Tuesday, September 11, 2012

K-selection dominates history, First Law of Thermodynamics claims

Triumph of the K-selected ?
Nothing buttressed Victorian England's famous optimism and self-confidence more than that the fact that they understood the First Law of Thermodynamics far too well (and didn't understand or accept the Second Law of Thermodynamics at all !)

That First Law implies just one thing : that Reality is, on the whole and in the long term, simple, predictable and stable.

In other words, Reality is generally at or approaching Equilibrium.

In such conditions it seemed only natural that "the K-selected of all the K-selected", Man, would totally dominate "the niche of all niches",the Universe, a niche so vast that growth and expansion of man's domain was effectively infinite.

The K or the r : who has dominated history ?

Victorians didn't use the term "K-selected" but they knew, used and believed in the concept.

Bigger is better, might is right, law of the jungle, God is on the side of the bigger battalions.

 Never ending -ever upward - progress of ever bigger and more complex beings.

Bigger cities, bigger empires, bigger companies, bigger profits : ever onward and upwards : a tumour with "room to grow" (as if cancer chose to mate with Ontario premier Bill Davis).

But some Victorians - more sentimentalists than social darwinians, chose (consciously or unconsciously) to focus on the more fundamental of the two laws of thermodynamics : the Second Law.

And it portrayed a Universe of constant, but uncertain, change : progress yes, but downwards.

A niche that steadily was getting smaller over time, with beings constantly forced to adjust to less and less incoming "useful" resources of matter and energy.

Who was right ?

Have K-selected giants dominated the world's history of life over the last 4 billion years ?

Or have tiny nimble r-selected survivors successfully endured whatever reality has thrown at them , for the last 4 billion years ?

Dinosaurs or bacteria : who has been around the longest, dominated more habitats, had more individual unique members, had the greater biomass .

The K or the r ?

Put it like that to the libertarian think tanks of Washington and even they, they of the intellect a mile wide and an inch deep, even they squirm in embarrassed silence ....

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