Applying employment contract theory to symbiosis, a new paper suggests that the mutually beneficial relationships that species create are maintained because of simple self-interest, with partners benefiting from healthy hosts, much as employees benefit from robust employers.The new work would discount the theory that host species have evolved to promote symbiosis, the close and helpful interaction of species, by promising rewards or threatening punishment.Economists and biologists from Harvard University, the University of Toronto, and the University of East Anglia are presenting the work in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.“Cooperation between species, known as ‘mutualism,’ is remarkably commonplace in nature, but the evolutionary origins of such partnerships remain murky,” said Naomi E. Pierce, the Sidney A. and John H. Hessel Professor of Biology at Harvard. “Since symbiotic host species essentially ‘employ’ their symbionts, it occurred to us that economic theories explaining how and why employers reward or punish their workers might give us deeper insights into symbiosis. This approach reveals that punishment is far from ubiquitous in nature.”Most mutualism involves species, such as plants, that host smaller symbionts, such as bacteria or insects. Studies have observed that hosts can selectively reward cooperative symbionts and punish cheaters, such as when soybean plants direct food and oxygen only to root nodules colonized by nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and kill off nodules with unhelpful bacteria. But it has remained unclear how such symbioses evolved.“The prevailing consensus, known as ‘host sanction’ theory, has been that host species have evolved to punish cheaters and to reward cooperators,” said Megan Frederickson, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Toronto. “However, an alternative explanation known as ‘partner fidelity feedback’ holds that instead of hosts evolving to punish and reward, symbionts have evolved to help their hosts, because a healthy host automatically feeds back benefits to the symbionts. A cheating symbiont would seem to be treated like any other environmental setback, such as infertile soil, and a mutualistic symbiont elicits the same sort of investments that are triggered by the availability of new resources, like a patch of sunlight.”The researchers said their application of economic theory supports the latter explanation. Lead author E. Glen Weyl, an economist, used employment contract theory to design two tests to probe the evolution of mutualism. The team found that published data from two well-known pairs of symbiotic species better supported the view that symbionts have evolved to help their hosts rather than the hosts evolving to monitor and manage their symbionts.“We proved the host sanction theory wrong by trying to prove it right,” said Weyl, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows. “Every time I created a model, it was in-consistent with the natural biological predictions and with the available evidence. The great virtue of economic theory is not exactly that it is so often right, but that its precision allows it to be easily falsified when it is not.”The analysis by Weyl and his colleagues showed that in two classic mutualisms where host sanctions were thought to prevent cheating — one between a legume and a soil bacterium, and the other between a yucca and a moth — the evidence is actually more consistent with the competing theory of partner fidelity feedback.“The mathematical tools in economic contract theory and mutualisms make quite a natural pairing, but in a way we hadn’t anticipated,” said Douglas W. Yu, lecturer in biological sciences at the University of East Anglia. “Rather than just confirming expectations, the theory let us design powerful tests to choose between hypotheses. It’s always tempting to start with the assumption that an interesting behavior, such as punishment, is the product of specific adaptations, but Glen’s model forcefully reminds us that there is already a lot of biology out there, which natural selection makes use of.”The work was funded by the National Science Foundation, the European Science Foundation/European Collaborative Research’s joint program on the Evolution of Cooperation and Training (TECT), and the Harvard Society of Fellows.
