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If this is fitness, I’ll take flab

August 2, 2010


Chanson’s latest post at Main Street Plaza does a great job of compiling some of the many posts regarding the discussion of dull Mormon meetings. I think her metaphor of these many posts (and a few others) as representing a survival of the fittest within Mormonism is interesting, if only because it (perhaps unknowingly) points out that natural selection is not teleological.

I mean, in some ways, it seems like it is. The “fittest” is a direction or goal, right? (Well, the issue is that really, this simple phrasing overstates the case. It’s not survival of the fittest, but of the fit enough.) But still, what is fitness?

Fitness, in any case, is contextual to the environment. And, in the discussion at MSP, the environment is found to be…dull. As chanson concludes:

So perhaps a high tolerance for boring meetings (even a fondness for them) is a trait that Mormonism selects for. The people who would push to have it some other way are already gone…

I guess I have another reaction to this whole thing. In this discussion of survival of the fittest, we take it as a constant that what adapts are the organisms, and to what is adapted are the environments. In some way, I suppose this is the case. You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust your sails.

Chinese weather control

Weather control: one sky-reaching rocket at a time

At the same time, whether for good or for bad, humans have been trying to change their environments as well. We use tools so we don’t merely have to rely on our personal strength. And so on.

Even when the environment resists our changes (or when our changes have disastrous unintended effects on the environment), we never think that we should just stop trying to adjust the environment. Instead, we go to the drawing board to find new, hopefully better ways of adjusting the environment.

It is for that reason that, despite the storms we “disaffected Mormon underground” denizens weather when we step above ground into the bloggernacle, we shouldn’t be content simply to leave the ‘Nacle only to those who are OK with the status quo hierarchy.

Nevertheless, it’s not easy and it doesn’t seem remotely possible in some cases. It seems like such a path will only make you more and more despised, which would really be self-defeating.


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  1. Great title!!!

    The thing to keep in mind is that being “fit” for a given environment doesn’t necessarily mean being better in some overall, general sense. A lot of people who misunderstand evolution think that it’s about marching forward towards some predestined goal, when it really isn’t like that at all.

    The example I thought of using in my post was that of cave fish. They’re actually more “fit” (eg. likely to survive in their environment) by not wasting energy on growing functioning eyes or pigment. But I skipped using a natural example because I couldn’t come up with one that illustrates my point without coming off as gratuitously insulting Mormons…

  2. Good call on skipping that example, hehe.

  3. What about the classic example of bird beaks? In one area, the birds’ beaks were better shaped to pry food from various nuts. In another place, there were different nuts/trees and so birds with different shaped beaks evolved. (Those who had a certain trait were successful, survived to have offspring, others were not able to eat as well and have offspring, and therefore their traits were not inherited).

    I agree with chanson. Fit is not always better, just better adapted to the environment.

    You bring up an interesting point about trying to change environments. With my tree example, it’s true that humans can change the environment. We could plant the tree (with different nuts) on another island. The question is, should we?

  4. yes.

    why pry food from a natural banana when we change the fit, appearance, size, and shape of the banana itself?

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