The anti-life

15 07 2011

Once life or survival has been established as the most important thing, and the manifestation of instincts that support it noted, some corollaries follow.

1. Any idea that considers “animal” instincts with disdain without a thorough investigation of their role in preserving life or ensuring continuation of the human species must be rejected as a misguided ideal. Such disdain is most likely a product of an idle mind, whose survival has been ensured by the same very instincts. Because humans have been so successful in increasing their population and lessening the daily pressure of survival that is common to other species, many of us have come to take survival for granted.

2. Any idea that celebrates death or raises the importance of elderly at the cost of the young or the unborn without duly considering its relation to the survival of the species must also be rejected as misguided, even dangerous.

3. Any idea that eulogises either excessive competition or excessive cooperation among humans without due regards to its impact on survival of the species.

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The most important thing

12 07 2011

What should be our most important concern? I think it should be whatever affords us to even have the luxury of talking about important or unimportant concerns. That surely is our life itself. Our species has come this far because each generation instinctively or consciously bred and ensured its own survival to an age where it could ensure the survival of the next generation to their breeding age. We would not be here wondering and theorizing and debating about what should be our most important concern if our species hadn’t survived. Allow me to use the terms life and survival without being precise about them for the time being to mean life and survival of some humans at least, if not each and everyone.

This survival has been ensured by instincts that manifest in three different categories:

1. Instantaneous survival instinct: At the individual level living in the moment, it manifests as bodily urges of hunger, thirst, sex drive, or sense of danger, feelings of too cold or too hot, fight and flight response etc..

2. Competition: In relation to other humans, it pitches us against other beings and our fellow humans in the form of need to control natural resources including territory, and strictly against others in the species to promote our genes through competition for healthy mates.

3. Cooperation: Paradoxically, it also makes us cooperate with other humans and animals to form socio-economic relations or societies with specialised functions among individuals.

This third manifestation of the survival instinct has perhaps been notably stronger in humans compared to other mammals of comparable size, which are perhaps our closest siblings in the tree of evolution from a single life form. It is definitely the most instrumental in our tremendous success as a species to increase numbers and lessen the pressure of daily survival. For example, “you protect me, while I grow food for you”, seems much more effective and efficient than bending down to plant seeds while also trying to watch out for the tiger lurking behind in the bushes. This also includes our cooperation with other species, such as cattle, whom we protect for their produce, or dogs for whom we produce for their protection. Interestingly, it also includes our patronage of crops and meat-giving animals that we protect until they can breed, thus ensuring their survival as a species, and then their consumption after their survival has been ensured.

The following questions immediately follow:

1. Are there certain individuals within the species that are more important than others to ensure its survival?

2. How should we balance between the three manifestations of the survival instinct?

3. Once we have reached a state where the survival of the species is foreseeably ensured, should our concerns shift to other things instead of obsession about survival? If so, then what should be our new concerns?

I will explore these three questions in future posts. I think that the most time will be spent on third question given no foreseeable threat to our survival.