Species and Man


My basic idea can be deduced from a syllogism as the following:

 All species have as a vital imperative to pursue their survival.

The man, or homo sapiens, is a species.

The man has as vital imperative to pursue his survival.

 In this last weeks, two objections have been raised to me to the first premise:

1. The species is a mental construct, a taxonomical category without real existence.

2. To define what “pursuing their survival” through a fallible empirical medium means.

 A. Some reflections about the concept of species and its use.

The term species has had and has different meanings. I am going to comment some.

1. For the purpose of my idea I have used the biological concept of species as It was defined around 1940 by Ernst Mayr: An species is a group of natural populations capable of crossing between each other’s, and reproductively (genetically) isolated from other similar groups due to biological or behavioral barriers.

 In the 2016 translation of his "This is Biology" book from 1997, Mayr dedicates several pages to the species (146 to 152). Among other stuff he says:

According to the nominalist species concept, only individuals exist in nature, and species are a human artifact; that is, a person (not nature) makes species by grouping individuals under a name. But such arbitrariness is unsubstantiated by the situation encountered in any actual exploration of the natural world. A naturalist who sees, for instance, the four common species of titmice in a British woodland or the common species of wood warblers in a New England forest knows that there is nothing arbitrary about species borders, but that these species are products of nature.

 The word “species” is applied to three very different objects or phenomena: (1) the species concept, (2) the species category , and (3) species taxa.Endless confusion in the literature has resulted from the failure of some authors to discriminate among these three very different meanings of the word “species”.

The species concept is the biological meaning or definition of the word “species”. The species category is a particular rank in the Linnaean hierarchy […] (such as species, genus, order, and so on) is referred to as a category. Species taxa are particular populations or groups of populations that comply with the species definition; they are particulars (“individuals”) and thus cannot be defined, only described and demarcated against each other.

 And then:

 . Evolutionary biologists now know that the species is the crucial entity of evolution.

. The species is the subject of evolutionary change.

. A species regardless of the individuals of which it is composed, interacts as a unit with other species with which shares the environment.

. If it is about animals, the species are also important units among the sciences of behavior. The members of a same species have too many specific behavioral patterns in common (own of the species), specially those related to the social behavior.

 On the other hand, Theodosius Dobzhansky, dedicates 4 chapters of “Evolution” (Ed. Omega 2009) to this issues. He speaks, among too many things referred to the species, of why do they exist and will exist. I quote two phrases that I believe define sexed species and their purpose:

 Page. 132. The possession of a common set of genes makes that a species with a crossed sexual and fecundation reproduction establishes as a Mendelian population. To be more precise: a set of Mendelian populations dependent and interconnected among them between a regular or occasional generical flux.

Page. 133. A Mendelian population constitutes a supraindividual evolutive system. Natural selection works, of course, on individual phenotypes and through them on individual genotypes. It is the individual who survives or dies, who leaves offspring or not. Nevertheless, it is the collectivity, the common set of genes of a Mendelian population, the one that increases or decreases the probability that the next and further generations will be in harmony with their environment.

And Stephen Jay Gould in his 1406 pages of “The Structure of Evolutionary Theory” from Harvard University press, summarizes and updates Darwinian theories. He says on our matter among other stuff:

p. 72. In particular, and by these criteria, species must be construed not only as classes (as traditionally conceived), but also as distinct historical entities acting as good Darwinian individuals—and therefore potentially subject to selectio.

p.681. He entitles: Redressing the tyranny of the organism: comments on characteristic features and differences among six primary levels. And he says: Similarly, in recognizing six hierarchical levels for this discussion—genes, cells, organisms, demes, species, and clades—I only utilize a device of convenience. And he continuous: […] before the inventions of sexual reproduction and multicellular organisms, neither species nor organisms (as a level distinct from cells) existed, and a quadripartite hierarchy held sway (and still does today in the dominant world of asexual unicells)—gene, cell, clone, and clade.

And then he develops characteristics of each level, among them the individual species from which he says:

p. 717. [In front of] the classic argument of evolutionary gradualism (Both Lamarck and Darwin) […] species can be individuated under any scheme that depicts their origin as an event of branching, rather than anagenetic transformation.

