The origin myth of Western culture begins with the big bang and unfolds in varying narratives, depending on how the works of Darwin are interpreted. The story we know best is “survival of the fittest.”

How we experience our place in the world as social animals has an enormous amount to do with the origin myths we tell each other and ourselves. Sociobiology or evolutionary psychology–orthodox Darwinism extolling random variation as the central dogma of evolution–interprets species origins and evolution according to a strict or fundamentalist interpretation of only one part of Darwin’s life work. This story of life is the one told in our textbooks, on TV and in popular culture. It is often a story characterized by an experience of fear, life according to Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

It is no mistake that as conservative forces in American politics expanded their influence, controlling government, media and economics, their story line conformed to the prevailing origin myth that it is the strongest that survive. It’s called social Darwinism. It is the elite world view that it is the rich people’s skill at accumulating or retaining wealth that should be encouraged because it is that specific skill that is responsible for social evolution, progress. It is suggested that morality, ethics or humanism are not relevant to this discussion. Nature operates according to dog eat dog laws. What’s good enough for nature is good enough for us. Frustrating these principles only serves to inhibit a seamless movement onward.

It is not coincidental that the fear that is pitched with almost every narrative in the corporate media conforms to this world view–that it is the fittest that survive. Be afraid. While afraid, you will understand that what life is about is your position in this hierarchy of haves and have-nots. While afraid, you should focus on the glorious gifts of this world view: independence, liberty, individuality, honor, pride, patriotism.

Darwin’s other theories of evolution are starting to re-emerge. He had three. Survival of the fittest, his theory of natural selection doesn’t seems to be fitting so well in a world where a new story, awareness of global interconnections, both feels better and matches our experience better. At the same time, we are beginning to understand how the environment affects how we grow inside the womb, influencing the personality and physical characteristics of the emerging individual. The random in random variation is becoming deliberate.

The environment prepares us for the world we are born into by influencing us in the womb. Far from independent, we are interdependent, with deep connections forming even before conception. More than one central dogma has begun to topple. There are scientists that now believe that changes in the environment influence an individual’s genetics within a single generation–nonrandom, directed variation.

In other words, how can it be about survival of the fittest when the environment encourages and adjusts the features of individuals while preparing them for community? The core belief of Darwinism, that variation is random, is being superseded by another story. Survival of the fittest is being replaced by Resiliency in Community.

The new story still has us beginning with the Big Bang. But instead of just surviving, we are now being guided into adulthood.


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