moby-dick-(or-the-whale)-56
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THE EVOLUTIONARY ESCAPE VALVE

07 April 2007

Last Wednesday I spoke of our evolutionary dead end, and I'd like to spin a tail to this story. It is, of course, not as simple as I theorized. If our stagnancy in evolution can be perceived as a valley, there are ways in which we can and are crawling out of it. One of these is resorting to an artificial sort of natural selection, as dreamed up by the Nazis and many other crazed regimes and madmen. This is, of course, grossly barbaric and can not be accepted. We can't simply say: let's weed out all the bad genes (their definition obviously created by the ones with power and fantastically biased) and push forth an ,ber-race.

Better to look at ways life is already working its way without our machinations guiding it. Take for instance our culture, which is itself governed by evolution -not by genes, but memes (as thought up by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene). Memes are, simply put, thoughts or ideas that replicate themselves through our minds. Strong memes have a better chance at survival than weak ones. A strong meme, for instance, is 'democracy'; which rings true in many a mind and government. Memes can be just as vicious and deceptive as genes, however, as can be clearly seen by the rise of religious fundamentalism in the Middle-East and the middle of the US. To get back to our point however; through culture (guided by memes) humanity is progressing. It is doubtful that memes will be able to withstand the fangs of a tiger descending upon us in the wild, so this new type of evolution will do us only marginal good should we revert back to the animal kingdom by the aforementioned apocalyptic disaster. However, memes are a logical progression in our current phase of racial existence; in our current intellectually capable state.

An interesting possibility occurs to me. If you will recall my saying that 'weak' genes have just as much of a chance to survive as 'strong' ones in the gene pool and that therefore our race is no longer evolutionary primed to produce the best stock possible? This might very well lead us to a situation in the distant future not unlike that sketched in H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, where our race has split up into two very different species. This might not take such dramatic forms, but I can perceive a possible schism that will rise in us, with an 'elite' on the one hand and a 'lower species' on the other. These are formed by the outer spectrum of genes in the gene pool; the strong ones versus the weak. How this could happen is as follows: if the right cultural pressure is applied (through memes of course), there could be a scenario where the strong, intelligent and rich will only breed with each other, and the poor and decrepit do the same out of perhaps reasons of identification ('type searches type', as we say in the Netherlands; meaning that everyone searches out someone who's culturally familiar to them). Once this process is underway, the ball is rolling and as the two groups progress further and further onto their divergent paths, the process becomes less likely to be reversed. Romeo and Juliet won't be able to stop this one! In the end, two different species might have formed, both still Homo sapiens, but with completely altered genetic traits.

There are difficulties in this theory. The vast majority of mankind is at neither end of the spectrum but hovering quaintly in the middle with all sorts of criss-cross relations and breeding going on. It seems that a species placing itself out of the animal kingdom finds a comfortable zone in the middle of the extremes in which to sit and prosper. And as the whole of the race progresses through the ages, the middle simply moves along as well, always remaining neither the vanguard nor the backend. It seems rather unlikely that the majority will suddenly move in equal portions to the ends of the spectrum, giving them the critical mass they need to effect the schism. But who knows what erratic changes might lay in store for us? As the memes change, so may the way our evolution is governed.

Roderick.