And later he refutes other objections: an absence of a decisive beginning of Williams towards what he calls of geological start different of our time experience, Jablonski measured heritability (1987), critics about species being too diffused or lacking of an internal coherence on what he says that species don't build a physical skin, but reproductive isolating mechanisms maintain their borders just as sharply. Species don't evolve immune systems and other forms of "policing" against outside invaders, but the constant admixture among their parts via sexual reproduction maintains coherence with more than adequate force.

Dr. Francisco Ayala, in his book “Where do I come from? Who am I? Where am I going?” ed. Alianza 2015, dedicates some pages to the species and, among other things he says:

p. 97: According to Darwin’s theory [which he seems to support] species aren’t previously designed, but are an incidental product of the differenced reproduction of organisms. Different environments, as observed Darwin, change constantly through time and are different between one place and another. Natural selection, therefore, favors different characteristics in different situations. The accumulation of differences produces different species.

B. Possible response to objection 1

About: that the species is a mental construct, a taxonomical category without real existence.

I believe that with the previous quotes the opinion of recent biologist about the real existence of species stays clear. And if the species is a construct, is not a mental construct of man but is a product… of the differential reproduction of organisms. Namely, each one of the species is a real construct, as a means of survival, of the organisms themselves. Which, as my objector says quoting Dawkins, they would be at the same time, means to the objective of life through the survival of DNA/RNA. And we wouldn’t be falling into the naturalist fallacy, as my objector also points, because what it is, is living or evolving; and the must be, is the survival, the trying to survive. For not seeing my basic idea, they fall in the naturalistic fallacy, and they recognize doing so, the self-called sociobiologists Wilson and Ruse.

In any case, for my hypothesis, the meaning from the Real Academy is valid: Species: 7. Bot and Zool. Each one of the groups in which genres are divided and are conformed of individuals that, apart from the generic characters, have some other characters in common by which they resemble each other and are distinguished from those of the other species.

My objector is right in that, as Mayr says, the term species is applied into a taxonomical category. And in that sense is a mental construct. But it is evident that infinity of species, as groups conformed of concrete individuals, they have in every moment real existence, universally and objectively verified and verifiable.

One of the objections to the real existence of species is the related to time. In page 68 of “trails of human evolution” (Alianza, 2001) by Cela Conde and Ayala, could be read: The biological concept of species refers to coeval organisms and cannot be applied in a literal sense to organisms that have lived in different epochs.

The same authors in the comprehensive work: Human evolution. The path to our species (Alianza, 2013) talk about the many variants of the term species and specifically the BSC definition, or biological, from Dobzhansky and Mayr and the evolutive concept, or ESC, from Wiley and Simpson. As they point out, the principal difference among the, is the time. In our case, the utilized concept is the biological and it refers to the concrete and real species that exist in every moment. With what the problem of time does not exist. Even it is clear that the objection of a universal use of the term species is adequate and must materialize in each case the use of the concept.

I believe therefore that we can take as given that species, as Mayr and RAE define, have a real existence. For my hypothesis I take as a universe the current known sexually reproduced species. With which we avoid other objections: the non-sexed, the beginning, heritability, incoherence…

The identified number of species until 2009 was of 1.424.253: from which 64.788 were chordates and 5.487 of them were sexed mammals. This mammal species have been widely studied, hence their behavior is known or can be known. And they are a sufficient universe to validate my basic idea. And to falsify it for who has doubts. That we know, every one of them tries as a priority goal their own survival (stay on time, endure). For what they adopt different strategies according their shapes, surroundings and circumstances.

  1. The second objection

Consists on the request of defining and proving the vital imperative of survival. I remind that I use the term imperative as defined by RAE: Duty or inexcusable demand. And vital as: 1. Related or belonging to life, and 2. Of utmost importance and transcendence.

Having admitted the real existence, here and know, of concrete species, the demonstration that all known of them try their survival as a primary goal, is done empirically by the observation of the behavior. This observations have been and are done by lots of ethologists and by many interested people of different fields. To name a few, Darwin himself, Lorenz… and scientific documentarists and communicators. And it can be confirmed by any person with an elemental observational capacity of whichever sexually reproductive animals and plants. As I say, mammals are just a few species and are very well known. And they constitute a collective big enough to prove my hypothesis as to falsify it.

