Conflict Thesis and the Scopes Monkey Trial

BS. Everything we do is an adaptation of one kind or another. Where you get this nonsense?

The purpose of life is to exist and success in life is to pass this suffering on to others.

Biology is about much more than survival. Biology is about life, not death. A police force keeping order is not an army. doing battle.

If your purpose of life is avoiding death, then I feel sorry for you. My purpose for life is sharing that life with others, which is also what ecology is about.

Sorry, not true.

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I was addressing a specific error you made about the traditional concept of fitness. That is all.

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It sounds like you are using a broadly accepted common usage of the word ‘adapt’ (as in: “The teacher quickly adapted his teaching strategy to accommodate the new behavior challenges encountered in the new class.”) Whereas T is obviously referring to the robust biological usage of adapation (evolutionary adaptation) which is genetic, happens to populations over long time periods, and most certainly does not happen to an individual, as the mistaken Lamarkians once thought.

Don’t be so quick to censure somebody who knows a lot more than you about this - when you could be learning from them instead.


That’s not what we are talking about. You are born with the only genome you will ever have. Your genome doesn’t change through your life in order to adapt to different conditions.

Non sequitur.

Biology is about more than one species.

You are simply wrong. There is a reason that Darwin is called the Father of Ecology.

Mervin and T.
The conflict we are having seems to be based on the ways we see evolution taking place. You and no doubt others see evolutionary struggle and adaption as being two separate things. I do not.

T. says the struggle for existence results in genetic adaption. He also says that the struggle for existence takes place on an individual level, but there appears to no connection between the struggle for existence on the individual level and evolution. This cannot be!

It is my observation that the “struggle for existence” is best understood as the need to adapt to the environment, and the way we “struggle” is to try to adapt to the environment. This means that the struggle is not really a struggle, but a process.

Our hands became hands because humans adapted them to new use3s as well as genetic changes which facilitates these changes.

Our genome gives us and other creatures a brain, which enables creatures to adapt. If we don’t, or can’t, we become extinct.

True, but biology must provide an accurate view of our species, or it is false…

Was Darwin an ecologist?

Darwin was a great scientist, but he made a big mistake when he based evolution on conflict instead of harmony. We need to correct that mistake now, and bring evolution into harmony with evolution…

Your typical ant (ants having a proportionally huge biomass compared to other species) is not likely to be in harmony with intruders, but there is this:

He based it upon observed reality.


I agree with your sentiment, I think nature can be pretty brutal. There are some species (like wolves) that appear to completely wipe out competing groups that don’t seem to pose an immediate threat, along with plenty of animals fighting tooth and nail for survival and food.

As a result, I think it would be a mistake to try and get prescriptive claims about how we “should” act out of nature/natural selection alone. This led to social Darwinism, eugenics, etc.

That’s not to say I don’t think nature is beautiful or wonderful.

The conflict is using the same word to mean two different things.

"Symbiosis is increasingly recognized as an important selective force behind evolution;[4][54] many species have a long history of interdependent co-evolution.[55]

ntsAlthough symbiosis was once discounted as an anecdotal evolutionary phenomenon, evidence is now overwhelming that obligate or facultative associations among microorganisms and between microorganisms and multicellular hosts had crucial consequences in many landmark events in evoluon and in the generation of phenotypic diversity and complex phenotypes able to colonise new environments.[56]"

"The biologist Lynn Margulis, famous for her work on endosymbiosis, contended that symbiosis is a major driving force behind evolution. She considered Darwin’s notion of evolution, driven by competition, to be incomplete and claimed that evolution is strongly based on co-operation, interaction, and mutual dependence among organisms. According to Margulis and her son Dorion Sagan, “Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.”[64]

Darwin misread his observations so they reinforced the imperialist, capitalist culture of England of his time. The predator-prey relationship is not one of conflict because they are not competing for the same resources. Besides it covers only a relative few species.

We study science so we can know how nature works and use this knowledge to improve the environment and our lives. When this knowledge is wrong, our use of it damages the environment and us as have the false sciences of social Darwinism, eugenics, and anti-ecology ideologies.

If nature is based on conflict, war, how can it be beautiful or wonderful, instead of ugly and evil?

I think nature involves conflict but it also involves cooperation so it’s hard to attribute just one adjective to it. In any case, the ability for organisms to adapt to their environment, with those best fitted surviving and those not fitted dying off, is very elegant and mathematically beautiful.

Evolution as a mechanism, with DNA storage and transmission, is a better and more robust system than any human programmer has ever designed or dreamt up. DNA is the longest lasting storage medium around. It is hard (for me at least) not to be amazed by the diversity of life and the ability for organisms to adapt.

Perhaps rather than “good” or “evil” I would say I’m consistently “in awe” of nature.


Off topic, but this stirs my little librarian’s heart! The history of the storage of human knowledge is riddled with obsolete storage media. The diversity of such has simply exploded in the last 50 years. The race to keep up with the constant errosion of access to stored human knowledge is unwinable and crushing for people like me. We fight censorship but end up committing it by chosing short-lived storage media!

