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2018 Kemeny Lecture Series
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Martin Nowak

Harvard University

Natural Cooperation

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


100 Arvo Oopik '78 Auditorium at the Life Sciences Center

Abstract: Cooperation means that one individual pays a cost for another to receive a benefit. Cooperation can be at variance with natural selection. Why should you help competitors? Yet cooperation is abundant in nature and is important component of evolutionary innovation. Cooperation can be seen as the master architect of evolution, as the third fundamental principle of evolution beside mutation and selection. I will present five mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation: direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, spatial selection, group selection and kin selection. Direct reciprocity means there are repeated interactions between the same two individuals and my behavior towards you depends on what you have done to me. Indirect reciprocity means there are repeated interactions within a group and my behavior towards you also depends on what you have done to others. Indirect reciprocity is the key mechanism for pro-social behavior in humans and has selected for social intelligence and human language.

NB: PDF version of this announcement (suitable for posting).

Evolutionary Dynamics

Thursday, April 19, 2018


008 Kemeny Hall

Abstract: Biological evolution describes how populations of individuals change over time. The three fundamental principles of evolution are mutation, selection and cooperation. I will present the mathematical formalism of evolution focusing on stochastic processes. I will discuss amplifiers and suppressors of natural selection, evolutionary game theory and evolutionary graph theory.

Hamilton's rule makes no prediction and cannot be tested empirically

Friday, April 20, 2018


008 Kemeny Hall (regular colloquium)

Abstract: Hamilton's rule is a well-known concept in evolutionary biology. It is often perceived as a statement that makes predictions about natural selection in situations where interactions occur between genetic relatives. In contrast, it turns out that "exact and general'' formulation of Hamilton's rule, which is widely endorsed by its proponents, is not a consequence of natural selection and not even a statement specifically about biology. Instead it is a relationship among slopes of linear regression that holds for any suitable data set. It follows that the general form of Hamilton's rule makes no predictions and cannot be tested empirically.