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Darwin, Kropotkin, Boltzmann, Shannon: Geeky World of Politics

Updated: Aug 11

Altruism is not a weakness. Survival is not only about survival of the fittest at the level of the individual.

Charles Darwin says, individuals compete for limited resources. In the process, those who fit the demands of their environment survive, preserving their lineage. We now say, preserving their genes. We now say, natural selection.

Darwin, however, is not able to explain how there are so many examples of individuals who seemingly have no interest in preserving his lineage, preserving his genes. Workers and soldiers of ant and bee societies are good examples. Their entire lives spent on altruistic enterprises with nothing to show for in terms of transferring their genetic heritage onto the next generation. Puzzle never leaves Darwin’s attention til his demise.

This puzzle, however, is set-aside by mainstream economists and political theorists who highlight natural selection as highly compatible with capitalist societies as espoused by believers of Adam Smith and those that follow his footsteps.

Claude Shannon. Photograph by Konrad Jacobs, Erlangen

Peter Kropotkin, a biologist himself, protests and lays down his own interpretation of the works of Darwin. He points out the many examples of “mutual aid” between animals and between men that he has personally observed during his seven-year sojourn into the Siberian regions. Kropotkin argues, mutual aid, and therefore altruism, is as much a part of natural selection as competition for scarce resources at the level of individuals. Left on their own, animals as well as humans naturally form communities based on mutual aid, enabling survival of many.

Kropotkin’s theory is referred to at large as anarchism and becomes part of the impetus for the development of socialism as espoused by Marxists.

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union, and Mao Zhedong’s Rule in China, Kropotkin’s work is set aside and forgotten together with Marxism. In the process, much of works on mutual aid and altruism are similarly forgotten. Globalism under the terms of World Bank and the International Monetary Fund becomes the norm. This focuses much attention on Darwinist natural selection at the level of individuals as the sole arbiter of how societies behave.

Meanwhile Claude Shannon invents Information Theory. His work, together with the work of Alan Turing, becomes the foundation of the Age of Information Communication Technology. His foundational equation says the direction of time is always where there is “more information,” where there is “more surprise.”

Easy to see Darwin’s theory of natural selection. He who survives is the one who fits the demands of his environment. Competition is at the level of the individual.

Easy to see his problem. Ant and bee societies fit the demands of the environment not at the level of individuals but at the level of groups — their aggrupations made possible by altruism of workers and soldiers who have no interest in the transfer of their genetic heritage to the next generation.

Ludwig Boltzmann’s formulation of entropy explains why ice cubes always tend to melt. Similarly, Claude Shannon’s formulation of entropy explains why time is always in the direction of “more information." (Shannon's equation serves as the answer to E.O. Wilson's question as to why biological forms of evolution tend to go in the direction of eusocial animal aggrupations.)

99% of eukaryotes reproduce by sexual reproduction. Easy. Male and female chromosomes together represent “more information.”

Easy to see why there is a need for families, clans, tribes, nations, cultures, or civilizations. Aggrupations represent “more information,” “more surprise.” As if ice cubes need to melt, cultures need to move up some level whence civilizations become possible. It is in the mathematical details laid out by Shannon's Law.

Easy to see why families, clans, tribes, nations, cultures, or civilizations represent some kind of advance. They represent “more information,” “more surprise.” What makes these aggrupations possible is, of course, altruism of the heroes who sacrifice individual gains for the gains of the aggrupation.

Kropotkin has been all along correct. Darwin’s natural selection is about fitness of individuals but at the same time fitness of groups who are into “mutual aid” — mutual aid made possible by altruism. Shannon's equation, and its subsequent success in the Age of Information Communication Technology, is proof.

What all of these indicate is that those afflicted by “chosen people syndrome,” those who demand resources of the nation to themselves at whatever cost represent a lower level of fitness — possibly insufficient for survival at some point in time.

Those who sacrifice themselves so that some political party, indicating some political program that is the output of some vision of the future, altruistic individuals, they represent some higher form of fitness that is in accordance to the demands of nature, the demands of the second law of thermodynamics.

Boltzmann has been correct. Kropotkin has been correct. Shannon has been correct.

We are correct, by the standards of science, to support leaders who are altruistic. Good chance altruism gives us a better world. Entropy rules.

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