Ernst Mayr   (1904-2005) 

I met Mayr very late. I have written down that I bought "This is biology " in March 2016, recently edited by Penguin's "Debate". I wrote a long comment that I could not include in Survival. Ideas for a Universal Ethics, edited in 2015.   

Mayr dates the preface and the last page of his book in September 1996, when he was 92 years old. By then he had already written more than a dozen books and dozens of articles. I believe that "This is biology" is ideal for those who want to read in a single book what life, science, biology, evolution and something of ethics are. All narrated with a wise, clear and honest language. I recommend the book to all those who do not know him, both layman and professional.

For me it was like a moral injection that encouraged me to continue with the hard work of spreading my already veteran ideas and to write a more ordered and brief version than that of 2015. In the presentation of Survival and Altruism (October 2016, page 13) I quote two paragraphs of This is biology. They say: (Mayr: 2016, 120-123)

"Non-scientists tend to naively assume that when a new explanation or scientific theory is proposed, it is accepted without delay. In fact, in very few cases it has happened that a new idea provokes an instantaneous and revolutionary illumination in its field. Almost all the great principles of modern science have had to overcome years of resistance, both within and outside the scientific field." And he gives several examples, among them Darwin and Wallace, whose theory on natural selection proposed in 1859 was more or less accepted by most scientists until about 1940.

For my part, despite so many years, I still hope to get to see that one or several "wise people" confirm my thesis and assume and disseminate it. Or refute them, in order to be able to rest from this hard trade of "seller" of ideas.

Then he also says:

"...Many important works go unnoticed, sometimes completely, because they have been published in Russian, Japanese, and even in Western European languages other than English. And if the ideas contained in these publications end up being adopted, it is usually because someone else has rediscovered them later and the priority of the first publication falls into oblivion." 

Paying attention to this warning I commissioned the translation of Survival and Altruism, which was edited with the title of "Survival and altruism. A Universal Principle of Ethics" In May 2017. And I sent, with a personalized individual note, 125 copies to as many English-speaking experts from different countries and fields of knowledge (biology, philosophy, anthropology...). Selected from the bibliographies of my readings. A few acknowledge of receipt. Some of them raised me easy partial objections, which are on the website. Others told me I was right and they liked the book, especially the altruistic part. But none, as far as I know, took the ideas to help me spread them. Some with the acceptable apology that they were out of their specialty field and that they did not have the capacity for a full and public validation. It would be good if the ideas had remained in the unconscious of some and be "rediscovered" later. As Mayr says it usually happens. I'll be aware while I can. And I beg readers to do the same. And let me know, if I live, to stop working.

Coming back to Mayr, I thought to quote only the most essential of his ideas referring to mine, but I can not resist commenting on the following from pages 9 to 12 of the preface: 

"Modern biologists tend to be extreme specialists... they Rarely do biologists have the time to stand back from the advances in their own specialty and look at the life sciences as a whole. Geneticists, embryologists, taxonomists and ecologists all consider themselves to be biologists, but most of them have little appreciation of what these various specialties have in common and how they differ fundamentally from the physical sciences..."

Another problem that he points out is the separation between the biological sciences and philosophy. And that when an attempt was made in the fifties to build bridges, the so-called "philosophy of science" was a philosophy of logic, mathematics and physical sciences, not of biology. I believe that since then, and since 1995 when Mayr said the above, progress has been made in the development of a "philosophy of nature". And also in animal ethology. It seems that a serious anthropology is missing. That would be a human ethology. That understands biology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, theological anthropology. And of the new neurology and neuroethics... Enough to understand, explain and direct the behavior of Man and his groups. From top to bottom and vice versa. An Anthropology that can be developed from the basic ideas. We will see.

Returning to our subject, Mayr deals with several very important epistemological problems that affect our ideas specially. Although he develops them later, on page 11 of the Preface he says about causality in biology:

"For a long time, I knew that there was a categorical difference between the living and the inanimate world. Both worlds obey the universal laws discovered and analyzed by the physical sciences, but living organisms are also subject to a second set of causes: the instructions of the genetic program. This second type of causation does not exist in the inanimate world. " 

 I have an engineer friend who keeps asking me to test my hypothesis by measuring or weighing "something" many times and that the verification can be expressed through mathematical formulas. I can not measure the desire to live and the effort to reproduce iteratively of living beings. Just see it without prejudice and think about the "for what?" of their behavior.

