Archives for posts with tag: Demise of the unfit

There are some things each of us must do.

Breathe, drink, eat, take cover.

There are some things each of us should do in moderation.

Drink, eat, ‘rest’…

There are some things each of us should never do.

Lie, steal, kill.

The things we must do ‘depend’ upon our DNA.
Unless we do what our DNA tells us to do, we die.

The things we shouldn’t do have been determined culturally.
Our fore-fathers have noticed that not doing ‘those things’ helped a lot.
That communities who taught their members to not do those things survived a lot easier and fared a lot better than those communities who had been ‘lax’ about ‘things’.
Teaching what to do and what to not do across generations transformed learned information into culture.

In time, culture has fulfilled the same function as DNA.

DNA had made it possible for life to exist. For species to survive. And to evolve when needed. When the environment had changed.

Culture had made it possible for communities to survive.
Individuals belonging to each generation didn’t had to reinvent fire each time they were cold. Or afraid. Or hungry.
They just remembered what their ancestors had taught them and put it into practice.

But there’s also a huge difference between DNA and culture.
Both consist of information passed over generations and both are instrumental in the survival of those who depend on that information being put to use.
The difference consists in the fact that DNA actually demands a certain behavior while culture only recommends certain ‘answers’.

There’s more.

DNA is a ‘language’. It has ‘letters’, ‘syntactic’ rules and even means to correct errors.
Culture uses languages as a vehicle.

Both code information using ‘letters’ and ‘words’ but they differ in how that information is passed to the next generation.
DNA passes that information in a way more ‘rigid’ manner than culture does.

While it is true that slight differences occur whenever genetic information is passed from one generation to another – that’s how evolution works, those ‘directly interested’ in the process have nothing to say about this whole thing. The differences occur accidentally and survive only if they don’t harm the organisms where they appear.

With cultural information things happen in the exact opposite manner.
Differences occur only when enough individuals notice that it would be beneficial for them to change that particular habit in that particular manner.

And now we have reached the moment to contemplate another similarity.

As the DNA has become more elaborate, the ‘superior’ organisms had enjoyed more individual ‘freedom’. Or ‘lee-way’.
Insects have more lee-way than worms, fish have more lee-way than star-fish, dogs have more lee-way than frogs and humans have more freedom than the rest of the apes have lee-way.
Similarly, people belonging to the hunter-gatherer culture had accrued a lot more freedom when they had learned – and taught it to their children, how to make fire. And so on.
Those who had learned how to grow their own food – and passed the information to the next generations, had far less chances of dying of hunger. And a lot more lee-way to conduct war…
Those who had learned how to make metal tools were a lot freer than those who shaped their tools out of stone. And very soon the stone-shapers had been ‘subdued’ by those yielding bronze weapons.

And so on to the present day.
Those who have become adept users of mass-media are seeding ‘change’ into the minds of the naive.

I only hope that they will eventually find out what Ernst Mayr had to say about this process.

Evolution is in no way about ‘the survival of the fittest’.
It is only about the demise of the unfit.

The problem with the ‘lee-way’ generated by culture being that whenever it becomes too wide the whole system becomes fragile.

Whenever people get high enough on freedom they forget that in order to survive we need to remain inside the ‘straight and narrow’ mandated by DNA and endorsed by culture.

Otherwise put, being torn between musts and don’ts is far better than being stuck. In a grave.

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‘Survival instinct’ compels us to eat, avoid being eaten and fornicate.

To keep us on the straight and narrow, Mother Nature has invented the ‘stick and carrot principle’.

Forget to eat – or eat something ‘unbecoming’, to you or to your species, you’ll soon be in pain.
After a nice meal, you’ll feel good.

Somebody else takes a bite of you? From a tiger to a mosquito? You’ll be in pain.
Slap the mosquito, con the tiger into a trap or, the creme de la creme, gain the upper hand in a bare knuckles encounter and you’ll certainly feel good.

Orgasm? Does it ring a bell? OK.

‘Stick and carrot’ worked fine.
After all, it has been the engine of evolution.
Demise of the unfit’ made it so that only those who were able to survive in a certain environment passed their ‘comme il faut’ to the next generations.

Until consciousness came around, that is.
Consciousness as we understand it…. long discussion. Soon.

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil”

And what did we do with all this knowledge?

