What Is A Benefit In Biology?


Chris Kempes, Eric Libby

The concept of what is beneficial in a biological context is a topic with a long history. In some situations the concept of “fitness”, the rate at which an organism grows and displaces competitors, can be used to quantify the benefit of a property such as a new gene, or strategy, or behavior. However, in general, the term “beneficial” is a sticky concept: Over what time is something beneficial (something may be immediately useful and later cause collapse)? For what set of entities is something beneficial (something may be great for the society and terrible for each or a subset of individuals or something may benefit the species but hurt the ecology)?