The Coming Wave Page #52
Q: Why is that?
MA: Because not all answers are yes and no. And not all problems are black and white. We were discussing how it is impossible to describe the human species as either a “r-selected” or a “k-selected” species because we present traits of both evolutionary strategies. Our species presents a range of these traits across a wide spectrum of expression. It is not one way or the other. Even among the scientific community there is great confusion about this dynamic. We have scientists who have attempted to attribute these variations in strategies to race.
It was a foolish error from the beginning. The variations within any given race are as great as or greater than between any two races. When you read about this type of speculation always remember that this type of racial stereotyping has been postulated for generations and it is as bogus as it comes. The variations are real, but they are exclusively related to behavior and nothing else.
That behavior is motivated by countless different factors but it is not attributable to race.
Q: OK, I think I understand that we are largely a K species but that within our species there are many different behaviors, some of which are K and some of which are R. Is that close?
MA: Yes, this bit of explanation has to do with the famous r = n – m, the equation that lets us see if we are expanding, stabilizing or shrinking as a species. Now we know that r (the rate of increase has been modulating downward for the past 40 years) but it is still in the positive range.
Because we as need to determine if the species is indeed modulating it's r to the point of 0 and achieving balance with it's environment and not just posting a small dip in a 600 year upward trend - we must examine the data closely.
And, as we have been discussing, that data is very mixed. Some cultures are into negative population growth (think the Czech Republic and some other European countries) while some cultures are expanding rapidly. (Think Latin America, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa). China is at 1.7 and India is at 2.8 in total fertility rates. So even among the most populous countries there is a difference. And these differences can lead to huge outcomes. With India above the 2.1 replacement rate in fertility and China below the norm it would only take to the year 2040 for India to be the most populous country on earth.
But again, predicting future growth rates of any population is very risky business - that is why we are taking such pains to be as accurate as possible in our evaluation of that old pesky r = n - m.
Q: OK, so if I read this right you are saying that there still might be a case for the “r-selected” behavior to overwhelm the “k-selected” behavior and instead of leveling off either continue expanding or to crash? Is there any way to know for sure?
MA: Yes there is.
Q: In all honesty, I don't see how, over the short term, k type behavior can overcome the population explosions evident in some parts of the world.
MA: Remember, there are trends and countertrends in many countries or cultures - even modernized societies.
Let us take England for a moment. That is as about as proper an established modern country as can be found. Do you know what the most common name given boys at birth in England was last year? Here is a hint Jack has been the most popular for 14 years in a row.
Q: William or Harry?
MA: No, the correct answer would be Mohammed.
Q: For real?