Based at the Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida, Cancer Ecology is a small research group led by David Basanta. We are mathematical modellers who work with biologists and clinicians, trying to understand the ecology of tumors and the evolutionary dynamics of cancer progression and resistance to treatment.

The coevolution of parochial altruism and war

I know I am, as of lately, reviewing articles and topics that skew more on game theory than on cancer. This is probably due to some lectures I am giving on that topic here in Dresden but lately it seems that both Nature and Science are paying more attention to this field.

The coevolution of parochial altruism and war

Jung-Kyoo Choi and Samuel Bowles

October 2007Science Magazine

The evolution of cooperation is a topic that has been discussed before in this blog but the authors of these paper consider an additional twist which is not only altruism but parochial altruism. Altruism means that we help other people and parochial altruism would stand for altruism towards our own group and agressivity towards other groups.

Both traits on their own are difficult to explain in the sense that both are detrimental to the fitness of an individual displaying them. In order to study how it could evolve the authors designed and implemented a relatively sophisticated simulation environment in which individuals can be either parochial, altruistic, both or none. The results seem to imply that group evolution would explain that groups that favour the emergence of parochial altruists would have a selective advantage. These parochial altruists are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the community and in the simulations that sacrifice would come in terms of fighting with other groups. The groups with more fighters tend to decimate their competitors. Also, parochial altruists that are successful in these combats have a higher chance of producing offspring than the non parochial altruists of their community.

A public good game is used to determine how the spoils of war are distributed. You could understand parochial altruists as cooperators that pool in the general good even when they know. Whereas in a normal game cooperators would have a difficult time, in this game, when the presence of hostile is important, cooperators can prosper.



Dec 2007

Saturday 15
Zhijian wang

We two just start at same point to 2 direction, you seem to defection cell like cancer cell, and I to human behavior and try to prove the social preference of human being is nature selection. We, ICSS@ZhejiangUniversity, are working base on agent-based computational method.
I am trying to understand the root of human’s social preference, like mercy (envy) or sympathy. 
We need the evidence from cell performance. You see, cancer cell is a good sample of greed, or defector. Its performance is important for understand game theory based theories.

Sunday 16
Zhijian Wang

Might the paper “Cooperation and conflict in quorum-sensing bacterial populations” by Stephen P. Diggle et al, be helpful for your research? I am reading it

Monday 17
David Basanta

Hi Zhijian, thanks for your comments.

I also think that this topic of research is like a coin with two sides. Although if you don’t mind me saying that I have the suspicion that it might be easier to use game theory with bacteria and cancer cells than with humans?

BTW, thanks for the reference.

Thursday 20
Zhijian Wang

I think, game theory in ‘bacteria and cancer cells’ is more practical, so more important in the view of scientific value, at the same time, it is harder. 
I have tried to repeat the Choi & Bowles’ work. I do not like the conclusion indeed. Base on two alleles, instead of parochial/tolerant, we use mercy or not, we can come to a better conclusion. You see, the media’s understanding on Bowles’ work is as
Shame is a player, but greed wins in the end
Love thy neighbour — so you can kill the others off

Rate of evolution in human history

Nowak: Five rules for the evolution of cooperation