Thoughts on Natural Selection

Natural Selection

  • The more I think about natural selection, the more I realize what a large role it plays in virtually every aspect of life. I had a few thoughts about it the other day and decided to jot them down:

It is generally agreed that natural selection is the driving mechanism behind the evolution of species. It works something like this:

A wolf has five pups, all with slightly differing muscle composition. One pup ends up being stronger than the others once reaching adulthood. This allows him to assert dominance, and wins him the right to breed with the the most females in the pack. His children are likely to be strong as well, since they carry his genes.

The trait of strength was selected for by nature. It made the original pup more successful, given that reproduction is the unit by which his success is being measured.

In the game of the natural world, traits that lead to reproduction are selected for. This is, however, not the only game in which natural selection is taking place. Far from it. Take, for example, the political game. In this arena, a key measurement of success is being elected.

Key point: Reproduction in the game of nature is quite analogous to election in the game of politics. They are both metrics of success.

Just as certain traits can lead to success in the natural world, others can lead to success in the political world. What are these traits? What traits, for example, can help lead to election? There are, of course, quite a few. Charisma is one of the most important. Having it increases one’s likelihood of being selected in the game of politics.

To complete this analogy, I’d like to talk about one more game. The game of non-fiction writing. Success in this game is measured largely by the number of books one sells, the number of people that visit the page of one’s blog, or the number of times which one’s article is shared on social media.

What “traits” lead to success in this evolutionary game? I would argue that one of the most important, if not the more important, is the ability to notice and express important truths. For example, these could be truths about the status of the reality, and how it operates. Of course, there is quite a lot more to being a good non-fiction writer than simply expressing important truths. One must be able to link these truths in convincing ways, using words that readers understand, and have the ability to broadcast on some relatively popular platform. But, for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to say that the ability to express important truths is the most important unit of fitness in the world of non-fiction writing.

To recap, we have…

Evolutionary games: Nature, politics, non-fiction writing

Metrics of success: Reproduction, election, having one’s writing read by lots of people

Examples of traits that lead to success/selection: Strength, charisma, the ability to express important truths

An exciting fact is that you are conducting an evolutionary game of your own, in which you are the selector. The units of fitness in this game are the emotions/states of mind, that various stimuli evoke when you, the selector, experience them. And the metric of success for the competitors in this game is being placed into your ecosystem. Either the physical ecosystem that is the space surrounding you, or the mental ecosystem of your thoughts. The winners of the game you have been conducting are the pictures on your wall, the music in your Spotify playlist, and the friends you spend time with. They are also the words, songs, and images, that fill your mind. They are like the species within a natural ecosystem. They will occupy physical and or mental space, unless of course they are outcompeted by other species that are more evolutionarily fit. Species that evoke stronger positive mental states than those which came before; Songs that fill you with more emotion, people that make you laugh harder, and words that you feel express deeper truths.