Darwin Awards

Darwin Awards are funny. But the whole survival of the fittest idea–that the dumb die out preserving the species–makes no sense. The people who, in natural selection terms, deserve the Darwin awards are, in the narrowest sense, people like me, who have no children. My brother had kids, so most of the same genes passed on to me will probably continue via my brother through his kids, though as he had only boys that limits the long term chances for that. Women do the heavy lifting in the genome. They are who you see evidence of a long way back down the line. We can see Mitochondrial Eve, but the Adam that rang her paleolithic bells was just some long forgotten stud. (Or just one sperm cell, actually. If men only knew how inconsequential we truly are in the grand Darwinian scheme of things.)

Darwinian success is actually counter-intuitive. The people commonly thought of as failures–poor, a lot of kids–are actually, in a Darwinian sense, the winners. The rich with a lot of kids are winners too, but no more so than the poor. In terms of passing on genes, intelligence has little to do with it on an individual basis. This is the Richard Dawkins way of looking at it. Selfish genes, etc. However, some say that any of us who help the viability of our genes–sisters who help raise the nieces and nephews, for example–are also succeeding in that they are helping to pass on the genes that she and her sister both received from their parents (though this is only half true for half sisters). The classic example being workers ants in an ant colony, where all work to ensure that the queen can keep passing on the genes. Some expand on this further by stating that anyone who helps assure that others can pass on the species’ genes–obstetricians, pediatricians, farmers, etc–are also contributing. But by any scale, those late middle aged childless males who spend a Saturday afternoon writing bloated Facebook posts instead of doing anything even remotely useful deserve a Darwin Award. And that’s funny.

This is strictly in Darwinian terms, however. Dawkins also came up with the whole meme idea (or was the first to write about it in a way that caught on), so anyone writing posts like this is, in meme terms, successfully passing on his memes–provided people read it, believe it, and pass on one of these ideas themselves. In fact, increasing one’s social media presence is, in meme terms, the same as a male having children by many different women. The more kinds of social media you establish a presence in, the more likely your memes will be passed on in the greater culture. Your Klout score is a measure of your memetic fertility. And a meme can be an idea, a style, a catch phrase, anything that can be passed onto others who pass onto others. A couple guys told me they began wearing blazers because I did, which meant I scored, memetically. Karl Marx and Jesus were meme superstars. On a single meme level, the guy who first said waasssuuuuppppp was also a memetic superstar. As is Kim Kardashian, or her ass anyway.

Unlike natural selection, however, I don’t believe they have yet found evidence of the actual process that passes a meme from one brain to another. Darwin was proven correct by genetics. They’re still looking for the meme equivalent. Right now it’s just a theory in search of a mechanism. They may never find one, and centuries from now this whole meme idea will sound ridiculous, and Richard Dawkins will get a Darwin Award. Darwin won’t, he had ten kids. You can’t spend all your time theorizing.

One thought on “Darwin Awards

  1. Pingback: Liberal arts | Brick's Science

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