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Monday, September 29, 2008

It Pays to Have Faith in Cooperation

Martin Nowak, a mathematician and biologist at Harvard University and director of its Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, has long studied cooperation among genes, cells, and humans, and recently, he's been working on mathematically modeling the origin of life. Now, he's started another new research project with Sarah Coakley, formerly at the Harvard Divinity School and now at the University of Cambridge. Together, they're studying the way religious people and nonbelievers think about and view cooperation, and early results show, says Coakley, that those who are religious have a stronger belief in cooperation's power. According to their previous research, which also combined evolutionary theory and theology, cooperation is the centerpiece of a winning game plan for life; the math demonstrates that it pays to be generous, forgiving, and hopeful. —Heather Wax