Tag Archives: evolution

195. The Science of Evolution and Life

19 Dec

In some recent discussions, I was disappointed by how biological evolution is poorly understood by many people. Here are some facts about evolution and life, which may be helpful.

The unbiased scientific view is: that life is just a complex variation of matter and will begin when certain organic (based on carbon) compounds happen to combine in a particular way, without any purpose or design (see below for details). An exploding star or the “birth” of a star, just happens,  without any purpose or striving. There are many amazing processes in astronomy and on Earth that just happen. Does the moon circle the Earth due to some striving? When an earthquake occurs,  is there a purpose or goal?

The origin of life and its gradual evolution, in the same way, just happens. Some philosophers and other non-scientists see purposes, goals, striving, drives, etc. in many areas. Scientists ignore all this and are concerned with physical laws and objective descriptions of events. Nothing that happens on Earth or in space seems designed, particularly because of general disorganization and imperfections.

The origins of life and evolution, progress by the principle of “survival of the fittest.” Life and death provide variation and some variations are relatively permanent (mutations). If a variation leads to a better chance of survival, at least long enough for reproduction, then on a statistical basis, it is more likely to occur. Evolution depends on the fact that variations may be persistent and occur in subsequent generations. For example, a species of bird may  have small variations in the length of its beak. It may be that birds with a slightly longer beak are able capture food better. Under the concept of evolution, birds with longer beaks likely will survive better and eventually, this species will have longer beaks. There is no design or purpose here, it just happens as a property of matter.

At this point, you might ask, how can the amazing and complex features of life, occur without the design of someone or thing? In order to understand this, consider that these developments happen in a slow process over billions of years. It is difficult for people to mentally cope with things out of the ordinary time spans and sizes that we are used to. Can you comprehend the size of our solar system, or worse, the galaxy or the entire Universe.  In the same way, five billion years is beyond our comprehension. It should not  be surprising that amazing things can happen in that incomprehensible long time.

You might further inquire, how can there be a transition from ordinary matter to the very first life? The answer is this. The Universe is mostly filled with very simple atoms, mostly hydrogen and some helium. The more complex atoms and molecules develop mostly through supernovae, which are gigantic star explosions (see for example: Wikipedia: “Abundance of the chemical elements.” Right from the very beginnings of the Universe, there was ubiquitous movement. Almost everything is in constant motion, at the very smallest levels (atoms) and the very largest (stars and galaxies). The movements of certain atoms, especially carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, etc, resulted in the formation of organic (carbon based) compounds. Movement and accidental contacts of organic compounds resulted in something extremely unlikely, a compound that had the property of “life.” It only took one extremely unlikely combination of compounds out of trillions and trillions of chance interactions, to produce in one instance, a compound that could reproduce itself (living). Because of reproduction, this one case could spread life all over our planet. It may be difficult to understand all this, without reference to chemistry and biology textbooks.

Now we come to people. We all want to feel that we are “special,” but like all life, and all actions we see in the Universe, we just happen. Every plant or animal is constructed and develops as a consequence of the DNA it inherits, and all of the experiences it is exposed to. Experiences include learning, parenting, imitation, food sources, environmental and social factors.

This may be disappointing and confusing for many people, but scientists see no evidence for anything else. Given this bleak picture, my advice is to live your life in a normal, responsible, and enjoyable way, but when appropriate for some intellectual reason, recognize reality. Personally, I like to live my life with kindness because it is good for me, and for others — a win, win. (I welcome criticisms and comments.)

 

185. Current Issues, Briefly #6

31 Aug

This is the 6th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets, unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are worth repeating and emphasizing.