Related Experts say cultural resources may help heal battered nation after brutal 2020 “Biden has picked up on that. He’s promising he’s going to have a hundred million vaccinations at the end of his first 100 days. He’s already made two big announcements about launching major programs on the economy and COVID. He’s giving speeches as a drum roll: Here are the things I’m doing.”Ultimately, said Gergen, “The inauguration is an expression of joy in the Constitution and our democracy.” This year, he said, the ritual will be most welcomed. “This inauguration, it strikes me, will be far less about joy than about relief and reflection,” he said. The two-month post-election wait used to be four, and a constitutional scholar thinks it should be shorter still A poetic beginning The inauguration today — our nation’s 59th — is about more than the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. While it certainly achieves that, the ceremony at noon, which will be held on the west side of the Capitol, has also come to symbolize the significance of the office and signal the kind of administration the incoming president intends to establish.But this one will be markedly different from those of more recent decades. Absent will be the celebratory crowds and glittering social events, owing to COVID-19 concerns. And thousands of additional members of law enforcement and the National Guard will be present to provide security after last week’s smashing of decorum and symbols by a rioting mob of Trump supporters inside the Capitol.The central goal, however, remains unchanged: the reaffirmation of a cornerstone of democracy. Many of the rituals have accrued over time. Very little of the pomp and circumstance we have come to expect is actually necessitated by the Constitution. “The Constitution is quite spare in its vision of what should take place,” explains David Gergen, LL.B. ’67, professor of public service at Harvard Kennedy School and a onetime top adviser to four different presidents, Republican and Democrat. “It simply says there should be a taking of the oath.”“There weren’t always public outdoor ceremonies,” said Jon C. Rogowski, associate professor of government and the author, with Andrew Reeves, of the upcoming, “No Blank Check: Public Opinion and Presidential Power.” Although George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 reportedly drew approximately 10,000 people, the public ceremony at the Capitol didn’t start until 1817, while other practices have evolved since.,Many of these will be passed over this year, such as the president and president-elect traveling together to the inauguration, a tradition established in 1837. President Trump plans to skip the ceremony, becoming the first commander-in-chief to do so since Andrew Johnson declined to attend the installation of President Ulysses S. Grant. In addition, any parade — a feature since 1873 — will be substantially different under the current heavy security and with COVID protocols in place.“The reason our inaugurations have grown over time is simply that that presidency is a flashpoint for American politics,” said Rogowski. “The American people want to see themselves in the ceremony.”True to this point, the rituals that have evolved are laden with symbolism. Members of Congress are invited, for example, while the chief justice of the Supreme Court typically administers the oath.“The fact that an inauguration is bringing together three branches of government from members of both parties is really important,” explained Rogowski. “It encodes what an inauguration means for the American public and also to the world more broadly.”,Aspects of the ceremony are also personal. Taking the oath on the west side of the Capitol is relatively new, Gergen explained. In 1981, President-elect Ronald Reagan moved it from the east side “because he wanted to look out toward California,” Gergen recalled. Practically, “you get a far bigger crowd over there,” as well, although with the National Mall closed, the in-person audience will not be an issue this year.Having it outdoors, on the site of the last eight inaugurations (Reagan’s second inauguration was moved indoors because of record cold), is also deeply symbolic. Despite security concerns, the incoming president has resisted calls to hold the ceremony indoors. “I think it would have been a surrender,” noted Gergen. “I’m sure he didn’t want to do it because he wants to show that he’s not going to be intimidated.”The resumption of an inaugural poetry reading, a tradition skipped by Trump, sends a different signal. It reaches back to the administrations of previous Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. And then there is the selection of poet Amanda Gorman ’20, the first youth poet laureate and a woman of color. “She’s terrific,” Gergen said. But he also noted that, while past poets have included more established figures such as Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Elizabeth Alexander, Biden chose a young poet — Gorman is 22 —with a relatively low profile. “He’s not going for royalty. He’s for the middle class. His authenticity is very important to him.”The family Bible that Biden has chosen carries its own history. Dating back to 1893, it also served for his oaths of office as a senator and vice president. “The long family ties relate to the general message that this is not going to be someone who is unmoored from the values and principles that he’s conducted his private and public business with for decades,” said Rogowski.The centerpiece of the ceremony — the inaugural speech, stating the administration’s themes — is already being telegraphed. “We’re already seeing something unfold that we haven’t seen for a long time,” said Gergen. “An echo of FDR taking over in 1933. You will recall that that speech — ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — triggered 100 days of major accomplishments. Major legislative bills went through, and they just kept rolling. Brighter days for arts forecast in Biden administration First U.S. youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman to deliver reading at Biden inauguration The oddities of Inauguration Day The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.
