General Question

Saturated_Brain's avatar

The continuation of species. A flawed concept?

Asked by Saturated_Brain (5235points) May 23rd, 2009

Recently, it just occurred to me that the lives of most living creatures is ultimately somewhat futile. Why do animals have these special characteristics in order for them to survive? Simply to ensure the continuation of their species. But then, once one thinks about it, why should they continue their species? What is the ultimate goal of this… theory?

For the animals to finally end up filling every nook and cranny of this planet? And even then, so what? Animals can’t live once they triumph over every other species. They’d just end up eating everything and destroying the environment before dying out. We need the many interactions present in nature in order for everyone to survive.

So the only answer to this is that the continuation of species is just that. To allow your species to continue. Sure, some will die (partly because of other species eating them in order to ensure the survival of their own species). But others will live. But just enough to ensure that you just crawl on through the ages.

Then this leads on to the next issue. So why even bother? Why even bother having all these species if they can’t even take over the world? What’s the point then for these species to even exist? Can you say that there doesn’t even have to be a point? Just that it is?

Of course, once you apply this to human beings, the situation becomes much more complex, for we are capable of thinking and rationalising these existentialist thoughts. But then again, does that even make a difference?

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24 Answers

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Well, from a layman’s point of view, I don’t think it is the goal of animals to take over the world. I think that is a human concept. Animals all fill a niche. In a simple view, plankton is food for little fish, bigger fish eat the little fish, even bigger fish eat the big fish, and on up the food chain until you get to humans catching whales for meat and blubber and who knows what else.

Animals, and viruses and every other living thing, exists to pass on their DNA. It isn’t a conscious choice, it is more of an instinct. The act of sex is enjoyable to ‘help’ creatures to have offspring, and as it seems to me, Nature abhors a vacuum.

The really amazing part of all this was that about 230 million years ago, the Great Cambrian extinction wiped out 90% of the life on land and about 65% of the life in the oceans, yet every creature that has come afterwards; evolved from those few species that actually survived.

augustlan's avatar

We are all dependent on one another, from the tiniest creature all the way up the food chain. Thinking about this made my head hurt. ;-)

Also, welcome to Fluther!

ragingloli's avatar

There is no purpose, no “goal” for life. That is a human concept. Life simply is.
Lifeforms exists. Lifeforms die. Those that survive were simply better suited to survival. Lifeforms reproduce. Those who don’t, simply are no more. Those who do, have offspring that then is. And so on. Life is a process, not an action in pursuit of a goal.
Also, why are you here >:[

Grisaille's avatar

I think the first thing we have to remember is that life is meaningless without human thought, as thought creates meaning.

The “meaning of life” is redundant in itself, as without life (human life, therefore human thought) there is no meaning to anything. We give meaning to objects, to concepts, to words – to everything. It’s a paradox, almost.

With that, trying to understand the meaning of animal life becomes even more complex, as animals (and their biosphere, food chain, etc) do not have “meaning” to their existence, as they do not have the ability to form intelligent thought. Without intelligent thought there is no chance of finding intention.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that domination of all other species is a human concept – yes, I’m sure there’s a mouse out there that is saying, “fuck, I sure wish there weren’t so many damn cats!”

…but that’s besides the point.

The dynamic biosphere on this planet is only in existence today because of the equilibrium of everything in the universe. When something goes awry (GAH, METEOR), the planet cuts off a particular branch in the food chain of those affected, then finds balance again. If there is an overabundance of roaches, more lizards will be drawn to the area to eat them up. Where there are more lizards, more eagles will fly above, and so on until there is a balance. Therefore, there will never be a point in time where the Earth is overpopulated with critters :P

That said, there is no “goal” for life, as @ragingloli has pointed out. It’s akin to asking, “What is the purpose of gravity keeping us down?”

It’s a process that happens for a purely scientific reason – not a philosophical one (unless you’re religious or spiritual, that is!). It does not happen for a “reason”, as it is not a conscious being with intelligent thought. It is a mechanical apparatus, almost.