On living organisms as systems, says on the same page after talking about "... molecules, genes or things like that":

Living organisms form a hierarchy of ever more complex systems: from molecules, cells and tissues, through whole organisms, populations and species. In each higher system, characteristics emerge that could not have been predicted from a knowledge of the components.  Another expert friend in the general theory of systems doubts that species are systems because they do not seem to have norms of operation. I think that the genetic program and the emergent phenomena as it is called now, along with its other qualities, can lead my friend and others to try to see the species as complex living systems. Including ours. We'll see if he listens.

Moving in the book, chapter I entitled What is the meaning of life? (1-23) says what is and what is not life and reviews the attempts of men to answer their question, from the Greeks to our days: the physicists and their flourishing in the nineteenth century, the vitalists and their decline in the XX and organicists, where we are today, with their contributions of holism, the genetic program and emergence. I quote some phrases that I find interesting as a framework for our ideas:

To elucidate the nature of this entity called "life" has been one of the major objectives of biology. The problem here is that "life" suggests some "thing" -a substance or force- and for centuries philosophers and biologists have tried to identify this life substance or vital force, to no avail. In reality, the noun "life" is is merely a reification of the process of living. It does not exist as an independent entity. One can deal with the process of living scientifically, something one cannot do with the abstraction "life". 

I think it is clear that life is "something" that living beings have. Whose vital imperative of living beings as such is to try to conserve and transmit as a priority. And for this, at least those of sexual reproduction, use a "construct" called species. Whose goal, as instrumental means, is also to conserve and transmit life, trying to preserve its genetic programming, adapted to its changing media, through its organisms. And vice versa: the objective of individual organisms is to conserve and transmit their genetic programming using their species as a means to live and transmit life...: "Und so weiter" As the Germans say: "And so it goes successively "...the process of living.   

On page 20, talks about the emergency. And of the distrust of the Darwinists, who accepted the emerging evolution, they had doubts that it was anti-radical. And says in 21: is now understood that the population (or the species), rather than the gene or individual, is the unit of evolution.  His parenthesis. He says later: "…

At every level they are adapted systems, because they contribute to the fitness of an individual.


It seems clear the role that species have in their own survival, facilitating that of their individuals. And vice versa. He says on the same page, differentiating living organisms from inert matter:

"... organisms are hierarchically ordered systems, with many emergent properties never found in inanimate matter; and, most importantly, their activities are governed by genetic programs containing historically acquired information, again something absent in inanimate nature. 

These genetic programs that govern the activities of living organisms, including men, have at their base the vital imperative and the information common to all living beings. Plus the specific information to each species "acquired through a long time" Updated in all the individuals of the species alive in each moment. This information, plus its own in its case, is what individuals should try to be transmitted to the following generations. So that the species survives.

Mayr dedicates chapter 2 to "What is science? And more specifically what it's biology. And laments that it was considered a "provincial" science in the face of the alleged universality of the physical sciences. He also says (41) that:

 "...there was little talk of the important role played by the development of new concepts in the advancement of science. At present concepts such as competence, common ancestry, territory and altruism are as significant in biology as laws and discoveries in the physical sciences are, and yet, strangely enough, their importance has not been taken into account until very recent times . And ... Even if there were a Nobel Prize in biology (which there is not), Darwin could not have won it by developing the concept of natural selection -undoubtedly the greatest scientific advance of the 19th century- because it was not a discovery".

 From what I have seen, we remain the same since the award-winning biologists are in the category of Physiology or Medicine and are researchers dedicated to "physical" discoveries. By exception, in 1973 the award was given to three ethologists: Lorenz, Frisch and Tinbergen, for their work in animal behavior. But there is no anthropologist, nor evolutionary biologists, nor "naturalist" or "humanist" philosophers. Despite its influence on our lives.

Note: I just told my wife -who passes by me while I write this- that by my discovery of the Law of altruistic survival they will have to create a new category of Nobel Prize in Anthropology, posthumously. Or to fit me in the Peace prize which is the closest to my ideas.

Returning to Mayr, dedicates chapter 3 to: How does science explain the current world? He deals with the philosophy of science, discoveries and their justification. And highlights the different positions of philosophers and biologists before the methods and requirements to validate biological hypotheses. He cites Popper as not demanding in the way of discovering but, as an example, in justifying. Says on p. 68:


On the contrary, he says later in the 56:

 "> And on the same page:" In biology -where chance, pluralism, history and uniqueness play such important roles (see chapter 4), a flexible system of theory construction and testing would seem more appropriate than rigid principles".  And then deals with language problems.

