The Parable of the Altruist God

Once there was a minor god. She didn’t have all the powers of God but she had a few tricks up her sleeve and one day she was given a planet to look after. It was a beautiful little world teeming with life. Since she was but a young god she was given a planet of plants to start. From a distance the world was an Eden but as the god looked closer she was dismayed with what she found. When she looked close she did not see a paradise, she saw a war.  She saw tall trees fanning out large leaves to take all the sunlight while small bushes, ferns and grasses withered and suffered below trying to find small pockets of light for nourishment. Every day while some plants flourished and grew others were dying of starvation or thirst. The suffering of the young was greatest. The vast majority of baby plants died before they reached maturity.

Seeing all this suffering and inequality, the god knew she must act. She did not have the ability to make nutrients out of nothing, but she was able to reallocate. She said to herself, “Those that have much should give to those who have less. Surely that will be more just and would increase total utility.”  So the god put a spell on the planet such that every living thing that had an excess of nutrients would have some of them magically transferred to those that were the most in need. Then she sat back to watch her little planet thrive and flourish.

Immediately the young saplings that were dying in the shade started to perk up and grow. The great trees gathered the sunlight but it was now distributed to all. Without excess energy they could grow no further but that was just a wasteful competition. Now so many more plants could live.

All the plants continued to age and die as was their nature. The god could not prevent that and even if she could, it was important to make room for the new on her little world. Since no trees could gather enough excess energy to reach great heights the tall forests of the planet were gradually replaced by a vast grassland. This was good, the god thought, since millions of little blades of grass could live in the sun that was once hogged by one great tree.

As millennia passed and the plants lived their lives the blades of grass that dominated the world grew thinner and thinner. For each little blade the work of growing their one leaf to capture as much sunlight as possible did not make much sense. If they could not support themselves then other blades with wider leaves would support them. They could spend their energy making more seeds since their offspring would also be aided by whatever grass still generated more energy than it absolutely needed to survive. Finally, grasses started to evolve that produced no leaves at all. Relying on the now ancient spell to provide them with enough nutrients to survive they simply put all their energy into growing more seeds.

While the total number of lives on the planet continued to increase the total energy captured from the sun declined.

When the end came it was swift. Suddenly, there was simply not enough energy left to support the lives of most of the plants. The spell worked furiously to transfer what energy that was available to those who were closest to starvation but it was only able to extend their starvation by mere seconds. The few remaining plants that could feed from the sun had to starve to support the multitudes that could not. In one final gasp the planet died as the last calorie was consumed faster than the next could be produced.

The little demon looked at her dead planet and said “There, now all is just. All is equal” and moved on.

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