I have been following the career of Elizabeth Warren for many years and have always felt she would make a great President. Now she is rising rapidly as a candidate, and may well succeed. Biden is a nice guy, and would make a good president, but not great. Warren could successfully debate Trump!
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Great news! Fox Broadcasting is even more serious now in its independence from Trump in factual reporting. And his association with John Bolton seems to be eroding. An increasing number of Democrats is favoring impeachment. A few weeks ago I was feeling the stress of his administration, now I feel much more positive.
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It is great to see more Republicans becoming presidential candidates. These provide more voices that are critical of Trump’s attitudes and actions; and will help the Democrats. It shows that it isn’t only Democrats that think he is unpresidential,  untruthful, and dangerous.
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The following is a summary of one of my recent TED comments:
Brief answers to serious global problems: World-wide food supply can be increased thru scientific methods. Shortages of land space can be solved with vertical farms in city buildings and by improved crops.  Sun, wind, and similar can supply all the needed energy for the entire world. These methods are constantly improving. More difficult is this: well-educated voters can elect excellent leaders, but education tends to be controversial.  Here is a sardonic thought: Presidential candidates must be examined and pass IQ, science, and history tests before being able to run.
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Trump “loves” the  North Korean leader, Kim. But all his “negotiations” have not stopped their nuclear development. Now it appears that they are developing a submarine that can launch missiles, a great danger to the USA. Kim’s many short-range missile tests are a danger for Japan and South Korea, but ruthless Trump has ignored these. Obama warned Trump about N. Korea. Meanwhile, Trump plays with foolish tariffs.
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According to a variety of sources (e.g. University World News) American Science is in decline, while in China it is rising. Trump has been diminishing and interfering with science throughout his presidency. It appears that he has no interest in long term benefits for our country. He is only concerned with his personal needs and in supporting rich donors. He is also responsible for a general decline in USA world leadership.
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It would take only a very small percentage of our national budget to stop the torture of immigrants. Confining large numbers of persons in a small area for long periods of time is a major torture. Often basic needs for food and sanitary items are not met.  It does NOT matter what political goals are applicable, the USA doesn’t use torture for ANY reason. President Reagan (a Republican hero) believed this and he ratified the 1984 United-Nations Convention on Torture. How can Trump’s supporters not see his cruelty (or do they have the same flaw).
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A Febuary 2016 TED Talk by Ken Lacovara is brilliant and so applicable today. In his talk, he argues that a few chance events in evolution, like dinosaur extinction, led to brain development and eventually to our human species. Dinosaurs could not stop their extinction, but the destruction of our planet and human populations can be corrected by responsible citizens and leaders with integrity.
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Trump lives in a dream world. His trade policy is tit-for-tat. I raise your tariff, then you raise my tariff. Many farmers and manufacturers are negatively affected. He acts like an impulsive child, refusing to listen to experts and alienating our allies. Trade and other agreements must be a group effort! His Iran “deal” and his negotiations with N. Korea have failed. Ignoring climate-change will have catastrophic consequences for his children and all others throughout the world.
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Trump lied about and failed to produce any new wall on our southern border, and of course, Mexico refused to pay for it. His current efforts to get something done likely involve crimes and violations of law. The wall is so important to him, that at one time, he shut down the US government for weeks to force its support.
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On a happier note: “flash Mob” movie clips illustrate how universal the joys of life are. World-wide, you can see the music, dancing, and acrobatics of flash-mobs in, for example: US, Brazil, Russia, UK, Hungary, Azerbaijan. We have so much in common with people in other countries. Sad that the greed and ruthless ambition of national leaders screw things up.
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Jay Inslee (Washington State Governor) has ended his candidacy for President. This man would have made a fantastic president. His ideas, his record as governor, speaking ability, and his promotions regarding climate-change are exemplary. He simply was not well known, but I admired him for several years. Maybe next election will be his time; or maybe he can be part of the next Democrat administration.

 

119. How Humans Evolved

28 Aug

The latest issue of Scientific American (September 2018) is concerned with the issue of how we humans are different from other animals. The issue title is: “A Singular Species: The Science of Being Human.” A lot of this valuable issue is concerned with evolution. As I looked through the issue, I tried to find a discussion of certain details about how evolution actually produced our superior brains.