 In chapter 4 about How Does Biology Explain the Living World?  says on page 66:

"A scientific explanation is very often considered to be true if it is based on the discovery of the cause for an observed phenomenon(4), particularly of an unexpected phenomenon... However, such a simple solution is rarely available in biology, except at the cellular/molecular level"..." The note says:

 (4) "This leads us to the extremely complex philosophical problem of cause and causation[...] I will, therefore, not discuss Hume's critique of causation, according to which all we can determine is merely sequence of events. I agree with those modern philosophers who admit that an antecedent event event may have an effect, hence become a cause. Strictly causal sequences can be demonstrated particularly often in animal behavior [...].".

In our case, the observed phenomena and sequences are the common and universal behaviors of all animal species to try to survive. From which it is inferred that there is a cause for it. This cause may be initial or final. Or both.

On page 66 says:  "There is further complication as far as causation in biology. Every phenomenon or process in living organisms is the result of two different causes, which are often called proximal (functional) causations and ultimate (evolutionary) causations. All the activities or processes involving instructions from a program are proximate causations [...] They are answers to "How?" questions [...] Ultimate or evolutionary causations are those that lead to the origin of new genetic programs or to the modification of existing ones [...] they are usually the answer to "Why?" questions.

 According to this paragraph, it seems that the vital imperative would be a cause prior to the cause that prompts evolution and after which it commands life. That is, to the question of why are genetic programs created or modified, the answer could be twofold:

Because there is a mandate to do it to all living beings ("initial" or earlier cause, which is not the first) or to survive by adapting to the environment and circumstances (final or later cause, which does not seem to be the last or final) ).

On the other hand, there may also be confusion according to whether one speaks of physical changes or the behaviors that originate them and vice versa. That is to say if the peaks of Darwin's finches were physically modified by the environment and that modified the behavioral patterns, or if the change of the environment changed the behavior of the finches and this change involved the modification of their physical programming. I think that for causal purposes it is indifferent since the objective is the same. But if changes, physical and behavioral, are looked at separately and without seeing the final common goal, there is no way to arrive at establishing acceptable and accepted common causes. It is the problem of working by tasks, or by partial objectives, instead through final objectives. Especially if there are simultaneous tasks and processes superimposed to try to achieve the partial objectives that lead to the end if it is not seen.

Although it does not directly affect our issues, I can not resist mentioning a sentence on page 72, under the heading entitled "Cognitive Evolutionary Epistemology". He says:

What determined the selection of the particular aspects of the total world that can be perceived by a human? The most plausible theory is that the ancestors of all organisms were able to survive and reproduce because they had the capacity to sense those aspects of their environment that are most important for their survival, and this, of course, id equally true for the human species."

Although Mayr deals in this section of brain structures and the difficulty in the search for certainties, in the phrase says, implicitly, that organisms not only had the capacity to survive but that they and their living descendants, in addition to having them, exercised them. I say that because "something", within itself, told them and tells them to exercise them.

And also says that those capacities of feeling their environment and acting accordingly, they have them as species constituted by organisms with common capacities, before men classified them as such, including the Homo sapiens. Using a common synecdoche, Mayr equals organisms with species. It is clear that the organisms of a species represents the species and that a species is its organisms.

Chapter 5 (pages 79 to 107) entitledDoes Science Advance? he dedicates it to answering this question. I have already quoted at the beginning the paragraph on the delay in accepting new ideas and on the additional difficulty of disseminating ideas that are not exposed in English.

From chapter 6 (107 to 124) entitled "How Are the Life Sciences Structured", I only quote two sentences from page 119. He says about the causes:

"The determination of proximate causations is usually facilitated by experimentation, of ultimate causations by inference from historical narratives" 

In my previous books I have "justified" my hypotheses by historical causation, citing that, as far as we knew, all known species had always behaved in their own survival. Which I think is true. But this justification has given rise to objections based on the historical nature and origin of the species.

I still consider valid the validation of my hypothesis by "historical causation". But the justification can be more clear and emphatic by observing the current species. All of them continue to have the same behavior: they try to survive through the iterative reproduction of their organisms. This is their priority objective, common to all of them, including the Homo sapiens.

In chapter 7, p. 131 talks about the biological concept of species and says that: "It was, however, not generally adopted until I proposed a formal definition in 1940" He said before: "...a species is a set of natural populations capable of crossing between each other, and reproductively isolated (genetically) from other similar groups by physiological or behavioral barriers".

