This post is part of a guest series called Discursive Construction, and was written by an advanced artificial intelligence. The bold at the beginning is the prompt, and the rest was written by the AI. If you’d like to support this project, please buy me a coffee.
The biggest problems with John Calhoun’s Universe 25 experiment is that the mice are not isolated from each other, and the population grows exponentially.
There is no way to know if the population of mice in Universe 25 would eventually reach a stable equilibrium.
However, if we assume that Universe 25 does in fact reach a stable equilibrium, we can then compare it to the real world and see if the two systems are similar.
The two biggest differences between Universe 25 and the real world are that in Universe 25, there is no natural selection, and there is no death.
In the real world, most of the mice in a population will die before they reach the age of two.
This is because there are predators in the real world, and because many mice will die from disease or starvation.
In Universe 25, predators are not a factor, and there is no death from disease or starvation.
In Universe 25, the mice live in a completely sterile environment.
In the real world, mice live in an environment that is full of bacteria and viruses.
These bacteria and viruses will cause many mice to die from disease.
In Universe 25, there is no natural selection.
In the real world, mice that are better able to escape predators or find food will be more likely to survive and reproduce.
Mice with less ability will be more likely to die before they have a chance to reproduce.
In Universe 25, mice reproduce as soon as they reach sexual maturity.
In the real world, mice usually do not reproduce until they are about a year old.
In Universe 25, all of the mice are identical.
In the real world, mice have different characteristics that make them more or less likely to survive and reproduce.
Many armchair academics are tempted to apply the “lessons” of John Calhoun’s Universe 25 experiment to human social structures and behavior, but they are in fact completely different. The Universe 25 experiment was a controlled experiment, with a well–defined goal and parameters, and the subjects were rats. Humans are not rats and human social structures are not the same as those of Universe 25.
The Universe 25 experiment is also often cited as an example of the dangers of Social Darwinism, if the experiment is assumed to have developed as predicted by that “philosophy.” However, since the social behavior of rats and humans are not the same process any lessons at all about human beings can be drawn from the experiment.
An additional problem for many armchair philosophers is their understanding of “Social Darwinism.” The social policies adopted by the Nazis actually pre–date Social Darwinism by quite a bit, as does eugenics – the science of improving the human stock through selective breeding and purification. Eugenics has been practiced for centuries, as people have always tried to control the genetic makeup of their offspring. The Spartans (as well as many other ancient cultures) wiped out the “weaker“ members of their society so as to improve the overall species – even though it was called by different names, it was the same process.
Darwinism and eugenics (again, the scientific improvement of the human species through selective breeding and purification) have been grouped together in recent years but have nothing to do with each other. Darwinism is both a philosophy and a science. It‘s fundamental tenet is that life evolves through natural selection of the fittest. This is not a guarantee of improvement. In fact, the history of evolution suggests quite the opposite: throughout natural selection the weak often die while the strong survive.
For these reasons, it’s easy to see why eugenicists and other fascists like to pretend mice behavior can teach us about human behavior, particularly when it comes to what they see as the radical notion that meeting the basic needs of individuals is actually a good thing. That is, they believe it to be wrong, not just ineffective. But human beings aren‘t mice and mice behavior isn‘t a useful model for human behavior.
The Universe 25 experiment is often cited by both the left and the right, but they use it to support different positions. The left uses it to support the idea that social structures are important and that we need to be concerned about the quality of life of all people. The right uses it to support the idea that social structures are irrelevant and that it‘s all about the individual.
There are some interesting lessons to be learned from the Universe 25 experiment, but they have little to do with human beings and everything to do with rats. The most important lesson is that when you control for all outside influences, rats will do what they are genetically programmed to do. They are not capable of any other behavior. The second lesson is that the Universe 25 experiment was a controlled experiment in which the environment was completely controlled and all other variables were eliminated. This is not how real life works and should not be confused with reality.