Survival of the friendliest

@knor Kai, thank you for your response. However, I have some problems with it.

You are correct to identify Thomas Malthus with the origin of survival of the fittest, but you fail to identify the research which is responsible for any changes of this important concept. I am not questioning your word, but as you know science is based on verified facts. I have been looking for verification of any changes in the survival of the fittest in the literature and have found none.

Does science deal with real life or not? If the science of evolution deals with real life, then human morality must take it into consideration. If not then it is bogus. Irresponsible statements such as this lower respect for science.

In any case people use “science” to justify their morality, and science has a responsibility to speak if this is not good science.

It has been pointed out that once at long time ago hominins were are a crossroads. The climate was becoming drier. The forest was becoming the savanna and their diet of fruits and seeds was becoming more scarce and hard to eat.

One branch of hominins adapted by making its teeth bigger and its jaw stronger, so it could better eat the seeds and nuts available. These are called Robust hominins, panthopus bosei. Another branch did not develop their teeth and jaws, but its mind so it could improve its diet by hunting and cooking their food. These were our ancestors homo habilis.

Why did one branch succeed and the other die out? You don’t think it matters why we are the way we are?

This is very true. One is fit on respect to one’s environment. In fact fitness should not be defined as having the right genes, but being well adapted to the environment… Non-avian dinosaurs died out because the climate changed and their food died out.

We need to understand how evolution works because the climate is changing rapidly and our habitat is coming under very great stress. The old system does not cut it.

It seems to me that is meaningless statement because humans are moral beings. We are continually making moral judgments based on the facts we think we know. You really can’t tell people not to make these judgments, because it is part of who we are.

All we can do is help people make those judgments by giving them the best information possible and helping them to make responsible judgments. We fail to do this if we teach misinformation about evolution and use ad hominem arguments.

Either I misunderstood your response or we disagree.

Science may report findings about evolution or some other topic but these findings are just observations, not something that should be used to tell what is right or wrong. If these findings are used as some sort of justification for human morality, the nature of science is badly misunderstood or the person tries to use scientific observations to support her/his opinions about morality.

If animals cooperate or compete, that observation does not tell anything about what is right. If the observation of cooperation or competition is connected to reproductive output or mortality, science may conclude that certain strategies seem to provide higher fitness or survival than others. But is higher fitness or survival equal to having higher morality? My answer is no.

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At the time of Darwin, the mechanism of genetic inheritance was an unsolved mystery. Nobody knew about DNA. There was some speculation about the role of chromosomes as carriers of inheritance (Wilhelm Roux 1883) but that speculation came after Darwin had published his main book. Modern evolutionary synthesis emerged much later and research on ecology reached modern standards even later. As these branches of science evolved, also the use of words have changed. During the last decades, I have not heard that ecologists that have active unversity-level research and teaching would have used the sentence ‘survival of the fittest’, except when referring to history - it is part of education but modern research uses other concepts and words.

‘Survival of the fittest’ suggests that survival is the key goal in nature. During the last decades, the focus has been on fitness. Fitness depends on reproductive output, not survival. In some organisms, evolution has lead to ‘big bang’ reproduction (semelparity) where the organism puts everything in reproduction and then dies. It is obvious that survival is less important for these organisms. There is a need to survive until reproduction but thereafter, the optimal strategy depends more on the number, quality and fate of offspring than survival.

Then why not say the “survival of those which reproduce,” instead of survival of the fittest. The real issue is however what makes one allele more fit than another or more able to reproduce than another.

I understand that this is a complicated question, but that does not mean that it cannot or should not be addressed. I have given my point of view which has been rejected without evidence. I can live with rejection, but not with it being out of hand with no evidence and no discussion.

You got that right! Dead biota do not reproduce, so I would think that is the first essential. The ability to reproduce is the second. If I survived to reproduce, why would not my offspring? So what are the keys to our survival or is nature so complicated that we cannot generalize about something as basic as our ability to survive and reproduce? Is nature smarter than we are?

