13 Dec 2012


During a recent trip, I read The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. In one chapter, I was reminded of a principle of evolution that was commonly overlooked.

To many people, evolution is a process of survival of the fittest. Intuitively, this means selecting the best organisms. The species would only become stronger and stronger through natural selection. However, Deutsch pointed out that a successful animal does not necessarily fit best with the environment. Instead, the only aim is to win the better chance of reproduction, even if it means sacrifice.

He illustrated the point with an example. Say in a particular island, April is the best month for birds to build nests because of the climate and food availability. Now, although the majority of birds build their nests in April, some birds begin their work in March. The condition is not optimal in March, but the birds soon find that they can choose the best spots in March and can more easily find a mate. After a few generations, birds that build nests in March will be selected. The selection will continue to push the time of nest building forward until the disadvantage of working in cold weather balances out the benefit of having a head start. At this point, the species no longer fit best with the condition of the island, but they are nevertheless selected.

With this, I cannot help thinking how local toddlers are brought to attend seven extracurricular activities in a week.

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