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Every so often I have to take a break from the downward pressure on what passes for national politics and write something more broadly applicable to the human condition.  

I'm an evolutionary biologist and I often see things in the light of adaptation and survival to reproduce.  This is about doing two things all to well that just might spell our demise:  killing and reproducing.  Some literary thinkers much smarter than me might say this is a divine dichotomy.  To me, it's just seeing that we're not as smart as we think we are.

     The principles of evolution do not include the phrase, "survival of the fittest".  These principles, now greatly supplemented, proven and accepted since Charles Darwin first wrote On the Origin of Species, require that features of an organism that promote its ability to reproduce offspring that survive matter the most.

 Sudden catastrophes, fast-moving disease and short-term climate change are all major threats to an organism’s "fitness" to survive.  Plants and animals cannot adapt to a comet crash, or a quickly occurring drought, or a volcanic explosion.  If they have the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, they will become extinct irrespective of their adaptations to more "normal" times.

Humans are the most adaptable animal the world has yet seen – as far as we know.  We have and can manage to survive dramatic changes in our environment because we observe those changes, understand the threat to our existence (hence our ability to reproduce) and adapt ourselves to avoid dangers.  We made weapons to defend ourselves against predators (and each other, often the same thing), we relocated to more favorable areas for food and we eventually invented medicines to overcome most diseases.  The question is why are we building so many weapons for killing?

Most of today’s peoples grow their own food.  There are but a few remnants of civilizations where hunting is the primary activity for meat acquisition.  Most humans farm their meat as well as their vegetables.  Similar to bears and pigs, humans are omnivores among larger mammals.  Rodents are often omnivorous, but most specialize in a food type.

Today’s "modern" man hunts for sport with food a secondary consideration.  Fortunately, the killing of wild animals for trophies or hide commerce is greatly reduced, but still rapacious in its own rite.  But the sheer volume and sophistication of the weapons we produce are still astounding.  We are very, very good at finding new ways and new mechanisms to kill one another.  But as a sportsman, I couldn’t imagine hauling a 105mm field artillery piece out to my deer stand.

I’m not going to get into a moral discussion about killing.  We humans have always behaved like my father-in-law’s goats:  we all keep finding new ways to kill ourselves.  I accept that because we have always done it.  All of recorded history highlights war as the most significant activity of a society.

       Wars are mass killings brought about by organized bands of humans brandishing weapons of death to other humans.  That’s it.  The band with the most soldiers with the most effective weapons win.  Rarely do the meek survive.  We know all too well the reasons for war: religion, race, tribe identity, territory, resources, food and water.  Political power that launches wars is predicated on one or more of these things.

What if we made robots so sophisticated that they only needed us humans to maintain their systems, keep them lubricated and repaired?  What if we programmed them to keep us alive so that we could continue their maintenance; if not they would become heaps of rusting junk?  I wonder if these robots would have sufficient cognition from intelligence programming to prevent us from killing ourselves off for their survival.  Maybe they would drop their agrarian duties of feeding us to prevent us from killing each other via wars; a robotic rebellion, if you will.  After all if we, their keepers survive, they do.

Well, right now the planet Earth is our keeper.  We humans are exploiting its resources at rates and using methods that were not even imagined even 100 years ago.  In my lifetime the human population has more than doubled and may add another 50% before I die.  We "evolved" as the most rapacious organism to ever walk the Planet.  Even world wars haven’t stemmed the tide of overpopulation.

The point to all this is that we must adapt once again to a major threat to our existence:  ourselves.  We are most complex and the answers to our survival are also complex.  Two things we can start doing right away is stop killing each other and control our population growth.  We must give the planet a chance to support us further, otherwise it will be worn out from us and we will be gone.  

Originally posted to dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 07:35 AM PST.

Poll

What should we do to survive?

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| 16 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

    by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 07:35:53 AM PST

  •  Enjoyed the diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dolfin66, QuestionAuthority, Coilette

    but isn't this a fancy way of saying if we want to make a change we have to change self?