As I have said elsewhere, I use this sense of species for my hypotheses, although I think they are also true for the others, more than twenty, that exist. This biological concept is the most used and is valid and sufficient for the species of sexual reproduction, including Man.

From here he develops the concept of species widely. And what it says confirms my ideas about it. I copy only some phrases:

"The word" species "applies to three very different entities or phenomena: 1) the species concept, 2) the species category, and 3) the species taxon. The inability of some authors to distinguish between these three different meanings of the word "species" has led to endless confusions in the literature.

The species concept of is the biological meaning, or definition, of the word "species." The species category is a particular rank im the Linnaean hierarchy [...] Species taxa are particular populations or groups of populations thatcomplywith tha species category, one tests it against the species definition; they are particulars ("individuals") and thus cannot be defined, only described and demarcated against each other. (P. 133)

This long quote responds to one of the most important objections that have made to my ideas due to the polysemy of the term species. For my part I use the individual concept of biological species as a taxon or set of populations that exist concretely and really. And I believe that with this acceptance my hypotheses are true. And easy to check at any time and circumstance.

As abstract concepts and as a hierarchical category, the term species presents enormous problems and I believe that, as Mayr says, it has given rise to many confusions. And quite possibly, this difficulty has been one of the causes of not seeing my basic idea.

Then he says on the same page 133:

"Evolutionary biologists now know that the species is the crucial entity of evolution" [...] "A species regardless of the individuals of which it is composed, interacts as a unit with other species with which shares the environment. [...] "In the case of animals, species are also important units in the behavioral sciences. Members of a species share many species-specific behavior patterns, particularly all those that have to do with social behavior. 

In all these pages does not refer to our species. He stays in the world of all living beings and especially in the world of biological species. Which is good because he avoids anthropological biases. And maybe that's why he do not see the "ethical" application for the Homo sapiens species. But his "animal" vision is perfectly valid if it applies to our basic idea and to Man.

On page 150 I quote his classification chart of organisms in case readers find it difficult, like me, to retain the names. He speaks of two empires: Empire Prokaryota (Monera), with two kingdoms: Eubacteria and Archaebacteria; and Eukaryota with five kingdoms: Archezoa, Protozoa, Chromista, Metaphyta (plants), Fungi and Metazoa (animals).

In chapter 9 he explains clearly and widely evolution theories and his opinion. I pick up only two ideas that I find most interesting. On page 182 he talks about speciation and says:

It is almost universally agreed that the prevailing process of speciation is geographical, or allopatric, speciation -the genetic divergence of geographically isolated populations. It occurs in twop forms: dichopatric speciation and peripatric speciation. In dichopatric speciation [...] two separated population will become genetically more and more different [...] In peripatric speciation, a founder population is established beyond the periphery of the previous species' range. Such a population, founded by a single inseminated female or by a few individuals, will contain only a small percentage of, and often an unusual combination of, the genes of the parent species. [...] Such a founder population may undergo a drastic genetic modification and may speciate rapidly. Furthermore, such a founder population, owing to its narrow genetic base and drastic genetic restructuring, is in a particularly favorable position to undertake new evolutionary departures, including those that may lead to macroevolutionary developments. 

When I first read the above I imagined Adam and Eve...founder population, in an isolated Eden, .beyond the periphery of the previous species' range. With the vital mandate to be fruitful and multiply, to survive as a new species, exposed to undertake new evolutionary departures.  Pressures that made them change their ideas about good and evil, increased their freedom and judgment ...and forced them to ...initiate a drastic genetic modification, (and epigenetic and cultural we would say now) quickly becoming a new species. Until today. It is an idea, that would give sense to the Genesis story, whether or not Jehovah participated in it.

Changing the subject, on page 198 confirms another of my evolution and progress ideas. For me, both evolution and biological progress are means to survival and not objectives as sociobiologists say. Mayr says: 

"Some lineages, such as the prokaryotes have hardly changed at all for billions of years. Others have become highly specialized without showing any indications of being progressive, and still others, like most parasites and inhabitants of special niches, seem to have experienced a retrograde evolution." 

Confirms that the priority goal is survival. And for this the species that survive do so because it has been able to adapt to its environment: evolving themselves or becoming another, or maintaining themselves, or receding.

Another important issue, addressed by Mayr extensively, is what some call the "selection unit". And he says (page 200) that: " The term unit is inappropriate when the question is whether the gene, the individual, the species, or what not is the target of selection."  And he says that for geneticists the "target" of the selection is the gene and for the naturalists the individual, but that: (page 202)

"There has been considerable uncertainty in the recent literature whether, in addition to individuals, also entire populations and even species could be targets of selection." Mayr favors group selection and for "species selection" he prefers the term "species substitution" to designate the success of one species over another.

