Cooperation is the fabric that keeps society together. Civilization could not have been achieved -- and will not be sustained -- without it. But what is it? How and why does it work? Could the secret of enhancing human cooperation lie in an investigation of the animal kingdom?
In Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees, evolution and animal behavior expert Professor Lee Dugatkin, known throughout the academic community for his ingenious animal behavior experiments, reports, from the cutting edge of scientific research on the startling evolutionary truth about cooperation and how it works. He explains the four paths to cooperation that we share with animals and provides the experimentally verified definitions of a behavior no one thought science could ever explain. The first path is through our families and demonstrates that blood really is thicker than water; the second shows why it makes biological sense to do unto others as they do unto you; the third reveals the dynamics of a kind of selfish teamwork; and the last and grandest path is to complete altruism Dugatkin illustrates his argument with marvelous behaviour in the natural world: baby-sitting mongooses and squirrels that willingly martyr themselves to save relatives; fish that switch sexes in order to share reproductive duties; and vampire bats that regurgitate blood for their hungry mates. With these colorful insights into the natural world, Dugatkin shows that what comes naturally to animals can teach us about the instincts that underlie the complex web of human social networks. We can use our understanding of these instincts to encourage purposeful human cooperation, even in situations where animals would not naturally band together.
Those readers with an interest in ecology, evolutionary biology, psychology, even anthropology will find Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees an essential handbook of the dynamics of cooperation. And everyone will find it to be a lucid introduction to the surprising evolutionary history of how we came to behave in the ways that we do, of how nature came to be less brutal than we tend to think.
Evolutionary biologist Dugatkin (Cooperation Among Animals) is unabashed in his belief that "the study of evolution and animal behavior can be used to foster and enhance cooperation in humans." Without resorting to simple minded biological determinism, he argues forcefully that the behavioral predisposition of humans may be predicted by evolution. Thus, he asserts that research in animal behavior can provide baseline information about parallel behavior in (admittedly more complex) humanity. Such investigations may ultimately help us better understand the underpinnings of human behavior and allow us to restructure our environments to promote more cooperation. Dugatkin explains that cooperation arises through four pathways, "family dynamics, reciprocal transactions, selfish teamwork, and group altruism." He devotes one chapter to each pathway, clearly explaining the underlying evolutionary theory and providing myriad animal examples. His fascinating instances range widely from vampire bats willing to regurgitate blood for starving neighbors to mongooses who take turns baby-sitting. Each chapter concludes with an attempt to tie the lessons learned from animals to suggestions for public policy issues as diverse as class size in elementary schools and partnering in police departments. These applications, however, are the weakest part of an otherwise startling and eye-opening glimpse into the evolution of behavior.