    I will Not give up, I will Not give in, I will Not quit!

    by JupiterIslandGirl on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 07:47:00 AM PST

    •  Yes. Now go teach the world that simple point. (3+ / 0-)

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:01:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  LOL (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dolfin66, QuestionAuthority

        I didn't mean to come off snarky or cynical, my apologies.

        Better people than I have tried and still trying but until someone can invent a gadget that forces people to look in the mirror, at the same time....well you write great diaries like this, you spread the word as you suggest, and hopefully you reach one person that reaches another...

        I will Not give up, I will Not give in, I will Not quit!

        by JupiterIslandGirl on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:13:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks. (3+ / 0-)

          I wasn't being a wise-ass.  If we're going to be a species of super tribes, then our survival is going to depend on us not blowing up the keeper of our lives, the Earth.

          If we can conceive, build and develop thermonuclear weapons that will destroy all humans, why can't we do the reverse?

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:17:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Fortunately, this is not the requirement (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dolfin66

          Children of the bigots, racists, and kleptocrats whose culture of entitlement fuels the Right are falling away by the thousands daily, millions annually. See The Incredible Shrinking Church for an inside view.

          The essential steps for us are to fix our election system, with public funding, and education, with access to contrary ideas, and with collaboration no longer defined as "cheating". I'm working on both of those issues on the theory that they are the most effective means of addressing the causes of our political problems worldwide, rather than the symptoms. See, for example,

          and

          As with any significant political and social changes, I expect these to be fifty-year-long fights, but worth every minute.

          Busting the Dog Whistle code.

          by Mokurai on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:12:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, it's going to be a long road... (0+ / 0-)

            when old, poor and lower middle class people in my central Texas county vote 72-28 Republican no matter what.  Obama lost in Texas by 8 points.  My county?  72-28 McCain.  Bush won both times here, 72-28.  Even this mid-term the numbers were the same.  We could run Jesus Christ as a Democrat here and he'd lose 72-28.  If he was black he wouldn't top 20%.

            What I don't get is that people on Social Security, Medicare, etc., will vote against their own interests by electing these goobers back into office every time.  Oh.  I forgot.  It's that Fox News thing.  

            Any time you hear some Texan tell you how brave and manly and ruggedly independent, etc., put your hand over your wallet, because it's a lie.  These people are scared shitless of anything they haven't held in their hands for 30 years.  They are suspicious by nature and Provincial in their politics to the point of unspoken hysteria.

            "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

            by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 01:02:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  What?! Gandhi was right when he said (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dolfin66

      You must be the change you seek.

      ??

      Busting the Dog Whistle code.

      by Mokurai on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:32:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Try a different socio-economic system. (3+ / 0-)

    Nice diary.

    A system motivated by greed and dependent upon growth ad infinitum is the biggest threat to our existence.  Any prescription for salvation must begin there.

    As an advocate for anarchism, I'm intrigued by what evolutionary biology has to say about humans' ability to work together for the common good.  Defenders of Capitalism, faced with that system's abysmal failure over the past decade, resort to the defense that humans are so inherently evil that a Capitalist system is the best we can do.  I'm not buying.

    As a fan of the Battlestar Galactica series, I had to laugh at this idea:

    What if we made robots so sophisticated that they only needed us humans to maintain their systems, keep them lubricated and repaired?  What if we programmed them to keep us alive so that we could continue their maintenance; if not they would become heaps of rusting junk?

    Those "toasters" will turn on you faster than you can say, "Frack!"

  •  I think you are overrating altruism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dolfin66

    From an evolutionary point of view, you are calling for mass adaptation, which you should know is impossible.

    Sure, humans do exhibit a higher level of altruism than other primates, but not that much more.  An individual will seek the interests of those in his/her peer group along wit their own.  They don't look out for the interest of their entire species.

    You act as if there can ever be a "we", that can tell everyone what to do.

    Males should be forced to use condoms?

    Why not selectively castrate some males?

    Why not force birth control on women?

    Why not perform statistical hysterectomies on women?