In are last dialogue you told me about an article in which the concept of symbiosis was rejected. At my request you gave me a citation for that article, but when I tried to find it on the internet, I came up dry. (I was able to find and read the other article that you cited.)

It seems now that this article is very important and I would appreciate if you would check this out.

You are right in noting that survival until reproduction is essential. Those young that die do not reproduce.

I read your earlier comments again to understand your reasoning better. Probably I have missed an important point of your arguments.

You wrote earlier

I think you mix here separate things.
Evolution as such does not aim towards a goal in the future, unless God interferes or have planned the conditions so that evolution proceeds towards a predictable endpoint. In this sense, evolution has no purpose. In the context of evolution, ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘survival of those which reproduce’ are amoral statements. They are just comments based on what we can observe in nature. Not good, not bad.

“Life has no meaning or purpose” is another matter because it is linked to the question ‘why did God create living beings?’. Assuming that God had a purpose, life has a purpose although the mechanisms of evolution don’t. Please note that I wrote ‘life’ instead of ‘Life’. I believe that true Life is a property of God and we can only be part of that through Jesus Christ.

“It just is, so it does not matter how it is lived”. I think that the logic in this statement only holds if we forget God.
Without God, we are just animals among other animals. No permanent rules or morality, ‘right’ is what we decide is ok. This does not mean living totally without behavioral guidelines because self-preservation makes us avoid social behaviors that would seriously risk our life or the life of our offspring.
With God, we have a possibility to something better. If we follow Jesus and ‘the Spirit of God dwells in us’ (1 Corinthians 3:16), we may become part of God’s great plan. Then our lives matter and how we live matters.

Sorry, I don’t remember what article you mean - probably I comment too eagerly, if I forget what I have written.

As far as I remember, I have claimed that the term ‘symbiosis’ is vague and given a reference to an article that includes the same conclusion (Martin & Schwab 2013). I don’t remember that I would have rejected the term totally.

A VERY problematic assertion. I challenge you to define life in a way that applies to God. And I wonder if you will come up with something that has anything to do with life as we experience it. I would instead suggest following the lead of Paul which describes God as “life giving.” This is even as an open theist which unlike medieval theology thinks God is capable of all the things which life usually consists of. Are you even an open theist?

That would fit right in with the “life giving” understanding of God.

I guess I should have clarified what I mean. In the short term (<1000 years), the expression ‘life giving’ is a good one. As a believer, I believe that God created life on Earth. How He created it is a technical question and does not matter here. ‘Life giving’ is good also in the sense that it tells that our current life can reflect the light and life of God, and we can get eternal life through Jesus Christ.

I was thinking of life in the eternal sense. God may give us eternal life but we get it in connection with Him. I believe that eternal life is not something we, or other creatures, have independent of God. Only God is truly eternal. He was, He is and He will be. I believe He is above time - time that slowly alters and erodes the life of every living creature. In this sense, eternal Life is a property that only God has.

“In Him was life…” (John 1:4)

All things come from God, are in God, by Him grounding being from eternity. He is the primum mobile, the first cause, but in, of time of course, except below it, for eternity.

There is no alternative. Apart from nature alone.

So the moral imperative - assuming that is a synonym for the working out of pre-wired morality - in intentional minds emerges in what He instantiates. God does not beam down a morality ray.

Science is perfectly adequate for explaining morality.

If Jesus is the real deal then He gave us a kick up the backside in the direction of social justice, but Christianity lost that impetus when it became institutionalized. Otherwise and either way Jesus’ radical, inclusive, humanitarianism, picked up and run with by the true communist Church, is the start of the greatest possible eusocial development in history.

Interesting way to put it. How do you know that God doesn’t do that?

