Why procreate? Why survive?

Modern science tells us that life evolves. It evolves through a series of mishaps. Those mishaps if positive, will stick around. Positive being anything that helps a life form survive and procreate. Science also tells us to sexual procreation is better than asexual procreation because it promotes genetic diversity. Diversity helps bring about new positive mishaps and weed out weaknesses.

But why does life procreate to begin with? Where does this mandate for procreation come from? If the universe just happens upon life, presumably often, then why does it not just die and let the universe happen upon life again? A constant cycle of new life fresh from the source. Why does it seem to have a mandate to continue to become more and more complex?

We already know that many many species have died off. But what is this mandate to survive and continue itself through procreation?

Are we to assume that the universe is predisposed to the life? Are we to assume that just as the speed of light is a constant, so is the predisposition of life to survive and procreate? To what end?

Where are these laws coming from? These predispositions. These mandates?

Perhaps they have always existed. OK. If that’s the case that’s fine. But why is the universe wired to work one way rather than another way?

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0 thoughts on “Why procreate? Why survive?

  1. I suppose if the opposite were true, the universe would contract and cease to be, and then how do we get back? I mean, perhaps the reason for life to be compelled to continue through procreation is the same reason the universe is expanding, maybe they are all connected. I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’m just spit balling here.

  2. Hi – I came over here via SND’s rec.  I like big questions, too.  :)   There’s something really interesting that happens when you send time studying natural selection and to me it’s akin to an aspect of prayer.  In that you pass beyond this need for causation.  Why hurricanes, why suffering, why drought, why thirst?  These are questions with a thousand answers and none.  At some point in prayer, there is a surrender into God – not necessarily an acceptance or apathy, but like Julian of Norwich’s “all will be well.”  It’s not like a eureka moment in which suddenly all pain makes sense – rather the opposite, I think.  (It is spiritual immaturity that makes people gesture wildly at hurricanes and say “See, God is destroying all the sinners.”  That is a desire to control God.)

    Similarly, if you will grant me the analogy, as you study natural selection you reach a point at which you accept that the causation questions are inherently circular and unanswerable.  Why does life procreate to begin with?  Because it works.  That’s all there needs to be to it.  We are free to feel God’s power in that, but the beauty is that it doesn’t require any supernatural forces.  It’s awesome in its simplicity.  Rather than imagining God tweaking the parts or driving the process towards some end or from some beginning, we have a system that doesn’t require it – and so is utterly free.  You don’t have to believe in God or adore God, but you are utterly free to – and *that* is the most powerful thing imaginable – that is real love, not love constrained.
    I don’t know if what I said about the “mandate” makes sense to you, so feel free to ask and I can try to clarify.  But the point is merely that when all transient things that fail to reproduce don’t, then they cease to be.  What you have is the remainder, which does reproduce.  It’s like cancer, as a gruesome example.  Why did one cell begin dividing without restraint?  We can perhaps look for circumstances that contributed to it doing so, but to imagine a mandate or desire in that cell to take over the body is unnecessary.  It simply does divide unchecked.  And its ability to do so gives it an “advantage” over the other cells which don’t.  That’s kind of a bummer example and I hate to end on that note but I’ve talked a long time here. 
    Peace and all good! 

  3. @gayXianmom – That’s an interesting take I haven’t heard before. You are basically saying, if I understand correctly. That the universe is self-sufficient and does the things it does simply because it does. But at the same time there is a God who exists.

    I think at this point most atheists would be asking, what is the purpose of God if not to have set laws for the universe? 
    You are right in that the question itself may be invalid. To ask what causes the logic negates the fact that the logic just is. Procreation is just as valid as carbon. Process exists just as matter exists. it is not necessarily defined any more than hydrogen is. it is just part of the universe. 
    Which leads me to thought, imagination, emotion, logic itself. These are believed by science to have come about in order to help ensure survival and procreation. They are carried physically by electrical pulses in the brain of a creature. The size of the brain seems to determine the complexity of thought. Yet even in life that does not seem to have a brain, enough thought exists to cause it to procreate or perform at least some function of movement. Such as in cells that divide. 
    Thought itself is an element in the universe. A purely intangible element. Though physically carried by electrical pulses, it is not the electricity itself. It is the order created from the raw element of electricity. Just as the order of other physical elements create physical things, so to is thought created by physical things. 
    Maybe I’m on the wrong track. I’m missing something. Just not sure what.     

  4. Though it’s a good question to ponder, I like Richard Dawkins’ response to mystery: that when we encounter something we don’t yet understand, we roll up our sleeves and get to work figuring it out. Life began with the first replicating cell, which itself was a “mistake.” Those replications became more and more complex, leading to further and deeper layers and levels of complexity. Thought is an expression of that increasing complexity, wherein “basic” language gave way to syntax. All that was required was a brain capable of handling that sort of neural traffic, though I don’t think we should consider ourselves particularly special for having acquired intellect and creativity. We’re the Third Chimpanzee, better at using tools than our ancestors.

    Our genes are programmed with that “mistake,” to make copies of themselves, like the base code of a computing language, and we’re programmed to obey that directive, whether in copulation, feeding our young, or killing off competitors. “By dictating the way [bodies] and their nervous systems are built, genes exert ultimate power over behaviour. But the moment-to-moment decisions about what to do next are taken by the nervous system. Genes are the policy-makers; brains are the executives.” I love how The Selfish Gene described it, where reproduction is our genes’ method of creating new “survival machines” or “ships” to continue their journey on in.

    I enjoyed how gayXianmom put it: that if we didn’t reproduce, life wouldn’t work; and evolution is the business of biological life finding means that are successful and weeding out things that aren’t. If it didn’t work, you wouldn’t be asking that question. As Dawkins writes in The Selfish Gene, “Genes are not destroyed by crossing-over, they merely change partners and march on. That is their business. They are the replicators and we are their survival machines. When we have served our purpose we are cast aside. But genes are the denizens of geological time: genes are forever.”

    But to ask “why?” is to look backwards and interpret patterns where there probably weren’t patterns to begin with. It’s not a bad question, but it happened the way it happened; and had it happened any other way, we would be asking different questions.

  5. @roxics –  I like where you went with that.  Thought, ideas, emotions get explored (sleeves rolled up, as @vocalcomposer says :) ) and various modes.  People have worked the philosophical angle for a long time, and only recently, in human history, the physical and anthropological aspects of such things.  I heard an interesting report once that studies language development and loss as it relates to growth and brain injury.  There seem to be some concepts that until we have words for them, we can’t imagine them well.  There is certainly mounting evidence that thought has a neurological basis.  – But I also think these various approaches are all different ways of blind men describing the elephant.  None is complete, each gives its own wisdom and has its own tools.  We tend to lack good synthesis of the various approaches, which is why big idea books like The Selfish Gene can be useful and popular – the reading public needs interpretations – we all need people to step back and say, “OK where’s the big picture, if this and this and this are true?” 

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