Evolution by cooperation. The work of Lynn Margulis (1938–2011)
Since Darwin’s times, evolution has been considered to be a race in which species competed to keep their places, what now is known as the Red Queen Principle (from the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll’s book). According to this principle, cheating and fiddling would be not just allowed, but advised to achieve a better result. Darwin was puzzled by altruistic behaviours, which apparently contradicted his theory of evolution by the survival of the fittest. However, the American biologist Lynn Margulis (1938–2011) saw evolution as a race in which the organisms that reached further were not those competing with each other and cheating, but those that cooperated to reach the same goal. She showed the kind face of evolution, that of a world that has progressed thanks to cooperation and altruism.
Lynn Margulis died on 22 November 2011. This International Symposium, organized by the Fundación Ramón Areces with the collaboration of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, Barcelona, will honour her, on the first anniversary of her death, by presenting state of the art research in various fields related to her work. She had a panoptic vision of science and was involved in projects that linked microbiology to other fields, her ideas ranging from the study of the origin and early evolution of life, the life in extreme environments, symbiotic relationships, and the search for extraterrestrial life, to environmental issues and the dissemination of science to the general public.