Russian philosophical genius Alexander Zinoviev posited that World War II and the Cold War which followed it were "evolutionary wars." The USSR was a line of evolution alternative to the Western line, which they tried to close with an all-out effort. What are we fighting for in the deepening conflict with the West today? For a secure place on the Western path of evolution, which is in fact the only path today? In other words, do we want to follow the same path, only on our own, without their intrusive advice and intentions to "help" us in developing our riches? Or is the evolutionary gate not completely closed yet and do we have something to uphold other than our own territory and resources? What would this line be and do we need to engage in all these experiments one more time? Is it perhaps time to calm down and walk further in the same direction as everybody else, only not under joint command but on our own? Or should we finally get rid of these excessive ambitions and move in line with everybody else?
In my comments, I would like to address this array of questions. The first thing that needs to be examined is the state of affairs along the Western line itself: what fate we are supposed to share with them. I will stick to the view that the Western world today is on a descending historical trend. The actual historical process represents the intertwining of a plethora of evolutionary lines. Over recent centuries, we have observed in the West colossal and unprecedented progress in various fields. At the same time, and in parallel with it, the process of the degeneration of Western European civilization has been gathering momentum. The line of degeneration today has acquired such dynamics and power that it has largely begun to shape the situation in countries that are not involved in this evolutionary process, that is, around the world. This is not only about gays, low birth rates, the pervasiveness of immigrants, and so on. The process of degeneration has affected virtually all spheres of life and activity in Western countries, as it has in Russia — to the extent to which we are part of their world. To show this, I will need to introduce the notion of degeneration, which I will do in the first two columns.
There is only one life
Although our interest lies in the essence of degeneration in social (human) systems, I will begin the discussion of this issue in a somewhat strange way: with the animal kingdom. It is not only that this will make it easier to elucidate the essence of degeneration, but also that as we move along, we will need to debunk a number of common misconceptions about the biological determinants of humankind itself.
We usually perceive a degenerate as some weak, deficient creature, unable to stand up for himself. In reality, a degenerate can be very strong and aggressive. He can be any way. It is impossible to identify degeneration by considering an individual species. Degeneration can be identified only by comparing the characteristics of an individual species against the functional characteristics required in a process that is crucial for a population, genus, and even biosphere as a whole: reproduction. What an animal should be like is predetermined by the "interests" of the survival of the species of a higher order, all the way up to Life on Earth as a whole. Degeneration is a deviation from these optimal functional characteristics, predetermined — to reiterate — not by the survival of a species, but the reproduction of super-species or even mega-species, such as the biosphere.
It would be correct to say that in reality there are not many lives: there is only one life on Earth. An animal is an element within this grand scheme. It is not an autonomous creature, and its functional characteristics can be understood only by considering it "from above," through the reproduction of a population, genus and biosphere.
If biologists could trace the development/expansion of one single mega-program and the development of one "macro-organism" in the evolution of the biosphere, incidentally, that would resolve many problems of the theory of evolution as we know it today. In particular, paleontologists have not found many intermediate forms between species that are interconnected by origin. It turns out that plants and animals make evolutionary leaps, with new species evolving without any intermediate forms. This constantly happens with cells in an organism. After it receives a particular signal, a cell abruptly reorganizes the work of its genetic apparatus, and the next division produces cells with substantially different qualities. As a result of several such divisions, an organism will receive the cells that it needs at any given moment. Possibly, the same happens with biological species: contrary to Darwin, their changes are not accidental. A species transforms or produces a new subspecies strictly in compliance with the law: in the "interest" of the biosphere as a whole.
Testing, not competing
This is an important point that biologists still do not completely understand. They remain within the confines of perceptions about "the struggle for survival" and "intraspecific and interspecific competition," whereby individual species and types of species are in a constant and relentless struggle for life, as determined by "natural selection." I would suggest that there is very little struggle and competition in the animal kingdom. Quite the opposite, everything is organized in order to minimize this.
Animals in a pack measure force and agility not to destroy each other, but to acquire an appropriate status. Ranking prevents struggle. When it acquires a higher rank, an animal obtains privileged access to food and mating. In other words, this is not struggle and competition, but testing and ranking, a mechanism of identifying animals whose survival should be a priority for a species and the biosphere, and whose functional characteristics should be reproduced in the next generation.
The most essential point here is that the transmission process involves species best able to meet the "needs" of entities of a higher order. Rank corresponds to the conspicuity of specific functional characteristics. Hares live not to run away from wolves, as in the popular cartoon series, but to feed them. Their speed should be such that wolves can periodically catch up with them, even if with some effort. Likewise, packs of wolves do not compete with each other. They mark their territory and do not cross paths. Nor do I think there is domination in the animal kingdom, if domination is understood as subjugation with the aim of securing personal advantages. The leader of a wolf pack does not seek to suppress and subjugate other wolves to have a better piece of food. Its function is to take care of the pack, see to it that everyone behaves in accordance with their rank, and drive away from the pack degenerates, above all, especially aggressive ones that disrupt the mechanism of healthy reproduction. The leader sees to it that puppies are the first to eat and that they have enough food.
Here is another example showing that the behavior of an animal unit is aimed at self-preservation only as long as it is in the interest a species. An alpha male deer that loses a test tournament dies of a heart attack. However, if the loser is only making a bid for a higher rank, a special hormonal program is immediately triggered, promptly restoring the animal's emotional state. From the point of view of species reproduction, the defeated alpha male has outlived its usefulness. It has already served its purpose, leaving offspring, and now it has to disappear. As for the young contender, it should have a chance for more attempts. Self-preservation of a specimen is a mechanism for the reproduction of a species and the biosphere.
Any dodging of the reproduction of a viable whole is the essence of degeneration. To us, a lot in living nature looks like competition, struggle and domination, i.e. processes opposite to the preservation of the whole. However, this is only a semblance, the outward form of mechanisms the essence of which is quite different. Struggle, competition and domination are, in effect, manifestations of degeneration.
Reproduction of the biosphere is based on other mechanisms: strict compliance of an individual's behavior with the needs of the reproduction of species of a higher order, functional conformity of species, the harmony of relations between species, balanced food chains, etc.
Darwin as an ideologue
If biologists could change the logic of analysis, starting it from "the top," with the biosphere reproduction process, then the picture of biological evolution would be substantially different from that of Charles Darwin. Darwin was wrong in the main point: the existence of species as separate entities. They do not exist in such a capacity. I believe that the modern picture of the evolution of living nature resulted from the incorrect projection of perceptions about the life of human communities under capitalism onto biology. Then, conversely, these perceptions, purportedly obtained in the course of natural studies, are beginning to be used to justify human egoism and cruelty. The priority of personal interests, the striving for domination, competitiveness in relation to other people, the desire to improve one's own situation and worsen the situation of another, are purportedly ingrained in human nature and are insurmountable biological determinants. All of this is a lie. In nature, such forms of behavior are degenerate and punished by exclusion from genetic material transmission processes. The popularity and viability of Darwin's theory of evolution is largely due to the fact that it provides an ideological justification of the modern Western world order and blurs its degeneration.
In the next column, we will discuss the specifics of degeneration in human communities.
Iskander Valitov, methodologist, member of Rossiya Segodnya's Zinoviev Club