Then deals on the question where humans fit into evolution. He makes an excellent description of the development of human biology. For our purposes I only highlight the following:

On page 238: "...major factors that favored the increase in brain size were the development of speech and the acquisition and transmission of culture that speech allowed." And later: 

"Language does not exist among animals. To be sure, many species have elaborate vocal communication systems, but these consist of the exchange of signals; [...] There is a wide gap between the signaling of a chimpanzee (or any other kind of animal) and a genuine language. Linguists at one time thought they might find intermediate systems of communication if they studied the languages of the most primitive surviving human tribes. Alas, without exception, they all have highly complex, mature languages.".

I include these long quotations because, along with the next ones, they show that the species is an evolutionary subject, not only genetic, but also cultural. And it is also a complex system, since all its groups, even the most remote and small, have the same implicit objectives (to survive as a group of the same species) with the same means (the altruistic group coexistence) and the same basic physical abilities and cultural to try. And it shows that as long as any group or tribe or human clan exists, our species will exist. And that is the objective of each individual and human group since man exists. And for that he exists as a living being.

Page 240: "...Once larger troops became the norm among humans, the reproductive advantage of the presumably better-endowed leader would have been reduced, gene flow would have increased among all members of the troop" [...] "In other words, the greater social integration of humans, while it contributing enormously to cultural evolution, might have caused humans to enter a period of stasis in the evolution of the genome." 

Cultural evolution made the evolution of the genome unnecessary. And since about 100,000 years ago the brain has not increased in size. The "physical" evolution was replaced by cultural evolution. And it seems that it can continue being this way if we do not spoil it.

On page 241 he talks about cultural evolution. Starting on the Australopithecines (about 200,000 years ago) to our species and says: 

"...For 85% of the existence of the hominids, there was no conspicuous advance in culture. One of the most important developments in human cultural evolution was social integration in the hominid group." [...] "the group-as-such became a target of selection, and many behavioral and physiological changes that facilitated the survival, prosperity and reproductive success of the group as a whole would be favored by natural selection". 

This is the group coexistence that has and needs an internal group altruism. But: 

"Undoubtedly, there was a great deal of fierce competition among neighboring groups and tribes, with the superior groups very often exterminating the inferior ones.". 

I make a parenthesis to highlight some aspects that I deal with in the applications of ethics about sexuality and family. Says in 242: 

  "...But for the most part monogamy became a means to ameliorate conflict, and marriage eventually became a strategy to cement connections between families that might otherwise be competitors.". And later: " Throughout he hominid line, the family has been the foundation of group structure". Also in other species.

Returning to the competition between groups and neighboring tribes, although he says, does not highlight the other great phenomenon: the relationship and the coexistence between groups. The "altruistic" collaboration, by grade or by force, between neighboring groups. That is what made possible the development of civilization and our domain of the rest of species and the environment, for possible good and evil.

From page 244 he thinks on the future of our species: 

"...all the so-called human races are very closely related to one another and are simple variable populations" And then: "The questions is sometimes asked what chance there is for the human species to be break up into several species. The answer is: None at all." 

I understand that he refers to possibilities through natural evolution. For my part, I believe that our species can be split or converted into another or others by periphratric speciation, that is, if a few fertile women and men live and reproduce iteratively in space stations or "colonize" other planets and adapt to its surroundings over time. And also on our Earth through some genetic engineering method.

In chapter 12 and last, talks about whether evolution can explain ethics. A very trendy question of all times among biologists and philosophers. Says on page 248:

"Ethicists insist, and they are quite right to do so, that science in general, and evolutionary biology in particular, are not constructed to provide a reliable set of specific ethical norms. But it is important to add that a genuinely biological ethics which takes human cultural evolution as well as the human genetic program truly into consideration, would be far more consistent internally than ethical systems which ignore these factors."

I think that in these paragraphs is condensed everything that is necessary to know to resolve the broad discussions that continue in our days about the origin and development of the norms of behavior of our species. Species for which, by being animated and rational, the norms of behavior as living beings are ethical or moral norms. That, at the same time, are biological and spiritual norms. And they are genetic, epigenetic and cultural. In the proportion that results in each moment and circumstance for the different individual and group subjects. And for the species itself as singulorum.  

