Evolution and Survival

Photo: from a painting by Spring Bright

Photo: from a painting by Spring Bright

From a TED Conversation

Question: The survival imperative in evolution — Where does it come from?

Spring responds:

The theory doesn’t necessarily include the survival imperative. If you’re just looking at Darwin, he saw the pattern of birds and other animals being changed by their circumstances so that some had long beaks that seemed to evolve with plants that grew deeper flowers in response to longer beaks or long tongues that let finches reach nectar.

Whose survival instinct are you looking at? The plant or the bird? It’s so much more complex and really has little to do with any battles between humans or fights over territory.

The most important aspect of it that has been roundly ignored is chance. You can have a very strong instinct to survive and yet be wiped out by a volcano or a close impact meteor that kills off almost everything on earth, as in dinosaurs and most humans thirteen thousand years ago.

Those who survived were underground or just happened to be in a protected place and still young enough to produce young. And that is the fastest, greatest change our little planet ever experiences.

So figure chance into your equations.

Considering the very core of life, where perhaps survival is not a precondition, but an evolution from merely existing as anything we would define as being alive. If there is only one newly minted form of life in a vast world, why would there be any fight for survival or any need for DNA that codes for it?

For some time, there would be enough for everyone, and then as shortages developed or as things got crowded, the need for an urge to survive might arise in some single celled beings, which would then have an advantage over the others who were just existing, and so on.

How do you define “survival instinct?” And if no other form of life is able to or wants to compete for a certain niche, why would we need a survival instinct to make it?


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