Possible bits and pieces of its origins, perhaps. But for the purpose of sanctioning, or authenticating, or grounding it as a universal imperative for humanity? No. The classic “is” vs. “ought” is an insurmountable wall for science. Not a “thou shalt not tread here” wall, but a “go ahead and try all you want” wall against which many have tried and all have failed.

Because there is no need to go there, as in science doesn’t need to be atheistic, i.e. do any work against theism.

The universal principle is in our genes, do no harm including unfairness. Anybody says otherwise is aberrant. We don’t need anybody to tell us that but us. Jesus purified that to its glaring essence from which we all shrug and turn away. Genes eh?

If doing right just ‘came natural’ to us all, then I guess we wouldn’t be seeing the world we see today, nor any need for all the ruckus raised by the prophets and Christ himself. There are alternate realities in our heads … and then there’s reality itself.

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You still haven’t defined life. One thing science shows us is that it clearly is not is some “life stuff” which can be added to non-living material to animate it or even to be added to living organisms in order to revitalize them and make them live longer. There is no such “life stuff.”

I also believe that eternal life only comes from God, but not because God is eternal but because God is infinite and thus there is no limit to what God has to give to us. And therein is a definition of life apart from the mere existence which can apply to an unchanging rock, which has nothing we would call life. This definition would include all the things we identify with life such as growth and learning which can be eternal in a relationship with an infinite God. It seems to me that mere unending existence without that which makes an eternal existence worthwhile would be hell rather than what should be called eternal life.

OK… to meet my own challenge and give my definition of life:

Life is the the maintenance of an identity apart from and in relationship to an environment or other things which one responds to with such things as choices, growth, and learning.

How does this apply to God? Obviously God’s existence does not derive from an environment as does our own. Instead God creates other things with which to have a relationship and make choices about His relationship with them. He can also be said to learn and grow in a relative way in the role He chooses to have in this/these relationship(s). This is not to say that God depends on what He creates in order to have life for all the capabilities of life are already in Him. Others might speak of internal relationships but I am not inclined to do so, for I would consider that to be quite beyond our capabilities. God is not something we can put under a microscope to study – I do not think even scripture enables us to do such a thing.

In science we have discarded the notion of absolute time, propping up this notion of antiquated theology that either one is in time or without any time at all. Time is just an ordering of events. And thus God can be the creator of the time we live under in the physical universe and thus logically outside it, without being devoid of time Himself or incapable of things which require time. Instead God can use His own time as He chooses without being a slave to it, so we need not ask what God has been doing all that endless time before creation.

Some translate this as “That which has been made was life in him.” The literal Greek is “In him life was.” And thus we do not have to take from this the implication that life is some sort of stuff, to ask whether God has any? More sensibly, life consists of certain capabilities, and I certainly believe there are no capabilities which God does not have.

Definitions of life use living creatures as a starting point and try to form a definition that includes all known life forms but excludes things that are not considered to have life. Easier in theory than in reality, especially if we want to include possible life outside our solar system. These definitions have not been formed to include eternal God, so according to most definitions, God is not alive. Words and definitions matter but the limits of our definitions should be remembered.

One article showing the difficulty of defining life is Wizany (2020) What is life? in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space science. After a long discussion, he forms a short definition of life:
“Therefore, we can formulate a new definition of life: life is communicative interaction, which means life is primarily a social event”.
This definition will probably get much criticism but God might be alive according to this definition.

“in him life was”, as you translated. There is the life of mortal creatures and the Life of eternal, life giving God. Definitions don’t change it but I admit that vague use of words hamper communication.

Of course. That is the meaning of “life as we experience it.” Using words divorced from what we experience leaves us unable to communicate meaningfully.

And thus God would not have “life as we experience it.” Precisely why I said this is problematic.

