CH1 L54: Education – part IV (Survival, Competition, and Hierarchies)

  1. When it comes to education, there are many angles and aspects to talk about. Let’s study the evolution of education.
  2. Richard Dawkins [1] in “The Selfish Gene” [2] has said that our body is nothing but a machine that the genes have developed to increase their chance of survival. Compared to bacteria which spend almost all their energy to reproduce, so they run out of energy very quickly [3], we’ve evolved to save some energy for future, the evolution of body and mind, and taking care of offsprings. This is the big evolutionary trade-off, less energy for bearing and more for caring.
  3. Education is part of the caring process because it increases the chance of survival. A lion trains his cubs to prey on other animals. He might lacerate a zebra but leave it for the kids to rend its throat. We can look at it as investing the energy to secure the next generation’s survival.
  4. The main function of all the ancient stories and most rituals was to educate people to avoid dangers and live harmoniously with the other members of the group; in other words, to decrease risks or damages. That’s why education is an inseparable part of our growth.
  5. Now, the question is how can the modern education increase our chance of survival? Given the fact that around 200 years ago, globally, only around 12% of the people were literate, what has happened that nowadays we send almost all the kids to school?
  1. We don’t have to go to school to biologically survive. We need education for social survival.
  2. We should take another detour to study one of the most important aspects of evolution: competition [4]. We all seek to actualize or show our best to increase the chance of survival. This is a built-in desire that you can also find among animals. A male shows off his beauty and strength or beat up other rivals to attract the most beautiful female. On the other hand, females try their best to look more beautiful.
  3. What constitutes beauty? Initially and instinctively, nothing but health. The quality of the skin is one of the signs of health [5]. If your body has more vitamins and minerals, you look better [6]. Besides, the redness of lips and cheeks is an indicator of more blood which translates to more nutrition for the baby. So, it shouldn’t surprise us why women put on makeup, and they especially use red color for their cheeks and lips.
  4. Though beautiful men are more desirable to women [7], they also consider their strength, for males need to fight other males and protect the family, so if the father is physically strong, there’s a higher chance that his kids have their strong genes. That’s why in many species, one strong male impregnates several females [8].
  5. A fast forward to present shows us the metamorph of power from physical to mental. Mental power brought wealth to those who discovered how to farm then multiply their plants and animals. They could even employ some of those muscle-guys to protect them and their products. That’s why some girls are attracted to rich but not necessarily good-looking men. You can see that wealth has changed even the perception of beauty.
  6. The surplus of products enabled humankind to barter. Then with the advancement of empires, the invention of money, and safety in their realms, people could travel to different corners of the world and trade their goods. Since they traveled with horses, it took them a long time, maybe years to finish one trip, besides, they risked their asset and life. So, they expected a higher profit. That’s why the successful merchants became very rich and they created the new upper middle class called bourgeoise [9]. They didn’t have lands like the feudal, nor were they part of the royal family or religious institutions. They were originally ordinary people who gambled for high stakes and succeeded.
  7. The next opportunity to make money and climb to the top economical class was provided by science, specifically the industrial revolution. Working with the machines, required some training and designing them demanded to study maths and physics.
  8. The main outcome of the scientific revolution was prioritizing those who are equipped with scientific tools. A trained doctor was prioritized to those who traditionally practiced medicine. Knowing all the legal terms required proper education. You can see how the scientific revolution created the demand for educated workforces.
  9. The scientific revolution added new members to the family of bourgeoises. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. who came from mid-class or poor families, showed to the other parents that education could be the one-time opportunity for those who have no lands, nor assets to improve their lives and climb to higher economic classes. That’s how the demand for sending kids to school rapidly grew. [10]
  10. In this picture, you can hardly find the desire to learn, it’s mostly about competition and survival. That’s why when kids ask their parents why do I have to go to school, they usually get more or less the same reply that to go to university, then to get a degree and to find a good job to make a lot of money.
  11. Is education all about making more money or climbing the economic hierarchy?


[1] Link

[2] Link

[3] Assuming that a bacterium on average can split in half an hour, they could reach the mass of the earth in 11 days, however. Their problem is they can’t find enough energy, so they die and other bacteria gain more energy from the environment to split. That’s why in an environment with limited energy, the number of bacteria, or any other species, stabilizes at a certain amount.

[4] In any system with limited energy, consequently limited life, competition or fight is inevitable. That’s why in heaven there’d be no need to fight or compete because the sources of energy would be infinite as pictured.

[5] Another aspect of beauty or healthy genes is symmetry. The advantage of a symmetrical body is minimizing the load on the skeletal structure. Physics can explain this phenomena. If you carry a bag of shopping which weighs 10 kg with one hand, it also causes torque [Link]. But if you equally divide them into to bags, then you can neutralize the effect of torque. This simple system explains why symmetry in body has an advantage and after millions of years of evolution, we can rarely (or never) see any asymmetrical species.

[6] Here’s the link to an article about the relationship between nutrition and skin aging.

A friend of mine read about the hijab in a book that Arab women tended to cover their faces, because of the harsh sunlight and desert winds, besides it accentuated their eyes. So, it’s not only related to Islam.

The reason that I’m talking about all these different things is, even very complex concepts like beauty started from very simple evolutionary mechanisms.

[7] You can see how male animals especially birds, developed some noticeable marks, like colorful feathers to attract females, even though it could be dangerous since they can be more easily spotted by predators.

[8] In some primitive tribes, even after the invention of family, men asked a warrior or strong guy to impregnate their wives. But in civilized systems it was prohibited by law and religion seconded it. The concept of fidelity is a social construct for men and women to assure men that they’re raising their kids.

[9] Link to the Wiki page about Bourgeoisie

[10] The respect for the educated people and the need to develop business with the scientific method, convinced merchants to send their kids to school as well. Besides, the social pressure on the illiterate forced them to send their kids to school.

Link to the featured image


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