Here is my analysis.  First, what is necessary for biological evolution is the following:

1. Death, which leads to many generations, that can make small incremental changes.

2. Mutation: A change in DNA that is relatively permanent.

3. Survival of the fittest. The key to understanding “fittest” is that there is a combination of traits in an individual that will allow him (and her) to reach the age for sex and child rearing. The mutation and progeny must live long enough to promote the reproductive cycles. These are the main themes, but many details are involved in the whole process of evolution.

An overall observation, is that evolution is a tree process rather than a number of parallel lines. Some detail about primates is instructive. Primates include lemurs, lorises, monkeys, apes, and man. All primates are mammals and have advanced binocular vision, grasping ability, and specific enlargements of brain.

60 or 80 million years ago there was a key species that had the capability of leading to various primate species. There are many primate variations that have been successful. Some species will continue because they are “fit” and those less successful may terminate, that is, become extinct. The branching tree of evolution will lose some branches and gain new ones. The species we see today, have all been good at all the many requirements for survival. The lemurs, monkeys, apes, etc are all successful variations.

The interesting fact is that perhaps a hundred million years ago, a mutant was born that had a DNA structure that could eventually lead to the evolution of humans. I think the existence of humans was not inevitable, it was just a chance event. If you look at all the other current species, many non-human animals are quite successful. Humans are not necessary for their success, and in fact, humans have been responsible for the extinction of many interesting animals. It is easy to imagine an earth without humans.

Some precursor animal lived in an environment where mental ability was a major asset. So this species kept evolving better and better brains that led to more successful and likely reproduction.

Let’s fantasize an environment where high intelligence, instead of such traits as better legs for running, was important for survival. Suppose one such environment was characterized by several major changes in food supply. Perhaps a favorite plant or animal to eat became extinct. The adaptation to major changes in food source probably would require more brain power. There could also be major changes in climate or the availability of water. Perhaps in one region there were two pre-human species that were highly competitive for a limited supply of food. The smarter species could have been more able to survive, and more likely to pass its DNA on to future generations. A superior memory could help find water during a drought, or the location of food sources for different seasons.

Dinosaurs never developed big smart brains like ours during their many years of existence. This suggests it takes a certain DNA structure and a certain environment to initiate the evolution of this large adaptive brain. It may, in fact, be a very rare occurrence in the Universe, and we are just very lucky.

I have written the above to provide information in a short form that may be useful for those not wanting read thousands of book pages. It is an effort to present key facts that may be lost in a sea of writings. I also commend the thousands of dedicated scientists that have contributed to our understanding of this profound topic.

117. The Amazing Brain: How it was made.

6 Jul

Most people know, or are at least aware of the idea, that our amazing brains were developed through biological evolution. I am going to try to make a clear explanation of this process. One approach is to make comparisons with easy to understand non-biological processes.

A manufactured product can evolve under the following conditions:
1. Consider a product such as a cell-phone, that has a high volume of sales.
2. This product can and will be improved in a number different ways.
3. After each modification, there is an objective measure of the product’s success.
4. The product is permanently modified if there are indications of its success with the public.

So, the procedure is to make and sell a specific improvement, say, a larger screen. If the larger screen sells more phones, then it will be included in all future versions. If sales are worse, then the improved version will be abandoned. In this way, the cell-phone will “evolve” and customers will enjoy better and better phones.

The key factors in this and other evolution are variation (which is persistent) and feedback related to the new features. And, of course, the feedback must have an effect on the persistence of variations.

In biological evolution, mutation (relatively permanent changes) occurs in a species as new DNA is created for offspring. The feedback is success in survival. If a change, such as a longer neck for a giraffe, helps giraffes to survive, then giraffes may “evolve” longer necks. Note, longer necks allow giraffes to reach more food. Natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the biological process, similar to customer satisfaction for the cell phones.

It is really remarkable that “nature” has created automatically self-improving objects like animals and plants. The improvements can take place without any human intervention. Every animal and plant on earth has developed, in this way, for billions of years.

.                           Amazing time leads to Amazing complexity
Now think about this: the amazing complexity of the human brain is based on an amazing amount of time, billions of years. Brains (and all other organs) have developed to a fantastic degree, because of a fantastic amount of time for this “evolution” process to take place.

