Survival of the fictitious

Lynne McTaggart

A mosaic of influences — religious, political, economic, scientific, and philosophical — writes the story that we live by, but the main author is science. Science tells us who we are and from there we determine how we’re supposed to live. And much of science and ‘enlightened thinking’ from the 1700s to date has described humans as inherently selfish.

Scottish philosopher Adam Smith famously believed that we do best for others by giving way to this fundamentally selfish nature of ours and looking out for number one: “By pursuing his own interest, [the individual] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he intends to promote it.”
Undoubtedly, the scientific discovery with the most pervasive hand in our current ‘greed is good’ mentality is Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. When assembling his ideas for On the Origin of Species, the young Darwin was profoundly influenced by the concerns of the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus about population explosion and limited natural resources.
Darwin concluded that, since there wasn’t enough to go around, life must evolve through what he termed a “struggle for existence.”
“As more individuals are produced than can possibly survive,” Darwin wrote in Origin, “there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life.”
Darwin was at pains to note that his catch phrase ‘struggle for existence’ was not literal but highly elastic — encompassing everything from the search of tree roots for water to the reliance of a pack of animals on each other.
It was actually British philosopher Herbert Spencer who first coined the term “survival of the fittest” after an enthusiastic reading of On the Origin of Species; after some persuasion, Darwin accepted the term.
An unholy metaphor
Malthus had provided Darwin with a central metaphor to explain the mechanism behind nature’s drive to propagate and thrive, and as an inadvertent consequence, Darwin unleashed upon the world a metaphor that came to represent the human experience: Life as war. An individual or population thrives only at another one’s expense.
Despite Darwin’s liberal use of the term, almost immediately, the narrower meaning of the metaphor stuck, offering a scientific framework for all the various burgeoning social and economic movements of the day.
Most subsequent interpretations of Darwin’s work, even in his lifetime, promoted a vision of all aspects of life as a battle over scarce resource, in which only the toughest and most singleminded survived.
English biologist Thomas Huxley, the Richard Dawkins of his day, dubbed “Darwin’s bulldog” for his role as Darwin’s vociferous mouthpiece, liberally extended the view of dog-eat-dog competition in his belief that it was responsible for the evolution of culture, ideas, and even the human mind.
Thanks to newly invented telegraphic cables and advances in printmaking, the wider interpretation of Darwin’s theory quickly swept across the globe. “Survival of the fittest” made for a perfect fit with Smith’s brand of enlightened competition in the marketplace, but besides Western capitalism, the theory of natural selection was also used to justify the Chinese revolution and the ‘whitening’ of Latin American indigenous culture with European stock.
The metaphoric representation of life as a race to the finish line has been used as intellectual justification for most aspects of modern industrialized society, which regards competition as society’s perfect shakedown mechanism, separating out the economically, politically and socially weak from the strong.
The winners have a right to winner take all because the race as a whole would benefit from it.
Modern-day interpreters of Darwin, the “neo-Darwinists,” have woven competition and struggle into the latest theories of our biological makeup by proposing that every part of us acts selfishly in order to survive; our genes — even our ideas — are engaged in competition with other gene pools and thoughts for domination and longevity.
Indeed, some scientists invest genes with the power to control every aspect of our lives, considering the body an accidental byproduct of a greater evolutionary endeavor.
A blind force?
Modern evolutionary theory has removed any vestigial sense of moral design or beneficence from the natural world: nature has no stake in cooperation or partnership, but only likes winners, of any sort. The vision of a purposeful and harmonious whole has been replaced by blind evolutionary force, in which human beings no longer play a conscious part.
Many psychologists argue that competitiveness is hardwired within us, a natural biological urge as inherent as our basic urge to survive. After we stop fighting over food, water, shelter, and mates, the theory goes, we begin competing over more ephemeral prizes: power, status, and most recently, fame.
Consequently, for more than three hundred years our worldview has been shaped by a story that describes isolated beings competing for survival on a lonely planet in an indifferent universe. Life, as defined by modern science, is essentially predatory, self-serving, and solitary.
This metaphor —the “red in tooth and claw” sense of ourselves — have seeped into our consciousness to permeate our every day. Our paradigm for living today has been built upon the premise that competition is the essential calling card of existence. Every modern recipe in our lives has been drawn from our interpretation of life as individual and solitary struggle, with every-man-for-himself competition an inherent part of the business of living.
Our entire Western economic model is built on the notion that competition in a free-market economy is essential to drive excellence and prosperity. In our relationships, we extol our inherent right to individual happiness and self-expression above all else. We educate our young by encouraging them to compete and excel over their peers.
The currency of most modern two-cars-in-every-garage neighborhoods is comparison and one-ups-manship. The world, as Woody Allen once put it, “is one big cafeteria.”
This sense of the necessity competition in all things, is why we’re in the mess we’re in today.
According to the new science, Darwin was wrong: we were meant to share, care and be fair. At every moment, you live contrary to your truest nature. My life’s work aims to help you to recapture your birthright, which has been sabotaged not only by modern society but, more fundamentally, by modern science.
I wish to wake you up to who you really are, to do nothing less than to return to you your authentic self.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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1,269 comments on “Survival of the fictitious”

  1. Thank you for this post, it is very needed to raise consciousness in our very troubled world.
    For more on this one can read The post-corporate world, by David C Korten, and The powers that be, by Walter Wink.