    I'm not saying these ideas are good or bad for society as a whole, but they are absurd at their very core.  Humans don't evolve an ethical set of principles by force of will.  We enforce an ethical set of principles through loss of freedom or violence.

    Are you an evolutionary biologist or a student studying the subject?

    •  Please don't lecture.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JupiterIslandGirl, Dr Teeth

      me about this stuff.  Of COURSE we can't do the mass thing.  That's part of the irony you didn't get.  

      This is an article published in a local paper wherein I'm trying to make people AWARE of the world of man.  They clearly do not see the errors.

      I'm just hoping that there are enough changes that we can prevent imminent extinction.  How's that for trying to adapt?  Our primitive brain won't evolve past where it is, vis-a-vis it's instincts, for quite some time.  This is especially true since we've altered the natural selection equation by insisting that all shall live and have the opportunity to reproduce no matter what.

      Who am I to tell somebody they can't reproduce because they have "faulty" genes.  You fix teeth.  Why don't you just let natural selection take its course and let people with rotten teeth just starve?

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:13:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Teaching Nature's Indifference (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dolfin66, QuestionAuthority

        I am often frustrated by religious people, who take the attitude the god will save us.  They honestly believe the world is under the care of some man in the sky, who directs the motion of everything.  These people are fucking lunatics.

        On the other side of the divide, I see people who romanticize nature.  They humanize evolution as if it some magical process that will lead to a better existence.

        Nature is a series of chemical processes that is entirely indifferent to our existence.  Nature will murder you in your sleep and feast upon your remains.  It has no desires or wants.

        We are alone.

        If we could get people to that realization, they might finally understand the importance of their actions.  They would finally realize that ultimately we are responsible for the conditions of our own lives.

        As long as people are taught to idealize their existence, they will never learn to take consequences for their actions.  A society of people not responsible for their actions yields a society not responsible for its actions.

        Before people will care about the environment, they need to be convinced that this is all they get.

        •  We totally agree. (3+ / 0-)

          I guess it's the old school teacher in me that can't go public with those statements you so clearly enunciated.  I felt I had to sneak up on them bit by bit, in the hopes that they will have a critical thinking moment and see that for themselves.

          I too think religion and churches do more harm to the mind of man than any single thing except war.  Maybe that's why those two things are so closely connected.

          Meantime the 7 + billion of will scramble for the diminishing returns until the calories required and calories produced curves cross and separate.  I predict that then is when we'll see the true nature of the species and that civilization is an artifact.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:41:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Wasn't it Carl Sagan that said... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dolfin66, JupiterIslandGirl, Dr Teeth

          ...that the universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent?

          "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

          by QuestionAuthority on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:42:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I think you would find this video interesting: (0+ / 0-)

      wherin we share a community blog for common goals for humanity. http://www.worldforallpeople.org

      by worldforallpeopleorg on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:17:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need to teach the developed world (3+ / 0-)

    efficient and water-reducing agriculture - not to mention just plain efficient and water-reducing living.

    A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

    by marleycat on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:26:19 AM PST

    •  hey, I grabbed your tag line for my home page (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marleycat

      at one of my sites :-) just thought I'd let you know  ...  and thanks  ... :-)

      http://www.worldforallpeople.com/

      wherin we share a community blog for common goals for humanity. http://www.worldforallpeople.org

      by worldforallpeopleorg on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:19:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. It's a saying that really hits (3+ / 0-)

        home for me. (Aside from the fact that my husband and I plant lots and lots of trees - over 60 on our property so far.)

        A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

        by marleycat on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:51:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marleycat

          I used to live outside Colorado Springs in a monoculture forest and the state sold saplings of all species for $1.50 each.  So, when we left, our property had a few dozen Blue Spruce, White Ash, Black Pine and a few others.  We also bought live Xmas trees and kept them alive in the house all winter until planting them in the spring.  