I should also mention that in our world, there are many types evolution. Similar to natural biological evolution, is animal breeding. Here, the selection is NOT natural, but by humane intervention. As civilization developed, there have been remarkable changes in species to make them more desirable for human use. The clear effects of breeding are very supportive of the concept of natural evolution.

If you want to develop your understanding of brain evolution, do an Internet search on the words “animal nervous systems” or “animal brains” and look at the images. This will help you to see the progression. After the transition from single-celled to multi-cellular animals, rudimentary nervous systems appeared. These provided simple two-cell reflexes based on an input (sensory neuron) and an output (motor neuron). Eventually, more neurons were added to the processing and finally complex brains appeared. Some of this nervous system development is well understood, but there is still very much to learn.

101. Worldwide Chaos?

26 Apr

Is there “worldwide chaos” or is it normal to have a certain amount of danger, struggle and warfare. I feel that recently, chaos has taken a step upward,
and there is more to be concerned with now — particularly in the USA — than in the last several years.

Here is a list of factors that currently are particularly disturbing:
1. Endless war in Syria and the resulting massive migrations.
2. Our current leader, Trump, is unprepared for high office, and lacks “ideals.”
3. Brexit: Britain leaving the European Union.
4. Russian attack of Ukraine.
5. Israel and Palestinian endless conflict.
6. Worldwide terrorism, including the dangers of ISIS, Taliban, others.
7. Failure of many leaders to recognize climate-change danger.
8. In some countries there is assassination of reporters and dissidents.
9. Greedy leaders scam the citizens, promoting personal wealth for a few.
10. Significant interference in USA elections by a foreign power (Russia).
11. Christianity and Islam sometimes are compatible, but often clash.

The search for chaos “causes” can take many forms, and for most important events, there are many factors that can be causal. There are many places to start the search. I believe a good point is the industrial revolution, usually dated from about 1760 to 1830.

As governments and technology developed, there was a parallel evolution of greed and corruption. The basic principle is that in any society or nation, a few aggressive and intelligent citizens will become leaders. As they improve their political skills, they learn how to communicate with citizens to achieve power, and to make use of rich donors. Congressmen are “bribed to help the wealthy with tax breaks and loopholes, and subsidies, creating a financial cycle: rich donors support desirable legislation and in turn, get even richer.

Once in office for a few years, they also can become adept at increasing their personal wealth. It is a matter of “learning” and of the eventual irresistible temptation to become richer. Those in office gradually separate from the people and form what could be called a “royalty” class. In many cases, a leader that starts out with good intentions will eventually fall into corruption.

The end result of this process of corruption is often violent or non-violent revolution. Excessive greed at the top will produce more poverty and more poor people. This has taken place for centuries, but recent improvement in communication, like the Internet, focused on this oppression, and helped with the organization of protest. One result was the “Arab Spring”, which began in Tunisia around 2010. Revolutions in Egypt and several other countries followed. Syria was the worst case, resulting in a disastrous deadlock between rebels and its President.

So a basic cause for much of the current world crisis is the rise of a greedy “Royalty Class” in many countries (even in the USA). The Syrian disaster became a basic cause to many other international problems. War in Syria resulted in a massive migration to other countries. This refugee problem I see as the major cause of BREXIT, the rise of Pres. Trump, and perhaps the rise of ISIS and other terrorist activity. In the US, the fear of refugees was recognized by Donald Trump, and promoted by him.

Here is a summary of some major (not all) causal links:

The rise of technology was accompanied by gradual governmental corruption.
Greedy and corrupt leaders exploit the citizens and increase poverty.
Citizens, helped mostly by the Internet, discover the corruption.
They are able to organize and revolt in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.
The revolution in Syria caused massive migration and associated fears.
Migration fears caused Brexit, the rise of Trump, terrorism, ISIS?, etc.

Final thought. I have condensed what could be a whole book, into a brief blog.
My purpose here, is to promote thought and analysis. As ordinary citizens better understand the world, it can become a better place.