Transformed our need to eat into gluttony? Because ‘it tastes so good that I can’t stop eating it’?
Transformed our need for safety into the habit of exploiting others? From harnessing beasts to our plows to using child labor to mine the coal used during the Industrial Revolution? Simply because we could? Some of us, anyway…
Demeaned love making to prostitution? Because orgasm, like money, is fungible? Feels the same, no matter how it was obtained?

Why?
What drove us to reach such horrible pinnacles?
What made us steer in this direction after we’ve developed the ability to ‘observe ourselves observing‘?!?

What’s going on here?

“God Arraigns Adam and Eve

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

The Punishment of Mankind

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.”

Let me rephrase what you’ve just read.

God, the father, learns that his creation – the man he had created in his own image, has become “one of us”.
When Adam hides his nakedness from his creator, God understands man has become aware.

Was he proud? Like most parents are when their children ‘grow up’?

OK, let’s forget about God for a minute. Let’s see what our forefather, Adam, had done when confronted with the consequences of his acts.
Does he own up? Behaves like a man? Or blames his woman?
What about Eve? Is she the real man in the house? or passes the blame along the food chain?
Good thing the serpent wasn’t asked to explain himself…

How about God? The omnipotent and omniscient God… does he own up? Omniscient as he was, he must have been fully aware of what was going to happen in the given circumstances… After all, who doesn’t know what will happen if you point something out to a ‘child’ and then tell them that something is off limits…
God – the one we wrote about in the Bible, solved the situation by blaming all involved. The serpent for doing what he was supposed to do, Eve for choosing to listen to the serpent and Adam for trusting his woman. Then, to avoid things becoming even worse, he banished Adam and Eve from Paradise.

and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

‘Is there a meaning to all this?’

Yep!
All three, God, Adam and Eve – as described by those who had written the Bible, do whatever they can to protect their conscience.
Each of them had made decisions, which had proven to be… well, detrimental to their own well being, and now they need to go on. To survive their own decisions!

In this type of situation, the grown-ups take stock, maturely, then take responsibility for their acts. As the first step of the long march out of the dangerous situation into each they had led themselves. By making bad – or inappropriate, choices.

But this is possible only after the individuals have conquered fear.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert, Dune

Fear cannot be conquered alone.
That was the Bible written for. As a walking stock.
And it served us right. By stating that ‘man had been created in the image of God’ it tells us that we are equal. And each of us is endowed with a divine spark. Hence worthy of respect!

But as any other walking stock, the Bible can take us only this far. From now on we must walk on our own.
We must assume our individual – read ‘limited’, nature, shed our fears and find our own ways.
Bearing in mind, of course, that only those who fit are meant to survive.

Our go round in circles, knocking at gates which have never been open. Or going to.

What Evolution Is, Ernst Mayr, https://www.amazon.com/What-Evolution-Science-Masters-Ernst-ebook/dp/B008724J1E
Children working in coal mines, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/clips/z73b4wx
The origin and conservation of self-consciousness, Humberto Maturana, https://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/pub/hvf/papers/maturana05selfconsciousness.html
King James Bible, https://biblehub.com/kjv/genesis/3.htm
Dune, Frank Herbert, https://www.amazon.com/Dune-Frank-Herbert/dp/0441172717

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Darwin had wrote “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection“.
Some of us had mistakenly understood ‘evolution’ as being a ‘fight for survival’.
‘Fight’ as in ‘kill/subdue all those around you’, not ‘strive to improve yourself’, unfortunately.

Ernst Mayr had put things right. ‘Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest but about the demise of the unfit.

Adam Smith, a philosopher, had explained to us that free market capitalism functions because ‘the butcher, the brewer and the baker‘ cooperate across their respective ‘professions’, fully understanding that by respecting each-others work each of them would better serve their individual interests than by struggling individually.
Unfortunately too many of his contemporaries, and some later exegetes, mistook Smith’s words as meaning that ‘Greed is Good’.
And proceeded accordingly. Which was just another ‘application’ of Gresham’s Law. The ‘greedier’ among the capitalists slowly climbed to a dominant position and created a situation later described as ‘savage capitalism.’
Since people have a tendency to over-react, and to make matters worse instead of solving the problem, Karl Marx came up with an even more stupid idea than ‘Greed is Good’. According to him, the world should be run, in an equally authoritative manner, by a different class of people. Not by the ‘greedy capitalists’ but by the ‘virtuous communists’.
As if there ever was any real difference between dictators…

Almost a century later than Smith, Emil Durkheim, a sociologist, revisited the concept of ‘cooperation’ – from another angle, and demonstrated that society had leaped forward when each of its members developed his/hers particular talents instead of toiling together indiscriminately.  And then traded, on the free market, the results of their efforts. Nothing really new, just told in a different manner.
A marked difference from the ‘rantings’ of Marx. Who, by the way, had assessed the situation perfectly. Which makes it all the more baffling the fact that he was able to propose such aberrant remedies.

