Bio-sociology Professor Imanishi, from Kyoto University, has shown that the Darwinian vision of nature as a struggle for life has been completely blind to the many more frequent cases of co-evolution, symbiosis, joint development, and harmonious coexistence which prevail in all domains of evolution. Even our own bodies would not be able to survive long without the symbiotic collaboration of quadrillions of microorganisms in our digestive tract, for example.
Elisabet Sahtouris points out that predominantly competitive behavior is a characteristic of a young species during its first forays in the world. In contrast, in mature systems like an old-growth forest, the competition for light, for instance, is balanced by intense cooperation among species. Species that do not learn to cooperate with the other species with whom they are co-dependent on invariably disappear.
I’m going to begin this post with a little propaganda, lifted directly from the military industrial banking government hydra that is currently feasting upon humankind and its own future:
- “Nature is red in tooth and claw.”
- “Might is right.”
- “The survival of the fittest.”
That all makes sense, right? Darwinism at its finest? It’s what we see, every day, in the natural world, so what kind of madman could possibly question the idea that violence and life are inextricably linked?
Well, how about this quote, then:
“There can be no doubt that the tribe including many members who are always ready to give aid to each other, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over other tribes. And this would be natural selection.”
What damned hippy wrote that, eh? In fact, that was Darwin towards the end of his life, writing in his final book, “The Descent of Man.” Which brings me to the wonderful work of Elisabet Sahtouris, a modern day evolutionary biologist. In her work, she notes that competition is a characteristic only of juvenile species, and among mature species, co-operation is the norm.
Life on Earth, a primer. Bacteria were the first lifeforms on this planet (they’re still the predominant lifeform, by biomass, despite being invisible to the naked eye), and in their immature stage, the fight or flight reflex characterised their existence. Rampant competion being what it is, they soon enough caused themselves a global catastrophe, by having eaten everything available in their environment. Rather than continuing upon a mode of existence which was proven not to work in the long run, bacteria innovated; they created photosynthetic cells, and life once more continued happily for a few million years. They then managed to cause themselves another global catastrophe, in that they were poisoning their biosphere with their waste products (does this sound familiar?), namely oxygen. At this point, innovation struck again, and the development of multi-cellular creatures arose, capable of using that oxygen productively via mitochondria. Essentially they learned to form huge co-operatives to deal with the problems that they had caused and you, dear reader, are a recipient of that gift; it is estimated that there are upwards of a quadrillion bacteria living in each individual human’s gut, without which we wouldn’t be able to digest our food, nor defend ourselves against disease (current research suggests that 85% of our immune system relies on bacteria).
So I ask you, are we collectively as smart as bacteria? Can we learn the same lesson, that while competition and rampant expansion might be a reasonable solution in a world where growth hasn’t yet outstripped its ecosystem’s ability to sustain it, in the long run, if we want to continue to exist, we have to learn to co-operate with one another, to form community (‘Community’ derives from the two Latin roots: cum, meaning together, among each other, and munus, meaning the gift, the sharing of the gift of life together) and share, rather than fight?
Highly recommended way to spend 15 minutes of your day:
Two quotes of note on this theme;
“The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations.”
“It’s cheaper to feed your enemies than it is to fight them.”