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The Art of Survival
|by Prof. Shubha Tiwari|
The Philosophy that Flows From Charles Darwin
Even at the risk of being labeled Jack of all, master of none, I’ve always firmly believed in the power of diversified reading. One must read one's subject; one must also know something about other subjects. Reading supposedly 'other' subjects is a very interesting exercise. The terminology is new. The assumed precepts are challenging. The reading gives new ideas, new approaches of thought. The most brilliant part is the analogies that the reading brings between two given subjects. Reading other subjects we can be sure of one conclusion and that is the revelation of the universal nature of knowledge. The amount that so called one subject owes to another is amazingly immense.
I picked up Darwin in search of something new, something more interesting than the usual over the pages, I realized how much of our thinking has been shaped by this scientist. A definite ideology flows from his pages. Darwin was propagating, apart from other things, a particular view of life, a typical style of thinking, a distinct philosophy.
“All forms of life on earth have common ancestors" - This bold statement on Darwin's part is truly revolutionary as well as democratic. Although Darwin never questioned existence of God, he goes on slowly, laboriously and meticulously that all life descended from one source. According to the theory of evolution, the various forms of life on Earth - trees and flowers, worms and whales - all descend from common ancestors. These ancestors looked very different from their modern descendants. The alternative view, which Darwin argues against, is the theory of separate creation or creationism. Darwin argued against the theory of separate creation, but not against religion; he denied that species have separate origins, not the existence of God. (page 5)
In Darwin's times, the mechanism of inheritance (DNA) was an unsolved problem. But the basic concept was worked out in detail by Darwin. He talked at length on heredity as well as variation. That an offspring resembles its parents is a common phenomenon. What interested Darwin more was variation. From here, Darwin goes to the idea of natural selection. Species have a tendency to better themselves with successive generations. This is done by the process of Natural Selection. Just as we make improvisations and variations in a machine and make it more suitable for use, so do species. The abundant nature of forms of life and great dimensions of reproduction, struggle for existence becomes essential. Only the fit survives. The large number of extinct species is much larger than that of the surviving ones. This fact makes variation a necessity.
In general life the precept is very valuable. It has far reaching consequences. All that lives does not survive. Survival is an art of variation, adaptation and improvisation. The idea strongly calls for a view of life that is practical as well as flexible. Darwin was influenced by Malthus. What Malthus said for the economic world, Darwin applied for the survival of species and life. This is a fine example of how one discipline shapes and formulates precepts of other disciplines. Hence as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species or with the individuals of distinct species or with the physical conditions of life. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms, for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food and no prudential restraint from marriage. Although, some species may be now increasing, more or less rapidly in numbers, all cannot do so, for the world would not hold them.
The art of survival lies in diversification. Competition is more likely among likes; therefore, in order to survive one must be different. The word, struggle, is a metaphor; everything looks calm and peaceful in Nature but there are turbulent undercurrents for survival. This leads to the dual nature of Nature. It is apparently peaceful, but there is intense struggle underneath. This is a big statement on dualism. Things are not what they appear to be Calm demeanor covers lots of turbulence. Just as Shakespeare said that all that glitters is not gold, Darwin seems to declare that all that looks calm is not necessarily so. Nature is serene yet it is ferocious. You never know where the danger is lurking.
Another interesting observation made by Darwin is that plants compete for the attraction of the insects.
Ridley further writes,
This sounds like a practical tip from a management Guru.
Be different has been the slogan of so many advertisement campaigns. Interpretation of Darwin’s philosophy in the practicable areas is an interesting exercise. Natural selection is a process where change demands change. One simple adaption in the physiology compels neighboring nerves and bones to adapt accordingly. Therefore, the beginning of change is singular but its end is plural. Simple beginnings have sophisticated ends. This is such an alluring argument in favor of change. And is it not true in practical life as well. One alternation, one deviation, one simple change demands other changes. This is the reason why natural selection is such a powerful force; it is cumulative. It enforces itself by repetition. Interbreeding is not possible within the natural system in order to prevent chaos and confusion among the species. Therefore, there is clear logic in Nature.
The proposition gives such a refreshing outlook on life. All life originated from one source. We may compare this fact with our narrow and false classifications of caste, creed, religion, race etc. I find this statement of Darwin to be truly democratic and modern in spirit.
In this manner, sacrifice and natural selection are not all that contradictory. Individual sacrifice can be community's survival. Morality has advanced because it is useful. Co-operation is reciprocal and it is deeply imbedded in the human psyche.
He builds his theory bit by bit, filtering information and observation from all sides. The most alluring part is that Darwin does not argue blindly, like a lawyer. He discusses in detail the lacunae in his hypothesis. The loopholes are given full expression. Discussing all aspects and exploring all possibilities the genius synthesizes the whole lot into one grand theory.
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01/01/2012 15:56 PM
01/01/2012 14:59 PM
Prof. Shubha Tiwari
01/01/2012 01:52 AM
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