Friday, 12 January 2007

"Survival of the Fittest", and how it doesn't apply to humans

"Survival of the fittest" is one of the most important and most controversial theories of human development ever thought up. Indeed, it has been used to explain how many animals have evolved certain characteristics, like why giraffes have long necks and elephants have such size, among other things. The following post is an essay on how, thanks to a combination of two things, those two things being choice and reason, "survival of the fittest" has not applied to humans for at least 20,000 years now.


I'm going to start by saying that choice is by no means a uniquely human concept. Animals also have the ability to make choices. A dog, for instance, can make the choice as to where it sleeps for the night, when it eats it's breakfast, or where it goes toilet. What seperates humans, though, is through reason which is a uniquely human concept, we have the ability to make far greater choices on a far more advanced scale. Whereas a dog can choose where it sleeps, humans can choose to travel in space.

Sometimes, we make bad choices. We sometimes do bad things and we sometimes screw things up. This is where consequences and therefore learning from our mistakes of the past come into the scene. If we lounge around as children when we're meant to do homework and don't get it handed in on time, we will probably get told off by the teacher. In the workplace, the consequences are much greater. If we don't get work the boss wants us to do back to him in time, we might get demoted. Keep it up, and we may get fired.

No one likes being fired. The consequences can be dire, especially if you're living below the poverty line. Indeed, many poor people feel terrible when they lose their jobs. This is understandable. But what we're seeing in many Western nations throughout the world today is that less and less poor people seem to actually care. The welfare state has put responsibility on an increasingly stressed middle-class. But that's another story.

Because of the rather terrible consequences of losing a job, the irresponsible employee would, if he were to get back on his feet and get another job, need to learn from his past mistakes. Learning-and reason which is discussed in part II-is man's unique way of bettering himself if he is to adapt to changing situations throughout the world, such as the economic boom in China.

Learning from consequences from making mistakes is not forced upon us. It is a choice. Therefore, it is man's choice to learn from those consequences and adapt to new situations. It is his choice to survive.

Choices and consequences, put together, are the core principles of Libertarianism.


Part II is about how the concept of reason has influenced human choices and "survival of the fittest". Reason, unlike choices and the consequences thereof is a uniquely human concept, and is why, physical differences aside, humans have the ability to make far more advanced choices and plans than animals can.

Reason is the limits in which humans do our activities, make plans and make choices. In this sense, we must have a reason adequate do justify our activities, plans and choices. We have to reason with ourselves and other people everyday. Beacuse we have to reason with other people, as long as we have a system of choices and consequences, we need to be sensible about our choices and keep them within the human bounds of reason.

The other important use of reason is to prevent us from making bad choices we made in the past again. We saw the consequences of our bad decisions. Reason tells us that making such choices again is only going to be to our detriment.

Choice is the decisions we make. Consequence is the price we pay for making bad choices. Learning from the consequences tells us never to make such choices again. Reason prevents us from making them.

These concepts are the uniguely human way of bettering ourselves and adapting to new situations. This system is not entirely foolproof. It may take many months or years for us to know how this system works. These concepts, on a far larger scale than what applies to animals, are man's means of survival on this world.

Because of that, "survival of the fittest" is rendered unnecessary by humans. We use this system to make better choices about, for instance, inventions-which relies hugely on this process-to benefit all. We don't require "survival of the fittest" because of choices, consequences, learning from the consequences and reason we can be independent of nature.


Kane Bunce said...

Well said, Callum. Now if some of your and even my seniors realised that.

Rick said...

Hah. What kind of dreamworld do you live in here Pal? Survival of the fittest remains one of the most powerful forces of nature in our lives today.

We are but leaves in the wind but for reason.

It's not about this force being "necessasary", it's far more a matter of our will to overcome this default decision-making imperitive that's so strongy hardwired into our psychology and physiology.

Try again man!

Callum said...

It is true that, embedded within most humans is a will to survive. But, what I'm saying is that we have developed CHOICES which dictate how we live, which career path we choose, where we live and what else we do with our lives-and which directly affect the human concept of "survival of the fittest". Also, if Survival of the Fittest is the overriding factor in human minds, why do some people go to lengths do hurt themselves, or to committ suicide? Why do they want to deliberately throw themselves out?

Rick said...

But, what I'm saying is that we have developed CHOICES

With you there all the way- Reason trumps. But I think that, for you, or most people, to realise how much of our lives is a result of what I call 'the DNA rat-race' would blow your mind.

why do some people go to lengths do hurt themselves, or to committ suicide? Why do they want to deliberately throw themselves out?

I think that in every case it can be explained by realising two things.

1. Variety- the DNA rat-race does all sorts of crazy things just incase one of them turns out to be a handy survival feature

2. It's not about the individual, it's about the gene. It's about sevice to the species. DNA doesn't care about you and me, it cares (or "cares" if you like) about perpetuating the homo sapien genetic code.

Callum said...

I don't believe that's so. The reason why is that humanity has developed the idea of individualism. The first service of any human being is to oneself. Human society isn't the intelligent equivalent to a beehive. We have wars and we kill our own species (something which can be minimized by the Libertarian non-coercion principle being put into effect). Indeed, one can kill member's of one's own race, and one's own nationality. We have Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong Il to prove that.

Rick said...

You underestimate the dynamics of the process. Aggression and war are easily explained in terms of their benefits to one tribe or people over another.

A lion will often kill the offspring of his rival male to replace them with his own. And nobody questions that this is a case of infra-species killing and the perpetuation of the genetic material of the fittest. So, just call that lion Pol Pot. And you're there.

Tony Duncan said...

Well, we're at the head of the column of a line of successful progenitors. We are successful, hadn't you noticed?
The whole process has no more to do with violence than it has to do with gentleness and compassion.
Fortunately for all of us, the "selection process" is out of our hands. We mutate, we procreate. External factors select.
Your heading isn't correct.
Since we became "sapiens" we have mutated a million times. We are different now, and in the future we will be different FROM now.
Congrats on this blog. Impressive...