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					Li Yan                                                                      Rhet 1302




                               Competition
         Competition, a word means the act of striving against another force for

the purpose of achieving dominance or attaining a reward or goal. Life is

competitive, and we are always competing with each other, but are human

beings by nature competitive or cooperative? It is hard to tell.

         The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has a theory that states

nature makes human beings competitive. Dawkins wrote a contentious book

called The Selfish Gene. He thinks genes are inherently selfish. In his book,

he wrote that “they (genes) have come a long way, those replicators. Now

they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines,” (Dawkins

p131). Dawkins thinks genes have their own mind such that all they want to

do is to survive, so they will do whatever it takes to survive and multiply to the

next generation. He explains human beings are merely airplanes in which the

genes are the pilots. If the Dawkins theory of competition is correct, therefore,

human beings are competitive because genes force them to do so, so

competition can be considered as a natural reaction.

         But why the bees who commit suicide when they sting to protect the

hive or the birds who warn the flock of an approaching hawk? Do they

contravene the fundamental law of gene selfishness? Actually, Dawkins

addresses this issue in his work as well. In The Selfish Gene, he states that

“We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary,




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Li Yan                                                                       Rhet 1302




the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of

deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism - something

that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the

whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as

meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We,

alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."

(Richard Dawkins “The Selfish Gene'” page 200 - 201, 1989. Oxford

University Press ISBN 0-19-286092-5

< http://kwelos.tripod.com/thoughtpolice.htm>)

         Also, Sean Gould has a theory of the evolution of human behavior

which talks about the genes selfishness as well. In his work, he wrote: “A

weak gene will join a strong gene because it gives the weak gene a better

chance to survive. But the strong gene has its selfish reason to cooperate

too. By uniting with a weak gene, the strong gene can adapt into new forms

of life, but retain its own sequence unaltered if it can force the weaker gene to

do the altering, and bear the cost of change.” (Sean Gould, “The Theory of

Options: A New Theory of the Evolution of Human Behavior”, page 45

< http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/1628/0book.pdf>). So, genes

cooperate but it is all because of the “selfish” reason. Based on his work, it

proves nature makes human beings cooperative.

         In addition, Thomas Hobbes thinks human beings are by nature

competitive. In his famous work, “The Leviathan”, Hobbes claims that before




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Li Yan                                                                        Rhet 1302




the rise of civil society, individuals existed in a state of nature, which is the

unavoidable result of circumstances in which there is no power which can

enforce principles of justice and social order. Consequently, life within this

state is characterized by a perpetual state of conflict in which every individual

is each other’s enemy. Such a conflict is further worsening by the relative

equality of the power of different individuals, and by their inability to attain true

personal security. (Cheedy Jaja, Hobbes's Theory of Colonialism and the

African Colonial Experience: Structural and Programmatic Affinities

http://www.apa.udel.edu/apa/archive/newsletters/v97n2/black/hobbes.asp)

Based on his work, he believes that human beings are greedy and we suffer

in a way of life that is “poor, nasty and short”, so human beings are by nature

competitive.

         The exact opposite view of genes control human beings is the nurture

argument. Are humans competitive because they are born into a competitive

society? One of the greatest philosophers in Europe at the end of the

seventeenth century, John Locke has an opposite theory. In his famous work,

“Two Treatises of Government” in 1690, he states that nature is a state of

perfect equality among all men. In this state, no one man has more power or

jurisdiction than any other man. Based on his work, John Locke believes

people are generally good and equal, also “evil” came from society itself. So

he thinks human beings are by nurture competitive, and “selfishness” came

from the society. He also suggest that the human infant is like a blank slate,




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Li Yan                                                                       Rhet 1302




on which experience in the form of human learning writes messages on the

infant's unformed mind.

         Alison Gopnik, a professor of Psychology from the University of

California, Berkeley, starts her research to explore how young children come

to know about the world around them. Based on her research, Gopnik thinks

that the innate knowledge with unformed mind can be changed by

environment.

         Also, Dr. Bruce Lipton thinks the environment a fetus is raised in will

determine the path upon which the human will live. The environment will

make the child competitive or cooperative.

(Nature vs. Nurture <129.110.23.73:7000/27432>

         Based on those theories, differentiation among human beings is

influenced by nurture. In fact, competition exists everywhere. One of the

most obvious examples will be sports. Most of people crazy about different

kinds of sports, and the way how the sports present itself is a way of

competition, such as team verses team, city verses city, even nation verses

nation. At school, students compete with each other about their grades. At

work, workers compete with each other about their working performance. At

home, children compete with their brothers and sisters. Even twins, most of

them want to be looked different from others, which is a way of competition as

well. Also, when there is limited resource exist, people start to compete with

each other. For example, when a company only hire one people from all the




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Li Yan                                                                     Rhet 1302




interns, then people start to compete with each other, because they afraid to

lose what they want. Under this condition, people start to become selfish,

also they want to prove that he or she is better than other competitors. In the

other hand, people do not compete for oxygen, because oxygen is super

abundant for everyone. So the quantity of limited resources plays a big factor

in competition.

         The economy could also be a main factor for human competition.

Marie Gryphon suggests an interesting perspective on competition and the

economy. She states that communal society is as much a part of our genetic

inheritance as competition is which means unfettered markets may be more

an invention of culture than an expression of our underlying biology,

(Nature vs. Nurture < http://129.110.23.73:7000/27432/>) When you want

something but you can not pay for it, then you start to compare yourself with

others. When all your friends are wearing nice clothes, but you are not, then

you start to think why I can not have the same things as them, then

competition occurs.

         In China, back to thirty years, it does not matter what diploma you

have, everyone gets the same salary. Also, people buy food by using food

stamps, so everyone get the same quantities each week just like others.

Under that situation, everybody is equal based on economic status. During

that time period, there was no economic competition involved at all, and it is

easily to build closer relationship between each other. But now, everything




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Li Yan                                                                       Rhet 1302




changed because there is a huge gap between rich and poor in China,

selfishness rapidly grow inside of people’s mind. So the economic

environment makes people to become competitive.

         Moreover, the debate over human nature has always been that people

do not know to which extent behavior is determined by either nature or

nurture. What we really need to know though, is which qualities will maximize

human potential, regardless of how the qualities arise. (Sean Gould, “The

Theory of Options: A New Theory of the Evolution of Human Behavior, page

11, < http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/1628/0book.pdf>)

         Overall, as my personal opinion, I think human beings are a

combination of nature and nurture. Genes create what types of people we are,

but we can change ourselves to what types of people we want to be. It is

hard to tell human beings are influenced by nature or nurture. If you look at

rich children, nature plays a bigger role than if you look at poor children where

nurture plays a bigger role. There are so many people did not have any

advantages when they were born, but after all the efforts, they changed their

lives and became successful. Both nature and nurture are extremely

important to human beings, so we need to consider both as a whole concept.

Just like Journalist Ridley said: "It is not nature versus nurture, but nature via

nurture.” (Journalist Ridley challenges nature versus nurture theory

< http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/archives/2005/05/11/news/12908.shtml>)




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Li Yan       Rhet 1302




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