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Life Arts

Survival of The Species: The Basis for a Sustainable Moral Code

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The search for a universal God is as old as humanity. Ethnic, geographic, and ideological loyalties have frustrated that effort. Inevitably, the creation of a religion evolves a theology that fractures into sects. The WORD acquires multiple meanings. I believe that Darwin offers a solution, now clarified by genetics: Survival of the species provides the sustainable basis for ethics and morality that all may, indeed must, embrace.

Two domains direct behavior: biological and intellectual. Each influences the other. Genome define biology and the nervous system hosts the intellect that various biological relationships induce. The genome developed through natural selection and the genes promulgate the result of that competition. What succeeds is passed on to the next generation. Some scientists quip that the competition is in the gene pool. The body merely provides the host for the genes. The altered genes must reproduce themselves.

Darwin's critical discovery in this context does not often appear in discussions of natural selection. Inter-species competition may reduce the ability of the species to adapt. The most prominent examples are arms races. Male animals that compete for harems evolve things like huge antlers that weigh them down and get tangled in brush. If antler size was restricted, the competition would not change and the species would be better off.

Given the critical role of the genome, biological behavior must embrace survival of the species, the ability to adapt to an environment. Had the intellect drawn that conclusion, technology would not be employed in ways that damage the earth's ability to provide the environment our genome requires. Natural selection takes huge amounts of time to alter the genes. Technology moves too quickly.

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Arms races do not foster biological or social evolution. They usually resorts to murder or exploitation. Natural selection does not follow a philosophy or moral ethic outside of efficiency. Critically, it cannot distinguish a short-term from a long-term adaptation in the short term. If the short-term adaptation uses up the resources needed for the long term, the species disappears. The intellect provides the ability to distinguish long-term from short-term adaptations. It will not make that effort absent a moral imperative based on survival of the species.

Treating the genome as God, the commandment that we must obey, reflects more than a metaphor. The intellect carries the burden of identifying what serves survival. Under that commandment, we would employ technology differently. The short-term solutions favored by most technologies result in adaptations to the wrong thing, like making money. If Darwin proved anything, it was that those who adapt to the wrong thing do not survive. The most dramatic example is the use of water, the most critical resource now in danger of exhaustion. No technology can replace it.

Before technology we could only use rainfall stored in rivers and lakes and shallow wells. Modern pumps go down miles and, at great costs, bring up water stored for centuries. We now mine instead of harvest. We adapt to the pump instead of the rainfall. When the aquifers have been sucked dry, the problem of adapting to a world without water will prove beyond the scope of the intellect.

See, Natural Selection's Paradox: The Outlaw Gene, the Religion of Money, and the Origin of Evil , by Carter Stroud, for the bases of these assertions and related matters.

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I practiced law for 30 years as a city attorney. I taught elementary school before that. I became concerned with the many adaptations to our environment that I could not believe could be sustained. How could so many rational people adopt clearly (more...)

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The most reliable basis for examining human behavi... by Carter stroud on Monday, Aug 20, 2012 at 10:06:27 AM
Many or most people seem to completely misinterpre... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Aug 20, 2012 at 2:00:49 PM
the arms race, not genetics. ... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Aug 20, 2012 at 2:02:33 PM
Thanks for the comment. I am convinced that the sy... by Carter stroud on Monday, Aug 20, 2012 at 10:37:42 PM
We are the only species I am aware of on the vast ... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Aug 20, 2012 at 9:58:52 PM
you may delight in the work of E.O. Wilson and Tie... by martin weiss on Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012 at 6:00:36 AM
Natural selection provides the only basis for unde... by Carter stroud on Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012 at 7:31:50 PM
Natural selection is what happens as the result of... by Paul Repstock on Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012 at 12:14:03 AM
We cannot undo time but we can vary adaptations an... by Carter stroud on Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012 at 10:22:38 AM
The actual answer to the 'problem' is simple and w... by Ned Lud on Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012 at 7:54:38 AM
is a most beautiful, generous gift from the univer... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Aug 21, 2012 at 10:49:30 AM