Just my opinion, hope it helps.

astrocom's avatar

It’s not really a theory, actually, and this is what the problem with many people’s understanding of evolution is. It’s not really a theory, it’s a law that has been confirmed by all the facts we’ve uncovered as of yet, it doesn’t try to suggest why this happens, just how. Science doesn’t attempt to answer “why?” on a philosophical level, it tries to uncover and explain cause and effect, not the point of it all.

ragingloli's avatar

Now if you continue on that path you will come to the preliminary conclusion “let’s just end this pointless exercise.”
But then you have to ask the question: “Why should I die? Why should i deviate from the course life has taken?” Then you will realise that you will find no external goal in death just as you find no external goal in life, no external justification to pursue either outcome.
If you want a reason and justification, make one yourself. That is what every human has done in this planet’s history, conciously or not.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra & @ragingloli & @Grisaille So we’ve covered the animals. Then would you place humans in the same category as animals? We can always go existentialist (like ragingloli) has said (on that note, has anyone read The Outsider, by Albert Camus? It’s fascinating). And if we’re not religious/spiritual, I suppose we just have to take life as it is and not ponder about it.

@astrocom You’re right in that aspect, which is why we have philosophers, I guess. Now imagine the philosophical scientist. That’d be awesome.

@augustlan Thanks! I’m hoping that this’ll be a good forum to belong to.

Which lastly leads me onto…. @ragingloli Why am I here? Hentai and 9 year old girls are my type of thing now. It was you who led me here. =)

astrocom's avatar

@Saturated_Brain AHH noooo! Science and philosophy are separate! They should stay that way, it’s like…ahhh…nooo. You made my brain sad!

Grisaille's avatar

@Saturated_Brain Well, again. We’re reaching the point to where this stops becoming scientific and starts becoming philosophical. Philosophy’s job is to question life, in fact.

There are tons of different concepts out there that attempt to explain the human meaning of life, and… well. I generally leave that kinda stuff to the men and women much smarter than I.

Personally, I think it is in man’s best interest to pursue (scientific) knowledge, as that opens doors and answers the many riddles of life. I believe we (and all animals, for that matter) were born with a natural sense of curiosity, and is one of the only common traits we share. The further we delve into understanding what makes things work, or why particular things happen – the better off we’ll be, both physically and mentally.

In terms of why we exist in the first place, or what our existences mean… haha. Scientifically, we live to continue the species, to reach out in our environment and spread our influence, ensuring humankind lives on. Philosophically, I believe we exist to explain why we exist. As I said before, we are burdened with curiosity and I personally believe we exist to question ourselves, the world around us, our motives, the future… whatever.

In a sense, I believe mankind’s goal in life is to understand why he lives.

jackfright's avatar

its an old question and idea, one thats been asked time and time again. the general answer is, “no, not really.” the earth could disappear tomorrow, and it probably wouldnt mean much to the universe.

so go get a beer and have a ball :)

Grisaille's avatar

@jackfright That’s my new answer from now on. You’re the man.

**flying ass bump**

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

The continuation of species is flawed only if if you are thinking in terms of purpose. We all want to survive because those who do not die, leaving only those that want to survive. Therefore we can generalise and say that the vast majority of living organisms are geared towards survival, because those that are not are dead.

However, I think there is more to it. The goal of any organism is the minimisation of pain. We have evolved in such a way that pain indicates things that may threaten our survival, for the same reason that lepers die young. As pain is by definition an unpleasant sensation, we try to minimise the amount of pain we experience, which leads to improved survival. The includes physical and psychological (emotional) pain.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

@astrocom Well in that case I’m sorry for you mate, but get ready to have your mind blown to pieces. Enter Karl Popper. Mwahahaha…

@Grisaille Actually, that is a very intriguing and fascinating outlook on life.. (the one on mankind’s goal in life being to understand why he lives, not the one on getting a beer and having a ball)

@jackfright Hmm… Nah. No beer for me. I’d rather a mojito.