This observers have described the different evolutive strategies and behavioral rules of many species. And have related them to the characteristics of every species and their surroundings. And the different norms and strategies are addressed to the intent of the species survival. Even in many cases the norms and strategies are not the appropriate ones: because of the inability of physical adaptation to the changes in the environment or due to insufficient judgement capabilities and behavior foresight.

It seems that this primary effort for surviving has as a final purpose the conservation of life. And it’s possible that there exist some other natural or transcendental purposes for which the survival of the species is a means. But this possible means diversity of different nature and for different subjects does not replace, but actually enforces, each species imperative and objective of pursuing their own survival. Or its transformation into another species by anagenesis (phyletic change), branching, or whatever it is, if that is what is the best way to preserve and transmit the life within their individuals.

All the evolution, especially the anagenetic that is assumed to be permanent in all the species, is the main strategy for surviving. And therefore, as it is known, there are species that have barely evolved because they don’t need to, as they are adapted to little changing environments. While many other of the current ones are a product of former species.

That is to say, the vital imperative is the immediate cause of the evolution. In other words: evolution is not randomly caused. It is mechanism or strategy adopted by organisms to attempt surviving. Chance could be a way of doing certain things. Not an originating cause.

As a scientific contribution from a biologist, specialist in this matters, I write here only one of the many quotable phrases from “aspects of human evolution” (EUNSA 2008) from Dr. Natalia López-Moratalla that in page 53 says:

 “The unitarian vital principle of each living being efficiently causes an organism, that in the case of the animals, is intrinsically appointed to live and transmit life so that the species can endure…”

The same author, nine years later, in “artificial intelligence”. (Digital Reasons, 2017), confirms in page 50:

The animal knows its “for what” in the sense that it knows as its biology tells him what is better to live and reproduce and in that way getting his main purpose right: the survival of the species.

On the same way, doctor Francisco Rodriguez Valls on page 82 from “Man origins” (Biblioteca nueva, 2017) says: Any evolutionist argument includes the survival of the species as the purpose of life.

I must say that I was very pleased to read recently this next tree quotes for being the first time that I could explicitly see the first premise of my basic idea. An idea that is very possible to become in- or is already- a meme: something that everyone “knows” and takes as granted even no one has expressed. And without anyone, that we know, has come up with the consequence of the vital imperative deduced in my syllogism.

Having sustained the real existence of concrete species in this moment, other ways of proving the purpose or objective of survival and the imperative of attempting it of their components, as living parts of it, would be on the philosophical principle that it is better to be than not to be and that every thing tends to keep on being. It is also said by Saint Tomas in the Summa q.94.a.2… in first place, we find before everything an inclination/ predisposition on man that is common to all the substances, and congruent on that every substance leans by nature to preserve its own being. And according to this inclination, it belongs to the natural law everything that helps to the conservation of human life and prevents its destruction.

I believe that neither Saint Thomas, nor his commentators realized of the importance that this inclinations had and still have for the deduction of an imperative duty on which can rest a universal ethical norm. Possible because of considering ethics as individual norms of people, which is the same shortage of all philosophers.

In any case, this philosophical consideration is not the ground of my idea, even it reinforces it. I believe that my hypothesis are biological and can be empirically justified with the observation and induction of the known living beings behavior. And in concrete, I believe that the observation and study of the mammals is sufficient enough as they are a very well known universe, with the species more similar to the man and with great physical and behavioral variety that confirm a basic universal command implied on the genetics of all of them.

Summary: With everything that has been said, the justification of my hypothesis could read as follows:

For what we empirically know, provable and testable in every moment, can be affirmed that:

1. For the observed behavior, every mammal known species try firstly to survive: to remain on time, endure.

2. From the above can be deduced that exists, as a cause, an objective and/or command or duty, common to all of them, that originates this common intention.

3. And from that it seems that can be said that: Every mammal known species, including Homo sapiens, have registered in their vital programming the objective of surviving and the duty or imperative command of trying to.

Independently that they achieve it or not. And of having other means: materials, spirituals or transcendental for which this survival objective is a means.

Madrid, at 18:25 from 5.2.2018. Reviewed on 20.2.18 at 19:15. Translated on 12.11.2018