What is life a struggle or a joy

health : Theory of Evolution: The bitter struggle for existence or the joy of living

It's the news that makes the headlines. "Gay gene found", "Aggression genetically anchored" and "Gene for alcoholism finally localized". For almost every aspect of our human existence, genes seem to be at hand: Our genes are supposed to be responsible for health and illness, for intelligence and even for the compulsive consumption. And this belief feeds hope: at some point we will be able to manipulate all these properties. Where the social sciences and politics now fail, genetic and pharmacological technologies will solve the social problems of our time. Are they really going to be?

"Darwin's Dangerous Heirs"

The English biology professor Steven Rose is skeptical. Innate and acquired things determine us equally, he writes in his book "Darwin's Dangerous Heirs - Biology Beyond Selfish Genes". Complex phenomena such as sexuality, violence or intelligence could not be explained by the presence of genes alone. Anyone who tries anyway is playing a dangerous game.

If social responsibility were shifted from politics to biology and the responsibility of genes, then financial resources would quickly be redirected. "And it becomes more worthwhile to look for the roots of violent behavior in babies and toddlers than to ban firearms in society."

The fact that so many believe in the power of genes today is the result of extremely one-sided reductionist research. Rose is thus against a widespread understanding of science. When researchers want to solve a complex problem, they usually break it down into smaller chunks that are easier to study and understand. Once you have understood how a detail works, try to use it to draw conclusions about the whole. Anyone who gains knowledge in this way is working reductionistically and, according to popular opinion, correctly.

But biological questions cannot be answered in the same way as physical questions, explains Rose. Ecosystems functioned according to different laws than cells. Biological processes are complex and intertwined. Organisms constantly evolved and changed themselves and their environment. Living beings are more than "clumsy robots composed of organs, tissues and chemicals, created and governed by the instructions of a master molecule whose aim is to replicate itself".

Rose chooses the example of a frog that sees a snake and hops away. A physiologist explains the behavior by the fact that the frog's muscles contract, while a behavioral scientist says: The frog hopped because it wanted to flee. Evolutionary and molecular biologists have different explanations, and each is correct in its specific context.

Step by step, Rose analyzes the flawed line of argument that has led to the assumption that sexuality, violence and intelligence are primarily determined by our genes. He explains how behaviors are torn out of their context and arbitrarily grouped under one umbrella term. Rose describes how science is practiced today and explains the epistemological foundations with which observations are interpreted. His book is a conclusive plea for a holistic and integrative biology. A science that allows complexity and makes use of various methods to explore the diversity of nature.

"How the whale got to the fin"

Charles Darwin had tormented himself. 17 years had passed since his trip around the world. 17 grueling years researching every clue as to the origin of species and developing his heretical theory. His health was shattered from fear of social reaction. And Darwin was only able to complete the corrections to "On the Origin of Species through Natural Selection" in 1859 when he was vomiting. Driven by an "insanely strong desire to finish my damn book". The "damn book" became a bestseller.

Anyone who writes about evolution today is on the safe side. Terms like "natural selection" and "struggle for existence" are part of everyday language. And because that is so, the English geneticist Steve Jones did not even try to make Darwin's Victorian seriousness in his attempt to bring Darwin's work up to date. He does not want to convince like Darwin, but only to supplement the arguments that were missing at the time.

With "How the Whale Came to Fins" Jones seeks to bring modern evolutionary biology closer to the layman "in all its depth and tremendous diversity". Although Jones stuck to Darwin's chapter headings in his structure, he designed the content completely freely and meandered in a conversational tone through the world of modern science. Even the introduction reads like a crime story. Jones topic: the immune deficiency disease AIDS.

"Even for those who oppose evolution, AIDS is proof of descent with variation, because you can watch it happen," writes Jones. As if in a circumstantial process, he combines the findings of the last decades about the disease into a complex picture. The reader learns where the first viruses were found, how scientists were able to reconstruct the path of the pathogen based on changes in the nucleic acids and why the AIDS virus can adapt so quickly to the prevailing sexual practices of people. The brief history of the human immunodeficiency virus contains all of the reasoning behind the origins of species.

But anyone looking for a clear and conclusive introduction to the theory of evolution from Jones will not find it. Jones lets himself be carried away by his anecdotes and constructs daring transitions. This is how the chapter "Struggle for existence" begins on Ellis Island, a transit station for immigrants in America, reaches general problems of new settlers via the Vikings, outlines Thomas Malthus' population law to switch to the coffee price and end with cod.

Nevertheless, the book presents a pleasant overview of the modern state of knowledge about the origin of species. It deals with the arguments of the opponents as well as with the abuse of Darwinian theory. Anyone who has become curious about the "real" Darwin after reading the first 13 chapters will be rewarded at the end. Jones closes with Darwin's original chapter - soberly titled in Victorian: "General repetition and conclusion".

"The Darwin Plot"

The journalist Reinhard Eichelblick, on the other hand, has set out to refute Darwinism and finally to uncover a 150-year-old scandal. Darwinism is "essentially a large-scale dumbing down campaign", he diagnoses in the introductory pamphlet to his book "The Darwin Conspiracy". The Darwinist model of thought is based on false assumptions. The theory of evolution is a creation myth, which is characterized by an unscientific use of language. Darwinists would deliberately defame opponents, Darwinism as a scientific paradigm blocks the further development of humanity. Instead of upholding "the coarse and clumsy, militaristic and unecological principles of the age of the steam engine" and giving priority to "fight, war, adaptation, selection and chance", Eichelblick calls for a new model of thought: with principles such as cooperation, communication, design, Order and intelligence.

In his book, written quickly and easily, Eichelblick claims a lot, proves little and misleads his readers with scientifically false analogies. It is true that none of the many arguments against Darwinism are missing in his evidence. But instead of clearly separating where scientific findings exist and where open questions exist, he generalizes, gets bogged down in pseudoscientific comparisons and polemics.

Eichelblick's simple arguments are seductive at first glance. "Nobody will assume that the airplane was created by chance because the designer made mistakes often enough when signing a car blueprint, which accidentally and unnoticed accumulated until the car was suddenly able to rise into the air as an airplane. " So nothing new in nature could have arisen solely through accidental changes in the genes.

However, no Darwinist claims this either. Evolution always means the coexistence of various factors. It is assumed that the development of the insect wing did not simply accumulate random mutations. Some changes soon disappeared because they affected the animals so badly that they could no longer reproduce. Other changes, such as tiny protrusions, helped the animals to absorb the heat of the sun and to heat themselves up. This gave the wrinkle carriers a survival advantage. Small folds of skin turned into medium and large ones, until at some point wings emerged, which in turn had other advantages.

Eichelblick wants to expose Darwinism as a mythical worldview in order to contrast it with another. His book is a personal creed in an organizing intelligence, whose work he believes he discovered in the "art forms of nature", in the proportions of the golden section and in the morphogenetic fields of the English biologist Rupert Sheldrakes.

"Every thing and being - whatever its role in evolution, which is a manifestation of God - is an aspect, an expression of God. And so, as a part of God, we are also a part of evolution. But not a passive one , but an active part. Together with the other living beings we shape evolution, and that means first and foremost: the face of this planet. "

Eichelblick wants a world in which "it is a pleasure to live - and not a hardship or a plague or a struggle for existence in the Darwinian sense". The only question is whether the author, in order to formulate this wish, must immediately accuse the whole of Darwinism of being unscientific.

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