We Are All Battle Mechs for Genes

I’m reading a fantastic book called The Evolution of Everything, and it’s moving the ground beneath my feet.

It’s about, well, the evolution of everything. But it starts with a phenomenal introduction into the evolution of life. What it reminded me of were the concepts from Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene and The Red Queen, which I’ve read before. Most notably, the concept that genes are the core entity in life, not people.

Think about that for a second.

We imagine that humans are competing for things. Mates, resources, etc. And that we do this so that we can survive.

That’s a somewhat bleak and negative way of seeing the world for some, and many never come to see our reality through that lens.

But what’s even more interesting (and even more abstract from everyday existence) is that we’re not the ones directly competing. It’s our genes that are competing, and they’ve constructed us as their means of doing combat.

Now, as the book points out, it’s not as if there’s some battle plan, where they decide to build humans and then set out to do so. It doesn’t work that way. It happens naturally, automatically, organically, as the result of mutation and selection.

But the result is the same; we are here because our genes are fighting for supremacy. Survival and reproduction are the only games in town, and we’re playing the part of the battle mech.

Not the driver of the mech. The mech itself. Someone else is driving.

Actually, that’s the stranger part—the genes aren’t driving either. Evolution is driving, in the form of a set of rules. A set of code that tells the genes how to compete, and then the environment shapes that behavior.

So evolution’s rules are there, which are driving the behavior of the genes, and we are the natural outcome of that gene vs. gene combat for supremacy.

In a separate piece I’m going to write more about how this doesn’t necessarily invalidate meaning that emerges from this reality. Alas, an airplane wing is still an airplane wing, even if it’s nothing but quarks bouncing or strings vibrating.

But I find it fascinating to think about “reality” at these various levels and perspectives.


  1. Thanks to Tim Tyler for the book recommendation. You continue to lead me to great things in life.

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