Random Thoughts

Evolution and The New Panchtantra

Alice in wonderland has a crucial dialogue where the transposed and naive Alice asks a question of the Red Queen about an observation, where she notices individuals running fast and getting nowhere. The Red Queen says that in this new world, it is necessary to run very fast to stay in the same place as being stationary leads to falling behind.

Evolutionary arms races emphasize the same absurd principle. The fleet cheetah, the fastest land animal, which preys on the gazelle, is designed by evolution devoid of premeditation or purpose, to outrun its prey, the gazelle. Thus the slower gazelles fall victim to its speed. This serves to cull the gazelles strictly on the basis of speed. The fastest gazelles survive and the ratchet of evolution speeds up to channel its blind force to push the gazelles to run even faster, to combat the evolving speed of the cheetahs. This meaningless arms race results in faster cheetahs and faster gazelles, without affecting the average kill rates of cheetahs or the survival rates of gazelles.

It confirms the Red Queen's remarks to Alice, that in our world one has to run faster to stay in the same place, as simply being static leads to falling behind and even jeopardizing survival. Capitalism has taken in the same mantra for survival, thus forcing innovation, research and development. The moral of the story is that new strategies by predators force the new evolution of counter strategies by prey.

The evolution of insurmountable strength by the dinosaurs led to the development of small nocturnal mammals with faster proliferation, to overcome the decisive advantage of might. In evolution there are two factors that guide survival, chance and necessity. It was chance that led to the extinction of the mighty dinosaurs in the form of a meteorite or asteroid that crashed into earth to bring about the Gotterdamerung of dinosaurs. The chancy evolution and triumph of mammals in its extreme of necessity has led to the triumph of a biped with a large brain to change the paradigm to Lamarckian evolution by speech and forethought. This newest creature lately arrived by chance to rule the earth is capable of premeditated strategies to facilitate its survival.

This is a lesson for India with reference to Pakistan and America with reference to the world. India bought Phalcon AWACS, Green Pine radar systems and T-90 tanks from Israel and Russia. Pakistan has countered by buying tanks from Ukraine and more recently AWACS from Sweden. It is not yet capable of matching the purchase of Mirage 2000 multi-role fighters, Sukhoi-30 fighters and Gorshkov aircraft carrier. The Indian defense procurement, apart from buying routine weapons like howitzers, anti-aircraft guns and SAMs must concentrate on high value sophisticated weapon systems beyond the technological capability of Pakistan and its supplier China, while updating and advancing technological know-how to develop indigenous expertise. This emphasizes the crucial point that arms races and all strategic and hegemony races are won by economic strength, which permit the luxury of large investments in research and development that promote innovation to achieve technological superiority in arms and commerce, as America has proved throughout the twentieth century.

Nearly all developed countries have reached and kept, to use Longfellow's words, the heights of their affluence not by sudden flight but by toiling and using Listean principles to de-industrialize ignorant and stupid nations. This is what Britain did to India, which in the 18th century was producing nearly 25% of the world GNP. Then it did the same thing to China, also producing 25% of the world GNP by using India to produce opium, which it forcibly marketed to China to make them a nation of addicts.

Many of the Boston Brahmins of America got rich either by privateering or sending Clipper ships to China to ply the opium trade and by manifest destiny and exploitation of Central and South American natural resources. The genius of its inventors and innovators was another important cause. This, like many of my diatribes is not meant for moralistic condemnation of the past as judged by contemporary justice, but to warn and inform the foolish and ignorant not to fall prey to the self-serving and manipulating propaganda from the developed countries, who have found human rights, religion and ethics like the cat best described as 'Sau sau chooeh khaa ke billi hajj ko chali.

The lesson for India is to take a leaf out of the American Bible, with lesser arrogance and greater wisdom in the current age of increased economic and political awareness, as shown by Bolivia and Venezuela, and not apply the successful strategies of Rome or Britain from an earlier irrelevant age.


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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