@FireMadeFlesh So you’re saying that the continuation of species is primarily the minimisation of pain? As opposed to the.. well.. continuation of a species’ own kind?

mattbrowne's avatar

The species we’re having right now work well with our current ecosystems. Humans depend on this. Reduced biodiversity can eventually kill hundreds of millions of people. If ecosystems change too fast adaptation becomes very difficult. This is the real danger to rapid climate change besides extreme weather.

dynamicduo's avatar

There is no goal. Creatures exist as a result of totally random successes stacked on each other, and billions of years of development. Creatures only exist because it just happened that they did. Every creature has the desire to stay alive and reproduce, they don’t know why (and only 1 species is able to actually think about why this is, and that is us), but they do. There is no point. Understanding this allows for greater thinking and reflection in your personal life.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Saturated_Brain No, I’m saying that species continue because those that don’t are selected against and do not reproduce. The comments on pain are simply the mechanism by which organisms avoid things that oppose continuation of the species.

gooch's avatar

Maybe it is just entertainment for God. I mean if he didn’t have us to watch just being alone would be boring. I think we are like the fish in a fish bowl to him.

CMaz's avatar

Evolution and extinction go hand in hand. Out with the old in with the new. The cycle of life.
What ever title you wish to put on it, is just a way for you to feel a part of something and to have (in your mind) purpose.

jackfright's avatar

@gooch that’s being a little generous dont you think? i always thought more like bacteria on a petri dish.

crisw's avatar

Evolution has no goals. A species, as an entity in and of itself, does not have goals. There indeed is no “point,” it indeed just is. The environment shapes the animals, and the animals shape the environment. Individual animals have reproduction as a “goal,” but sheer quantity of reproduction does not a successful species make- the important part, as far as evolution goes, is the survival to reproductive age of the offspring.

As for “would you place humans in the same category as animals?”- we are animals, The main difference is that we can ponder on our purpose and our future, while other animals cannot.

Mamradpivo's avatar

Each individual cell is trying to replicate itself. The process just becomes more complex when we’re dealing with millions of cells.

Critter38's avatar

It’s not “what is the point of life” rather than: The point is, you are alive.

Living in the first world (which I assume you do), you will potentially have 80 or so years of actually being capable of living, loving, eating, etc…and exploring this planet and getting to know some of your fellow travelers. I’ve said this somewhere else here but I think we are too prone to asking for more, rather than taking stock of what an amazing opportunity it is to 1) be alive…most matter isn’t, 2) be alive and capable of contemplating our existence, the vast majority of life-forms aren’t, and 3) being alive in a rich and technologicially advanced part of the world at a time when so many of our questions about existence can be answered (rather than just sepending every waking moment struggling to survive).

Your component parts will cease to function toegether as a contemplating entity eventually, make the most of it in the meantime by giving your life the meaning you seek.

LostInParadise's avatar

Are you familiar with the Gaia hypothesis put forth by James Lovelock, that says the Earth can be considered as one huge superorganism that regulates such things as temperature and gas emissions through the interaction of the organic and inorganic. Even if you do not buy into this view, there is benefit to considering ecosystems where the different niches occupied by organisms come together to support one another. For example, with just a few minor exceptions, all life depends on the ability of plants to use solar energy and all life depends equally on decomposers to recycle. Individual species come and go on a regular basis but life continues.

astrocom's avatar

@Saturated_Brain: Ohh, ohh, you meant a scientist who also considers philosophy, or someone who considers the philosophy of science, not someone who takes scientific data and tries to make philosophical conclusions from it. That’s far less brain-asploding.
and asplode is an onomatopoeia, not poor spelling.
Oh and the outlook from Grisaille is fantastic—philosophically—and pretty much awesome as far as the implication that our purpose is science. Because science is awesome.

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