Imagine your brother comes to you one day and asks for $10,000. He is down on his luck, recently divorced and jobless. He’s never had a history of this before. You have the money, but it’ll set you back a bit. You may have to skip this year’s vacation, but for your brother, you give him the money.
Imagine your nephew wants $5,000. He’s been saving up for a car and is turning 16. He needs the car in order to get a job, but he’s just a bit short. He already got some help from his parents, so he comes to you. He prepares a way to pay you back and he’s an honest, hard-working kid. You give him the money. He’s your nephew after all, and your favorite nephew at that.
Imagine now: a complete stranger on the street asks you for just enough money to get lunch. You don’t know this bum. He looks lazy. He looks like he earned whatever fate he’s received. You pass him by without giving him a cent.
What if this bum was your brother? Wouldn’t you do more than just hand him change? Wouldn’t you dust him off, clean him up and help him get back on his feet? Letting him stay with you until he could get a job and get on his way. This is your brother. You cannot let him just rot on the streets.
What if this bum was your nephew? Wouldn’t it be the same situation?
The only difference between these scenarios is the amount of money and the amount of genetic material you share with the individuals. Natural selection tells us that we should support as much of our genetic material as possible. This is known as kin selection. Kin selection is the tendency of organisms to use strategies that favor the reproductive success of their relatives, even at a cost to their own lives. It is a fair trade in evolutionary terms for one to lay down his or her own life for two siblings, four nephews or eight cousins, as siblings are on average 50 percent identical by descent, nephews 25 percent and cousins 12.5 percent.
Kin selection is found in many forms of insects, social mammals and even plants. Recent studies of plants have shown they will stunt their root growth if surrounded by sibling plants. Amongst foreign plants, root growth is much more aggressive.
This natural behavior also explains our dislike for communism. Ideal communism goes against evolutionary principles by sharing the gain amongst everyone. Ideal capitalism is as naturally selective as you can get. A bunch of companies fighting over the same limited capital and consumers. Sometimes a new company starts up with a new manufacturing process or an entirely new paradigm. The new benefits quickly let them dominate the market, this sometimes kills off the companies that do not adapt to the new conditions of the market.
So, the question is if humanity can evolve past the point of evolution. If we can decide that all genes are worth supporting, not just our own, then perhaps humanity can move forward. Our progress would not be based on competitive dog-eat-dog methods with one percent of the world’s population owning 50 percent of everything. It would be a humanity-wide improvement with 100 percent of the world’s population owning 100 percent of it.
Now, I’m not trying to sell communism wholesale, because I doubt it would work. I’m too apathetic to be communist. Also, humanity is still too divided to see the true benefits. But, perhaps we can get on the right track toward a humanity that has gone beyond evolution. Of course, the path would seem very unnatural. But, if we want to hold onto the thought that we are somehow different from the animal kingdom, we should act like it.
Perhaps you will give some more thought to dropping a few quarters in the cup of your fellow human in need. Even Jesus supported moving past evolution. He told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted: “No man can help another without helping himself.”