Evolution and society

[By Ben Noble]

Darwin’s theory of Evolution is one of the most powerful and useful aspects of nature discovered by humanity. Natural selection has driven the development of every living thing around us from microorganisms to whales. All of this is dependent on a simple process: Allow for life to make small adaptations over time and let nature run its course. Over time the organisms with poor adaptations will die out and those with useful adaptations will survive and procreate. I confess I am a layman in this field, but I believe this describes the theory adequately. This idea is so powerful that we should take it into account when imagining how our society should function.

Evolution doesn’t just apply to the physical bodies of living things. It is also essential in the realm of actions, behaviors, and social organization. This is obvious to us when we are observing animals. Not only have they adapted a variety of physical bodies, they have also adapted many different modes of acting. As these actions are tested by evolution the successful ones form the basis for behaviors and these are used to build complex interactions that lead all the way up to social organizations, both simple and highly complex. The human animal is not immune to this.

The world is not static and from the organism to the society if you don’t adapt, you die.  This might sound strange, but I believe that we have developed a society that directly hinders the process of adaptation represented in the theory of evolution. In the United States, and virtually the rest of the world, the freedoms of human beings have been restricted to the point that new adaptations in behavior, mainly social and economic, are difficult to get permission to engage in or are outright outlawed.

The state has injected itself into nearly every avenue of its citizen’s life. For the sake of brevity, I will list some of the most important ways it has restricted human behavior and societal adaptation. To start a business, you must ask the state for permission and play by all their rules. A great number of professions require you to get a license from the state. This includes rather unsophisticated things like hairdresser and interior designer. A great number of victimless activities, both personal and economic, have been outlawed. The industries with the least amount of innovation and affordability, like healthcare, financial, education, are those that are most heavily regulated. We can draw a contrast by looking at the technology industry, which is lightly regulated and produces increasingly sophisticated devices with prices that decline over time. There is virtually no room for competition or adaptation in education, law, policing, or even money. The foundations of our society are cemented into place. These are very important services and tools for a functioning society, but they are not being allowed to adapt and evolve. It is easy to see that each of these elements of society are performing poorly. They have been largely unchanged for 100s of years. Things that don’t adapt, or are unable to, die.

A central feature of evolution is decentralization. If all the adaptations and the selection processes were funneled through a centralized, or even semi-centralized, source I image that there would be little to no life on Earth. Centralization causes stagnation and death. What if some committee of distant ancestors chose to not evolve thumbs?

It is true that evolution, and nature in general, is a cold-hearted killer with no consideration for morality or empathy. This is not a part of the evolution process we should adopt. We can embrace the emergent order that comes out of natural selection while aiming for a prosperous society. In nature, the adaptations that lead to survival are most heavily selected and the weak be damned. We don’t have use that selector. It can be whatever we want. There can even be several at the same time. Society is large enough and there are enough people to support numerous goals. Everything from materialism to altruism can be supported. All that is needed is for people to reward the social adaptations, businesses, charities, and organizations, that they value. I am not advocating any goal, but for whatever goal an individual or group has, this is the tool to achieve it most effectively and justly.

It is fashionable today to proclaim an allegiance to science. It is equally fashionable to accuse our opponents of still believing in the four humors. Evolution has shown us how to create order out of chaos. It has created a staggering amount of biodiversity. All that is needed is freedom for actors to adapt to their environment and allow nature to select that which is successful. In human terms, this means that people should be able to take any peaceful action that they wish and over time we can discover the best possible adaptations for society. Nothing is perfect and I do not claim we will reach a utopia. We face many complex social issues and we need as many minds as possible experimenting to find the best societal adaptations. Liberty is evolution. It has been an extremely powerful proven force in nature and we can use it for so much more. The state or some centralized authority cannot discover the best societal adaptations on their own. To do so is to place the state in place of God in Genesis. I propose we abandon state creationism and embrace evolution.

2 comments

  1. A good read! Funnily enough I was reading Sapiens A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari when I stumbled across your post. Many of the main arguments matched what you wrote particularly when it comes to understanding what human kind basicly is by nature. Another thing that ran through my head when finishing the post was “Isn’t this basicly what SpaceX and TESLA are all about?” But you are right in that too much regulation and “accounting for everything” leads to human civilisation being stuck in the mud. It instead needs to be under an evident state of expansion to thrive because that equates to diversifying our sources of nourishment thereby increasing our chances of survival.

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    1. Thanks! That book looks interesting. I’ll have to fit that into by book list. I’m a big fan of Elon Musk. Definitely need to allow people like him the freedom to peruse innovations!

      Like

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