grudgers illustrated an important general principle, which Robert Trivers called 'reciprocal altruism'. As we saw in the example of the cleaner fish (pages 186-7), reciprocal altruism is not confined to members of a single species. It is at work in all relationships that are called symbiotic—for instance the ants milking their aphid 'cattle' (page 181). Since Chapter 10 was written, the American political scientist Robert Axelrod (working partly in collaboration with W. D. Hamilton, whose name has cropped up on so many pages of this book), has taken the idea of reciprocal altruism on in exciting new directions. It was Axelrod who coined the technical meaning of the word 'nice' to which I alluded in my opening paragraph.
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Nice guys finish first 203 Axelrod, like many political scientists, economists, mathemat- icians and psychologists, was fascinated by a simple gambling game called Prisoner's Dilemma. It is so simple that I have known clever men misunderstand it completely, thinking that there must be more to it! But its simplicity is deceptive. Whole shelves in libraries are devoted to the ramifications of this beguiling game. Many influential people think it holds the key to strategic defence planning, and that we should study it to prevent a third world war. As a biologist, I agree with Axelrod and Hamilton that many wild animals and plants are engaged in ceaseless games of Prisoner's Dilemma, played out in evolutionary time. In its original, human, version, here is how the game is played.
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597.04 version. The Selfish Gene Chapter 12+, Richard Dawkins

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