Friday, July 14, 2017

Eugenics are Whack

Duck! The environment is trying to kill you!

People joke about the Darwin Award which hypothetically goes to a person killed doing something stupid. The truth is, a person doesn't even have to do something stupid to get killed off. The environment is a hostile force, as anyone who has gotten poison oak can attest, which makes me question the mental state of so-called ecosexuals. Darwin said it very eloquently and precisely and people listened. The environment comes at us in waves and we sink or swim. The waves vary in size and intensity. The waves come from various directions and with various speeds. Wits, strength, grit and luck (and sanity) keep us alive.

Luckily we don't face this danger alone. There are others aside us facing the exact same struggle so we coalesce and bond over shared hardship. Plus, grouping up often helps with reducing the collective danger. The group's size is a reflection of the environment. It can choose to stay small to stay agile or if it's remote. It might grow if many tribes are pushed together via shared survival concerns. How you define where one group ends and another begins is tricky and that's where it works to think about it as levels of survival.

Survival happens within a context; survival of a species, survival of a tribe, survival of an individual, survival of a white blood cell, etc. These are all different levels of the same thing. Taking a slice of two levels at a time helps to make sense of it all. We can assign the lower level as "individual units" and the higher level as the group. As in, lower level: human individual, higher level: tribe; lower level: tribe, higher level: species; you get the idea. The individual units are where the death and rebirth cycle occurs while the group as a whole floats on. Individual units succumb to harsh environmental feedback but the the group continues unabated or even strengthened. More rarely, the group as a whole collapses and takes out all the individuals with it, like a body dying and rendering all the white blood cells inside it dead too.

Within the group, the difference between barely scraping by and excelling is moot in some ways. Surviving is surviving. But what tends to happen is a self-reinforcing hierarchy forms. So in this sense, there actually is a difference between merely surviving and truly thriving. You get to the top of the hierarchy through various means, but at it's core, it's about being able to survive the best. It's about wits, strength, grit and luck.

To be clear, being at the top of the hierarchy is a temporary privilege. Nothing is permanent. Strength tends to fade as a young man turns gray. Sometimes power is so intertwined with a specific moment in time that as the moment passes, so too does the potency of the strength. Cycles abound and are mostly inescapable. The point is to avoid the knockout punch. To gain strength and preserve and build systems to best maintain survival.

So what of those at the bottom of the hierarchy? There are those at the bottom of the hierarchy who will soon die, picked off by natural selection. There are also those at the bottom of the hierarchy who will survive wave after wave of feedback until their unique moment in history arrives and they build the future. These are the people at the precipice with no safety net. At the bottom you have death but also rebirth. Who knows, maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said "the last will be first." The difference between who dies and who survives is difficult to ascertain, maybe there is not a fundamental difference aside from luck. Of course, ancient civilizations attributed the difference to the favor of the gods but now we say that's old school.

All this to say, eugenics are whack. I’m not even touching morality or basic human kindness, which are extremely good reasons to leave people alone. Even in an amoral sense, the idea of homogenizing the entire group to better reflect the strength of those at the top of the hierarchy is a terrible idea. Superiority is temporary and often llusory. Because fringe elements have no investment in the status quo, they are free to adapt with no preconceptions. Novel solutions flow naturally when you never learned the “right” way. And if they were oppressed or ostracised under the status quo, they have even been hardened together. They have been united by shared hardship and ready to lean on each other in crisis. Fringe elements equal diversity which equals adaptability. Killing them off (or the more underhanded way, forced sterilization) is a bad way to survive long term as a group.

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