Almost simultaneously with Durkheim, another guy had noticed two very interesting things.  After a successful career as an engineer Vilfredo Pareto had started to study economics. Then he turned his attention to sociology. As an economist he had noticed the Pareto Principle – 80% of the results (income) are produced by 20% of the causes (agents), while as a sociologist he discovered that whenever social mobility, upwards as well as downwards, is hampered, the society where this happens will, sooner rather than later, experience serious difficulties. In fact this observation is quite straightforward. Whenever young people from the ‘lower strata’ cannot accede, despite being better qualified and harder working, to more meaningful positions because those positions are ‘safeguarded’ for members belonging to the ruling minority, the people from the lower strata stop striving while those from the ruling minority become lazy and careless. The recipe for disaster, don’t you think?
If we put both Pareto’s observations together we discover something similar to Smith’s budding concept of a free market. Whenever an individual, or a group of individuals, become so powerful as to dwarf those around them, economically as well as politically, the free market, economically as well as socially, stops working.

That’s why all monopolies have never failed to collapse.
That’s why all authoritarian regimes, including those built according to Marx’s rantings, have eventually failed – causing great harm to those fool enough to believe in them.

That’s why dinosaurs had disappeared – they had grown too big for their own good.
They behaved as if they were ‘greedy’. They seemed more interested in dominating the world instead of minding their own business.
Fishes – which are older than dinosaurs – survived and thrived.
Crocodiles, alligators, turtles, tortoises, snakes and you name whatever other reptiles come to your mind have survived the same conditions that have cut the mighty dinosaurs down to size.

That’s why Mayr goes on warning us. ‘Evolution is not about the survival of the fittest but about the demise of the unfit.

Let’s not destroy ourselves, as a species, attempting to prove him wrong.

Update
Pareto’s elite theory is rather straightforward.
As soon as a society ‘grinds to a halt’ tension starts to build up. A ‘lion’ – or a coalition of lions, will sooner or later seize the opportunity and ‘make a grab for it’.
By tearing the calcified sinews which tied the society down the lions actions unleash – for the moment, at least, the creative forces that could not assert themselves. Things become markedly better than they used to be.
Because the lions are ‘lazy’ they soon hire ‘foxes’ to run the show. Unfortunately the foxes tend to be rather narrow minded and soon their narrow-mindedness coupled with the decrepitude of the lion ‘in charge’ bring back the society to the original – aka bogged down, situation.
A younger lion/fresh coalition of lions restarts the cycle.
Basically we have the definition of the boom-bust cycle.
A very compelling example would be the manner in which communist states had crumbled under their own weight. Or the manner in which all monopolies – or even companies in dominant positions, eventually screw up. The automobile industry – a mature economic field, would be a very good example for this.
Nothing dramatically different from Schumpeter’s ideas, albeit at a different scale.
Ideally, in a free (aka fully functional) ‘market’ there are a number of lions which keep each-other at bay and a big enough number of foxes to keep the show together. The lions, acting in concert, make sure that the foxes do not take over while the foxes prevent the lions from driving the whole thing over the cliff.
If the circulation of the elites is hampered, in any way, shape or form, the continuous/evolutionary social and economical fine tuning no longer works and the society reverts to the boom-bust cycle.
A really free market would closely resemble Darwin’s, or more exactly Mayr’s, evolution while the present situation is one where the circulation of the elites has been brought almost to a halt.
The whole process tends to be rather ‘circular’. As in a vicious circle.
Or a virtuous one. As it used to be, until very recently.

NB. This blog is more like a collection of notes than anything else.
I write them down because doing this streamlines my thinking process and I make them public because readers’ feed-back (mostly on FB) is very helpful.