Photo Credit: Atos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Atos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This week’s post is a kind of ‘prequel’ to “Celebrating Comparison” which attracted several commentators and critics both on and off the blog. I’m not surprised that the topic of “education”, which affects us all, is not only intellectual in nature, but highly emotional and often divisive. If you haven’t read the original post, it suggests that society’s insistence on reliving its history of ambition through the reinforcement of competition and acquisition (which breed a number of negative character traits, the least of which is greed), is quite unlikely to foster any genuine growth or evolution of mankind.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

In response to the piece, Rudy, Lance, and Eddy left comments which I’d like to discuss in three different articles. It seems fitting to first address Rudy’s comment which cites competition as an innate survival instinct that can’t be attributed to a person’s learned or conditioned behavior. Maybe this is why human beings have applied the overarching principle of competition (a by-product of comparison) to all aspects of life for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Rudy says, “There has been social attempts to treat everyone the same skilled or not, smart or not but they did not succeed. It seems human nature from birth is competitive and selfish and I don’t think this is because of their parents teaching. In nature the species success depends on the survival of the fittest, procreating and improving the species. Nature does not seem to care about the unfit being happy or surviving.”

Photo Credit: Atos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Atos (CC BY-SA 2.0)

My short reply to Rudy’s significant point is:

“Yes, but…”

The long reply is that the selfishness of a human being must be, in part, a result of nature’s programming which is meant to keep us alive long enough to procreate (as suggested by Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection). Let’s face it, an infant or young child has very little chance of surviving on its own because, quite simply, he/she hasn’t yet acquired the concept of “self” which is needed to react appropriately (selfishly) in a ‘fight or flight’ situation.

In Darwin’s world, nature ensures that only the fittest survive. The fittest are not only those with physical strength and agility, but those who adapt the traits required to pass along their genetic codes. For human beings, adaptation includes the evolution of consciousness and the inquisitive, thinking mind.

Can we then say that the meaning of “fittest” for any species within an ecosystem is also ever evolving? For example, the fittest fish of a certain species may be those with large gills. However, if the waters begin receding over many years, those who adapt a breathing organ in addition to gills would become the fittest, as they alone would have the option of spending time on land.

Photo Credit: fedewild (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: fedewild (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you agree that humanity’s technological (external) evolution is moving at a rate that is exponentially faster than their psychological (inner) evolution – both of which involve thinking – then you may concede that the combination of “sophisticated” weapons of mass destruction and the age-old psychology of conflict, fear and violence may very well reach a critical threshold, causing us to destroy ourselves.

Given the above assumption, how would we answer this two-part question?

  1. Do you think that we (who have nuclear power at our fingertips) can continue along the path of competition (which breeds conflict and violence) without nature eventually selecting us out? Must we adapt by evolving harmony, psychologically, to withstand our further advanced technological age?
  1. If you agree that we are currently at a critical threshold in which we must evolve inwardly in order not to destroy ourselves, how can we survive the disproportionate and explosive combination of psychological infancy and adolescent technology when nature compels us to behave in ways which conflict with inner peace?

[The last one minute of this video sums up the point of the last six – though all six are quite interesting :-)]

Okay Rudy, here’s what I’m going to do (because frankly, my mind HAS to get this all out! Haha) – I’m going to assume that your answer to the first question is “Yes, I believe we are in danger of extinction if we don’t evolve into a species which can remain innately peaceful and selfless.”

Now we get into a discussion, and here’s how I see it unfolding:

Rula: As opposed to animals and plants, don’t you think that humans, as social and reasoning beings (most animals are social, but not reasoning), eventually formed groups in which the Darwinian concept of Natural Selection and survival of the fittest has no place?

You mention Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, there’s a certain assumption behind it, and that can…become a deep seeded mind pattern through which we look at the world. – Eckhart Tolle (ETTV: Science & Consciousness – a Talk with Lothar Schäfer)

Rudy (aka: Dad): I see where you’re going with this, but it won’t work. You’re trying to say that because human beings can think, they realized that the weak (unfit) far outnumber the strong, benefiting more from cooperation in groups than competition between individuals.

