This was sent to me anonymously in response to my last post. I think it's excellent, so I decided to post it. I know most of you aren't particularly interested in these little philosophical debates...but I like them, and hey, it's my blog! haha!
"They say we only use ten percent of our brains. I think we only use ten percent of our hearts."
-- Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers
I'll take your E. M. Forster and raise you one...
I'm no evolutionary biologist, but I think you have reversed the biological priorities in your post. An individual's primary purpose is to perpetuate the species. Early on, this takes the form of advancing one's own reproductive potential. So eventually you have kids. Then, having fulfilled your reproductive purpose you live out the rest of your life in service to those who still have to fulfill their reproductive potential. That is how your priority of perpetuating the species stays consistent, though your role may change. Maybe over time, then, we evolve from selfish individuals to those who are more altruistic, at least in the reproductive sense.
Except that it doesn't quite work that way. For starters, even after you have kids, you still have reproductive potential. So what do you do? Do you live in service to your kids and their potential, or do you continue your quest to preserve your own? And even if your reproductive ability suddenly disappeared, we're still human and we've gotten attached to the initial, selfish quest and it's hard to let go of it and just be in service to others.
The reality is, I think, that we try to do both. We try to live for our kids and ourselves at the same time. Because we can do both, we want to do both, and because no one is forcing us to make an absolute choice.
So, what do the game-theoretic, evolutionary biologists have to say to this? Something about maximizing net societal reproductive capacity? I don't know and, while I love to think about that shit, to a certain extent I don't really care. Because at that point it starts to feel like I'm forcing messy reality to fit a once-elegant model and that seems to have reversed priorities as well. It also makes me feel like inevitably, as we head down the intellectual and logical paths, we have to reduce love to a crude biological imperative toward preserving the species. I only love someone so that I can fuck them. I only love my kids so that, one day, they too may fuck.
You could argue that I basically nailed it right there. That it's all about the fuck. But there's something more to fucking that just having offspring and there's something to love that's more that just self- and social preservation. It feels good and it feels right and it's the same thing that, as I mentioned above, drives one to act in their own self interest even after their own reproductive viability has passed.
There's a great phase in a new relationship in which all you do is eat, sleep and fuck--often sacrificing the former two for the latter one. But over time things change and we aim for more in life than simply to eat, sleep and fuck. We decide it was time to not just fuck, but reproduce.
Why do we do that? Were we just acting according to some genetic programming? I don't buy it. I had kids because somewhere deep down I was convinced it was right. I wouldn't have had kids unless I felt that way. That same sense is causing you to examine your motivations and question the evolutionary imperative. You, in a very honest way, are refusing to simply adopt morals and ethics that our culture hangs over us and that many would accept without questioning. You won't accept it until and unless you feel it is right. How evolutionarily-correct is that? It must be some subtle code that would allow us to question its primary function.
I don't think you had kids just so that they might reproduce. I think it is way more likely you had them so they might eat, sleep and fuck. And love it.