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Symbiosis as a Basic Principle of Evolution

by Luitpold Braun Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004 at 9:28 AM

Human life is inseparably embedded in the great metabolic cycles of animate nature.. A humanity that cancels this symbiosis and destroys natural resources seals its own destruction. Perhaps we could be matriots, not patriots.


By Luttpold Braun

[This essay is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]


The Darwinian theory of the development of species through accidental hereditary inheritance and through the survival of the most adaptable (not the strongest) is constantly cited in a garbled form to naturalize the blood-drenched western history full of destruction and oppression or to justify the current rat-race society.

The one-sided view that only emphasizes the effect of chance and the merciless struggle for survival as the motors of evolution is not worth considering. It can in no way explain the diversity of species of animate nature and the flexibility of life forms in adjusting to suddenly changed environmental conditions. When one considers sexuality, the purely accidental reconfiguration of genes in the procreation of descendants, as an acceleration factor of evolution, the primitive model of mutation and selection can hardly explain the wonder of creation.

A clear trend is manifest although evolution is not goal-directed and therefore unsuited for being drawn before the cart of some ideology. Life on earth is marked by an increasing diversity of species and constant redevelopment of relationships necessar4y for individual life forms to survive. When we look around with open eyes, we find ourselves in the middle of a highly developed network of marvelous organisms in close relations with one another, in relations of the most diverse symbioses.


The most adaptable, not the strongest, successfully multiply in the course of evolution and advance the development of their species. Nothing can be achieved in the long run with pure violence. The ability to make the best out of present environmental conditions is crucial. Every life form develops special talents for this. The most virtuous have a unique strength.


Nothing can make possible greater and faster advantages in the struggle for existence than the development of good relations to competent partners. Enormous possibilities of progress can be opened up at once when the partner has abilities lacking to the other. Since the most primitive beginnings of life, great advances occurred according to the principle “one bears the other’s burden”, not at the snail’s pace of mutation and selection! Sudden changes of living conditions would have already wiped out life a hundred times if life communities or partnerships only adjusted according to the random principle!

Nature also preserves abilities that occasionally yield only little profit but could be important again with a sudden change of environmental conditions. What seems futile from a short-term profit-oriented view has at least a chance of survival in special ecological niches and in the great talent exchange of life for the future. The cave salamander, the glacier flow and the bacteria in the smoldering coal dumps and countless other living fossils wait for the moment when they can offer themselves as attractive symbiosis partners. At the right time, some abilities unnoticed for a long time could unexpectedly become prototypes of great advances.


Symbiosis is the profitable cooperation or interplay of actors with different abilities. In the biological sense, the different hereditary information of the symbiosis partner is complemented. Transcribed to human society, symbiosis involves different talents, discoveries and experiences.

From the start of creation, only hereditary information was emphasized. Symbiosis presumably did not play any role. In the “primal soup” that was a really thin soup without the existence of photosynthetic organisms, one assumed that everyone wanted to be satiated and one devoured the other. Whoever gobbled up the fastest survived and multiplied. The initial situation in the interplay of two life forms is the primitive stage of parasitism. However a parasite that kills or wipes out its host is itself consecrated to death from starvation. To escape this fate, a considerate way of handling things is necessary. The parasite is forced to restrain itself and let the host live. The step to symbiosis consists in the parasite improving the living conditions of the host because self-interest can only be enhanced through the public interest or common good.

The rapid development from parasite to symbiosis partner contributes substantially to the success of a life form. For example, humanity learned very quickly that one must feed a cow if one wants to milk it.

Unfortunately, a symbiosis can also go off course and lapse into mutual devouring. Nevertheless the involved organisms quickly become the failures of evolution that can only eke out a miserable existence. In highly developed symbioses, numerous protective measures exist against those derailments that set mutual adjustment on a secure base. Parts of hereditary information are left to the partner as a pledge or security.

A marked symbiosis capacity must develop in the course of evolution. We humans have great talents. We quickly make our hunted spoils into domestic pets that we tend and look after (often unfortunately without treating them well) and cultivated plants (that should not be destroyed with genetic engineering). Human symbiosis may not be sacrificed to the cult of fast money!

Every new technology with which the exploitation of natural or human resources is perfected clearly represents a step backward toward parasitism!

Exploitation can never be a sustainable success because only improvements in the direction of symbiosis guarantee in the long run the survival of humanity like other highly developed species.

Who wants to fall back to the level of the tapeworm?


Within human society, there are groups (cultures, social classes, branches, professional groups) that can only survive by fitting in the whole social structure. Symbiosis relations within humanity are vital:

· of agricultural countries and industrial nations,

· of employers and employees,

· of technical specialists and managers,

· of suppliers, producers, merchants and customer

The temptation to exploit the partner within these relations is great. The result in the long run is sobering. One ruined supplier could paralyze the whole business.

According to the model of nature, what presently only brings little profit should not be immediately wiped out. A trifling demand for products of a certain economic branch or the findings of certain disciplines is usually only temporary. Their abilities must be allowed to survive in little fields of activities and also promoted through reasonable challenges.

Excessive personnel cuts destroy crucial resources for the future of human society. Every person who is only instrumentalized is lost as a flexibility reserve for coping with future upheavals – like every ruined branch and every dissolved research site.


Human life in inseparably embedded in the great metabolic cycles of animate nature because our food is only produced by other living beings. A humanity that cancels this symbiosis and destroys natural resources under recourse to primitive exploitation seals its own destruction.

We humans develop further to the best adapted according to the law of procreation. Adaptation possibilities are very important.

Humans bear hereditary information for posterity and also knowledge, thoughts and acquired abilities. Everyone shares in the culture.

All the information in an individual being has to be valued for adjustment to the environment. Unlike the animals, the person can expand his or her information treasure through conscious learning!

The environment is still the same, a constantly redeveloping supportive symbiosis structure of the whole ecological system growing over a vast time. Nature decides only according to its own rules what part of humanity deserves the predicate “best adapted” and will exist in the long run in the play of common redevelopment.


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