          Now, how do you get the people of Haiti to do that with eroded soil and no other source of fuel than what's left of their trees?  That's the rub.  Too many people making too many people.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 01:09:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  thank you! (5+ / 0-)

    few things drive me more crazy than the idea that "fittest" in this sense means the biggest, bestest and fastest or whatever.  that misinterpretation is single-handedly responsible for the ridiculous notion of "social darwinism."  

    Die with your boots on. Gonna try? Well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

    by Cedwyn on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 08:50:12 AM PST

    •  Yep Plus Evolution Doesn't Go "Up" Just "On" (5+ / 0-)

      Brains grow larger but they also grow smaller. Wings gain flight but also lose flight.

      It's all whatever works at the time.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:33:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  brilliant encapsulation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dolfin66

        what nature regards as good or an improvement is very different from what we would, eh?

        Die with your boots on. Gonna try? Well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

        by Cedwyn on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 05:20:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Correct. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, JupiterIslandGirl

      As a former high school AP biology teacher I can tell you first hand how good a job the preachers are doing brainwashing kids away from science.  It's almost like a conspiracy.  Didn't Hitler's "Jungedeutsch" program do something similar in order to create fanatical Nazis?

      The best one was a mom telling me that scientific theories about the Big Bang were wrong.  "That's not the way it happened".  I asked her that if she really knew and could prove it, I'd pay for her trip to Stockholm to pick up her Nobel Prize.

      You get the idea.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 01:12:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for teaching AP biology! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dolfin66

        i majored in biology myself, so this one is a bit of a sore spot for me.  

        Die with your boots on. Gonna try? Well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

        by Cedwyn on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 05:20:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cross-purposes.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cedwyn

          seem to be the order of the day for fundamentalist Christians.  They want their kids to go out and be successful in an ever advancing technological world, yet hold them back scientifically because of some hair-brained myths about creation.

          Once again, religion comes to the rescue of sanity.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Tue Nov 16, 2010 at 05:35:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  1,000 Years of Euro & American History Are Foundd (3+ / 0-)

    on jackpot economies of surpluses flowing into the systems from outside, by trade and/or conquest of underdeveloped territories.

    The US is the extremophile, the most adapted to the largest and broadest surpluses because of the location and timing of our founding and development.

    The world today is out of frontier and running into peaks and bottlenecks in a growing array of resources. It's at an absolute brick wall for waste gas. The planet cannot accept one single new molecule of greenhouse gas without the entire world being damaged. Not one molecule.

    But the western peoples don't equate to humanity. Just because the west and particularly the Americans are supremely ill-adapted to the unfolding world doesn't mean that the human species and all its cultures are.

    Most every nonAmerican society is at least a little better adapted to scarcity and limitations. Generally the way to adapt to bountiful surpluses is to maximize individual liberty; the way to adapt to limitations is to emphasize the welfare of society and community more than individual liberty.

    The world is full of examples of cultures and systems of government that are much better adapted than ours to the nature of the world.

    It's just too bad that we're so overwhelmingly powerful, because millions and millions are going to have to die before our power structure can be imposed on by governing systems that are superior for long term health of the world.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:31:13 AM PST

    •  This is the best comment.... (0+ / 0-)

      I've ever received for one of my diaries.  You squared up this issue very nicely, vis-a-vis the United States.

      Your points are solid and seemingly true, but we keep exporting our way of life and others keep buying into it creating more pressure for excess in other countries.  General Motors, for example, will sell more cars and trucks in India next year than here.  Isn't this race for industrial supremacy, Part II, going to do us in for exhausting traditional resources?  Imagine the two most populous countries on Earth all striving to drive a car.  That's almost 3 billion people, half of which will be able to afford one.  

      Don't you think the Chinese and the Indians are going to make the Arabs an offer they can't refuse for their oil?  Yeah.  Me too.

      This should get interesting.  I'm glad I'm old.

      "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

      by dolfin66 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 01:18:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The US is the extremophile (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dolfin66

      Love the phrase, It explains so many things, on so many different levels.

      I will Not give up, I will Not give in, I will Not quit!

      by JupiterIslandGirl on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 01:34:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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