Saturday, June 28, 2014

Does ambition arise from instinct?

I had an interesting conversation with someone about the perils that lay ahead for women who choose mates that lack ambition. During that conversation I noticed that he brought up the subject of instinct, as if instinct has anything to do with ambition. Ambition is not a product of instinct. It is a product of the mind. We know this because as Thomas Jefferson once observed:
"Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society."   --- Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Issac McPherson on the subject of patent monopolies
"Late in society"? Could it be that many humans have not even come close to adapting to economies built of money? What if evolution simply hasn't caught up to the arbitrary nature of economics? Given that 3 billion people are faced every day with using a hole in the ground rather than a toilet, I think most humans have not completely adapted to money and ownership of property. I sincerely doubt that instinct anticipates anything like what we think of as "ambition".

Diversity in life, as it is in humans, is that everyone will have different levels of ambition. Not because ambition is a successful trait, but because genes will try every possible combination to ensure the greatest possible chance for reproductive success. Genes know nothing of ambition, only survival. I'm reminded of the following quote:
Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.
― Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
Not everyone can have a high level of ambition. If we did, we'd be a warrin' all over the place and there would be no peace. Besides, ambition is in the eye of the beholder. Some men want to make more money. Some men want to make great discoveries. Some men want to be great writers, actors or artists. Some still want to start and master the enterprise. Some just want to make a nice sandcastle. Note that I don't equate war with ambition. War is simply evil and nothing more.

These days, ambition is seen as the desire to captain some industry and amass great fortunes. So how does that bode for the progeny of the those anointed with ambition? There is plenty of literature on the distance between ambitious parents and their children.  Some high value CEOs hardly ever see their kids because, well, they're working 60-80 hours a week. But if they're really raking in the dough, they send their kids to private school, out of sight out of mind. Just ask Chris Hedges.

Some women might actually find less ambition to be more attractive. Perhaps they are looking for a father more devoted to family and time with the kids than time at the office. Now that is a far more likely to be attributed to genetics and instinct than to "ambition".

Some women may actually prefer a more humble mate than one who thinks he can conquer the world and subject the world to his will. Ambition is a continuum. Some men want to rule the world. Others just want to buy a house with a large backyard so that they can enjoy the view of the sky while laying on the grass - with their kids.

Whether or not a little more or a little less ambition will contribute to reproductive success has more to do with the attitude that parents have towards their kids. Either you believe the kids are there for you or you believe that you are there for your kids. I take the latter position. My job is to provide my kids with 24/7 tech support for life. There is no greater ambition.
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