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A Whole New World

Poppyflower's picture

Thursday, we talked about how the term "survival of the fittest" is misleading because it is difficult to say what exactly determines who or what the "fittest" is? A worm is not as strong or "fit" as a bird, but yet there are still worms alive today. This does not mean that the bird that eats the worm is necessarily better or fitter than the worm, but that both have somehow maintained the ability to survive, which is what it all comes down to in the first place. We also discussed how the idea of progress is actually a human idea, spawned from our tendency to rank ourselves at the top of the chain. It had never occurred to me that a human built skyscraper is superior to a beaver built dam just because of the difference in species that created them. 

Between the dissection of Darwin's ideas and terminologies, and the suggestion that the idea of progress is questionable, I feel as if everything I have been brought up with and taught has suddenly been tossed out the window. What was once concrete and unquestionable, like humans have survived and prospered because we are the "fittest," now seems as if it is not necessarily the truth, i.e., just because we build machines does not mean we are the best. The entire concept is to me, a bit unsettling and eye opening. Growing up with Darwin's ideas, and to have them challenged in such a way has really swayed my ideas of what being "fit" actually means. That is not to say that I am opposed to new concepts, but I imagine that I feel a bit like the people who lived during Darwin's time did, when everything they ever new about evolution was completely changed. 


ewashburn's picture

Dominance and the Human Perspective

 I'm really intrigued by what you've said about progress being a "human idea, spawned from our tendency to rank ourselves at the top of the chain." Lately, I've been thinking about the entirely "human perspective" we use to look at the world, especially when considering that "On the Origin of Species" says nothing about humans, yet managed to create intense controversy as people assumed that Darwin suggested humans were not, in fact, divinely superior. I'm also intrigued by what you've said about how we as a species are not superior just because we make machines. In fact, as some in class have already said, that might mark us as distinctly not superior, since it enables us to destroy our resources and overpopulate to the threat of extinction.

However, I can't help but think about the most basic sense of dominance: the ability to take over resources. We as a species, because of our ability to create technology, because of our rapid gestation period, because of our inherent sense of superiority, have pretty much taken the cake when it comes to dominating every other organism in our quest to take over the planet. We spread across the globe, leveling trees to build our houses, leveling earth to plant our fields. We've even begun to spread into the vastness of space, learning to colonize, finding what's out there. Does this persistent, if self-destructive, ability to spread out into and utilize our resources not make us dominant? In the sense that we lay claim to all that we touch, sending other organisms running (so to speak), are we not, in the most basic sense of the word "superior?" Our skyscrapers might not be better than beaver dams, but because of our species' sheer force of will in devouring Earth's resources, our inherent sense of manifest destiny--coupled with our ability to develop technology--I think we could argue that humans are, in fact, the dominant force at the top of the chain. 

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