“the replicators”

(<< good title for a horror movie!)

chapter 2 of “The Selfish Gene” — all about how (we imagine that) genes, i.e. replicators, first got going in the primordial soup (or wherever). good stuff! (of course, we humans — meaning craig venter — are now making replicators from scratch! cool.)

but, i really liked this. something on which to meditate [pg. 12]:

“Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ is really a special case of a more general law of survival of the stable. The universe is populated by stable things. A stable thing is a collection of atoms that is permanent enough or common enough to deserve a name. It may be a uniqe collection of atoms, such as the Matterhorn, that lasts long enough to be worth naming. Or it may be a class of entities, such a rain drops, that come into existence at a sufficiently high rate to deserve a collective name, even if any one of them is short-lived. The things that we see around us, and which we think of as needing explanation — rocks, galaxies, ocean waves — are all, to a greater or lesser extent, stable patterns of atoms.”

“survival of the fittest” just a subset of “survival of the stable.” neat!

previously: “the selfish gene”

(note: comments do not require an email. eeek! replicators!)

ever decreasing circles

ok. so here’s how i picture the levels (if that’s the right|best word) in which the battle(s) for replication takes place wherein the players (genes, individuals, clans, whatever) compete against each other as well as co-operate (for their own benefit, of course — none of the players gives anything away for free). when a player does help out another altruistically, it’s very often a situation where inclusive fitness is in play.

the flipside of altruism is a whole collection of acts from simply growing more roots to soak up more of the water and other nutrients in the soil before your unrelated neighboring plants do, to out-and-out killing and war.

these levels (which have fuzzy borders) seem to me to be present in all the higher animals. i think they’re kinda different when you start to look at micro-organisms — bacteria and viruses (they’re not even organisms, are they?) and the like — but i’m not sure. there’s some weird, but extremely cool, sh*t going on there anyway!

so, like i said here, i don’t think everything comes down to genetics; but i do think that everything comes down to biology (or chemistry, or physics). not all of our behaviors have to do with competing to reproduce (i don’t think…), but a h*lluva lot do. most people most of the time are not consciously aware of why they do what they do. they give all sorts of other reasons for the things that they do (religious, philosophical, political, etc.) — but those are not the ultimate reasons for why they behave in whatever way that they do. and i’m really only interested in the ultimate reasons.

so, without further ado, here’s my little chart (don’t laugh — i s*ck at photoshop!):

yes, intergenomic conflict does, indeed, occur (my “genes” level up there). i’m guessing that conflict also occurs at the “things smaller than genes” level, but i’m not familiar with any examples. parent-offspring conflict (as most parents can testify to!) definitely occurs, as does conflict between siblings — these are on the “immediate family” level.

westerners might not be all that familiar with extended family conflicts since we don’t bother much with our extended families, but you just have to look at the middle east or asia or even just sicily to start understanding THAT level.

the rest of the levels are pretty self-explanatory, i think. we’ve seen the war between tribes in libya, for example; we know about the french vs. the germans in just about every significant war in europe eveh; the race “wars” are ongoing right here in the u.s.; and, if and when the little green men from mars turn up, humans might just pull together for the “good of the species.”

the natures of group-level conflicts (anything above individual) also depend upon the degree and type of inbreeding (or out-breeding) within the populations in question.

again, i’m not saying that conflicts on any of these levels is (easily) predictable — or guaranteed. most of the competition seems to be over resources of some sort or another (water, sunlight, land, gold, ivy league scholarships), so you’re not going to see conflict unless there is some sort of crisis over some sort of resource (that aids in reproduction).

but, when you do see conflict, it’s a safe bet that it’s got something to do with all this.

(note: comments do not require an email.)