The Idle Theory Of Evolution

Chris Davis writes:

The Survival of the Idlest

Like the Darwinian theory, the Idle Theory of Evolution is built upon the Malthusian theory. But it is arguably truer to Malthus than Darwin’s system. In Idle Theory, rising populations and falling food resources mean that the creatures simply have to work harder to survive, rather than become embroiled in a Darwinian tooth-and-claw fight for survival, and that their populations oscillate rather than remain at some stable environmental ‘carrying capacity’.

Almost entirely absent from both Darwinism and Neo-Darwinism is any description of the physics of life. Idle Theory employs a physical model of life, centred on the energy used by the creatures to live, grow, and reproduce. Idle Theory is built around physical concepts of energy, work, and power, rather than economic ideas of competition and war, or the genetics of reproduction.

In the Idle Life model, the creatures are assumed to expend energy continuously in maintaining and repairing themselves, but to work intermittently to acquire and store the energy needed to power this maintenance work. They are seen as alternating between a busy state, where they work to acquire energy, and an idle state, where they perform no energy-acquiring work. The “idleness” of the creatures is the fraction of their time during which they are inactive or idle. This idleness can range from zero – continuously working to acquire energy – to near-complete inactivity – doing next to no energy-acquiring work at all.

Given a benign condition – with plentiful sources of energy in their environment, the creatures need only do a little work to acquire the energy they need to maintain themselves, and are consequently very idle. In a harsh environment, the same creatures must work much longer to acquire the energy they need, and will consequently be very busy. The limit of ‘busyness’ is reached when they are working continuously. If, working continuously, they are unable to acquire sufficient energy to power self-maintenance, they run out of energy, cease to maintain themselves, and die.

Zero idleness, or complete ‘busyness’, is the threshold of death. The nearer any creature approaches this threshold, the more endangered its life becomes. In a time of difficulty, when all creatures must work harder, some varieties or types may be reduced to zero idleness, and driven to extinction. It is the busiest, most hard-working creatures which face extinction, and the idlest which survive. In Idle Theory, natural selection means the regular extinction of the least idle creatures, and the survival of the idlest…

Read more here.

12 Comments on "The Idle Theory Of Evolution"

  1. unusually unusual | Jul 6, 2012 at 9:09 pm |

    That was a very interesting read. It seems plausible, speaking of course as… well I have no qualifications.

  2. The Idle Life Model
    has its roots in Asian philosophy
    especially in the Tao Te Ching
    and its emphasis on “wu wei”

    “Express yourself completely,
    then keep quiet.
    Be like the forces of nature:
    when it blows, there is only wind;
    when it rains, there is only rain;
    when the clouds pass, the sun shines through.”

    to my knowledge
    the only culture that values non-stop work
    and living by the sweat of your brow
    is Western Culture and its Protestant Work Ethic

  3. Idleness is an interesting lens to look at survival fitness through, but I can see where it may lead to some confusion and misunderstanding.

    Even in this brief article there seems to be a tendency to view idleness as an end in itself rather than a measure of “mastery” of the environment.


    • if you live in a wilderness environment
      (as I have)
      you discover that a great deal of your time is spent
      chopping wood and caring water
      and with cooking, that could easily run into 3-4 hours a day
      even growing food doesn’t require work every day
      hunting is fun but traps are much easier
      in that kind of environment
      idleness can naturally occur

      Western Civilization
      with its Protestant work ethic
      and an idle mind is the devils work shop
      has made idleness a sin
      and frenetic activity a virtue
      so an over emphasis on idleness for Westerners isn’t necessarily detrimental

      • Calypso_1 | Jul 7, 2012 at 11:39 am |

        Before Enlightenment
        Chop wood, Carry water
        After Enlightenment
        Chop wood, Carry water  

        • Jin The Ninja | Jul 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm |

          i seem to remember either a buddhist or daoist parable about a saint meeting a woodcutter in the forest, that related this very same metaphor.

        • I grew up on a farm with a wood burning stove for heat, so I know all about chopping wood and carrying water.

        • which reminds me of another experience
          I had while living in the Wildo
          the experience of the “flow” or “providence”
          was much easier to recognize and experience
          in an uncivilized environment
          it could be summed up with this classic experience:

          I was setting up a new camp
          and was missing some things I need
          while looking down at the supplies
          I said to my camping partner
          “We need to see Uncle T.”
          She said “Who’s Uncle T?”
          I looked up and
          Uncle T was standing right next to me.
          I said,
          “That’s Uncle T.”

  4. Capt.Obvious | Jul 7, 2012 at 9:56 am |

    This is interesting, but i feel like the creatures that do all of the work for the most idle of them would eventually stop wasting their time…’merica

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