Darwinism and the One Percent

I’ve heard wealthy people say that they are only adhering to Darwin’s law. We know what they really mean: that life is a competition, so they can’t be blamed for winning. It’s basic biology. Science tells us that evolution favors the smartest and strongest, and that’s the way it should be. By beating out the rest of us, wealthy people are doing their bit to improve the human race. Who can argue with science?

Not me. I’m a scientist. I believe in science.

But the prerequisite for believing in science is understanding it. In this case, understanding Darwin’s principle of natural selection. When wealthy people use Darwin as a justification for taking as much money as they can from everyone else, they have absolutely failed to understand his theory.

Famously, Jeffery Skilling, the CEO of Enron said that his favorite book was Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. He claims to have based his management style on it. It appears that he liked the word, selfish, in the title but either didn’t read or didn’t understand the book. It explained how natural selection can favor generosity and altruism over personal self-interest. The book does definitely not say that natural selection requires that every man think only of himself.

If Skilling had really based his behavior on The Selfish Gene, he wouldn’t now be in prison for conspiracy and securities fraud, serving a twenty-year sentence.

More important for wealthy people, though, is understanding the phrase, “survival of the fittest”. Darwin never said what “fittest” means. In fact, he did say, explicitly, that “fittest” does not mean “strongest”.

Darwin’s phrase could be better summarized as “the survivors must have been the fittest.” Logicians don’t like the principle of natural selection because it’s based on circular reasoning. The fittest survive. How do we know which individuals are the fittest? Because they are the ones most likely to survive. And why did they survive? Because they were the fittest. And around and around we go.

What does this mean for wealthy people? First, being rich is not survival, it’s just having a lot of money. Survival means living long enough to have children, who also live long enough to give you grandchildren, and so forth.

In societies, you only get to live if nobody kills you. There was no royalty left in France after 1799. There were no Russian tsars left after 1917. There were no Ceausescus left in Romania after 1989. It doesn’t matter to Darwin how much money they had when they died, if they didn’t leave viable descendants, they were evolutionary dead ends.

The lesson here is that a little less greed may make a person more fit to survive. And that people should make the effort to understand what Darwin said before relying on him to justify their behavior.

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About Ashley Zacharias

I'm a post-modern woman who lives a vanilla life and dreams about kinky adventure. I write BDSM pornography but have no interest in acting out my fantasies in real life. Find my work on SmashWords.com and Amazon.com
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2 Responses to Darwinism and the One Percent

  1. Dear Ashley:

    1. “I believe in science” is an inherent contradiction in terms. Science is not a set of statements; it is a process: the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, prediction, experiments to test the prediction, and confirmation or refutation.
    2. It’s very easy to condemn “greed.” It’s a lot harder to define it.
    3. Generosity and altruism, like all other human behaviors, can be either constructive or destructive. No less a philanthropist than Andrew Carnegie put it very well: “Those who would administer wisely must, indeed, be wise, for one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity.”
    4. I suggest that you read some Herbert Spencer, particularly “The Man Vs. The State.” You’ll find him very thought-provoking.

    All my best,
    Fran Porretto

  2. altered600 says:

    1. Sigh. It’s a figure of speech, Fran. It’s shorthand for “I believe the correct way to live one’s life is to follow an understanding of the scientific principle”. MMMkay?

    2. Speak for yourself. What part of Dictionary.com’s definition don’t you understand: “excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions”? I’m guessing “excessive”. Simple: do you have enough to live a comfortable life? Right, anything more than that.

    3. Of course indiscriminate charity is not clever. Anyone who gives it more than a moment’s thought understands that the more you give to street-corner beggars the more you encourage them – and more of them – to stand begging on street corners and that doesn’t solve a problem, it just makes it worse. Surely it’s understood, then, that altruism – philanthropy, charity, call it what you will – should be administered wisely.

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