Survival of the luckiest

Darwin’s theory of evolution holds that the living being evolve through natural selection. More adaptable and superior species survive, and less adaptable species perish. Thus evolution within various species – how well they adapt to changes in the environment – has a decisive impact to evolution of the species. In the end, better adapted and more capable species survive, and the ultimate and inevitable product of evolutionary progress are modern humans. This theory has also been adapted by various social ideologies (Social Darwinism), such as Nazism and neoliberalism.

Suffice to say, the theory is bollocks. Mass extinctions have had a huge impact on the development of species to the point of being the driving factor, yet they go directly against the Darwinist ideology. Species adapt and evolve during, and for, the “normal” living conditions. They develop characteristics which allow them to thrive in precisely those conditions, and come to occupy certain ecological niches. But catastophes are catastrophes because they completely change what is “normal”. They change the rules, and the players are not allowed to look at them. No species develops characteristics that it may need only at some unspecified time millions of years in the future, and as a result they meet catastophes unprepared. Result is the mass dieoff, which only few species survive.

Those species that survived did not survive because they were best adapted to normal living conditions. Rather, they survived because they were lucky enough to happen to have characteristics useful for survival in extraordinary conditions due to their positions in the normal ecosystem. Typically, it is the smallest animals which survive. But small animals did not remain small because they were expecting a disaster, they remained small because that was the only niche available. Mammals survived the Cretaceous disaster to become the dominant group on the planet – because dinosaurs had taken the niches above the size of rats or cats for themselves. Some small dinosaurs survived as well, and from them the modern birds appeared. Dinosaurs themselves also became dominant group on the planet through sheer luck. In the late Triassic, curotarsians (ancient crocodiles) dominated the planet and were twice as diverse as dinosaurs, as well as far more abundant. But they were wiped out by the rapid climate change at the end of the Triassic, opening the way for dinosaurs.

beetles-squish

Precambri saw the greatest biodiversity the planet Earth has ever experienced. Much of it was wiped out 500 million years ago. What survived developed into the hugely diverse Cambrian fauna, when an unknown event wiped out 96% of it. Afterwards, the life never saw the anatomical or biological diversity of the previous eras. Earth developed into a tropical place with no ice anywhere, the poles included. This ushered in the era of dinosaurs, but they got wiped out 65 million years ago. During the last 50 million years the Earth continually cooled, with only few minor warmings, which gave rise to extremely intelligent species. When the cooling began again 14 million years ago, hominids first appeared and eventually developed into Homo Sapiens.

Vanquished body plans likewise do not appear to be disadvantaged in any way compared to those that survived. Even appearance of humans, as shown above, is merely a result of a huge list of unlikely accidents. If one takes the appearance of humans as inevitable, they would have to accept the guiding hand of God; otherwise, humans are but an accident, created by chance. And by chance we may disappear.

Even in “normal” conditions, fittest do not necessarily survive. When a whale swallows up a mass of plankton, or passes through a school of fish, it is again the luckiest that survive. In nature, an accidental injury can mean death. Bacterial spread is also left to chance: characteristics such as antibiotics resistance had no impact on spread of the bacteria, in other words, there is no relation between fitness for spreading and success at spreading. Relation does exist, in both macroorganisms and microorganisms, between frequency of a trait and its survival. This includes mutations. This in turn means that mutations which need smaller changes, and thus occur more frequently, are more likely to take root. This does not necessarily mean that they are more useful, although that may well be the case.

Similarly, social Darwinism is also junk. Fact that a person is smarter, more intelligent, more adaptable, does not mean that said person will be more successful. In fact, social status of parents has major impact on social status of the children, especially in laissez-faire / neoliberal societies such as United States, which do not provide sufficient equalizers in starting conditions such as free scholing. As a result, many talented people never get to actually use their talents. And since the society is built by the average, for the average, outliers towards both ends of the scale often have trouble adapting.

In competition between the species and social groups, it is typically the most crazy and murderous that survive. But these characteristics are also left to chance. Islam is merely a codification of cutthroat policies that had ruled the resource-poor Arab pennisula since the time immemorial with added dose of Muhammad’s personal insanity. Europe rapidly developed due to huge ethnic and cultural variation of the continent, itself a product of “lucky” geological processes which shaped the landmass and directed the migrations.

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6 thoughts on “Survival of the luckiest

  1. Ironically, it is the US and the UK, the two nations in the Western world most committed to neoliberal capitalist Social Darwinism that are the worst off in terms of inter-generational social mobility.

    From the New Zealand Government:
    http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2010/10-06/05.htm

    Inter-generational income elasticity point estimates for men in developed countries

    The US, UK, and Italy don’t do very well. On top are the Nordic nations, Canada, and Australia.

    I think that a case could be made that the fittest have the greatest probability to survive in nature, but even there, luck will take precedence. No amount of “fitness” would have saved a giant dinosaur for example.

    There is nothing “fit” about people who are born to say, a family of aristocrats. They conveyed their wealth advantages to their children and that is why they are ahead. Social Darwinism is just a cover up for what amounts to preserving a feudal aristocracy.

    • Precisely. Fitnless only really comes into play when a) everybody has the same starting conditions and b) there are no unforeseen events. That is why countries with extensive social state are the best with social mobility.

      • I can answer that, I lived there for 3 months while studying for my PhD: incredible expensive utilities due to lack of investment in infrastructure. The average persons income during the winter months is spend on gas for heating. And I’m not talking about some kind of heavy winter, during my time there form late January to May (so half a winter) I never saw the thermometer dip bellow 1 degree C. Meanwhile at home back in Romania when I left the temperature was -12 degree C. First month of me staying in Italy I spent something like almost 200 Euros for gas for heating, with the heating working for about 2 hours a day, which gave a room temperature of about 14-15 degrees C. Meanwhile back at home my girlfriend was spending about 80 Euro for gas for heating with the heating working non-stop controlled by a thermostat which kept a room temperature of 22 degrees C. At that time Romanian government had stopped subsidizing cost of household gas so the prices had doubled. Still the cost per MW of gas (both Italy and Romania had switched back then to a system of billing for gas that calculated the quality of the gas used coumpobded by the volume used in some formulas to obtain the caloric power of the gas) was about half because infrastructure was newer and was in the process of being upgraded.
        So from what I experienced in Italy I can say that even though they have a lot of highly educated people they find it very hard to move upward due to very high cost of living. Meanwhile Italy has a pretty large remnant of aristocracy that still controls a lot of the resources and keeps prices high. Most urban Italians just like urban Romanians live in apartment buildings, they can’t afford houses, this despite the fact that on average the price of real-estate is lower in Italy, mortgages are lower and incomes on average three times as big.

        • And lets not get started on telecommunications cost. For 30 Euro in Romania I get, two mobile plans with unlimited talk time in national networks 5GB of 4G speed Internet and unlimited low speed internet, a Fiber optics Internet land line of 1 Gb/s, and telephone land line (haven’t used in a while) with unlimited talk time in national networks and complete package cable TV which includes about 140 channels and premium channels like HBO, for the same price my friends in Italy barely received basic cable TV.

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