Letters to the Editor

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SPIDERS: Research findings don’t apply to humans

Letter by John Mills, Tacoma on May 14, 2013 at 10:50 am with No Comments »
May 14, 2013 12:17 pm

Aggressive spiders may be more successful than docile ones in the wild, but the study you reported on really tells us nothing about humans (TNT, 5-13). Spiders don’t know how to divide labor, and can’t cooperate on projects as humans do.

Long experience teaches man that cooperative action is more efficient and productive than the isolated action of self-sufficient individual humans.

David Ricardo’s law of comparative advantage explained two hundred years ago how division of labor, cooperation and trade advantage all sides even where one person is better at doing everything than another. This explains why a surgeon hires an assistant to mop the floors even though the surgeon is probably more efficient at both surgery and floor mopping than is the assistant. Because the surgeon is only slightly more adept at floor mopping, but is very much more competent to perform surgery, by dividing jobs and having each pursue their task of relative advantage, both are made better off.

Humans can think, reason and cooperate – something spiders just can’t do. That means cooperative humans have tremendous advantage over those who try to survive by displaying aggressive behavior.

What we should take away from this interesting study of spiders is an understanding of why the study of animals often has no application at all to human society.

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