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Optimization • Posted: Dec 02, 2012 18:15:16Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

Despite all the constraints we are under, we each have a fair degree of choice. Choice is our adaptive advantage.

True, some brains lack facility for imaginative modeling of future events to the degree most of us enjoy. Perhaps by injury, disease, idiocy, or developmental affliction such brains do not fully understand that specific actions have specific consequence and that those consequences will have further consequences, not only for one's self but for others.

The moral question for most of us revolves around the issue of responsibility. Should any of us be held responsible for consequences we did not fully understand or appreciate? Our legal systems dizzyingly busy themselves with endless considerations of who is responsible for what and to what extent. Nature, on the other hand, does not trouble itself with issues of innocence, ignorance, grace, forgiveness, or privilege. Instead, it unrelentingly grinds out the law, the laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. No matter how cute and innocent the baby bunny, a falling rock will crush it or a hungry hawk will rip it to shreds.

So, if nature doesn't expect us to care about consequence, why should we?

Perceiving, understanding, preparing for, and controlling consequence has adaptive advantage. That's why. We live longer, healthier, and more fully. We procreate more successfully. We enjoy more pleasure and satisfaction. And we are more likely to experience abundance enough to share with others.

But, people do not all have the same knowledge and facility for using it. What of those differences? Is it best to let nature take its course, to let the sick die, to let the stupid fail, to blame the ignorant for their ignorance and the poor for their poverty, and to acquiesce to violence and exploitation as the most appropriate responses to frustration and want?

Those are tough questions. They have been with us for quite a while. If there is a best answer, it surely lies ahead of us within the fog of unrecognized, unappreciated consequence. If there is a best answer, it will undoubtedly be a choice. Unfortunately, not a clear and easy choice, but a choice between things not so easy to accept or to deal with. And try as we might to optimize the good over the less good, the wise over the less wise, the thrilling over the less thrilling, we will no doubt at some point feel little more than that humble bunny about to be crushed by a rock or ripped apart by a hawk. The fog of ignorance will, in some manner, always be there on our horizons. And nature will unrelentingly grind out its unmoderated justice.

May you eventually and habitually find some way to wisely account for that not so comforting truth.

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008