Evolution as a Parasite

There are parasites that take over the minds of animals. Once occupied by the parasite, the animal behaves in a way that helps the parasite, not the animal.

There’s the wasp that injects a spider with a chemical that forces it to make a giant web and sit paralyzed in it—to be eaten by the wasp. There’s the one that wants to live inside of cats, so it tricks rats into finding cat pee sexually attractive so it’ll be eaten by one. Or the barnacle that occupies male crabs and makes them act like females and take care of their barnacle eggs.

Most don’t realize nature does this type of thing, and even those who do are happy to remind themselves that no such parasite exists for humans. But I think they’re wrong.

I see evolution as that parasite.

The key attribute of this type of parasite, and the thing that makes it so disturbing, is that it changes what the host wants. The parasite alters its hosts’ desires that its desires and the hosts desires are identical. And the host has no idea it’s happening.

Yet this is precisely the spell that evolution has cast upon all of us.

We want what it wants. We want to be attractive. We want to be powerful. We want to spread our genes and our ideas.

And we want these things because–and only because–they are good for evolution.

Stated differently, human goals and the goals of evolution are indistinguishable from each other. They are identical.

And yet–just like the rat trying to do whatever–humans are oblivious. Even worse than oblivious, actually. The illusion is so strong that if you ask 995 of humans why they want the things they want, they’ll respond that it’s because they want to. They’ll claim, in other words, that it’s purely coincidence that their desires and the desires of evolution happen to match up. They’re the ones in control, in other words.

That’s a brilliant parasite.

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One can imagine visiting alien scientists studying us, and shaking their heads in pitty.


But this raises a fascinating question:

In other words, if we didn’t get our desires from somewhere else, how would we make our own? Wouldn’t it seem strange to program your own…programming?

To make your own food and sexual preferences. Your own goals and aspirations. Not capturing what they are, mind you–we can do that already–but actually hardcoding in what you will be compelled to desire and pursue.

It’d be like infecting yourself with a parasite that you control. Or at least one that you controlled at some point in time.

But even that would have limitations. What would shape the values that you programmed into yourself? Well, other programming of course. And so on.

So now that you know that you and every other life form on earth have had your desires and goals hijacked by a parasite called Evolution, how will you behave differently?

And is that even possible?

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