Monday, February 14, 2005

Evolution

As a scientific theory, evolution has gained more than just a foot hold, it has become the accepted explanation of creation and existence. The only reason why people still reject evolution is out of a confused understanding of the terms "fact" and "theory" as well as a reliance on a media that continually tells them that there is an ideological battle between the two. First of all, evolution does not destroy God, and furthermore has no relevance in the spiritual realm. Evolution is a strictly scientific theory, and belongs, as Stephen Jay Gould has said, to the magesteria of science, not the magesteria of religion.

Evolutionary science has revealed much about the human condition in recent years. Richard Dawkins was the first to start the new Darwinism with his book The Selfish Gene. The book is, among other things, a shining example of the metaphysical backing to egoism and selfism. His conclusion, in a nut shell, was that in the evolutionary process the unit of selection is the gene, not the organism itself. This explains some things like kin selection, and answers most objections against Darwinism to date.

Recently, a new voice for evolutionary science has happened on the scene, and while most of the public at large has not necessarily noticed him, his work is none the less vitally important. Robert Wright has opened evolutionary psychology up again and brought it to a new level.

In The Moral Animal, Wright argues that essentially every human trait or characteristic ranging from male promiscuity and female selectivity to gossip and guilt are all a product of our evolution. He provides a variety of evidence from both the animal kingdom and scientific experimentation, and his thesis makes sense; that which exists tangibly exists as it does due to evolution, it makes sense that those intangible behaviors should be as well.

His newest book, Non-Zero, argues that non-zero-sum interactions between humans is the destiny of human existence. His conclusion is somewhat inevitable given his research in The Moral Animal, where he showed that these non-zero-sum interactions are cultivated by the process of evolution and are, of course, mutually beneficial to the parties involved.

I cannot help but see the worth of his argument, as social contract theory and free market capitalism are essentially based on the same idea. In trading value for value and setting some social rules for how those interactions are to take place everyone wins, and those organisms which win are more likely to survive than those who do not. In applying game theory to the realm of evolutionary science, Wright created an empirical sort of metaphysical support for the idea of these interactions.

More importantly, though, Wright gave scientific credence to the selfism which I support. No organism is able to pass on its genes when it sacrifices itself needlessly, and while those genes that are similar in siblings might live on, the unique combination of genes found in the altruistic organism is gone. The greatest good of human existence is not, as some altruists might have you believe, in the giving of oneself for others, but rather engaging in mutually beneficial relations. The logic of Wright's non-zero-sum thesis will perhaps, if widely accepted, save our world from the slow self-sacrifice it is suffering.

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