David SimsEssays

Fit for Eternity

by David Sims

“STRENGTH, size, ruthlessness, or intellect does not equal more fit.” There’s often a dash of leftist Political Correctness in statements like that one. It’s technically true. But such qualities are usually positively correlated with fitness.

Consider strength. A strong animal’s range of action includes all of the actions that a weak animal of the same species can take, but goes beyond to include still more actions. Both a strong man and a weak man can cuddle a seven-pound baby. But a strong man can lift more weight than a weak man can; a strong man can undertake tasks requiring a degree of power that the weak man cannot supply.

The proportion of life scenarios in which greater strength is advantageous vastly outweighs the proportion of life scenarios in which greater strength is a disadvantage. A weak (and stupid) man might try and fail to push over the bracings in a mine, which, still left standing, will protect him from a cave-in. But a strong (and stupid) man, if he tries to push over the mine bracings, will succeed… and the rocks will come down in an avalanche and crush him to death.

But that sort of scenario is a tiny minority of all life scenarios. Most of the time, stronger is better than weaker.

Intellect is a little different in that brains are costly. However, a species that has already been somewhat specialized for intelligence will usually find that more intelligence is better than less. The species for which that is true has already adapted, in ways other than brain size, to living at least partly by thinking. With more intelligence, a species might alter its environment to suit its needs. Housing. Clothing. Irrigation. Ever-improving tools. Ever-expanding resources.

Indeed, a sufficient degree of intelligence will enable a species to seek out favorable environments, or environments that can be made favorable. A species that can cross oceans is nearly always more fit than a species that cannot. A species that can make interplanetary flights, and perhaps someday interstellar flights, and gain the security of living on many worlds, is generally more fit than a species that cannot.

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Walt Hampton
Walt Hampton

An excellent scene from “Rendezvous With Rama,”
by futurist Arthur C. Clarke. A space habitat using
centrifugal force to create an artificial sense of
gravity is quite doable – even by the limited standards
of current technology.

pj dooner
pj dooner

That was a great book, “The Ramans always do things in threes” was the last sentence in the book if I remember correctly but the rest of the series had all mixed-race main characters. That habitat is scientifically possible I guess but it would have to be really, really big.

Walt Hampton
Walt Hampton

Oh yes! I read the book in ’73 when it first came out, so my memory
is stretched from that time. That was almost two Caucasian generations
ago, after all! As I recall…the Ramadan interstellar vehicle was tens of
kilometers across the base, and I think the length was somewhere in
the area of 50 or so kilometers. I could be wrong. I am seventy-five
years old, so it would be worth your time checking behind me.