Can Darwinism be considered optimistic or pessimistic?
Oh man, I wrote this a while ago and never posted it! :O
In Wednesday’s seminar, we discussed this question in small groups, and in my group (which I think consisted of Yun and Karen? Maybe?) we found it to be a really difficult question to answer. We eventually decided that it’s both… or neither…? If we look at what Darwin says on page 209, we can see both sides : “[optimistic] Natural selection tends only to make each organic being as perfect as, or slightly more perfect than the other inhabitants of the same country [pessimistic] with which it has to struggle for existence.”
Initially we were leaning more towards pessimism. The “struggle for existence” though realistic, is rather sad. It’s this idea that all of nature is a competition. Every organism in an ecosystem has to fight to have the resources to live, which means that some will lose. It’s sort of depressing to think that pretty much no matter what, there are going to be some organisms that are just not good enough to survive.
But then we realized that while the weaker organisms die off, the weak traits die with them. The sacrifices made during the course of natural selection are for the benefit of the species as a whole. With every generation of a species, that species improves itself to better survive in its environment. It’s almost inspirational, like ‘bad things will happen, but it’s ultimately for the better’.
But then you keep reading, and Darwin says “Natural selection will not produce absolute perfection” (209). You may, like me, ask yourself is it really worth it then?’. Well, probably. But still.
And now, a brief message to future Arts One students:
Don’t be like me, kids. Write your blog posts earlier on in the semester, so you don’t have to do three in a row.