National Commentary

Can ‘Species Love’ See This Through?

These are times of biblical proportions. Surviving humanity will forever tell the stories of this sudden and overwhelming challenge to our existence on this planet represented by the coronavirus pandemic. This has happened like being blindsided by a direct hit from some giant asteroid.

We will see what kind of behaviors and what kind of sensibilities work for our survival, and what kinds fail. Generally, compassion, empathy, love and human solidarity drive one approach and greed, selfishness, cruelty and oppression drive others. In this dramatic time, which do you think can see us through, and which not? I know what I think.

It is a foreboding thought to realize there is nowhere to hide on this planet to avoid exposure to this virus. Ironically, it is like global warming in that regard, and if nothing else, if we make it through this, it may serve as a potent lesson about that.

If you survive this, dear reader, remember the challenges this is going to present in the coming weeks and months, and apply that seriously to fixing the global warming crisis if the chance still exists.

To some, it may be comforting, relatively speaking, to look up preferably from a rural area where you can see more of what’s there. Up there are what NASA has recently estimated are no less than eight billion earth-sized planets spinning in “Goldilocks” (not too hot, not too cold) zones of planetary systems in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and there are billions of galaxies out there.

By one (linear) measure, whatever levels of the development of intelligent life are certainly out there, and we can only imagine what the more advanced ones may be like, they’re all so far away that we’ll never be able to know about them.

On the other hand, there’s this mysterious scientific reality of what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance,” of “entangled photons that can transfer states between them spontaneously despite great distances, taking place at a speed of at least 10,000 times the speed of light, possibly even instantaneously, regardless of distance.”

It suggests a universe as a self-contained whole, subject to universal laws in principle knowable by science, whose cutting edge, so to speak, is the creative potential as we see it manifested in our very own human minds.

The current sudden challenge to life on this planet (the current pandemic contains within it the inherent potential to kill off our species) highlights the very real central components to the culture that our intelligence has created for us at this point that will or won’t contribute to our very survival.

Entomologist E. O. Wilson’s scientific work identified the “advantages of generosity” versus the “benefits of selfishness” in the success of species observed in nature, and found that the former trumps the latter when it comes to the ability of groups to “thrive and replicate.” As author Jonah Lehrer reported in a 2012 New Yorker article, Wilson noted “group selection” over the Darwinist notion of “survival of the fittest (individual).” He studied cases of “cooperating microbes, plants and even female lions as clumps of cooperators who thrive and replicate, while selfish groups wither and die.” He observed that “selfishness beats altruism within groups, but altruistic groups beat selfish groups.”

Success of species, he found, was related to the ascendancy of what he called “species love” over self-love.

Interestingly, this is exactly what is being advanced by the health care professionals in this crisis in something as simple as the notion of “social distancing.” Properly understood, it is being utilized not so much to protect the acting individual from becoming infected, as it is to protect others this acting individual may come into contact with. Indeed, it is acts of “species love” that are being called for in this current situation.

Notably, it is the leaders of science and public health that are spearheading the social offensive against this virus, who are also those who are also working to find effective treatments and vaccines, combining with compassionate and people-oriented political leaders who’ve pushed from the bottom up to force the issue of effective relief actions beginning to come forth.