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Biological imperatives are the needs of living organisms as required to perpetuate their existence. It is possible to define the following hierarchy of biological imperatives for a living organism: survival, territorialism, competition, reproduction, quality of life-seeking, and group forming. Living organisms that do not attempt to follow or do not succeed in satisfying these imperatives are described as maladaptive; those that do are adaptive.
Territorialism is a fairly fundamental feature of all living organisms, by simple virtue of the fact we live in a physical universe. Bacteria evidently acquire territory as they spread out in a Petri dish. Observing living organisms in nature suggests that the step before procreation is to establish a territory within which they may hunt, breed, and ensure the growth of their offspring.
Competition is one of the environmental factors that constitute natural selection. Individual organisms compete for food and mates; groups of living organisms compete for control of territory and resources; species though, do not so much compete, as passively adapt to their environment.
Biological imperatives are important to the study of evolution. In order for species to persist, they must by definition reproduce to ensure the continuation of their species. Without reproduction the species ceases to exist. The capacity for reproduction and the drive to do so whenever physiological and environmental conditions allow it are universal among living organisms and are expressed in a multitude of ways by the spectrum of living organisms.
Relationships between potentially conflicting biological imperatives, such as self-preservation and reproduction are similarly resolved in an extraordinary variety of fashions by different organisms, from those who sacrifice themselves to procreate or increase the survival chances of their offspring to those who will abandon their descendants to their own luck when threatened so they may live and successfully procreate another day.
Notwithstanding the evolutionary emergence of conscious voluntary action in some forms of life, the urge to procreate is an involuntary and unconscious biological drive which first emerged as an inherent property of living cells and is echoed in the upper levels of organization of multicellular organisms.
In psychology, genetic imperative is important as a way of understanding family structure and gender interactions.
It has been theorised that genetic imperative is the basis for the dominance of polygyny over polyandry in most polygamous human cultures. The theory states that since it is biologically feasible for a male to impregnate many women in a shorter amount of time, while the female reproductive cycle is limited to intervals longer than nine months, the male genetic imperative compels males to seek multiple sexual partners, while the female genetic imperative compels the female to seek the fittest possible male who will help with the process of bringing the child to adulthood.
Genetic imperative is also theorised to be the basis of exclusivity in sexual relationships. Since genetic imperative works in an organism by causing the organism to wish to spread its own genes, the organism tries to prevent other organisms from spreading their genes in the same territory. This behavior is theorized to be exhibited by humans in the exclusivity of many human sexual relationships, also known as monogamy.
The same theory can also be used to explain many other observed behaviours, especially relating to nutrition and available food sources. For example sheep (herbivores) killing animals and chewing on their bones to supply needed calcium for their diet. It is theorised that many of the cravings women sometimes have for strange foods during pregnancy can be attributed to important nutrients that are required.
A living organisms' need to improve their quality of life seems to serve the purpose of improving their chances of survival. Quality-of-life-seeking also includes reducing the levels of stress experienced by an individual organism. Stress can cause both physiological and mental illness. Stress can be due to crime: threat and acts against the person; threat and acts against property. Health in general comes under this category: individual organisms that seek to maintain and improve their health are improving their chances of survival.
It is observable that most organisms form groups in order to enhance their chances of survival. Groups can be of simply two or of huge numbers. Group-forming is complex, and involves territorialism; notions of identity; culture. Group-forming is what leads us as humans to form families, clans, tribes, and nations.
This group-forming in Humans is the result of biology: due to the size of our brains, children are dependent on their parents for much longer than most animals; the result of this is that the biological couplings necessary for reproduction linger so that the parents can ensure the survival of the offspring.
This necessary time investment and larger brain size, coupled with our ability to communicate precipitates the evolution of social constructions such as the family. After several generations, many more families exist with varied connections to each other; a common ancestry, evidenced by their phenotype, unites these clans.
More generations later with multiple clans, tribes form; then the non-biological group-forming can take place where tribes can split due to geography and demand for resources. As an aside, this is also the stage where different dialects of language forming.
As tribes enlarge, the benefits of being part of a larger group become evident and systems of managing these larger populations are required, this is the stage at which civilization begins to emerge
This religious system perpetuated the essentially tribal systems of oligarchy and monarchy. Competition for resources and territory led to investment in knowledge-seeking; education precipitates the gradual evolution of economic systems and of democratic systems and of the nation.
The next logical step is the formation of an organized species-wide group, as population pressure compels the species to seek new resources and territory, and technology enables us to look beyond our current territory as a species to find new resources and territory beyond the Earth.
Living organisms enhance their survivability by acquiring information about their environment. Humans are not alone in their ability to acquire and exchange information and learn new skills. Termites build huge structures; bees dance; mating rituals are exchanges of information; otters, parrots and chimpanzees use tools and pass on this knowledge.
The principles of Biological Imperatives have been used to formulate political ideas such as Nativism.