A rock outside our solar system is still a rock and just as devoid of life as the rocks here. The point of defining life is to clarify the difference that life makes such that we we recognize it despite the difference from life we experience here. So since we can imagine life making no use chemistry let alone DNA and RNA many define life as I have without making any reference to such things. I have a lifetime of science fiction novels and films as well as my own imagination to draw on for considering all such possibilities different from life on our planet. But again a rock outside our solar system is still a rock and just as devoid of life as the rocks here.

Is a book alive just because people acquire information from it. Or does life require information to go both ways? In fact the same would apply to rocks. We can get information from rocks – does that make them alive?

And what about phone wires? Are they alive just because information is moving on them? No. Life is more than just communicative interaction.

As for me, I would consider information just one the possible mediums of interaction. But then I guess I am not using the word “information” for everything as some people do. With a definition like that everything affected by anything else would be alive. I don’t think that is helpful either.

Yes. I see many reasons to object.

Since the same could be said of rocks, that doesn’t seem very helpful to me.

Perhaps, the greater challenge would be the comparison with computers. They can both provide and acquire information. To meet that challenge I would include something about self-organization. I would distinguish living things from machines because former create themselves for their own reasons while the latter are created by the design of another for reasons which do not come from them.

Life is the property of a self-organizing process which maintains an identity apart from and in relationship to an environment or other things by responding to it/them with such things as choices, growth, and learning.

To apply this to God I would suggest substituting “self-existing” for “self-organizing” for a kind of life which is certainly different than our own.

The aberration is in our still doing harm. Not denying that morality is genetically based. I’m not saying that. But we are without excuse. We privileged few. Especially the followers of Jesus. The prophets culminating in Jesus have always said this. The world we see today is incalculably better than theirs. So someone was listening. We have facilitated, enabled the better angels of our nature, despite ourselves and despite Jesus, whom we mainly ignored in His radical, peaceful, social justice.

You might not be denying it … but I am. Morality is not genetically based.

Agreed. We are privileged indeed, and held all the more responsible in that position. I push back just a bit on thinking that “our angels” are much better than those of our forebears. When push comes to shove, I think we may end up being just as bad (some even worse, some better). It’s just that some of us are privileged to live in communities or parts of the world where there isn’t quite so much “pushing and shoving”.

Of course it is. I meant that I’m not accusing you of being aberrant in denying it. The aberration is in justifying harm. Everything about human behaviour, how we experience internal and external stimuli and respond to it, is genetically based. How can it not be? We’re meat. Altruism is something sufficiently complex meat does. We are genetically pre-wired for moral behaviour. How could we possibly not be? We aren’t tabulae rasae. You’re saying from a rational, scientific point of view that I’m wrong? Please cite for that.

Yes, God had a purpose when God created humans. Indeed God had a purpose when God created the universe. That purpose is revealed through the Word/Logos/Jesus Christ.

If God has a purpose and God does, then what God creates has a purpose, including evolution and its mechanics. God created evolution to create among other things, humans beings.

Lest you want to accuse me of human-centrism, .I would remind you that the anthropic principle says that “fine tuning” indicates that the universe was not created by accident. It says says that that the purpose of the universe is to produce a rational observer to observe that the universe is rational. Christians believe that means that God created humans in the age of God, Who, unlike nature, is able to Create, Think, and Love.

John 1:1-5 says that evolution is part of God’s great plan designed by Jesus. Nature is part of God’s great plan, because God designed it. If nature is amoral, then God is amoral. We know that God is not amoral, so evolution must be moral in the sense that God uses it as a part of God’s plan to produce God’s Kingdom of Love.

Animals are not moral in that they can make moral choices, but they are good or evil in as far as they participate in God’s plan, JUST AS YOU AND I ARE saved because we to participate in God’s Plan and Kingdom.

God’s plan is not based on selfishness, that is the Selfish Gene, nor is God’s plan based on survival of the fittest. God’s plan is based symbiosis, interdependence of humans and interdependence of all biota with God and others.
See below.

John 1:1-5 (NIV2011)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:14 (NIV2011)
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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