Competition Vs. Natural Selection

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While the word “society” encompasses several different meanings, all definitions focus on the idea of cooperation or connection. The earliest records of human history come from groups of men and women who formed societies. Prehistoric evidence of individual humans is all but nonexistent. The cooperation that forms the backbone of human societies likewise forms the defenses needed not only to survive but to also thrive. Political philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes recognized the necessity of organized societies in protecting humankind. Natural philosophers – scientists – like Alfred Russel Wallace recognized that the ability of humankind to survive came not from the physical adaptations seen in other species,…show more content…
He asserts that a “common power” is essential to preventing this, and while he argues for a monarch, any power structure can fill this role in a society if the members of that society recognize that power (The Leviathan, 57-8). By avoiding such competition, societies can focus on improving life, rather than focusing solely on maintaining life. Charles Darwin identifies competition as the force behind natural selection but recognizes two aspects of competition and natural selection that would be detrimental to humans living in a constant state of competition one with another. First, he states that natural selection always occurs with “extreme slowness” (On the Origin of Species, 108). As such, it would be difficult for humans to physically adapt to constant competition with other humans, likely resulting in the failure of those humans to survive. Alfred Russel Wallace, a friend and contemporary of Darwin, argues in a letter to Darwin that humankind’s greatest advantage in survival is the “superiority of … intellect” (“Letter no. 4514”). However, an individual in a constant state of competition, as argued by Hobbes, lacks the opportunity to adapt in this manner. When base survival is the focus of life…show more content…
However, if the magnitude of those flaws is less than the magnitude of the advantages provided by societies, then the arguments against societies fail. A major issue with societies is the potential for the abuse of power by those leading the society. Rousseau addresses the abuse of power, what he calls the “right of the strongest,” and claims that “ruling a society is different from subduing a multitude.” He asserts that when the goal of the public good becomes subservient to the goal of the leader, the society is, in effect, dissolved. Rather than a people and its ruler, the society has become a master and his or her slaves (The Social Contract, 6). And while Hobbes supports a monarch with substantial power, he too believes that “the duty of the sovereign [is] to see that ordinary citizens are not oppressed by the great” and that the sovereign does not “oppress them on the advice of the great” (The Leviathan, 155). For these philosophers, the abuse of power is another form of the same competition that drives humankind into societies; it transforms a society from a tool that allows individuals to support each other and avoid competition into a tool for one individual to exploit the competition of the weaker
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