SouthamptonFraser Forster Crystal PalaceAlex McCarthy Liverpool are enjoying themselves at the moment.The fun factor is back at Anfield after a run of six wins in seven games, culminating in that 6-1 annihilation of Southampton as they cruised into the League Cup semi-final.Jurgen Klopp has instilled a palpable confidence within his squad since he succeeded Brendan Rodgers as manager back in October, with the likes of Lucas Leiva and Alberto Moreno playing like men possessed.Unfortunately there is one glaring weakness that may prove the Reds’ Achilles heel in their bid to maximise their lofty season ambitions under Klopp’s stewardship.Simon Mignolet initially endeared himself dramatically to Liverpool fans on his club debut back in 2013, saving a last-minute penalty in a 1-0 home win against Stoke.But since then his Reds career has been littered with costly errors, often undermining good work in front of him or being part of a collective defensive incompetence.Klopp offered his backing to the Belgian keeper this week after he gifted Bordeaux a goal via an indirect free-kick when he inexplicably held onto the ball illegally for 22 seconds in a Europa League tie at Anfield. Leicester CityKasper Schmeichel 2 LiverpoolSimon Mignolet Manchester CityJoe Hart TeamGoalkeeper 2 ArsenalPetr Cech TottenhamHugo Lloris “Simon Mignolet is one of the smartest keepers I’ve had. He’s still young enough to develop. He is very open,” expressed the German.Whether those comments were tongue-in-cheek, considering Klopp’s hilarious outburst at Mignolet’s expense to a journalist in his post-match press conference, remains to be seen as there was certainly nothing ‘smart’ about it.Mignolet had the audacity to protest his innocence but, in truth, his inexcusable mistake nearly cost a slightly off-colour Liverpool side the game and subsequently progress in the competition.His shot stopping is his saving grace but when the hallmarks of a modern day ‘keeper transcend far beyond the ability to make saves it is his shortcomings in other departments that expose his frailty.With the ball in the air or at his feet he injects a sense of uneasiness into both his players and the fans. We have seen a couple of times this season already, such as in home games against Norwich and Crystal Palace, his inability to deal with crosses effectively which has ultimately cost Liverpool four points. They are four points that would put them level with Arsenal in fourth.The Premier League boasts some of the best goalkeepers in the world. Here is how the top half of the table currently looks – plus champions Chelsea – along with their respective number ones. Manchester UnitedDavid De Gea West HamAdrian EvertonTim Howard Simon Mignolet ChelseaThibaut Courtois Reds fans would probably offload Mignolet for any of the names on that list, aside from perhaps an ageing Tim Howard at Everton. Chelsea also have the capable Asmir Begovic in reserve if, as has been the case this season, Courtois is injured. Add Stoke’s Jack Butland and that’s arguably 11 better alternatives than Mignolet in the Premier League alone.No ‘keeper has kept more league clean sheets than the Belgian in 2015 (14) but that is a highly deceiving statistic. The Reds have allowed their opponents the fewest shots on target (42) from any top tier side so far this season, so Mignolet’s accolade is mainly testament to an emerging defensive surety following the shambles that ensued at times under Rodgers.If fresh reports this week are true. then the club are set to offer Mignolet a bumper new contract. On one hand, the deal could have a galvanising effect on the 27-year-old similar to the one Klopp has precipitated upon so many of his new charges since his arrival. On the other, rewarding him after a string of unconvincing displays could harbour a sense of accomplishment when Mignolet has a lot of work to do.There’s no denying there are better alternatives out there. Several Bundesliga goalkeepers are viable options for Klopp to mull over in January, namely Timo Horn at Cologne. The German’s reticence to do so may be his downfall.If Liverpool truly want to compete both domestically and in Europe they must look to upgrade. Joe Hart, Thibaut Courtois, Petr Cech, David De Gea and Hugo Lloris – the first choices of the club’s closest rivals – are in a completely different league to the Belgian.The harsh truth is Mignolet is a liability and Liverpool are persisting with him at their peril. It would be a shame if they fell short this season because of his ineptitude.DIETMAR HAMANN HAILS SIMON MIGNOLET AS ONE OF PREMIER LEAGUE’S TOP THREE GOALKEEPERSDANNY MURPHY RUBBISHES CLAIM LIVERPOOL’S SIMON MIGNOLET IS ONE OF PREMIER LEAGUE’S BEST GOALKEEPERSTHE BEST GOALKEEPER IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE – REVEALED