Tuesday, November 28, 2017

November 28: Charles Darwin, Natural Selection, a Little Selfish

On Tralfamadore, says Billy Pilgrim, there isn't much interest in Jesus Christ.  The Earthling figure who is most engaging to the Tralfamadorian mind, he says, is Charles Darwin--who taught that those who die are meant to die, that corpses are improvements.  So it goes. 

I am not sure that I'm prepared to accept this somewhat fatalistic little passage.  Certainly, Vonnegut's summation of Charles Darwin's theories are spot on.  However, the idea that corpses are improvements stops me cold.  I can't get on board that train.

What Vonnegut is talking about is the theory of natural selection.  In the wilds of the world, this idea holds some merit.  Weaker species die out.  Stronger species survive.  But I can't agree that Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King are better off dead than alive.  That, somehow, their corpses were part of the whole process of human evolution.  Those deaths weren't the results of survival of the fittest.  Those deaths were the results of racism and cowardice, with a smidge of hate-mongering thrown in for flavor.

Of course, I'm being a little selfish.  I have had Type 1 diabetes since I was thirteen.  If I were to go along with Vonnegut's line of thought, then that would mean that my disease is nature's way of weeding me out of existence.  That I'm better off a corpse because I'm weaker, sicker than the rest of the human race.  See why I have a problem with that?

It would also mean that the Holocaust was Darwinian, as well.  And the Rwandan genocide.  And slavery in the United States.  The Trump presidency.  All part of the natural way of the world.  The strong overpowering the weak.

So, while I believe in Charles Darwin's work, I can't push it as far as Kurt Vonnegut does here.  Just because someone can obtain a semiautomatic rifle (or several of them) and kill a whole lot of people does NOT make that someone a superior specimen.  An improvement.

So it goes in Saint Marty's universe.

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