Int. J. Dev. Biol. 53: 753 - 763 (2009)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.072497kw
© UPV/EHU Press

The cooperative genome: organisms as social contracts

Kenneth M Weiss*,1,2 and Anne V Buchanan1

Departments of Anthropology1 and Biology2, Penn State University, University Park, PA, USA

ABSTRACT A predominant theme in much of evolutionary biology is that organisms are the product of relentless and precise natural selection among them, and that life is about the competition of all-against-all for success. However, developmental genetics has rapidly been revealing a very different picture of the nature of life. The organizing principles by which organisms are made are thoroughly based on complex hierarchies of molecular interactions that require multiple factors to be relentlessly cooperating with each other. Reconciling these two points of view involves changing the scale of observation, and a different understanding of evolution, in which cooperation and tolerance are more important than competition and intolerance.


evolution, cooperation, developmental genetics, patterning

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