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Isn't reproduction -- not life -- the standard of value?

In "The Objectivist Ethics," Ayn Rand claims that "an organism’s life is its standard of value," meaning that "that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil." She claims that on the grounds that the physical functions of a living organism are "actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life." In fact, however, evolutionary theory teaches us that reproduction, not life, is the ultimate end of every living organism. Is that true? If so, does that have implications for ethics?

Anonymous , 17.02.2013, 13:09
Idea status: under consideration


Adam , 18.09.2013, 04:34
I would not say that modern evolutionary theory holds reproduction as the standard of value. If you are talking about gene centred theories, then it is the perpetuation of the genes which is the standard of value. This is not the same as reproduction from an individual's point of view; it might be in the interest of the genes for one individual to die so that a greater number of others may prosper. If you look at worker ants for example, their standard of value is the genes of the queen ant; they live to serve her, and cannot breed themselves.
Mike, 21.12.2013, 15:21
This is prevalent throughout all life. Even amoeba will gather together to form a tower to allow the amoeba at the top of the tower to use the wind to move to an area with greater nutrients. Those amoeba that build the tower die. All but the leaders of a pack of dogs deny themselves reproduction so the best of the group can reproduce. This ensures that the species continues, not the individual. Clearly we should be living our lives for the benefit of the species. Living for the individual goes against the reality of life. And respecting reality is important.
James, 10.02.2015, 06:12
I know it's old, but I wanted to mention that this quesiton is very confused on what values are. Evolution does not, in any way, say that the ultimate value or end of any organism is to pass on thier genes. It merely states that those genes which are passed on will, over tremendous lengths of time, tend to dominate. Each organism has its own values--and in fact MUST have its own values, because variation is a necessary condition for evolution to occur (genotype variations will cause different demands on the organism, which cause different needs). Reproduction is how genes pass from one generation to another, but this says nothing about how one is to live one's life. The concept doesn't even make biological sense--if the question's view was valid, no organism would live past child-bearing age or after injury, illness, or birth defect removed the potential for reproduction. Kin selection may save some from immediate suicide, but for organisms that largely live solitary lives (most large predators, for example), loss of reproduction would mean loss of life by the question's view. Senescence disproves the notion thoroughly.

Plus, the view that the gene is the be-all, end-all of evolutionary biology is outdated. Epigenetics shows that the issue is significantly more complicated, and paleontology quite dramatically shows that you can have the best genes in the world and still not pass them along. I've yet to see a gene that is capable of surviving behing hit in the head by a rock the size of Texas!

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