Monthly Archives: February 2012
“Intelligent life on a planet comes of age, when it first works out the reason for its very existence. If superior creatures ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to asses the level of our civilization is: Have they discovered evolution yet ?” – Richard Dawkins.
Education today trains us with a variety of skills. People are equipped to program computers and make power point presentations about mergers and acquisitions etc. That’s right, education today, trains us, but we learn very little, to me, this is a fundamental flaw which has led to imbalanced poorly informed societies. Of course fear contributes to all this, what would I do without a job and all the world’s learning in my head if I don’t have a skill required by a corporate ?.
The problem is, we don’t understand Darwin. Darwin, gave us the key to understanding ourselves. Dawkins made things a little simpler, I would make The Selfish Gene mandatory reading in schools, if I could. Natural selection is a fierce competition for the gene to survive. If Dawkins’ superior creatures were indeed, despite all odds, to pay us a visit, they would say, “Why these primitives have discovered evolution, but do not fully understand its implications.” It is true, that Darwin’s theories have turned around biology, but they should have also turned around the social sciences, the impact here hasn’t been felt as much, largely because people are willing to be willfully ignorant.
Natural selection tells us about the survival of the gene, the selfishness inherent in such a struggle for survival and how even apparently altruistic acts can be broken down into the selfish protection of a gene. (By the way, don’t anthropomorphise selfishness, the genes aren’t consciously selfish the way I am sometimes, but it is selfishness that helps them survive.) As Dawkins says (yes I am a HUGE fan) let us learn to be altruistic, because we were born selfish.
It is very interesting to note, that incomplete understanding of the theories of early survival, especially how brutal a natural Darwinian world is, how savagely without mercy the weaker of the species got killed off by nature, leads people to fall into the traps of Darwinism in the social sphere. The main point here is, we are instinctively geared to be Darwinian survival machines, selfish and thoughtless, the mainstream too a product of primitive survival mechanisms,promotes these ideas.
The most important take away from learning about evolution is that it is still happening today, why that is relevant is not because we may evolve into some weird hyper-intelligent species tomorrow (no evolution takes time) its important because it teaches us that we are still primates, controlled at our deepest level by the same forces that created us, the same forces that makes the wild world full of pain and suffering and a crazy struggle for survival. We are still competing, struggling, and leaving out half the population to be losers in the struggle, left behind and forced to die out by the razor sharp scythe of natural selection.
Of course equilibrium could arise, whats so great about that, you could have a market with an equilibrium price, with a large chunk of people too weak to be a part of it, the voiceless with sunken eyes, left to their fate by market forces, the new economic name for ruthless natural selection. The invisible hand of the market is evil if left to itself as it chooses not to grab the neediest of the needy.
Libertarians are economic darwinists, they like everything to happen naturally, for things to equilibriate, but some of us will always fall behind in the race, and more importantly some of our needs will never be fulfilled by competition alone. If you doubt that markets are an economic manifestation of natural selection, think about how they fail every time the ‘good’ in question loses its competitive character. You don’t see a large multinational company in the business of cleaning up the air, do you?.
Darwinism is something we need to learn to understand how things are, so that we can change our fate with an awareness no species before us has possessed. It is not and never should be a guideline to build our society, do note, that it is so programmed into us, that we don’t have to consciously follow it, it is escaping from its throes that would require conscious action.
I am not anti competition, competition has helped us a lot in both the natural and the economic world, it has brought out the best in us and kept our brains sharp. However, it will not serve the purpose of building a more equitable society, it will not remove the pain from the faces of the have-nots as they watch the haves whizz past them. For, nobody was born with the same abilities or in a level playing field. The forces that shaped us are impersonal, they may lead to our destruction with the same disregard they showed while creating us. If we do not learn to get over our selfishness and myopia, we will soon be another hapless species faced with imminent doom in the hands of natural selection and more dangerously the forces of nature.