  2. Wow .....yes
    Writing a new story, living by a different metaphor
    Great food for thought...thank you

  3. Thanks for this excellent summary of post-Enlightenment a priori and problems ... indeed we need to return to Mother Nature in full respect of the forces that shape all sentient beings, us included of course. This is what Linda Tucker, the protectress of the White Lions in South Africa, defines as the Herculean approach (the predatory impulse) vis-à-Vistule Androclean one (Androcles respects the lion he cures and develops a friendship with the animal that will save him at a later stage while Hercules kills the lion of Nemea in order to obtain the strength and power of the royal feline7. We are more Hercules preying on life as if it were an object we need too appropriate for ourselves than Androcles ready to ally with life in all its forms). To explore further this un-Darwinian paradigm, please confer “The 13 Laws”, Linda Tucker’s latest book based on the understanding of the role in nature of the lion at the apex of the food chain it controls ....

  4. Lynne - you wrote an excellent review of Darwin's - OLD - outdated theories. For those of us who have followed you, Dr. Joe Dispenza and Gregg Braden - we're ready to - now focus - on the - NEW - science - what the body can do - quickly heal itself - proven - by the Success Stories of people who have attended your events also Dr. Dispenza's events.
    Thank you for teaching the Giving/Getting - Sending/Receiving - NEW - "survival selfishness" - that works - is to realize it is in the - person's best interest - to - send/give - to others - the intention from the heart of - "health and wellness in every way" - that can be then be "mirrored" back to the sender/receiver.
    Please - start - your future blog topics with the encouraging and exciting - NEW - science - about what's possible now - then if a comparison is needed - followed by the OLD theories - that are part of the OLD past.
    You're needed to continue to be a - leader - of the - NEW - science - proven by Success Stories!
    Thank You! - Kay Star - Carmel, California

  5. From this discourse, one could extrapolate the notion that there is a source, a force, an overarching power that provides some measure of direction. I would suggest that this power is limited to "non-interference" which allows our free will to follow a course other than that which would eventuate our highest purpose. The question that arises is "What is our highest purpose?" Perhaps our highest purpose is to strive for a higher level of consciousness, which will lead to our free will following a course that is more in harmony with that overarching power, thereby obviating our perennial need for power and control, It is this need that causes us to wallow in error before we arrive at sympathetic harmony with that overarching power, call it what you will.
    It mystifies me why, back in the Neolithic era we lost sight of the fact that that overarching power is an innate part of us, not external to us. It is the remaining void, called ego, that causes us to fulfill its need, our quest for power and control.

  6. Thank you Lynne you have the wonderful ability to make a complex universal knowledge understandable and I value your regular articles as well as all your books. I was already on the journey because of my forward thinking husband. Keep up your great work it is creating a beautiful change.

  7. Congratulations on an excellent article. It is rare to see a piece that attempts to discern the "Origin of the belief", and identify the truth. People and Society like short catchy phrases, (as evidenced by Twitter), it is very rare for anyone to seek out the real truth, and even rarer to find it. Keep up the good work.

  8. Lynne,
    Your work is powerful and the momentum of this new approach to creating, is resonating and reaching so many.
    I’m in the intention Masterclass ‘19 and I’m thoroughly enjoying the microcosm of our group - seeing us as a living organism supporting & having each other’s backs as the universe has ours. It’s a very diverse group but as in nature, there is great strength in diversity.
    It’s such a wonderful thing to be co-creators, to feel so much love, support & willingness from others to believe and intend for our best interests.
    Creating in the frequency of love - reflecting that on going ever expanding, ever changing, unfolding which is at the core of the universe.
    Enriching ourselves in intuitive knowing, practices of silence and knowledge through courses like this. Which for fills our very purpose here & is life’s true joy to be constantly enriched and in the process filled with love. The internal creation journey which brings us bliss and a deeper connection to all things. Thank you for your part in this.

  9. Excellent work.This piece is needed in times like now when all we face as a humanity is selfishness among each other..

  10. YES! Care. share and be fair. Also be aware.
    Don't ignore the fact that there are predators out there.

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