Critique of TSW Part 25c The Social Microcosm

Blog 20150114

Bill and I agree that competition is not a requirement for evolution, although he is not so sure about competition producing cooperation.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked “TSW: “are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

The Social Microcosm (Part 3 of 7)

BW: Moreover, "competition" is not a requirement for biological evolution. A new species variation is either successful or it's not, whether the environment changes or not. A bird born without a beak won't survive to reproduce, no matter how many seeds are in its proximity. Since all animals are naturally migratory, they can easily move to a *better* environment, even if their current environment has no scarcity of resources. And, they will "compete" with each other for a *convenient* food supply, even when there are plenty of other sources.

[GB: The only requirement for evolution is that the microcosm moves with respect to its macrocosm. That is, “evolution” and “motion” are really the same thing. In a sense, the movement of a microcosm into its surrounding macrocosm amounts to a sort of “competition” with that macrocosm. Incidentally, by vacating the former space, it leaves behind a niche that some other microcosm now can fill. The key is that no two microcosms can occupy the same space at the same time. Your statement that “new species variation is either successful or it's not, whether the environment changes or not” is completely false. The expansion of the new species, can only occur into its surrounding environment. In other words, a powerful microcosm can only move if its macrocosm is less powerful. This is why we talk of “niches” in biology. A stronger species can displace a weaker one. Physically, it could be no other way. That is why expansion of Homo sapiens has led to the phenomenal extinction of so many other species. It has even been said that there can be only so much protein on the planet. Looks like we are getting a huge share of it.]

TSW:  "Competition is a manifestation of instability, while cooperation is a manifestation of stability."

BW: Tossing in another word, without definition. There's nothing inherently "unstable" about competition. There might be a perfectly stable relationship among competitors. If it's a civil market, ten stores can offer chocolate chip cookies for sale, "competing" for the business of clientele with variable preferences, over time, for one or the other brand of cookie. Not every form of "competition" entails coercion, nor instability.

What you're entirely overlooking are the different *kinds* of competition or cooperation. For example, slavery is a "cooperative" - but usually unstable - relationship between individuals, because it's based on coercion. One doesn't want to be whipped, the other wants production, so they "cooperate" to satisfy their needs. That kind of relationship may be hostile, but it can also be stable ... over many generations.

[GB: Sorry, I thought that my readers would know the difference between instability and stability. Let me use an example in chemistry. The ions within a particular complex form a stable structure, whereas those ions outside the complex may have more independent motion, which we consider less stable. Thus, the Na and Cl ions in the center of a salt crystal are stable, while the ones in the surrounding solution are in constant motion and therefore unstable. We often consider a saturated solution to be “stable.” In that case, some of the Na and Cl ions on the surface of the crystal tend to enter the solution and some of the Na and Cl ions in solution become attached to the surface of the crystal. This is what we mean by “equilibrium.” We would call the microcosm that contains the crystal and the solution as “stable.” We discussed this before after I wrote that all motions are toward “univironmental equilibrium.” If we add more water, the salt crystals will dissolve; if we subtract water through drying, the salt crystals will get larger. As soon as we discover details about the properties of the microcosm and the macrocosm and what equilibrium might be possible, we can predict the direction the process will take. Any movement in a direction considered irreversible would be taken as an “instability,” with the result being “stability.” 

I suppose your hypothesized “perpetual competition” among cookie sellers could be taken as a kind of “univironmental equilibrium”. In practice, however, it is hard to find examples of competition like that. Tastes are forever changing. Yesterday’s fad disappears only to be replaced by a new one. Grocery products all seem to be subject to consolidation along with the mom-and-pop grocery stores destroyed by price competition from the behemoths. Eventually the Safeway’s of the world make their own products en mass, undercutting the prices of all products except those with insignificant markets. Thus, in general, competition is relatively unstable, producing cooperation, which is relatively stable. This overall historical trend will not be reversed, despite the occasional feeble (cooperative) efforts at “trust busting”. On its own, GollyGeeMegaCorp is not about to split itself up to begin price competition with its various parts all over again.]

TSW:  "If competition reflects the struggle for existence, then cooperation reflects existence itself. Cooperation is the result of competition."

BW: These sentences make no sense. If something doesn't exist, it can't "compete" or "cooperate" with anything. An animal can be struggling for existence in an environment with no other animals to "compete" against. It would be very odd to say that he's "competing" with his environment.

[GB: Let me explain a bit further. Previously I mentioned that the evolution (motion) of a microcosm can only occur at the expense of its macrocosm. So, while it might “be very odd to say that he's "competing" with his environment,” that is, in fact, the case. Competition, of course, occurs when two microcosms attempt to occupy the same part of the macrocosm. In this struggle only one of these can succeed. The other one will not succeed. It will wither, die, go bankrupt, become merger bait, or otherwise cease to exist as the microcosm it once was. When the competition is over market space, cut throat pricing forces cooperation via market sharing agreements, bankruptcy, and merger.]

BW: A pack of animals may "cooperate" in finding prey. In that case, competition (with the other animal, or for a share of the spoils) is the result of cooperation, not the inverse. If the animal being pursued is stronger, then the pack cooperation results in competition to be the furthest away from its wrath or cease to exist.

In other words, you can't simply put words in boxes and equate them with other things in relative motion, nor assume that they are two sides of a dichotomy. Competition and cooperation are just different kinds of relationships, which may be good or bad, depending on whether they entail coercion or voluntary action. Since you assume that there's no such thing as "voluntary", everything in the universe is either "dog eats dog" or "dog f*cks dog" and it's all necessary.

[GB: First, competition and cooperation are neither good nor bad. They just are. Second, you are absolutely correct that everything that happens in the universe was and is necessary. How could it be otherwise? Your idea that some kind of free will or voluntariness will change all that is totally idealistic, utopian, and therefore impossible. Glad to see that you are getting closer, kicking and screaming, I guess, to realizing how the universe really works.]

TSW:  "The fact remains, however, that competition produces cooperation, and not the other way around."

BW: In some cases, that's true. In others, false. For example, a group of people with a common interest build a ship to sail to another location. If the resources at the new location are scarce, they might compete violently for their individual survival. In that case, cooperation produced competition. You compete for the affections of a woman, but cooperate with her to produce ten children, who compete for your attention. So, competition results in cooperation, resulting in competition.

[GB: You better think that one over again. I don’t think that the cooperation involved in sailing had anything to do with the production of scarcity and the need to compete for food. Similarly, cooperation between spouses does not produce competition between spouses, though elements of both may be present at times. Competition among children for attention is an entirely separate issue.]

TSW:  "Win, lose, or draw, the cessation of hostilities brings a new, more cooperative relationship between the contesting parties ..."

BW: ... by definition, not fighting is "more" peaceful than fighting. However, you can't build an ethics system around the relatively rare cases of all-out physical conflagrations. Ethics and social "guidelines" need to inform the normal person in everyday life.

[GB: What? The quote is correct. Peace is always the result of war. War is not the result of peace. You are right that ethics are needed in normal, peaceful life. I do not think that we need to go to war to formulate ethical guidelines. We have enough minor altercations to help us see the light.]

Next: The Social Microcosm (Part 4 of 7)

cotsw 059

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