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Profit and Loss in Evolution

Something just occurred to me about biological evolution.

Yes, I know, if it’s Saturday night and I’m thinking about evolution (instead of participating in it 🙂 ), then my life must be soooo boring. Not really, but read on because I think this is a good idea.

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog about how New York Times science reporter Olivia Judson wondered why evolution “keeps failing:”

How come organisms keep going extinct in nature? In other words, why does evolution keep failing?

I just now remembered something I read for an economics class. I’m sorry but I can’t remember where I read it. The book said that free enterprise is not a “profit” system, but is instead a “profit and loss” system. Ideally, businesses that serve consumer needs make profits. Businesses that don’t serve consumer needs, or do it inefficiently, suffer losses. The theory is that eventually, the process puts resources into the hands of people best able to use them for the social good. (For the moment, we’re ignoring monopolies and corporate corruption that pervert the system.)

That sounds a lot like the evolutionary process.  Organisms that are best able to survive and reproduce in an environment have lots of offspring and survive as species — they “make profits.” Organisms that are less well adapted suffer losses and die off.

So if some species become extinct, that doesn’t mean evolution has failed. It means that evolution is working just as it’s supposed to work.

Problem solved. Hey, I wonder if The New York Times wants to hire me when I graduate? 🙂


Copyright 2009 by Rinth de Shadley.

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