And DNA just keeps thoughtlessly doing its thing.


No, I don’t see them as separate things. You can’t even accurately describe my own position.

I see the struggle for existence as causing adaptation. They aren’t separate. One is the cause of the other.

No, I don’t. I said just the opposite. Rather, the struggle for existence causes populations to adapt by favoring the genetic adaptations that appear in the population.

Yes, there is a connection, the one I already described for you:

“Individual organisms do not adapt. The species (i.e. population) adapts. The struggle for existence occurs at the individual level, and those who have characteristics that better fit the environment will tend to have more children and grandchildren. These are the fit individuals as defined by their ability to have more offspring.”

Really? If we need to fly, do we grow wings? If we need to swim, do we grow gills? If we need a different type of hemoglobin to fight off malaria, do we suddenly get the mutations that are needed? If we need to be taller, do we grow?

And it does provide an accurate view.

You are making a big mistake by ignoring competition between and within species.


What observations did Darwin misread?

Killing a member of another species is not conflict? Then what is?

It’s much, much more prevalent than you claim.


Did God create creatures who live in constant conflict with each other? Do we live in constant conflict with other people? The answer is No. We live in a cosmos, not a chaos! And nothing Richard Dawkins can say or do will change that.

One time on BioLogos I criticized Dawkins’ conflict view of nature, when someone out of the blue began to attack me. After he failed to intimidate me, told him that 1) One cannot really prove some great generality is true in science,2) The evidence indicates to me that nature is not based on conflict, so it is good.

His response was first positive. He agreed that science could not prove nature is evil, but disagreed with my evaluation of the evidence. He said that Dawkins says that nature is based on conflict and therefore his opinion was that nature is evil. Dawkins is a scientist, so his opinion is more authorative than a layman, Indeed I had no standing as a non-scientist, so I was wrong.

If nature is based on conflict, if it is destructive and evil, the best attitude toward it is fear, not awe, but nature is good. Usually a new adaptation does not cause others to die out, but results in them being absorbed over time. make

Wolves can only eat meat. In order to survive, they must kill individuals from other species. How is this not conflict?

Dawkins is an expert on the science within his field. That doesn’t make him an expert on moral philosophy.


T_Aquaticus, if nothing else, your precise, cogent explanation here has been helpful to me.
Any lay person following your replies would have a better understanding. Thanks for taking all the time and putting in so much effort,


I live in rural Michigan. A lot of wildlife traverses or hangs out on my property and on our paved, 55mph road. Admittedly, we are not deeply rural; otherwise I would see more. I’m 30 minutes from our second-largest university.
I find dismembered critters frequently. I hear more, though. In warm weather, when we leave the windows open. I hear cayotes attacking other animals; the whimpering is pretty awful. I’ve seen a jumping spider take down a grasshopper 10 times its size, and then start to eat it after a while. I’ve stepped or sat too close to ants’ hills and been part of their supper. I’ve heard two racoons in a tree tearing each other apart; found them from the noise, and then from seeing the branch of the tree on a still evening like it was caught in a storm. I see deer, racoons, possums and rabbits regularly dead by the side of the road, because they and a car were attempting to use the same point in time and space at the same time. I occassionally find parts of rabbits in the far back of the property, when I walk it in the winter — once the head with guts still attached; not sure where the rest went. But the hawk who had hunted the rabbit was distraught and angry on my porch rail, because a small murder of crows stole her prey and ate it. The song birds at my feeders attack each other constantly in order to get to the food. The smaller birds just let the bigger ones have the feeder and stick to digging seeds out of the snow and dirt under the feeer. When I had a humming bird feeder, I learned that they cheep, and also that they attack one another with their needle beaks. I quit putting out the feeder, though, because it drew the yellow jackets, who drove off the humming birds. Until the summer when we had Edward the bat living behind the living room window shutter. It took a long time to figure out why we had no yellow jackets under our porch floor that year, until I noticed the guano dripping down the siding. Living where rabies is rampant, because animals attack each other and pass it along, we drove Edward off, sorely missing his extermination services, which fed him very well. Oh, and the summer that the MENSA-intellect grey tree frog stuck itself every evening to our front window, when we had the lamp on, eating all the bugs it could gorge itself on which were attracted to the lamp light.

I’m not sure what terms are the right ones. The animals seem to be in competition for relatively scare resources of food and space. Some of them are only able to exist on the flesh of other animals.

This appears as conflict over resources to me. But certainly not evil. Are animals capable of evil, able to make moral decisions? In the OT we even read observations of the way God provides food for carnevours:

Psalm 104

20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.


27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

The psalmist describes animal predation as seeking food from God. He doesn’t sanitize the greusomness of what the lions and other animals are doing; this is from God. Additionally, the psalmist does not apply a moral judgement to the animals’ behavior. They are simply taking from the food (other animals) that God has provided for them.


This was the basic concept that Darwin had as his starting point. It was similar to Malthus’ conclusion in economics that there wasn’t enough money for everyone, so there would be winners and losers.