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“Optimism is at bottom the unmerited self-praise of the real originator of the world, the will to live, which views itself complacently in its works; and accordingly it is not only a false, but also a pernicious doctrine….”

September 24, 2009
“When the utility function––that which is being maximized––is DNA survival, this is not a recipe for happiness. So long as DNA is passed on, it does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process. It is better for the genes of Darwin’s ichneumon wasp that the caterpillar should be alive, and therefore fresh, when it is eaten, no matter what the cost in suffering. Genes don’t care about suffering, because they don’t care about anything. If Nature were kind, she would at least make the minor concession of anesthetizing caterpillars before they were eaten alive from within. But Nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering nor for it. Nature is not interested one way or the other in suffering unless it affects the survival of DNA. It is easy to imagine a gene that, say, tranquilizes gazelles when they are about to suffer a killing bite. Would such a gene be favored by natural selection? Not unless the act of tranquilizing a gazelle improved that gene’s chances of being propagated into future generations. It is hard to see why this should be so, and we may therefore guess that gazelles suffer horrible pain and fear when they are pursued to the death––as most of them eventually are. The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so. If there is ever a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.”

––Richard Dawkins, A River Out of Eden

“Optimism is at bottom the unmerited self-praise of the real originator of the world, the will to live, which views itself complacently in its works; and accordingly it is not only a false, but also a pernicious doctrine. For it presents life to us as a desirable condition, and the happiness of man as the end of it. Starting from this, every one then believes that he has the most just claim to happiness and pleasure; and if, as is wont to happen, these do not fall to his lot, then he believes that he is wronged, nay, that he loses the end of his existence; while it is far more correct to regard work, privation, misery, and suffering, crowned by death, as the end of our life (as Brahmanism and Buddhism, and also genuine Christianity do); for it is these which lead to the denial of the will to live.”

––Schopenhauer
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