Nobody Wants to Evolve

Nobody Wants to Evolve

In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins says:

... although evolution may seem, in some vague sense, a 'good thing', especially since we are the product of it, nothing actually 'wants' to evolve. Evolution happens willy-nilly, in spite of all efforts ... to prevent it.

This took me by surprise. I've always thought of evolution as a good thing, part of the process of improvement, something desirable. I assumed that everything wanted to evolve because everything wanted to improve.

Dawkins attributes the reluctance to evolve to the desire for stability. He explains that the universe is populated by stable things and that survival of the fittest is more accurately survival of the stable. Everything seeks a sense of stability.

Despite the fact that evolution leads to increased stability over the long-term, nothing wants to evolve because it means sacrificing stability in the short-term.

Human behaviour is much the same. We all want to grow, but we don't want to experience the short-term pain that comes with it. We crave comfort and certainty and stability.

We know that growth is good, but knowing isn't enough. We've been primed over billions of years to seek comfort and stability. To actually grow, you need to seek out and push through the discomfort that comes with it.

Comfort is a signal of stagnation – run away from it.

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