The human immune system is complex — so complex and dynamic that it can actually adapt to a changing environment; i.e., it can evolve. Accordingly, we call the immune system a complex adaptive system. Within biology, species are complex adaptive systems whose environmental fitness tends to improve over time; species evolve. Sometimes, a species population divides, and each part evolves in isolation. Genetic mismatches may then arise that make hybrid creatures sterile and prevent re-mixing of the two populations. Similar processes operate in other complex adaptive systems, where isolation leads to crucial mismatches — in biological systems (such as the immune system and the brain) and in cultural systems (such as language and technology). Understanding cultural mismatches, in particular, may have large-scale consequences: informing humanity’s attempt to mitigate xenophobia.
Our speaker, Dr. David Queller, is Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. His research explores the evolution of cooperation both experimentally (among microbes) and theoretically (using population genetics and game theory).
Dr. David C. Queller
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