Rula: Yes! The creation of social structures with centralized governing bodies (tribes, states, nations etc.) is man’s direct attempt at defying the individual’s natural inclination to compete for resources. Laws are created precisely because the average human being is inherently self serving. So, in Darwin’s difficult world the ‘strongest’ survive. In a world with social structure, however, the collective social consciousness (the majority of which are, of course, the weak), reasons that cooperation among the masses provides a new conceptual and moral justification for stifling the power of those few individuals who are naturally inclined to survive.

Rudy: That may be true on one level, but the fact is that society hasn’t been able to stifle the competitive nature of humans within the confines of any ‘law’ or ‘order’ born of collectively conceived ideals (morality). So even though many people are surviving who, if not for society, wouldn’t have survived, the strongest or most ‘fit’ will still find greater success within the boundaries of social structure.

Photo Credit: Gavin Stewart (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: Gavin Stewart (CC BY 2.0)

You remember the example of communism right? Nice in theory but in practice…well we all know how that story ends. People need to compete, as intellectual beings they need something to look forward to – a purpose that they can aspire to. The strengths of people are naturally unequal, and therefore, no imposed ideal can ever truly force the equalization of ambition.

Besides, if you really want to get into it, when you look at humanity at large, groups are really no different than individuals. The only difference is that instead of individuals competing for resources and power, groups are competing. But the dynamics remain the same don’t they? The strongest groups are more likely to survive…

Rula: The strongest groups are more likely to survive what? Although you’re right to say that competing groups essentially amount to the same as competing individuals, there’s one essential thing that you’re missing in your argument.

Rudy: What’s that my dear, sweet, lovely daughter?

(Am I going too far in putting these words in your mouth Daddy? Haha)

2012_11_22 Thanksgiving 2012 (6)

Rula: Well, in Darwin’s world if a companion and I cross paths with a tiger I don’t have to outrun the tiger, I just have to outrun my companion right? Hahaha! I mean, in that situation nature has pitted us against each other not in order to determine the fastest runner in a competition for the biggest cash prize, but to determine who is going to be making love that night (procreate) and who is going to be bothering the tiger with indigestion.

Or, if we’re well equipped to deal with the tiger, then crossing paths with him can also mean a competition to see who gets the warm hide and a few days worth of nourishing meat (resources/needs). In Darwin’s world those who are stronger and faster are the fittest to survive.

050309 Orissa Zoo Park - India 2005 (12)

In a more socially ordered world, however, the threats we ambitiously try to outrun and the resources we violently compete for, hardly ever amount to a real tiger, but a paper tiger (assumption). Competition in a world of actual threats and actual needs leads to a different kind of world than competition in a world of assumed threats and assumed needs. Animals belong to the former world, human beings belong to the latter.

The difference between the two is how they view the world. People view the world through the prejudiced lenses of their past experiences which is thought – a result of memory – which keeps repeating itself even though the event is not actually happening NOW. From assumed joy to assumed depression – people live as though the past and the future actually exist now. Animals don’t view the world, they live it. They do rely on memory for some responses, but they don’t identify with memories the same way humans do.

“Thought is the reaction of memory, it is born from memory. Memory is experience as knowledge stored up in the brain cells…[thought] has created everything that we have done…all the complicated technology and its machinery…[and] all wars…and thought has created the psychological structure of the “me”. That “me” is not holy…” – J. Krishnamurti (“This Light in Oneself”)

Rudy: “Rula…Rula, okay stop…stop. I love you but this is just too much for me. You are just too complicated for me, I’m a simple man.”

Well, I don’t want to give my father any more headaches than he already has. I’ll only leave him with one final question to consider at his leisure:

If the human species is in danger of extinction, who is adapting to survive the ultimate consequence of remaining static under the dynamic laws of evolution? Are we heading towards ‘success’ of the species, or are we dooming ourselves by repeating nature’s outdated code of “me” vs. “you”?