90. A Governing Family Unit

3 Feb

        In ancient Rome, there were two periods with triumvirates (three leaders).

For billions of years, the evolution of life has often involved the coalescing (combining and attaching) of smaller units into larger, more adaptable combinations. Biochemicals coalesce to form living cells, cells coalesce to form primitive life forms like sponges, simple multi-cellular organisms combine to form more complicated creatures, etc. Eventually, coalescence leads to the most complex and intelligent animal, human beings. But evolution actually continues in a social manner. Combinations of individuals form social groups, like clubs, families, neighborhoods, and small businesses.

The arrival of Trump marks the creation of a powerful new entity resulting from social/business evolution. The new creation is what I shall call the “extended governing family unit.” The Trump version consists of himself, his offspring and their spouses. Each has a function and separately they would be very ordinary. To clarify, a powerful governing family unit is actually not new, but having a President of the USA so dependent on his extended family for full functioning, I believe is new.

Donald Trump is the cohesive force and spokesman. He is very talented in real-estate development and various kinds of promotion. Other members have social, legal, communication, business, and other specializations. We really elected a functioning group, and not an individual. This unit violates nepotism and maybe other rules, but if truly separated, it would not do so well. We probably should just get used to it (from a legal standpoint) and hope for the best. In the long run, huge shady-business dealings,  intolerable errors, or maybe even overwhelming citizen protests, may be the downfall of this presidential “group”.

Although unpublished, for many years I have fantasized about a presidential group as opposed to a single president. There would be some advantages to a triumvirate (three person group) like existed in ancient Rome. Major decisions would be by two or more out of the three. Or perhaps a group of five. One advantage of a group is that if one is injured, dies, or becomes emotionally unstable, the others could continue. Also, sometimes an individual will go off track for a while, and the other group members can add some stability to the decision process. The other branches of government operate by group voting, why not also the executive. But, this is just a thought, not a serious proposal.

81. All Complex Systems are Corruptible

18 Dec

I research medical matters, politics, science, economics, artificial intelligence, manufacturing, and many other topics — mostly because I just enjoy learning. As a result, I see our world as a fascinating collection of complex systems, some natural and some man-made. But in the last few years, I have been impressed by the fact that corruption is everywhere. An interesting and symbolic illustration is contained in a TV series, Life After People showing the deterioration of buildings and other man-made structures — if humans suddenly disappeared. We see how nature insidiously destroys our prized cities, buildings, roads, bridges, etc. Our world is a combination of new amazing structures like the International Space Station, and, all too often, tragic deterioration like the devastation of Aleppo.

Challenge: Name one large complex system without some corruption

Here is my brief list of important corrupted complex-systems:
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1. Life. Almost all living species have corruptive elements. Everyone is familiar with the effects on life of viruses, harmful bacteria, and human mismanagement.
Anti-corruption forces: doctors, other healthcare providers, and the people, themselves.
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2. Computers. At an early stage, computers and their attackers began to evolve together. They are attacked by a variety of viruses which function very similarly to animal viruses. In both cases, viruses modify existing control elements (DNA for life and circuit logic for computers) to reproduce themselves, and to destroy what they have infected.
Anti-corruption forces: numerous anti-virus commercial programs and government and private agencies.
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3. Internet. There are hackers that steal and alter private information, web-sites that promote false political information, various scams, utility disruption, etc. Like the computer topic above, corruption evolved as the Internet evolved.
Anti-corruption forces: specific government agencies, police units, and some commercial and private operatives.