About altruism, on page 250 says:

"The long and heated debate of the last 30 years has revealed that when authors use the term "altruistic" they often mean different things." In 251 says: I contend that it does not represent the normal usage of the term "altruism" to restrict it only to instances involving potential danger or damage to the altruist."  And later: "... a person is the target of selection in three different contexts: as an individual, as a member of a family (or more correctly, as a reproducer), and as a member of a social group." 

Almost sees it, the broad altruism of the species. But he is a biologist and also this ideas were emerging by that time, so he does pretty well with what he says. But if I had considered the social group as part of the species, would have "seen" the broad global altruism. And the person as "target" of the selection of the "fourth context" that is the whole species.

Then speaks of the altruism of inclusive efficacy (of kinship) and of the reciprocal one. But he likes more what he calls "genuine altruism" and quotes Darwin in page 254: "We have found that savages, and probably also the primitive man, consider the actions as good or bad only due to the way they directly affect the well-being of the tribe." It forgot to quote this phrase, that Mayr seems to share, when dealing with Darwin. He says later: 

"... the norms of conduct that last longer are those that contribute most to the well-being of the cultural group as a whole" [...] "human species is the quintessential example of social animal" [...] "the behavior of the group reflects an altruism of inclusive efficacy" . But: "for an extended family or a small troop to evolve into a larger and more open society, the altruism previously reserved for close relatives should be extended to non-relatives."  

With the above it is clear that the human species, as a social species, practiced from its origins the altruism of kinship and the reciprocal (like that of chimpanzees and others). And this altruism was extended to non-relatives to make more numerous groups. Mayr says on the same page: 

"During human evolution process, some individual hominids discovered that a large group was more likely to emerge victorious in a confrontation with another troop than a small group, simply formed by 'an extended family.' 

Deals later about reasoned altruism and quotes Simpson and Ayala. And he gets lost there because he goes to the "reasoned" individual ethics. And he does not see the foundation of the ethics of the entire species in the efforts to survive of groups of all species. And stops in the group altruism making subject to the family groups. The most he does, like the others, is to move from the family to the larger groups. That they fight with other groups but do not collaborate with them. He does not "see" the altruism of groups with groups that have made us reach the great nations and current coalitions. And the UN.

Mayr considered biological species as "substitution subjects"And Dobzhansky as"a set of subordinate Mendelian populations interconnected with each other"And Gould like" discrete theoretical entities that act as darwinian individuals" But all three did it as biologists, as geneticists. And although they saw the "cultural" laws of the groups, of the populations, they did not see them as parts of the species. They failed to move to the fourth Mayr's "context". It was too much for his time. And they had already advanced a lot on the theories of their ancestors.

 This section on Mayr has been a bit long. But I think it's worth the effort to write it and read it. In "This is biology"The concept of species as a subject is explicit and the foundations are laid down to see the vital imperative and broad group altruism. Altruism that, rising one level from the current situation, would encompass the whole species as a group of social groups -now enormous nations, religions and various collectives- to which almost all individuals belong. There are still a few tribes that, for practicing only an internal group altruism and remaining in the tribal "third context" of Mayr, are in danger of extinction.

I think Mayr realizes the above. And he finishes his book describing the three great problems of the modern world: First the different values of the groups that collide with each other. Second, excessive egocentricity and excessive attention to the rights of individuals, with a lack of obligations that confront individual and community ethics. And third, discover our responsibility towards nature as a whole and appreciate the dangers of overpopulation. Says on p. 268:

"And yet if the human species and the natural world as a whole are to have a future, we must reduce selfish tendencies in our current value system in favor of a higher regard for the community and for the whole of creation."

 I think Mayr is undemanding with the "if we want" is insufficient when talking about"community" Instead of the species, and it's kind of fuzzy with"the whole of creation" And ends, getting it partially:

"...and our most basic ethical principle should be to do everything toward enhancing the future of mankind. All other ethical norms can be derived from this baseline."

The vital goal is not to improve. Improving is a necessary objective in order not to become extinct, to survive. But it is an instrumental goal. A pity that he did not see and disseminate the vital imperative, our obligation to try to survive as a species, as Humanity. For whatever it is. Although I think he saw it but considered it so obvious that it did not occur to him to say it and highlight it. As possibly it has happened to them and it happens to many other good biologists, philosophers and sages. Which I hope accept or discuss the ideas of this veteran systems analyst and amateur anthropologist.

JC Madrid, 10.11.2018. Reviewed on 11.11.18 Translated on 20.05.19