In nature, Darwinian evolution works at the level of individual creatures as they compete to survive and procreate. The process is ruthlessly simple and incredibly effective. Those individuals who leave behind the most offspring become the norm for their species. This is what we call “survival of the fittest.” On the surface, then, it would seem that the stress we humans place on individuality is the right thing to do; at least from a strict Darwinian perspective. Assuming we each make of our own brief lives what we can, evolution will select the most successful among us, and the species will prosper.
Humans are much less subject to evolutionary pressures at the individual level. Those forces now apply at the level of society. (Image: public domain.)
Remember that those with the most children are the most successful. Like it or not, there are no other rules. Making more money and having a higher standard of living do not count unless you deploy that money and standard of living in the service of having, and successfully raising, more children. Mother Nature does just one thing. She counts heads.
Until historical times, individual humans were subject in just this way to the laws Darwin so assiduously worked out. In the historical era, however, things have changed. In the case of human beings, the individual has become largely irrelevant as a focus of the evolutionary process. This is so because humans, as individuals, have long since escaped most of Darwin’s evolutionary pressures. Our health, mostly beyond our own personal control, is perhaps the one area where we are, as individuals, still subject to natural selection. However, if you live long enough to reproduce, even health is not much of an issue. In all other areas, our society-based civilizations shield us from the natural selection process. With very few exceptions, society feeds, clothes, and shelters even the most unsuccessful, impoverished, and functionally inept. Because of this complex, powerful, and compassionate social organization, we could argue that Darwin’s evolutionary processes now work on humans at the level of societies.
Western societies were once real winners in terms of survival of the fittest. With superior agricultural practices, the rudiments of a workable medicine, and bottle-feeding of infants, high birthrates combined with low infant mortality rates to produce a growth in population so robust that Europeans were able to colonize the world. With major outposts in the New World, Australia, and New Zealand, the West as a global entity was born. The West seemed poised to be a major evolutionary success in the very long term.
How the mighty have fallen.
Caucasians, while no longer confined to Europe, are at present, due to fatally-low birthrates, on the road to rapid extinction. The West is faltering. The reasons for the catastrophic decline in birthrates are many and complex, but foremost among them are such ideological forces as feminism and socialism. Feminism stresses a woman’s right to skip having children regardless of the cost to society. (I must add that not just women are feminists, and that many who take up feminist positions are unaware of where the justifications for those positions have come from.) Socialism provides the nanny state as a replacement for the children we once needed to sustain us in old age. What this means is brutally simple. For ideological reasons, Western societies are now maladapted to the realities of life on this planet, and as a result are in the process of vanishing. Other, more reproductively successful peoples are filling the growing gaps in Western ranks. Darwin’s survival of the fittest is ruling against the West. Mother Nature is counting heads and finding the West woefully lacking.
7 thoughts on “Natural Selection Works on Societies”
Hi Thomas. I wanted to let you know that I find your articles very thought provoking. It would be nice to have a telescope into the future so we could see the long term effects of modern society’s desire to control our own evolution. As in much of our recorded history, hubris rarely works in our favor.
Thanks for the kind words, Phillip. It would indeed be useful if we could see the long-term results of human folly. As it is, we just have to make our educated guesses and muddle along as best we can. Hubris kills us because it stands in the way of the one thing we can do to help ourselves. The smart way to steer a course is to pay attention when things get so bad there is no longer any doubt as to what is happening. That is already the situation with collapsed Western birthrates, yet in our “social planning” arrogance we keep on with outdated notions of women’s rights and overpopulation. We must restore the ideas that modest population growth is essential and that it is a social responsibility to have an adequate number of children. Society shelters and nurtures us. We should stop taking this for granted and recognize that we are obligated to contribute to its good health and survival.
As Phillip said, a most thought-provoking article. I would argue however that we shouldn’t be focusing on raising birthrates in the west, but on lowering birth rates in the third world to sustainable levels.
And for an interesting take on long-term human evolution, I’d highly recommend H G Wells’ The Time Machine.
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Western birthrates are so low each generation is typically one third (or more) smaller than the last. In Italy, I’m told that each generation is only one-half the size of the last. How long would you like the carnage to continue, Max? Is the survival of Europeans of so little importance that their annihilation means nothing to you? I recommend The Empty Cradle by Philip Longman. The book details the global decline in birthrates. Not every country is as yet below replacement rate, but most soon will be.
Moreover, consider this. In spite of what many seem to think, life on this planet gets better as the population increases. Civilization depends heavily on high population densities. Economic growth depends on population growth. Canada has a deliberate policy of population expansion because growth means prosperity. Since we foolishly produce too few children of our own, we get our new people via immigration. People are an asset, not a liability.