TOM THE DANCING BUG: What is the product of the most incredible unbroken winning streak in the history of life on Earth?


In the words of Marine sergeant Bobby Shaftoe, “Show some fucking adaptability!”


you’re welcome!

Already a reference to the Cryptonomicon! Well done! How about these lines of how a main character is the descendant of stupendous baddasses.

…was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo-which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time.

Everyone and everything that wasn’t a stupendous badass was dead.


Both Shaftoes and Waterhouses, of course, demonstrably have ancestors of varied badassery.



I can’t believe this is the same Bob who showed such strength and fortitude while buying soup.


I’m sure there is other life which has survived harsher selection, and p rather than k strategies, over far more generations… think smaller.

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I know r vs K, can you link me to p & k?


I was expecting a Lucky Ducky punchline.

I probably meant r rather than k. (oops)

I definitely meant more offspring, less care, rather than more care, less offspring.


Yeah, yeah, I get it…this epic struggle for survival ends up creating “Bob”, this weakling couch potato. Hardy har har. But bear with me for a second. Let’s not judge Bob so harshly in terms of the ability to survive and general bad-assery. Assuming Bob is of generally good health, he’s actually an unstoppable killing machine. First off, Bob knows how to use tools, and in a pinch, make them if he has to. Hand Bob a gun (or a good spear/knife), water bottle, and a flashlight, and most animals don’t stand a chance against him. His wide array of tools…including TV, GPS/smartphone, motor vehicles (or bicycle or horse)…make him able to mobilize quickly, coordinate with his fellow humans, and stay informed of his current environment (the weather, where the herd is moving to, alerts about local tiger activity, etc). He can make fire, which still scares the shit out of most animals.

Bob’s secret weapon, as atrophied as may it be, is his brain and its rapid-fire abstract thinking. Humans are still far away the deadliest, most evil, most bloodthirsty animals on the planet, and that includes those who are vegging out to Netflix. Tigers, hippos, elephants, and the occasional pit bull sometimes try to rise up against us, but they always end up getting killed in the end. Good luck with your rebellion against 7 billion tool users.

The only animals who DO kick our asses from time to time are mosquitoes and various forms of bacteria and viruses. Now that’s the real Thrilla in Manila.


Actually no. His only necessary ability is to find a female and have a child. If he can’t get off his couch then his evolutionary line is a failure.
This actually goes to my concern with really really smart people not wanting to have kids, for whatever reasons. They are failing our species to evolve into a more intelligent one and just keeping us as slug-like, gun-carrying, couch potatoes.

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I often see this but I am far from sure it is true. Genetic factors in IQ have proven rather resistant to identification. What is known is that the biggest factor in lowering IQ is being poor, and that this is not of itself genetic. Luck has an awful lot to do with it. The slug like couch potato might have been somebody quite different had his parents been in a different environment.


Please don’t. Beside what kupfernik said, being as smart as we are in the first place is related to being K-selected; mammals have fewer offspring but put more care into them. Having some worry more about helping others than having their own children is a natural expression of that above the individual level.

Humans are mostly adapted to living in societies; it doesn’t make bees stupid to have so many of the more clever workers forgo mating.

This is really tangential, but a while back I was excited to see a richer version of these categories, applied to things like plants and fungi that aren’t really K-selected but still have different evolutionary strategies.

R-selected was for ones that reproduce as much as possible, which tend to be opportunists colonizing new habitats. C-selected types reproduce slower but focus more resources on competition and so tend to displace them. S-selected types do neither, but instead focus on surviving environmental stress, and so can monopolize habitats too marginal for the others.

I thought it was interesting, anyway.


I’ll let a different internet-famous cartoonist address that one.

(Disclaimer: I thought “Idiocracy” was a fun movie, just as long as nobody confuses it with a documentary.)


Wow, excellent comment, you actually changed my mind. There are many people that definitely put more benefit to our society/species than just their genes.
I suppose that many of those that forgo the family life are committed to something bigger.
That’s actually something really special about humanity, we don’t just have to think about our own or just our kids generation like all the other animals we can envision far in the future and do things that will help centuries from now.
Like more comfy couches and remotes that cant get lost :smile:


The bacteria outnumber and outweigh every other form of life. They are definitely the leading life form so far. Bust some, the rest mutate, and keep on coming.

He’s right; that remote really is far away.

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As Jay Gould put it, the biological age of the Earth is the same as it has been since life began - it’s still the Age of Bacteria.
Bacteria have no brains at all yet they even affect rainfall and, to a degree, geology. When we think about human beings affecting our planet, we should remember that bacteria affected the biosphere first and continue to do so. People who say that humans are too insignificant to affect climate should remember that, but for bacteria, the planet wouldn’t have an atmosphere that could support multicellular life.


I would take that one step further. Ruben held up Bob as an object of ridicule, but I think Bob is a miracle, though he doesn’t know it. I think he’s a goddam burning bush.

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