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The Sustainability Effect

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Ben Palmer


Charles Darwin proposed a theory that was brilliantly simple, and yet seemed to explain the vast complexities of the variations of life on our planet. His observations on the similarities of different species and the differences of similar species existing in isolation (birds on an island have different characteristics than the same types of birds on mainland) led him to believe that there was a progression to the development of species complexity. The theory of evolution is well known, and well researched now, so I will spare the details of the theory, and instead pick out the important parts to my philosophical analysis. The key philosophical components are differentiation and sustainability, explained in further depth below.

In order for evolution to work, there must be different entities existing which contain specific properties. These specific properties interact with the environment, and the ones most likely to be beneficial will survive. This is the survival of the fittest phrase; Whatever animal has the traits that fit it’s environment the most will be most likely to survive. However, this on it’s own is not enough to create the progression of the proposed evolution. If an infertile being was perfect at surviving, then it would remain a survivor, until it finally dies, at which point it’s survival traits die wit it. In order for the trait to continue, there must be a transmission of that trait, IE: genetic or epigenetic transmission of traits from one generation to the next. The proposed ideation differentiation in traits comes from genetic mutations, creating random differences that are more or less fit to the environment. Research is starting to show that it may not be as random as we think, as specific environmental factors can change our DNA, as if reacting to the environmental stimulus. Regardless of the method by which the traits are changed, there must be a way of creating these differentiations in order for the theory of evolution to be effective. Thus, for the theory of evolution to be applied, it must have some form of differentiation in which new (or old) traits can appear in something in which it did not exist before. To put this into simpler terms, camouflage can be a very fitting adaptation to the environment, but it would not be able to exist if animals could not change their skin color from generation to generation.

Survival of the fittest is a common term, usually paired with evolution. It is a simple phrase that astutely points out why certain animals exist today, and certain animals don’t. I would like to boil this phrase into its essential nature, so that it may be applied in more cases than the survival of species. Survival of the fittest shows that if something is better at lasting longer, then it is more likely to exist after a long period of time. The other side is that things that are not likely to last long will not remain after a long period of time. I call this effect, the sustainability effect.

Imagine this scenario: A fleet of airplanes fly 10,000 ft in the air. Each of these airplanes holds a random assortment of objects found on earth. Together this fleet holds nearly every object we know, big or small, heavy or light. As the fleet flies overhead, it drops these random objects at the same time. With this setup, imagine it is now the instant after everything is dropped. If we were to analyze the objects in the air, we would say there is a whole lot of objects in the air, and there would be no useful conclusion. If we allow a minute to pass, and we analyze the objects again, we would see that the more dense objects fall quicker. An astute observation, but still holds no use to us really. If we allow an hour to pass, we would observe that everything falls, and the more dense objects will be much closer to the ground over time, and the less dense object will remain in the air. After a long period of time, we would only see the less dense objects in the air. The conclusion would be that having low density leads to better “survival”. Thus these less dense objects were more sustainable in their environment, and after a while, are the only things existing in their environment.

This thought experiment shows how the sustainability effect can be applied to more than evolution. If we apply the sustainability effect in other areas, then we can create hypotheses as to why some things are the way they are.

Using these Components
Using these philosophical ideas is relatively simple. If something exists today, then it most likely started with many different things that are similar, and it is good at sustaining. Let's take an example like morality. Most likely, the human race started with little moral knowledge. It probably contained most animalistic tendencies we now consider inhuman, like killing, raping, stealing etc. over time, humans developed different sets of morals. The morals that lead to a higher survival rate persisted. I remember hearing a study on why humans have lifelong partners. The romantic view is that this gives humans time to raise their children, and work together to survive. In actuality the most likely reason, according to that study, was that before humans were lifelong partner, the male would go from female to female. This seems like a good thing for survival, however, if a female had a child, the male would kill the child so that it could mate with that female. This meant the males that stayed with one female longer had a higher success rate of their children surviving. This meant their children were more likely to stay with the female longer, creating a succession leading to lifelong partners. This is a clear example of the theory supporting the evidence. It started with different tendencies of how long the mate would stay with one female. Then the mate that stayed longer had a higher success rate, so a better sustainability. The differentiation, and sustainability are laid out in simple terms, but the main impact is on how we view love. Love is idolized as a meta-conceptual essential nature of human life, where this theory shows us that love is most likely present because of the sustainability effect in those that feel better when they share a long time with one mate. Same goes for procreation, it is very beneficial to the species if procreation feels better, thus sex feels really good to most people. 

I will be taking this theoretical approach in most of my discussions of topics. To me, logically, it gives a lot of reasonable answers to in depth questions, and the stance that whatever is more sustainable will survive longer is not very controversial. If you have any opinions, critiques, or questions, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


Ben Palmer

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