In the Perspectives on Science seminar on 20 May, 2024, Patricia Rich (University of Bayreuth) will give a talk “The Evolution of Cooperation … in Science

Perspectives on Science is a research seminar which brings together experts from the philosophy of science and several fields of science studies. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar can be found on the TINT web page

The seminar takes place in person at Soc&kom, room 209 and online via Zoom from 14:15 to 15:45 on Monday the 20th of May 2024. To join the seminar, please contact for the Zoom invitation.

Explaining human cooperation has been a major interdisciplinary challenge, but we now have many insightful accounts to draw on. One example comes from Bowles, Choi and Hopfensitz; they offer a fairly detailed account of the co-evolution of cooperative individuals and group-level institutions supporting cooperation. Specifically, they argue that intergroup conflict can explain altruistic behaviors and leveling institutions (such as food sharing and monogamy). This talk addresses the question of whether the authors’ analysis can be used to construct an explanation of cooperation in the context of modern science. I argue that the basic argument can be translated, but that this leads us to three distinct evolutionary stories (potentially) explaining three distinct kinds of scientific cooperation. For each case, I indicate the relevant individuals, groups, and currency of evolution; the nature of the intergroup conflict and the types of scientific cooperation that give the group an advantage in such a conflict; and the group-level institutions that lower the costs to the relevant types of cooperation. Thus, a framework for analyzing scientific cooperation emerges. This framework can be used to situate existing models and arguments from the philosophy of science and social epistemology; it also highlights further aspects of scientific cooperation that can be integrated.

Patricia Rich is the Junior Professor for Philosophy of Economics at the University of Bayreuth. Her research generally focuses on human rationality and covers game and decision theory, epistemology, philosophy of science, and computational cognitive science. For links to her publications, see

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