Friday, October 26, 2012

The Utopia Paradox

Why do species go extinct?

Many archaeologists and biologists claim that extinction events occur as a result of extrinsic factors; dinosaurs died by asteroid, Neanderthal died by war with Homo Sapien, ect.  However, here I will offer a mechanism for extinction that does not rely on ad hoc extrinsic explanations.  In this paper, a frightening and somewhat counter-intuitive process of nature will be illustrated: that extinction is inevitable for all species under the right conditions.  The facts show that whenever a population is subjected to conditions that can best be considered "utopian", a catastrophic chain of events is set into motion, eventually leaving the once wealthy population extinct.

To fully visualize this process, it is helpful to demonstrate with an example.  Researcher John Calhoun has provided us with a clear example of such extinction by utopia and will be a main focus in this paper.

The artificial utopia

Calhoun began his experiment by constructing a mouse habitat that would meet all of the basic needs of each mouse.  This is what is meant by the term "utopian":  The 16 cell mouse habitat was always fully stocked with an abundance of food and drink for nutrients, as well as materials and housing for nesting and comfort.

The habitat had plenty of room for up to 3000 mice, but a much smaller number was transplanted initially to study how said population would grow.  The process went through multiple distinct stages before utter extinction, so is imperative in this study to examine each step individually.

Stage 1: Strive.

Pop. Growth Chart 1

Initially, the mice settled in to their surroundings.  The population is actually reduced, slightly, during this stage.  The mice are more or less evenly spread out while nests are being formed, socialization is beginning, and the habitat is explored.  However, this stage is short lived and quickly morphs into something new.

Stage 2: Exploit.

Pop. Growth Chart 2

Population density inequality
During this stage, the population of mice doubled every 60 days.  This exponential increase in population density led to new systematic characteristics.  A defining factor was in resource consumption.  Despite being identical in both structure and opprotunity, more food and water was consumed in some regions more than others. As the population continued to increase, pleasurable associations of eating, drinking and socializing in the presence of other mice became a way of life.  This led to even greater overcrowding in certain units.

Stage 3: Equilibrium

Pop. Growth Chart 3

The exploitation stage lasted about 300 days before the population leveled off.  This time of near zero growth is what has been termed as the Equilibrium period.  Newer generations born during this period are raised in an environment where territories and social groups have been well established.  Due to this extreme socialization, these new generations are found to be overly inhibited.

It is during the equilibrium stage that the mice begin to exhibit very strange behavior.

A common trend was increased violence.  The excess males strove for acceptance, got rejected, and then would isolate into groups.  Within these huddles, there would be flurries of violence amongst themselves.  As time drew on, certain individuals became distinguished from the average aggressor, were targetted as victims and repeatedly became the targets of violence.

But another group exhibited much different behavior. Researchers called them, "the beautiful ones."
These particular mice spend almost all of their time on grooming, eating, and sleeping. They would never involve themselves with others, engage in sex, or fight.  The Beautiful Ones merely presented themselves as apparently ideal forms of the species, with keen, alert eyes, and a healthy, well kept body.

The beautiful ones, however, were very stupid, or maladaptive. Despite their inquisitive and healthy appearance, they could not cope with unusual stimuli occurring naturally or presented by the researchers.

The Final Stage: Death

Pop. Growth Chart 4

While the utopia could hold 3000 mice, at about 2200 the mouse population began to dwindle. During the death phase, each animal became less and less aware of the other animals in it's surroundings, despite the fact that they were grouping closer and closer together.

Effects of increased violence
Violence escalated to the point where it was difficult to find a mouse without a gnawed up tail.
From the Equilibrium stage on, males spent more and more time attacking each other, and females had less and less offspring due to the sheer density of the population.  In little time, the entire mouse population had perished.

