The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thoughts of evolution and survival

The following is not political in nature. Unless you take a rather broad view of what "political" means.

One of my favored writers, John Stossel, has triggered another post for me. Here are the lines that did it:

"Greed" means you want more for yourself. Fine. If you obtain it legally, without force or privilege — say, by buying a business and making it more efficient, or shifting resources to where consumers prefer them — that is a good thing. "Creative destruction" makes America richer.

Shifting resources does mean some people lose their jobs. That is sad for those who are fired.

But on balance, it's a good thing. Intuition tells us that it would be better if no one ever lost a job and that capitalists who close businesses are evil. But America would not be better off today if elevator operators and factory workers who made typewriters had their jobs preserved by a "compassionate" government.

A friend commented to me the other day that without wars, the planet would be overrun with people. These two things, Stossel's column and my friend's comment, combined in my head and gave birth to thoughts of... well, let me try to lay it out.

You see, for a long time I have contemplated the ills that have plagued human beings since we began gathering in clans or tribes. In reality, there are two forms of humans: individual and collective.

The "individual" is each of us, it's also the individual people we relate to; family members, friends, co-workers, and so on. The "collective" is much more complex; it is the groups of humans... up to, and including, all of us on the planet. It is all the people we relate to in some way. It goes beyond our circle and expands outward to neighborhood, community, city, state, country, and so on until it's all humanity. Some (maybe many) will add in animals of various, or all, kinds.

Now, let's go back in time a bit. Back when plagues and wars were rampant. I don't mean wars on the scale of world war but the wars between individual states, the ones that went on before WWI when it was often one nation against another. At most, one or two other nations (or city-states) might also get involved, might take sides.

In those days, plagues and natural disasters did much more damage to the population than war did. Don't get me wrong, wars were brutal, nasty things that could (and often did, in those days) wipe out entire tribes; men, women, and children. But the not in the numbers that a plague could do. A plague might wipe out 50-75% of a city and affect a number of cities, doing much the same in each, before it ran its course. That's a quick reduction in population. The Black Death , for example, is thought to have reduced the European population by 30% to 60%. It hit Europe in 1346 and ended in 1450.

There was a side effect, though, a beneficial one. The survivors of plagues were stronger and immune. The plagues were a "culling of the herd". As were the  wars to a lesser extent since wars generally affected only a certain portion of the male population.

This is what evolution is all about... reducing the "weak" parts of a a population. It's all about survival of a species. But humans have "free will". That is, we fight against the natural order of things, we take a "pro-active" stance on survival. We develop cures, preventions, and we extend not only life but procreation.

In the end, our compassion may be the very thing that causes our extinction. Except I don't think we can become extinct, only severely reduced... population-wise.

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