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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some Musings on a Darwinian World

I would think on a micro scale, when one's livelihood or life or home/land or lifestyle/tradition or beliefs are threatened with an "either/or" and nothing in between, then one either hightails to safer grounds, or stands one's grounds. And as history forever notes, the "either/or" choice quickly transforms into a "life/death" choice, for to give up ones "all of the above" is the same as death for many, so fight or war suddenly becomes that which even intelligent beings think the final hope of retaining one's life/livelihood/home/land/lifestyle/tradition/ beliefs. And our forever dilemma is that our imaginations can think a better peaceful way, yet our observations of nature reveals a frightening truth -- the banality of evil -- fight and warfare as natural as the tactics of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. And still, our minds rebel against the obvious.

And the obvious, that competition is the natural evolved survival strategy in all life-forms and warfare the social evolution of competition in humans as a survival strategy.

(Darwin, Descent of Man, 1871) “It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but a slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over the other men of the same tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”

So I think that "warfare" stripped to its bareness is any struggle between competing entities. When a virus invades the human body, warfare ensues. From the human perspective the virus "violates" the body, and we consider any violation as an infringement, and when done with aggression, we call it violence. If one could take the perspective of the virus, then I suppose one could think of it as a mere attempt at survival. And as far as I know, the only realized potential of a virus is simple survival, for without a reproduction system, the virus must "violate" a living cell, or in this case, a human cell. 



Moving up the ladder a bit, we come to bacteria, which do have a method of reproduction, so when a bacteria invades a human, it is simple using the human host as a suitable environment to carry on its life cycle. From the human perspective, if the bacteria is destructive, such as some strains of e. coli are, then I think we can agree that "we" have been invaded, and warfare does ensue when the immune system detects the invader. 



Taking another leap, a big one, we come to Africa and a pride of lions stalking a herd of Cape buffalo. With stealth they seek out a likely candidate and when the fight ensues the herd fights back. But usually in the end a few lions are injured and one buffalo becomes their meal, a victim to the "struggle between competing entities." In this case the lions sought food for their survival, while the buffalo sought peace and to be left alone. 



And again, Darwin's statement, "A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.”



I can image in this illustration a peaceful tribe, as peaceful as the Cape buffalo, being preyed upon by a not so peaceful tribe, and for whatever reason or ambitions of the hostile tribe, the peaceful tribe can face the "struggle between competing entities" in various ways. They could scatter and run and leave behind their tribal land and possessions to the invaders. Or they could, as Darwin points out, rally those of the tribe possessing all that it would take to repel the invaders, and these courageous ones, would challenge the invaders, and even "sacrifice themselves for the common good" by fighting the invaders. And how would this bit of warfare change the gene pool? I would think natural selection would be in full force during and after the struggle. For during the fight those with the least fighting skills would be killed, while those with the most fighting skills would survive. Not only survive, but when the fight was over they would be the ones adulated by the surviving tribe, and most likely the ones passing on their genes to the next generation. 



Darwin thought the moral traits of those with "patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy" are too carried on to the next generation. So you could say that Darwin is using warfare as the mechanism of moral evolution. Hmm ... now that's a provocative thought.

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