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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 382)...

    In Ishmael, Alan comes to the realization that our Taker culture has violated fundamental rules of life. But in violating these stated rules, have we not followed the most important rule of every living creature--"Above all else, make sure you reproduce so that your genes are passed to the next generation"? Yes, we have decided which species will and will not live, but in so doing, we have almost assured (up to this point in time) that every person who wants to reproduce in our culture can? This point is made again in MY Ishmael. The culture which arose from the agricultural revolution broke the rule of erratic retaliation because they could. Julie determines that the erratic retaliation strategy is preferable to the total annihilation strategy because if a tribe took the annihilistic strategy, others would team up against them and destroy the subversive tribe. So, only threat of destruction is what prevented tribes from adopting the annihilation strategy. Once a tribe found a way to have unlimited resources, did it not make sense for them to destroy those around them, securing those tribes' resources for their own progeny? I guess both of my questions sum up to this--although our culture (and our species) is on the brink of destruction, did we not just take a logical step in terms of reproductive success?

    ...and the response:

    First, evolution doesn’t proceed by "logic." Species don’t collect data on reproductive success and then formulate new and improved strategies based on that data. If evolution proceeded by logic, then the logicians who you suggest formulated the Taker way would have rejected it on that very basis.

    Second, the rule you cite, "Above all else, make sure you reproduce so that your genes are passed to the next generation" is a rule that is felt and followed by individuals, not by groups (or species). In other words, new strategies emerge when they give individuals reproductive advantages. (See chapter one of Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene.) Individuals living the Taker way have no reproductive advantage over individuals living the Leaver way.

    Here’s another way of saying it: Takers have no advantage over the Leavers on the biological level. Their advantage occurs at the level of social and military organization. Takers have always and will always defeat any Leaver people they care to defeat.

    The emergence of the Taker way is not an instance of biological evolution. The proof of this (if more is needed) can be found in the fact that Takers and Leavers are genetically indistinguishable.

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