Evolution Backlash

From the simplest bacteria to apes, evolution’s mechanic is the same: fittest survive and reproduce, weak fail. Thus the species evolve and get better in every generation. But humans turned out to be somewhat different from the rest of the biosphere.

We are much more complex than all the other species, even our closest relatives. We changed the rules of the game that is as old as the life itself.

Part of our complexity is our social nature. While the other species are fighting between themselves for survival and for better chances of reproduction, we are, more or less, supporting each other. We found out that as a group, we had, and still have, much better chances of surviving among other species and even among other groups of humans. Sure, some other species did that as well. But none with the scale and complexity we did. We raised our sociality on the level of the whole specie.

Other reason is that we are far beyond mere surviving and reproduction. And evolution is actually just about those two. As society, we support individuals that are great in something, be it art, sports or science or something else we find valuable, but which would not save that individual of blind and harsh powers of the evolution.

Evolutionillustration by Joel Oonrmsby

But there is also the other, darker, side in our motivation to help the weaker individual survive. Human society, since its early days, has the need for work power. These humans don’t need to be great individuals. They need to drag the stones to the pyramid or work in the field. To do the hard and dirty job. So the weaker were not let to die but “saved”. That was the beginning of the slavery.

For the first time in 3.7 billion years of life on Earth, the rules of the game of the evolution were changed.

Not only the strongest and most capable survive. Weak get their pass as well. Not the free pass though, their survival comes with the price tag attached, but they survive.

And, as the society grows, the need for the work force grows too. Society wants them to reproduce too, to make more and more slaves. So they are not only in the gene pool, they are very active there.

Evolution To Christianityillustration by latvian

Things got even more complicated with buddhism, christianity and other ideologies that emphasize compassion and the value of human life. Now we don’t support the less fit for survival because of their other values, nor because of their usability, but for no other reason than “just because”.

We tricked the evolution, but we still haven’t tricked the genetics. We systematically prevent mother nature from doing its job. As a result, we are the specie that rules the planet, despite our vulnerability, our bad adaptations skills and our weakness. We are the specie that continuously degenerate but still grows. And there’s no turning back.

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  • I think you have some of it correct. Yes, natural selection has to do with surviving and reproducing. And yes, we have escaped the harsher consequences of natural selection through things like medicine and science (and invoked other consequences instead, like introducing radioactive and carcinogenic materials into our atmosphere and water).
    However, I disagree that humans are weak and survive in spite of it. Any individual trait of a human is not necessarily the best of all living things – humans are not the fastest runners, nor the largest or smallest, nor the best smellers, best hearers, etc. However, what we are exceptionally good at is adabtability. It is a rare animal that can adapt to nearly every single habitat it encounters. And we 'pay' for that adaptability by not necessarily being the best at any one thing. What's the advantage of that? Well, when something adapts to only one niche, when that niche goes away, whether through another animal's action or merely the changing state of nature itself, then that creature can no longer survive.
    It is also the case that an argument can be made that our social natures are in fact an evolutionary adaption, as well as our altruism. Animals that can work together, and DO work together to ensure the survival of more than one individual actually have an easier time surviving than an animal that must survive entirely on it's own.
    I think it is also a mistake to see evolution as something becoming "better" in general. Unlike what they tell us in school, not every genetic change has a reason. Things like birds selecting for colorful plumage actually has nothing to do with it's survivability – it's simply a visual preference that keeps getting selected. Some changes stay in a species not because they have a purpose, but because they don't directly interfere with the survivability of the creature. Human female breasts are a great example of that.
    As for the slave thing, I do agree that humans inherently want a hierarchy in their social structure, and it has often produced coercive tactics, like slavery. But it's also the case that human societies have had manual labor without slavery. Egypt is a good example – evidence has been found that the pyramids were not build by slavery, but rather that the farmers – who could only farm for a specific part of the year because it was tied to the flooding of the Nile, would volunteer to work on the pharaoh's monuments in the off seasons out of a sense of duty and honor.

  • Hi Dandellion,
    Just wanted to say I read this and that you don't need a TV ; ) it's a massive distraction.

    Ruina Kessel – I think we need human female breasts – you know just in case in the future there are no substitutes, mothers can still feed their young.
    Before in the days of cavemen; the fittest were the strong and the ones bringing in the steak which means their chances of survival was better. But we live in a society where money is the new caveman club – you can buy as much steak you like. And those who pursue money above all else tend to have poor health.
    And the work force thrive because as seen in developing countries, often farmers have children to help them sustain themselves.
    I may have it all wrong but thanks for the post, Dandellion. See you around on Twitter ; )

  • Jessie, I should clarify –
    By human female breasts, I do mean the fact that they are giant orbs stuck to the chest, rather than just teats that swell only when there is milk in them like other mammals. the 'breastiness' in fact serves no purpose other than having been a visual aesthetic selected for.

  • Thank you both for the comments. And I apologize for coming back to the party so late. 
    Thanks for correcting me on adaptability skills of humans. true, we did covered the large part of the planet and we are omnivores capable of digesting almost anything if needed. 
    Our social nature has indeed helped us survive, so it is important evolution-wise. Altruism emerged because of our evolution. It probably emerged with homo erectus, when our babies started to get born earlier and thus needed longer care of their mothers. males took the role of hunters and families were constructed. 
    While we are at prehistory, breasts are part of female body where the extra fat is stored (other one being the hips). Thus large breasts actually meant that that female can endure larger periods of famine which was important at the time. 
    Evolution is not "getting better" it's just a game of big numbers. But language can trick us in this case. 
    About slavery… while it might be truth that Egyptians were not coerced into building pyramids, Southamericans certainly were. And still, lack of using force in the Egyptian case doesn't mean they were not enslaved, one way or another. 
    Back to the point of the post… medicine and science indeed helped us survive diseases, but they also made us less resistant to them and dependent on the medicine. Sometimes that was good, other times I'm not sure we did a good thing.

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