Saturday, September 3, 2016

Darwin Revisited.

Darwin revisited.

A deer stands high on a rock bluff watching me wind my way slowly up a narrow wet trail. I feel watched as I walk deeper into the back-country of Ruckle Park and so when a falling branch crashes into the salal, just behind me I spin around with my eyes bugging out! Just a branch, but some part of me ( the scaredy-cat part) has said “Cougar!”

With my pack on my back and my camera tucked into the front of my rainjacket I am venturing out today into this rain-soaked mixed forest that has been a park for many years. There are the visible remains of big rotten stumps and the half hidden skid roads of old logging shows, but all has been repopulated by a younger forest growing in any spot available amid rocky knolls and swampy hollows. Young skinny and magnificently mature straight firs, stunted and twisted ones, cedars, big broadleaf maples,  alders, acres of understory salal and ocean spray. Still standing dead snags, uprooted tree trunks and broken bits are lying all around in the process of turning back into soil. This is a lush and tangled rainforest where a step off the path could get one lost (or gobbled up) in short order. And yet this living forest in all its wild complexity is very beautiful on this overcast September morning.

We are all familiar with Darwin's survival of the fittest - the fittest being not the strongest or smartest but the most adaptable to change – and certainly that is one way to understand the complexity of the landscape, but today I see something more nuanced. This whole community of flora and fauna exists through co-operation, through acting as one entity, not as one group pitted against another. Perhaps we have something to learn here, social Darwinism* understood through another lens.

*Social Darwinism  - An attempt to apply a biological theory to human cultures. Not a good idea. For example in Victorian Britain when the theory of survival of the fittest was first introduced it was co-opted to support ideas of racial, national and social superiority with a Victorian gentleman at the top of the evolutionary ladder, naturally.
It has been, and is still  being used in the world of business, politics, religion, etc. Just too convenient, even though the original theory did not apply to cultural matters at all.
Next time you hear a businessman talking about the race for the top or politicians talking about a whites only policy, or one particular religion being the right one for the country  you will be hearing social Darwinism alive and well.

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