Life is Amoral … but Evolving Towards Life Altruism.
There is a parasitic wasp that lays its eggs in the body of some maggot so that the poor creature is eaten alive from the inside out by the wasp larva hatching in its body. There is a parasitic mushroom in the family of real honey mushrooms,Armarilla Mellea ,forming the biggest living entity in the world,a specimen 800 hectares exists in Oregon,killing of large parts of woods ,even healthy trees,by its parasitic activities . There are so many parasitic beings in nature,probably because the parasitic life style is energy economic . Yet when we observe the behavior ,say of the parasitic wasp,we will automatically get the feeling that the wasp is evil or at least it’s acts are somewhat immoral. Scientists do not usually import the notion of moral into their study of nature ,they see it as the struggle for life ,a form of competition for the living space.Non-scientists react more emotionally to the “bad” behavior of parasites or predators in nature ,yes we are part of nature but our morals are not applicable to nature.
Life is a complex system of evolving beings trying to live in a common space. Obviously there is strong competition but also cooperation and even symbiosis or partnerships of different species. When we study or observe nature we look for some logic in it,and there is such logic. But it is a local and temporary logic,changing in time and with location ,depending on the changing situation outside life’s control.
We speak of life as an independent “thing” but really it is an interaction between “living” objects and the surrounding world of living and “dead” objects . Life is just a complex interaction between… everything! There are no human laws ,not even in the scientific sense governing those interactions! Laws,scientific or human of any type, are abstract constructions (made up long after the processes started) we try too use to understand a complex chaotic reality ,we try to make “sense” out of it.
For example gravity is an interaction between masses but not everything has mass and the distribution of many masses in some neighborhood makes gravity too complex to understand or calculate really correctly. Then there is anti-matter and perhaps dark matter ,then the real nature of some “gravity” interaction is even more mysterious . It is plausible that our notion of gravity is a very partial understanding of the interaction between different energies and the latter also could work on the micro-level . Probably future theories will unite the macro and micro better starting from new models. So you may say that gravity is a “law” but then the definition of “law” has been seriously extended ,in fact not much beyond being a conjecture or educated guess!
I once defined life as “a representation of abstraction on the relations (interactions) defining reality” (see story on Medium),that is a process where “freedom” is naturally embedded , freedom stems from the abstract world ,also freedom is not following some laws. The abstract world in the foregoing is the amalgamate of all abstract worlds of all living things ? I have no idea how that looks like ,even if it is easy to accept that it “IS” (I avoid the word exist here because of the impact of time assumed in existing).Well there is no moral for all living things ,you may say Life is amoral.
When looking at life around us it is thus very clear that there is no ethics in the behavior of most,if not all,species. The competition for survival often produces behavior patterns which humans emotionally view as cruel or aggressive. It may comfort the biologist to remark that the lions usually kill the weakest zebra ,but most people want to protect the weak,helpless .We are a product of the selfish nature ,but we did change our point of view and our thinking introduced solidarity,love,altruism,… in our behavior.Whether there are more of these so-called positive characteristics than negative ones like murders,hate,cheating,…, is open for debate but I believe in a minimal positive total!
Obviously we cannot find altruism as a general characteristic in the natural behavior of most,if not all,specimen. The behavior of members of a specimen may be viewed as a process ,an evolution of a society, and the process has a direction,a line of development. To describe the lines of development one has to define measurable characteristics and properties on the level of the whole species and in fact on the level of all living beings. So let us try to do this for ” life altruism” .One can evaluate how much a certain species exploits or abuses another species ,abuse or exploitation of members of the same species is counted double .One can also evaluate how often a species acts supporting towards the survival of another species ,towards the own species counts half.Then the difference of the second minus the first evaluation is a measure for the “life altruism” . This is a cumbersome exercise but in principal it is possible to get some decent approximation.How does the human race score in this “life altruism” ? Hard to say exactly without the time consuming research ,but on the local level there are many activities supporting the survival of many species,the green ideas have recently caught on . On the national levels there are still a lot of destructive actions ,but a rough comparison with the situation a few centuries ago seems favorable ,but compared to the situation say a thousand years ago we did not gain,on the contrary. This is of course due to the growth of human’s power and technology ,the development of science with its good and bad effects has put “life altruism” down for a while,but now with the new ideas about green economy,the protection of natural habitats and biotopes, the declaration of human rights and growing awareness of animal rights, we may be on the way to become positive for “life altruism”.
To get an idea about “life altruism” we have to do the cumbersome calculations over time periods .In fact we have to do this over long periods ,many thousand years ,preferably millions, before the line of development becomes clear. While waiting for some numerical information we may make an educated guess, I believe the measure of “life altruism” is growing and it may be positive in the not so far future!In fact the equilibrium in nature limits the number of predators taking into account the larger number of prey animals and biotopes are formed exactly by groups of animals most of which live peacefully together. In other words the ratio of events of murder and abuse and peaceful co-existence are somehow naturally balanced. Can we say that nature regulates the amount of “life altruism” from a global total viewpoint ? Is the whole evolution of life going in the direction of life altruism? If so then I would consider that a planned evolution .