Turtles, evolution and socialism

Who likes turtles?  Everyone as far as I know, except for one eight year old who lived at Meadowcreek last year.  He absolutely would not touch the box turtle I found in our woods.  This turtle was a strange one.  It only withdrew its back legs into its shell, thrusting its snapping head and front claws toward us.  And these front claws and head were red and yellow striped.

We do have the docile Eastern box turtle here and we do have aggressive snapping turtles who like the water, but lay eggs on land.  Our unique Meadowcreek turtle has striped claws similar to a painted turtle, but the shell of a box turtle.  So our red clawed aggressive box turtle is strange.  We can’t find any reference to it anywhere, Maybe its another rare species at Meadowcreek.  You could come to Meadowcreek and help us document this new species.

The variation in turtle species is a a good introduction to the relationship of socialism and evolution.  We’ll only be able to dip our toes in the subject today, but we’ll expand on it later if you are interested.

How many of you know what punctuated equilibrium is?  It’s an observation from the fossil record that shows species generally remain the same for long periods of time with rare bursts of change.  Traditional Darwinian evolution theory assumes gradualism–that species gradually change.  Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould noted that this gradualism simply is not borne out by fossil evidence.

You don’t contradict established dogma without controversy.  That’s as true is science as in religion.  So the academic controversy raged for years, but, as they say around here, “Facts is facts.”  And punctuated equilibrium has the fact of the fossil record on its side.

Another challenge to the orthodoxy of traditional evolution is the idea of group selection.  Group selection says that natural selection can operate at the level of the group.  One of the most prominent biologists of our time, E. O. Wilson, has come out strongly in favor of group selection.  The tide is turning in favor of selection of groups or systems.  Wilson’s take is that selection can occur at many scales–from the individual to the group to the community.

Certainly the community which works together for the benefit of all has more resilience than an assortment of individuals all fighting for their own selfish goals.  Teamwork wins games not selfishness.  One observer of the rise of the British empire attributed it all to altruism.

Group selection versus individual selection is almost as big a debate as socialism versus capitalism.  E. O. Wilson says its not either/or in the former.  Anyone who has visited many other countries knows nearly all economies are hybrids of socialism and capitalism.

Ecological resilience is only concerned with what helps a system to survive disturbance.  Working together as a group always helps the group survive.  Individuals often innovate and the group adopts the innovation if it fits their system and resilience can be enhanced.

The hyper capitalist lone wolf may be successful, but if he doesn’t bring a group with him, his empire will crumble with him.  Socialists know the importance of the group working together to make society resilient.  Where socialists go wrong is in forcing unwilling people to work as a group.  That never succeeds.  Only willing cooperation in the group leads to ecological resilience.

Sorry if this has been too sketchy, but we gotta hit the road.  We’re off to Missouri and Iowa to work on our own group resilience: to strengthen family ties and ties with the sustainable ag community.


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