Tag Archives: evolution

Trying to understand the rules of the game

2 Jan

Natural selection is the engine that drives evolution, but within the heart of natural selection is a concept that is central to all of existence; there are rules to the game that determine who wins.

This concepts of rules exists in every aspect of our lives. The rules may change from scenario to scenario, but nonetheless there are rules. We are born into this game not knowing what the rules are for each scenario, and as we grow up we hope to uncover little by little what those rules are. In order to survive and prosper you must understand the rules of the game, for it is only then that you can manipulate and maneuver through them.

The most immediate and glaring example of the existence of these rules is in evolution, from whence we first discovered the concept of natural selection.

In evolution, the goal of the game is to survive and pass on your genes to your children. Nothing else matters. Anything that hinders you in this process will be phased out. A bird better adapted to catching a worm will survive and have children more successfully than a bird more poorly adapted to this task. Those are the rules. That which is most efficient in helping you achieve the goal of the game wins. There is no mercy or tolerance for anything less. Such is the brutality and indifference of nature.

One of the biggest challenges we face growing up is uncovering the true rules, the true mechanics of the game which are often hidden under the more palatable false rules.

For example: “Just work hard and you will succeed” portends that the most efficient and best way of achieving the goal of succeeding is by hard work. Surely the harder you work, the more you will succeed.  While hard work is definately needed in a lot of situations in life, this is a misleading explanation of the rules.

In 2010 Nike’s CEO Mark Parker made 13.1 million dollars. The average Vietnamese Nike sweatshop worker makes $.26/hr. In order for the sweatshop worker to make the same as the CEO, she would have to work nonstop for 5,748 years. Most of these workers are trapped in sweatshop jobs with the choice to either work 40 hours in overtime a week or starve to death on the street.  Obviously in this scenario the notion that “hard work equals success” is a delusion.

A less extreme example is in the American workplace. Yet again, as children we are told that the rules are “hard work equals success” and that knowledge gives us a leg up. While these are both true in some degree, we quickly learn that this is not how the game functions. In order to achieve the goal of getting a promotion and being “successful” it is more important who you know than what you know.

We see the same thing in the dating world. From the onset guys are told that in order to succeed (ie, have lots of sex) the rules are “be sweet and caring.” Yet what it takes years for some guys to figure out, and others never learn, is that maximizing sweetness and caring in an attempt to maximize success fails because sweetness and caring equate to boring, and boring = death. Hence why aggressive asshole guys are more successful in having lots of sex because, while they might be assholes, they’re interesting.  (Now if the goal was to have a stable and healthy relationship and not just copious amounts of sex, then the rules would change and sweetness and caring would be more important)

Another great example of the concept of rules and false rules in action is politics. Ostensibly politics is about how to best lead the nation, how to best maximize the quality of life for the people who pay taxes and make up that nation. A naive person who still believed this would likely also believe that the rules would favor politicians and legislation best suited to this end. (I was once one such naive person) However, if you closely follow politics long enough, you will quickly discover that this is not the goal of the game, nor how the game operates. The game has never been about “the nation and the people who comprise it.”  That is just glittery lip-service every politician gives to half-heartedly mask the true mechanics of the game, namely the self-enrichment of the powerful players (the politicians) within the game.

In politics, as in much of life, those with the most money win. It is the cold and indifferent fact of the game, no different than the fact that the slower bunny will be dinner for the wolf. We may cheerfully delude ourselves with David and Goliath stories, but in the end the mechanics are what they are, irregardless of your strongest desires.

This is why nothing more than PR campaigns and package re-branding will ever be done about global warming until the problem is so severe it starts seriously hurting profit margins. (By which time it will be too late and our life sustaining eco-system is destroyed) This is why despite a 70% approval of a public option in healthcare the measure was defeated. Competition would have been bad for business for those who were writing the congressmen’s checks.  This is why America’s deficit will never be brought under control. Politicians will pay lip-service and feign outrage over the debt and then turn around and add $3.9 trillion in debt over the next 10 years by giving taxcuts to themselves and the other richest people in America.  That is the reality of the politics game and how it is played.

So the question then becomes “Is there a way to change the rules?” I honestly don’t know. The only example I can think of where we’ve changed the rules slightly is in basic survival. Over the centuries science has developed new technologies that increase our life span. Child mortality has fallen drastically in most parts of the world, and many people who normally would not have survived thousands of years ago do. Chances are you’re one of them. I know I am. I have poor eye-site; if it were not for the science of optics, I would be blind to everything 5 feet away from me.

Even if the rules pertaining to human survival have been tempered by technology, the rules regarding prospering and politics have not. Ultimately the rules regarding those two games effect the rules regarding basic survival. (Earlier I gave the example of global warming) So far we as a species have been unable to effect the rules governing politics and prosperity except by temporarily resetting them through violent revolutions.  “Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders become cruel.” I’m not sure if it is possible to effect a paradigm shift other than regularly tearing everything down. But I digress.