.        Worldwide, governmental systems are replete with corruption

4. Governments. Worldwide governmental systems are replete with minor and major corruption. Aggressive and often ruthless people are able to become presidents, prime ministers, congressmen, agency directors, tribal chiefs, etc. It is a natural process for such people to gradually take more and more for themselves and provide less for the people. In most nations, a greedy royalty class” emerges that is devoted to increased power and wealth. In many of my previous blogs I have discussed various details of this type of corruption. Very rich people find ways to increase their riches by corrupting officials. Corrupted leaders often lie about things that concern them and re-write history according to their agendas. They often discourage public education, education in general, and attack the press.
Anti-corruption forces: The responsible press, bloggers, ethical politicians, and informed voters.
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5. Businesses. These have several types of corruption. Within a business, competition for advanced positions can be ruthless, and in order to increase profits, faulty or even poisonous products can be sold. Business leaders often corrupt congressmen to benefit themselves and their organizations. Many lobbyists are the vehicle for corruption. Anti-trust laws, first developed in 1890 and 1914 illustrate ongoing USA private enterprise exploitation. The Enron Corp. disaster of 2001 is a lesson in corruption.
Anti-corruption forces: special police units, ethical businesses and politicians, informed citizens, whistle-blower employees, etc.
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6. Sports. A wonderful example of a corrupted complex system is organized sports. Gamblers have bribed athletes to promote their betting. Athletes take potentially harmful drugs to promote their performance. Even governments have participated in this type of inappropriate drug activity. Olympic Game officials have been prosecuted for illegal practices.
Anti-corruption forces: the press, governmental units, police, informed citizens, etc.

.    Corruption is a part of every large system — because it is profitable

There are so many susceptible systems that I cannot cover them all. A few more are healthcare practices, hospitals, schools, and religious organizations. Just added today, foreign interference in elections.

Conclusion. The several examples listed above suggest the universality of complex system corruption. An interesting development is “blockchain” which is a new way of recording and operating almost all financial interactions — and could be effective. It is touted as the ultimate international financial system and as being incorruptible. But history tells us that clever hackers will probably find a way in. It is clear to me that any system created and operated by humans, where it is advantageous to do so, will be negatively exploited. Why is corruption so ubiquitous? — because it is profitable.

After my final editing of this blog, I sense the excessive negativity that I have created. So I want to encourage the reader by saying that the world is also full of safe and enjoyable experiences that we can explore and must expand.

53. Global Dysfunction

3 Apr

To understand the major world problems, we must first separate two important levels of analysis:
Level-1: Morality and ethics (in a practical sense, MOST important).
Level-2: Understanding the way things work, apart from value judgments (also necessary).

In our everyday world and when we vote, we must observe Level-1, Morality. When we try to understand “basic causes”, we need to use bodies of objective knowledge like history, anthropology, and science. And the method must be unbiased reasoning.

The major “basic cause” for global dysfunction (wars, corruption, poverty, etc.) is a natural process of evolution. There are other causes, but I consider the following to be most important. Evolution is a Level-2 consideration and is independent of values and morals. It would be nice if nature included morality in evolution, but it does not. Governments, political parties, corporations and various social groups have a tendency to become more powerful and rich, as a natural process — OR — they simply fade away (like unsuccessful extinct species). Success often involves subtle or hidden corruption, because evolution is morally neutral.

Let’s start with an important example. I believe that the wars in the Middle East are a result of corrupt government evolution. Government leaders, if left alone, will tend to become more powerful and rich. As governments become richer, obviously, the people will lose out and poverty will grow. Any country with a large population of poor people is unstable and is subject to violent correction: revolution. Why is this happening now? Because technology has promoted communication and people are better able to see the corruption and unfairness of their governments. They also see other countries where the people are living better than they are. Rising corruption and improved communication reach a bursting point and violence ensues.

UNREGULATED INSTITUTIONS TEND TOWARDS CORRUPTION

Here are some other examples of natural, but corrupt evolution, more close to home. Banks tend to become larger and richer through mergers and questionable competition. As they develop greater size, they can better influence government bank-regulations to promote their profits.

Insurance companies evolve so that if unregulated, premiums rise and benefits diminish. Some politicians assert that we should not let government come between our doctors and us — but are perfectly happy to let profit-hungry insurance companies do just that. The assertion that competition among insurance companies will correct their corruption is not supported by history.

