Tokyo Tech News
Tokyo Tech's Fundamental Biology Science Class, a regular public workshop providing mainly elementary, middle, and high school students with hands-on science experiences, was held on March 26 at Ookayama Campus by the School of Life Science and Technology. Entitled "The theory of evolution and altruistic behavior: Would you help someone in need?" and supported by the Tokyo Tech Fund, the March 2018 session was specifically aimed at high school students.
When an organism's actions benefit others at a cost to itself, it is said to behave altruistically. From a biological viewpoint, benefit is measured by the number of offspring an organism can potentially leave behind. This benefit - referred to as "fitness" by biologists - decreases with altruistic behavior, which researchers struggle to justify with the traditional Darwinian theory of natural selection. The Science Class participants examined how theories in contemporary evolutionary biology can help explain this seemingly disadvantageous behavior.
Kin selection1 and multi-level selection2 are two evolutionary biology theories that attempt to shed light on the existence of altruistic behavior. In addition to studying these theories and examining different examples of altruism, participants utilized the Hawk Dove game3, based on evolutionary game theory, to deepen their learning about Darwinian competition and the Prisoner's dilemma4.
Using computer simulations, participants were further able to confirm that the theory of evolution fails to explain altruism. By inputting various conditions into these simulators, students were then able to test out different evolutionary strategies, learning that certain circumstances left room for altruistic behavior, while others prompted selfish action. In the end, participants created their own strategy based on what they had learned, testing them against each other through the Hawk-Dove game to reveal who had created the most adaptable one.
The March 2018 session provided a challenging yet entertaining way to study the basics of evolution and altruistic behavior. Organizers of the Fundamental Biology Science Class look forward to providing more learning opportunities to the public - particularly for elementary, middle, and high school students.
This event is supported by Tokyo Tech Fund
School of Life Science and Technology
—Unravel the Complex and Diverse Phenomena of Life—
Information on School of Life Science and Technology inaugurated in April 2016
Fundamental Biology, School of Life Science and Technology