The experiment was repeated with rats where more details were observed through tracking devices and closer inspection.  The researchers found that as population increased, the care given by mothers to their young diminished.  Also, like with the mice, three distinct archetypes of animal personality arose.  The aggressives, the outcasts (who were picked on most), and the asocials (the beautiful ones).

Thus, this process occurs consistently, regardless of species.

Could Humans be experiencing this very same process?

Historically, many factors place us into the very same utopian environment experienced by the mice and rats that were studied.  Us humans have been intelligent enough to produce food, water and comfortable shelter on demand since the industrial/scientific revolution just a couple hundred years ago.

We have also, collectively, been developing immunities against our only natural predators- microbial infectants- for millenia.  The final nail in our natural predator's coffin was with vaccines, antibiotics, and sterilzation which coincided with the Scientific/industrial revolution, dropping the infant morality rate in particular down to levels much lower than previously experienced.

While particular regions still suffer in poverty, the vast majority of humans on earth enjoy these "utopian" conditions, and the data reflects that fact.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the population of humans has increase exponentially just as we can find in Stage 2 of the utopia paradox.  The exponential rise has also been leveling off over the past few decades. This significant drop in growth (down to 1.1 globally) suggests that the equilibrium stage has been reached.

Human have packed themselves into dense regions called cities, much the way mice did in particular units of their habitat.  Birthrates in these dense regions have leveled off and have even begun to drop into the negatives.

It's tough to say how long we have left as a species, but the trend suggests that the utopian effect is inevitable. So, like all species, humans don't have long before we go the way of the dodo.  All species are subject to this process, and it seems that we only have a short amount of time left.

And what about those Neanderthals? Or the dinosaurs? Surely, the archaeologists aren't wrong about them. Well there are plenty of good explanations for them too.  Just visit Bill Gaede's page explaining how natural extinction really works here: Neanderthals, Dinosaurs.

A special thanks to Bill Gaede for introducing me to these ideas in detail.  Please visit his hubpages or website @ for more information and Gaede's complete theory of extinction.


  1. Very interesting article- if this scenario were to be carried out by mankind, it will be quite scary. But, as mentioned, the signs are there already. So sad.

    1. Thanks for the reply. Indeed, it's a tough pill to swallow but all species are subject to this process under the right conditions and we find ourselves there now. There's not much to be done, nothing lasts forever.

  2. Thanx! for explaining the underlying mechanism for extinction. Of course, man in his arrogance thinks he will fool Mother Nature.

  3. Paul James says;

    Excellent article Mike! I particularly enjoyed the last section's comparative analysis. I find it peculiar that after having been through three levels of education the first time I heard about Calhoun's research was while watching a bgaede vid on You Tube.

  4. Similar experiments have been done with Reindeers, put on islands without predators, similar sequence of events there. But then of course the big difference between mankind and (other) animals is that we can regulate our population culturally. In the industrialized world population is actually dropping (which is offset by immigration), which probably has to do with the fact that people is very individualized and keen to make a career, self-fulfillment and so on rather than starting a family. Many believe it has to do with the degree of modernization and poverty that the country has, which is a great incentive to modernize the developing countries in order to fight poverty and so on (where population growth is greatest). But then it is rather a question about distribution and a discussion of capitalism and so on, which many say is dependent on some degree of poverty and exploitation to be maintained.

    Then we have the purely ecological questions about if it is possible to achieve this degree of modernization across the globe? Aswell as anthropological question such as if it is even desirable that all should strive for these (essentially Western) ideals about the way of life?

    Can we thus say that the West's stable population dependent on rampant population growth in poorer countries?

  5. "Can we thus say that the West's stable population dependent on rampant population growth in poorer countries?"

    Like I mentioned in the article, the West's stable population is due to Density Dependent Birth-rates. The reason why undeveloped countries are growing is because they are just beginning to urbanize. After the urban areas become sufficiently dense, population will drop off just as it did in the west.

    Globally, this leads to an ecological collapse and the extinction of man.

  6. --------------