Educational institutions like universities, also evolve to create impossible high costs for education. The solution for this problem is complex and perhaps we need a total revision of the system. One of my thoughts on this matter is have three or four year public (tuition free) colleges where the learning functions are the total focus, and research, sport, and social functions are mostly eliminated. This will be detailed in my next blog.

Manufacturing corporations become gigantic and control Congress through campaign contributions. Enron Corp. a great example of the corruption of corporations that are not properly regulated. Many people in corporations are good and responsible, but it’s often the case that the most clever and greedy people rise to the top and cause horrible problems.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION ?
Generally, more education is helpful. More people speaking out about injustice, lies, and corruption is helpful. Changes to campaign financing are essential because political contributions have a choke hold on our officials. But this is difficult because our current congressmen are a product of this system. It will take a major (non-violent) revolution to break this harmful cycle so that the greatness of America can be restored (yes, a poke at a common political sound-bite). The press could play a bigger role in identifying lies and corruption, but reporters and publishers seem somewhat controlled by fear.

The founding fathers, President Dwight Eisenhower and other great leaders have recognized these problems, but the leaders that profit from corruption are already so rich and influential that change is difficult. Some presidential candidates are obsessed with following the original constitution but disregard the fact that checks-and-balances were included to fight this very evolutionary pitfall, which is a problem as old as the rise of civilization. Final thought: It’s really more complicated than I have presented above, but I think these ideas emphasize an analysis commonly overlooked, and contribute to the ultimate solutions.

5. “Social Darwinism”

5 Apr

Today, President Obama said that the Republican empowerment of the top Rich is  “Social Darwinism.”  I have a scientific background and a long term interest in evolution  (Darwinism), so I was fascinated by this term. In my younger days, I think I was aware of it, but currently did not remember much about it. When I thought about it, I could easily guess the meaning, but did some research on its usage.

First, let me state the basic principles of evolution: survival of the fittest, variation in offspring with new traits that can last at least several generations, and death.  Stated in another way, animals that are best adapted to an environment tend to live longer and reproduce. The “fittest” are most likely to mate and pass their superior genes on to the next generation. If animals did not die, reproduction would diminish and there would be no variation. It is important to also understand that evolution is dispassionate, not good or bad, does not have any goals, and is just a fact of nature. It explains many things about our structure and where we came from, and is one of the most solidly supported facts of science.

Social evolution is something I have thought about for many years, so I was immediately interested in the term “Social Darwinism.” Historically, the term has acquired a very negative meaning. It refers to people who are rich and powerful and believe that they have a right to dominate other classes because they are the fittest. How do they know they are so fit, because they actually are successful, at least in making money.

My writings on social evolution have been purely explanatory, and without any value judgments.  If you look at the principles of evolution just described above, then you can see the application. The fittest groups tend to survive, there is variation in their traits, and members die or retire from the group. The point for me is that it is the “nature” of the world or groups and animals to evolve. Groups that are not “fit” tend to die out.

Obama’s point is that certain rich people look at their success, decide they are the fittest, and justify their greed and misdeeds because it is in line with biological evolution. Of course, not all rich folks are greedy, and many are quite willing to give back through charity and/or increased taxes. And I should clarify that I think there is nothing wrong with being rich, it is the extremes that are disturbing — like the recent major shift of money from the middle class to the wealthy. But the greedy rich should be more cautious because history is replete with accounts of revolutions (violent and otherwise) designed to stop the abuse. The non-rich may not be as “fit” but they have numbers on their side, and good-hearted rich people to help them.

In future writings, I intend to further discuss evolutionary concepts, and their broad range of applications, ranging from micro-organisms, to groups, to giant stars.

I have to add a final thought. Just because a presidential candidate has been successful in business, does not mean that he will make a good president. Business leaders learn to make themselves and their investors lots of money, and basically to ignore as much as possible, employees or citizens that they might harm. And often they ignore the success of the business itself, as long as they can draw money out of it. Presidents have a different and much more complex imperative. They must consider the overall success of the country, all its citizens,  its relationships with other nations, and a Congress that may not cooperate.