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Re: On Generosity of Spirit

by grinder (Bishop)
on Nov 09, 2002 at 09:32 UTC ( #211631=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to On Generosity of Spirit

I could talk about Darwinism and survival of the fittest, but after several false starts I still can't really clearly express the idea that is much better summed up by one of my favourite authors:

The recognition of symbiosis as a major evolutionary force has profound philosophical implications. All larger organisms, including ourselves, are living testimonies to the fact that destructive practices do not work in the long run. In the end, the aggressors always destroy themselves, making way for others who know how to cooperate and get along. Life is much less a competitive struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity.

Fritjof Capra
The Web of Life

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Comment on Re: On Generosity of Spirit
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Re: Re: On Generosity of Spirit
by djantzen (Priest) on Nov 10, 2002 at 15:40 UTC

    Natural selection at the group level: The myxoma virus was introduced into rabbit populations in Australia in the 1920's to control the overwhelming rise in rabbit numbers. To the surprise of the researchers, the forms of the virus most "successful" (that is, which had infected the most hosts) were not the most virulent forms. In fact the most successful version of the virus was rather more mild because the extremely effective form of the virus killed the host before transmission was possible. The less virulent form, slower to kill the host, better exposed potential hosts to which the virus could be transferred. This is an example of natural selection at the group level e.g., the more "fit" (lethal) virus went extinct because it could not pass itself on.

    Kin selection: a member of a lemur group signals the approach of a predator. In calling out to its fellow lemurs it makes the predator aware of its location and is subsequently eaten. The one organism sacrifices its own life -- thereby forfeiting its opportunity to breed -- and yet its siblings, which carry much of the same genome, persist to create offspring. The loss of one whose genes are largely possessed by others is a selective force for the genome from which that individual arose insofar as the others continue because of the sacrifice.

    If we are to reduce the cooperation of monks to natural selection, I would suggest that it is kin selection that is at work. That is to say, we are brothers and sisters committed to a common goal. Here it is not survival, but the proliferation of an idea. If one (e.g., tilly) falls, we heed the warning* and regroup ourselves to push forward. In this case it is not about our genes but rather about the purpose that we endeavor to fulfill.

    * Of course when an animal indicates to its group it is an indexical "statement", that is, equivalent to a call meaning i.e., "danger here now" or "food here now", whereas we are capable of far more abstract communications.

Re: Re: On Generosity of Spirit
by BUU (Prior) on Nov 09, 2002 at 16:36 UTC
    I'm afraid i would have to disagree. Look at many of the ancient empires. Sure, most of them eventually 'fell' (if you want to call it falling, which is again debatable) in the end, but so does everything else. For a slightly more recent example, look at germany. Sure they were eventually defeated, but only since most of the rest of the world combined forces against them. Your saying reminds me of that old saw "Violence never solves anything" which is blatantly untrue.
      For a slightly more recent example, look at germany. Sure they were eventually defeated, but only since most of the rest of the world combined forces against them.

      The very fact that the rest of the world combined forces against Hitler and the Nazis is more supportive of Fritjof Capra's point than yours. It is, in fact, an excellent example of cooperation triumphing over destructive aggressors.

      Your saying reminds me of that old saw "Violence never solves anything" which is blatantly untrue.

      It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it? Creation and destruction are entirely subjective terms. Violence describes an intense action, force, or change. A volcano eruption might be seen as destructive or constructive but either way, it is violent. In that context, it is hard to read any such meaning into grinder's post or Capra's quote as you have.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
        All true. We gravitate toward survival and cooperation, and sharing is the clearest path to it. <cliche alert>In helping others, I help myself.  </cliche alert> BUT, never underestimate the necessity of the predator without whom we atrophe. Violent forces create the need for good forces. We are a collection of opposites and dualities that must find balance; let us always try hard, real hard, to be the shepherds and not the weak or the tyranny of evil men. </pulp philosophy>;)

        update: fixed typo

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