Why Cooperate? Mutualism in the Natural World

The Freedom Center Fall 2019 colloquium series presents Judith Bronstein, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (University of Arizona). Judith Bronstein is a University Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. She is an elected fellow of the Ecological Society of America and has received the University of Arizona’s Honors College’s Pillar of Excellence Award. She was also a program director at the National Science Foundation in 2007-2008. Professor Bronstein’s research foucses on conflict and cooperation between different species (“mutualism”). Who cooperates, why do they cooperate, how does cooperation evolve, and what are the consequences of “cheating?”

Abstract: The classic view of nature is one of a deathly struggle for existence both within and among species. Yet, throughout nature, species cooperate with each other. Mutualisms are more than fascinating natural history stories: they turn out to be central to the diversity and the diversification of life on our planet. But mutualisms have only recently attracted focused scientific attention, and many mysteries remain. Charles Darwin mused that if species could be shown to act exclusively for the good of others, “it would annihilate my theory”. How do we now interpret mutualisms through a Darwinian lens? And how can cooperation persist, in the face of a persistent temptation to “cheat” one’s partner? The main points in this talk will be liberally illustrated by examples from nature, both familiar and exotic.

We welcome faculty, students, and staff of the Philosophy and Moral Science Departments as well as members of the wider University community. RSVP to Lucy Schwarz at luciaschwarz@email.arizona.edu (link sends e-mail).