I just wanted to reflect on the existence of these rules that govern every scenario and how one task of growing up is discovering these underlying principles through experimentation and observation.

Evolution has nothing to do with religion (or the lack thereof)

18 Aug

I usually try and stay away from talking about evolution on this blog. It’s been covered a million times over by other people. I really avoid it because of the people who argue against it. They are a special brand of crazy and a waste of time to try and communicate with. There are towering mountains of evidence for evolution that have been built up over centuries, but these people will have none of it, thus I don’t waste my time “debating” evolution. Yet more and more lately I’ve been running into people who like to equate evolution with atheism. Evolution has nothing to do with atheism. (Another reason I try and avoid it on this blog) Here, let me draw you a little chart:

You see, there are people who accept the theory of evolution as fact the same way they accept the theory of gravity, germ theory, and atomic theory as fact. (“Theory” in science is NOT the same “theory” used in everyday speech, it doesn’t mean “a guess”) Of these people who accept evolution, some are Christians, some are Atheists. It doesn’t matter what their positions on religion are, evolution has nothing to do with religion. What does the theory of gravity have to say on religion? Nothing. It doesn’t take a stance on religion.

But doesn’t evolution say god didn’t make us?  No, evolution says nothing on how we got here, that would be abiogensis. Evolution is a process. This process goes on every day right in front of our eyes. If you like evolution to a truck, natural selection is the engine. (There is a difference)

Here is a really simple analogy that we see every year: Football teams. How does a football team go from just a football team to super-bowl champions? They evolve. The games throughout the season are a form of natural selection. If a team wins, it moves up, if it doesn’t, it falls behind. The strongest and most skilled teams win and thus move up. There is nobody standing in the sky arbitrarily picking this team to move up and that team to move down. The teams battle it out and the ones that are more fit/skilled/talented move closer to the playoffs.

Going from just any football team to the superbowl is the process of evolution. Winning games (natural selection) is what makes that process exist.

We see this same simple process everywhere. It’s in medicine, in the market place (capitalism anyone? Well marketed ideas make money, poor ones die out), in politics, in science, and in nature. Anywhere this is competition there is evolution. It has nothing to do with religion, just like the superbowl analogy has nothing to do with religion. Yet despite this there are people who insist on linking the two together.

If you really want to learn something check out the “made easy” videos.

Natural Selection made easy

Evolution made easy

Glenn Beck promotes violence

24 Feb

Glenn Beck recently spoke at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference where he claimed America’s ills were due to progressivism. Ok, that’s fine. I disagree with him greatly, but he’s a conservative. He then goes on to compare progressivism to cancer. (see the video of his talk here) Ok, so now we’re getting a little shaky. But then he dives off the deep end and says “it can’t co-exist. You must eradicate it! You must cut it out of the system!” Seriously? How are people supposed to interpret that? The way I interpret that, the way I believe most people would interpret that is an urge to use violence. “Eradicate! Cut-out! Can’t co-exist!” You may laugh, but Glenn Beck’s viewers are scared, stupid, and armed.

Take this for example. Canada is thinking about allowing people with terminal diseases to elect, of their own free will, to undergo doctor assisted suicide. Beck twists this into “euthanasia!!!!” and tells his viewers that Obama and the progressives are trying to bring this hear. “Just like the Nazi’s in the 1930’s!” “A great evil is coming! Like in the 1930’s! Are you going to stand up and do something?!?!?” A caller calls in, believing all this bullshit, scared to death that Obama is going to kill her, and Beck says HE WILL!!!

What do you expect is going to happen? Eventually some scared idiot is going to take Beck’s urge to action seriously and get their gun and do something horrible. They might shoot a government employee, be it a cop or a mailman, or they might blow up a federal building.  If an angry mob marches on Washington with guns, the situation could rapidly deteriorate. The last thing Obama should do is send in police or troops to break up the protesters. It would quickly turn to shooting, and regardless of who fired the first shoot, the Tea Party idiots would claim another Boston massacre and use it as a rallying cry for more violence. The best thing he could do would be to pull back all law enforcement officials and just let the mob go, destroying everything in their path. This way the world will see them for how crazy and violent they are. Don’t give them any martyrs.

Short Answers

7 Apr

I feel people tend to prefer short answers to long ones. The thing is, the answers to many questions, especially complex ones, usually are not short answers. It really comes down to patience, and desire for the truth. A lot of people seem to have very little patience and would rather go with a short, comfortable answer that might not necessarily be true, as apposed to trying to understand a tedious complex answer, despite the fact that it is more truthful.

The people who prefer the short convenient answers deserve whatever horrible thing happens to them.