Aiming At Perfection, And (Unfortunately) Hitting It

I have watched enough National Geographic and Nature programs to understand how “natural selection” works. The predator approaches the herd, considers options, then sprints into action. The herd scatters and (if successful) the victorious apex hunter takes down the prey. Messy, but effective, and this permits the hunter to continue to survive another time period.

A rarely stated consequence of this interaction is the strength of both the hunter and hunted is enhanced in this exchange. The successful hunt provides energy and experience for the hunter and reinforces (or improves) the skill set used, not to mention providing food and satiety. The herd is strengthened as a result of the loss of one of it’s members by the loss of the (relatively) weakest member. For whatever reason of combination of reasons, the victim is at the lower end of ability within the group. Slower, older (or younger), lame, inattentive, whatever reasons combined to result in the chosen victim being unsuccessful in avoiding the attack, the remaining members of the group are better in aggregate by the removal of a less-capable member of their society.

Man does not play by these rules.

As a direct result of his ability to create tools, we are the only creatures on the planet that can (and do) choose to kill the best of another species rather than the “worst” available. The concept of acquiring a trophy for display is meaningless when survival and self preservation is at the root of a hunt. My deer hunting friends often talk about letting the pronghorns pass by in anticipation of a bigger rack to arrive. While arguably a larger amount of meat is available on the older, more developed 8+ point rack holders, it is less about filling the freezer than the space over the mantle. It is a source of pride as well as food to demonstrate one’s ability to kill the wiser veteran of the forest.

Were this a contest of capabilities, of strength versus speed, wisdom versus knowledge, there might be a global benefit gained by both species. The use of “superior” tools allows mankind to succeed simply by reaching out and touching one who’s weakness is simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Separated by hundreds of yards, it is no longer a matter of tooth and claw, of might or majesty but of a sliver of refined metal projected at speed over distance, with little or no warning and less ability to react. An “unearned” kill, so to speak.

As a result, man can take the best of a group, leaving the remaining members less able to cope and in the big picture, less likely to survive as a species. Were this limited to food animals, it would be disturbing and possibly wrong in a global ecology sense, that the overall strength of the planet as a whole is diminished by culling members from the upper echelon rather than the lower ranks. Of course, man is not limited in this way.

He also takes out his own kind.

I watched the news last evening. There was a story about the dramatic increase in the number of young people being killed as a result of violence in their vicinity. A mother spoke of her daughter sitting next to her and how she could not do anything to protect her as gunfire erupted in her area. The girl was not targeted, but died anyway, as a conflict between two groups unrelated to the victim attempted to “settle” a disagreement. Collateral damage as it were.

It seems reasonable were the two groups equipped with fists and claws, the mother might have been successful in saving her offspring. At the least she could have snatched her from the bench and ran, or interspersed her own body in the attack, shielding her daughter from the mob and giving the girl a chance to flee. BANG! Too late, no chance.

Is it possible that this outcome was the “correct” one in terms of the “law of the jungle”, “survival of the fittest” kind of view? Possibly, but hardly obvious. It is vastly more likely this is the global denigration of the species as a whole, removing a member from the middle rather than the bottom ranks.

Perhaps we lost another Einstein. We will never know.

What if this is a (rather common) isolated case, the exception rather than the rule. Surely mankind is better controlled than that, right? This was an unfortunate accident, to be lamented.

No, I suspect our ability to create tools capable of launching man outside of the food chain rules of power has given us a substantial leg-down in our capability to survive long term as a species. Weapons of destruction (mass or individual) make us less likely to advance in the evolutionary game.

How else can you explain how a four year old, incapable of making his or her own food, is able to take down the apex predator of the house with their own weapon…

It seems mankind is destined to go out, not with a whimper, but with a BANG!


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