Thursday, 6 March 2014

Survival, Family and Society


Those biological organisms in existence today are those whose parent/s survived long enough to reproduce. Generally, the mix of physical and mental characteristics that made the parent/s apt to survive will be transferred to the offspring through gene transfer and/or knowledge transfer. This in turn will make the offspring apt for survival and thereby reproduction, and so on.

All biological organisms expend energy in living and thus require that energy to be replaced in order to continue to live. Energy is matter and vice versa, the greater the mass of matter the greater the inherent energy. The Sun (a large mass of matter) and the Earth (a small mass of matter) both release energy in many forms including radiation (eg. heat and light) and wrapping up energy in the internal subatomic and atomic attractive bonds of new atoms or molecules (e.g. carbon, a primary element in all living things, created from hydrogen through atomic fusion by stars). Through varied chemical reactions these atoms and molecules form more complex molecules thus resulting in a myriad of different organisms (e.g. plants and animals) and compounds (e.g. sugar, minerals and proteins) from which we derive our energy for life from. Hence we can say that matter is critical to a physical organism's survival and indeed the very existence of the organism itself.

In our universe matter exists within space and time. That is matter (a human body or plant) exists if they are at a location, at a point in time. How certain bits of matter are characterised will depend on the frame of reference from which the characterisation is applied. To illustrate a human might say “That cow (a bit of matter) over there (its
location and at the moment), is food (the characterisation)”. The cow might conversely characterise the human as something other than food from its frame of reference. So, matter (e.g. plants, animals, salt, water etc) exists within space (an environment or location) at a particular time (now or in the future). This establishes the importance of things such as food and land upon which to live and/or grow food.

So to relate these principles to the practicalities relevant to us as humans we will consider the human organism, and that matter generally characterised as resources for living (eg. food and land).

From this we can say that a human deprived of resources for living will die. By the fact that humans exist today and through other observable behaviours, we can say that humans alive today will generally act in a way that enhances their survival and will generally act in a way that avoids death; if not through purpose, through genetically predisposed behaviours. We can say that the behaviours exhibited by humans today tend to enhance those humans' survival (otherwise they'd all be dead or dying out).

A human survived in the immediate term by hunting or gathering food to eat now or in the near term.  Some environments only supported human life for a certain period of time and at other times did not produce enough food to support human life. A human survived in such environments by over-hunting and over-gathering food and storing it for such periods of infertility.

Now, while this might work for one human in an environment, this is complicated by the fact that other humans may exist within that environment who, will seek toenhance their survival through taking from other humans. This may take the form of stealing others food or taking such a quantity of food from the natural environment that it leaves no food for other humans in that environment. So those humans who are, by virtue of their genes, stronger, can simply take food collected by weaker humans by force. A similar story can be told for land (upon which food is grown and shelter raised) and objects obtained or created that enhance survival potential (e.g. axes, water storage vessels). However, these physically strong humans that take what they want for survival will be looking over their shoulder for either aggrieved “weaker” humans they stole from, or even stronger humans that would seek to enhance their own survival through taking these recently acquired resources.

Family and Society

This state of nature, that of being completely self-interested, is not conducive to immediate genetic survival in that offspring whose food is taken by their mothers of fathers will die and hence not mature and reproduce. So, over time those humans that live today have at least developed (or at least their parents possessed) a base level of a behaviour that was not completely self-interested but rather they tended to exhibit disinterested behaviour. This disinterest, as opposed to self-interest, allowed family groups to exist at least until the offspring were mature enough to survive themselves. Its not that this behaviour evolved but rather the offspring of those humans that did not exhibit this behaviour died before being able to reproduce. Therefore what we're left with are humans who exhibit a degree of disinterest (not in the sense of not caring but rather in the sense of supporting the interests of others).

A side effect of this is that the capacity for humans to care for others was extendednot only to offspring but to immediate family. This led to supporting those who fell ill and supporting elderly parents which had the benefit of greater collective intellect to apply to problem solving and greater capacity to nurture children to maturity. In terms of fending off those that would take survival resources from the group, the group could leverage its numbers against an individuals strength in order to retain their resources and assure their survival. The family group provided strength, knowledge and care in times of injury to its members. These benefits logically extended to tribesthen more advanced social groupings where you'd be more likely to survive and thus reproduce in such a society then as a lone ranger competing for resources with these groupings.

For a social grouping to exist the members of that social group must have the capacity to act not from self-interest but through disinterest (in the interests of others). That is, members of social groups must consider other's interests in the context of their acts.To not do so could be considered antisocial. This is not a value judgement but in the most societies this would be considered a negative feature of an individual, in that, that individual would not support the society but would take from it (as in the first natural state of human development).

The position of social groupings being a natural phenomenon and disinterest being the reason social groupings exist. Would indicate that when one acts as a member of a social group they must consider what effect their actions have upon whichever social groupings they may be part of. This includes family, friends, community and society.
For example, while a person is “free” to take heroin to feel good, that person could also be a father and breadwinner, a cared for brother, a person who once addicted could commit crimes in order to maintain their habit and would thus affect other members of society. The same is equally true for seemingly minor self-interestedbehaviours such as promiscuous sex where disease may be contracted resulting in increased energy investments from friends and family and society (e.g. health institutions) to care for those falling sick (either directly or indirectly with others copying behaviours and falling sick). One argument levelled against this is that why should other social group members care? Why not let the person engaging in thesebehaviours, reap what they sow? A simple counter is that it is only natural (as detailed above) that other members of a social group will at the outset discourage risky behaviour and in the case of the consequences having already been reached, deal with it to support the other member of the society in need.

There are different levels of freedom. One level is that one can be free to club someone on the head to take their food. Another level is that one can enjoy the freedom from the threat of someone clubbing them on the head to take their food in the first place. We base our legal systems on this second level of freedom. Societies find it fit to make laws against theft thus removing one freedom but in its placeproviding a greater freedom. So basically, in a social grouping people will be free to do what they like, when they like and be as carefree as they may wish insofar as they consider what effect their actions will have on the social groupings they are a member of. This can be summarised in a well known statement known as the categoricalimperative from the philosopher Immanuel Kant that can be used as a good guide for doing the right thing:

“Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”