I was going through old questions when I found THIS question regarding agriculture. It occurred to me that if a species created enough evolutionary pressure on the species around it, it could select for species favoring it through destruction of all other species that did not.

This further got me thinking about all the species portrayed in endless worlds as being spiteful, malicious destroyers of everything around them. Intuition says races like the Daleks would have gone extinct as they devoted all their energy and resources to angering their neighbors enough to kill them all. Cooperation and at least a minimal respect for things around you gets you more out of life, and life is hard. Eventually, such species would destroy everything in their quest for destruction. Environmentalists tell us we are all connected and humanity can't survive our abuse of the planet. Would they destroy themselves - or not?

I'm not talking greed. Naturally, not giving a care to if others live or die gets you at least SOME benefits. Even sadistic delight in destruction has limits - it's recreational, not a driving force of society.

Is it possible that the sheer malice of wanting to destroy everything not actively serving you is a useful survival strategy? Can an anti-environmental intelligent race be successful and prosper? I will use the original question as the standard. Success represents civilization advanced enough to place a satellite in orbit (probably for the purpose of finding stuff to kill, but still...) The behavior can be societal or genetic. It should be the predominant society for the history of the species since hunter-gatherer stage. Assume life similar to Earth. I will allow agriculture, as that is using species that are favorable to one's self.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you not feel that terrestrial evolution, based as it is on competition for limited resources, hasn't produced humanity, a species that doesn't cohabitate with any species unless first domesticating it (and even then we frequently kill the critters) - in other words, we kill anything that gets in our way - doesn't answer your question? Evolution isn't just the survival of the fittest, it's also the path of least resistance. Eventually the pressure that brought about something worse than humanity's basic nature would become the top of the chain and the pressure is gone. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Sep 16, 2020 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ @ JBH But humans are destructive because they are greedy. You destroy a forest to build a house. These folks burn down the forest out of hatred for all life not serving them. They don't weed a field primarily because it helps your crops grow - they do it for the satisfaction of exterminating life not serving you. I think it's likely the industrial revolution would give these folks the ability to destroy the entire biosphere, but I'd be impressed to be proved wrong. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 16, 2020 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'm talking Dalek/extermination anti-environmental. I thought it might independently recapitulate agriculture by malice, but would they wipe themselves out by doing so? $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 16, 2020 at 1:18
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    $\begingroup$ Could you define 'serving' in this context? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Sep 16, 2020 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ In this case, I agree with @JBH We are this species. We are on our way to becoming environmentalists (hopefully) because we are finally starting to realise that the entire planet is serving our needs. Let's just hope that we will not invent FTL travel before we fix the Earth because if we discover how to spread wider we will keep destroying everything we touch. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Sep 16, 2020 at 6:34

3 Answers 3


For this to work, there has to be

  1. active advantages to spending all that effort
  2. no irrevocable using up of resources in the process

This could be caused by their efforts being sufficient to make them prosper but not achieve the extermination they want, but if they have enough power, they have to have judgement about "actively serving you." For instance, a herbivorous species that reduces all their planet to agriculture will have to realize they need (the equivalents of) bees, earthworms, clover (to fix nitrogen or do some equivalent service in the ecosystem), whatever bacteria are needed to reduce the plant matter and their own bodies, etc. Furthermore, they have to be able to preserve seeds from one planting to the next, however hungry they get.

But the more of the planet they make agriculture, the larger the population they can sustain.

  • $\begingroup$ Assumedly, as the species advanced in scientific knowledge, their basic understanding of this would expand. They might not be able to tolerate bees, but maybe they would select for a species that couldn't sting... $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Sep 16, 2020 at 1:52

Can a species devoted to destroying other species survive and prosper?

Yes. We are already have something similar.

Why does not a nuclear state simply nuke it's enemies?

Hmmm. Because of self survival and a complicated web of politics that leads to the fact that on the global level you can be destructive but not self destructive. That web serves most countries involved even if you are getting the short hand.

Another one.

Why do we care for nature to begin with?

Because without a decent level of nature we will start having trouble to the point of endangering us.

So most of humanity hold off the destruction aspect because we prioritize our own existence.

Yes others like to protect things and preserve them but does not matter here.

So basically we already exist in a state of do whatever you want as long as it continues your own existence, or the advancement of your ideas or offspring.

I know it is almost insane to compare or prove.

Our motives here could be to drink pineapple juice or rule the stars. The human ideologies and practices and history is a continuation of the same basic principle of self preservation.

Only we are smarter and so we extend that to other things such as abstract concepts and helping others...etc.

So again, we don't destroy things because we are good or bad or have good intentions or bad. We don't destroy things because we are smart enough not to do so.

Think of how we experiment on animals. The value of doing so is much higher than that pesky little morality of some people so hey valuable data.

Ask any general if they had the ability to test weapons on an alien planet with alien species without it being a war crime and tell his that the date will be 100% simulating the human battlefield what will they do?. His disappointment of knowing that he can't will be immense.

Thus if you want to include whatever reason for "reckless hate" against everything else you absolutely can.

But intelligence will tune down the destruction based on consequences and so you will have more destruction but intelligence will insure the ultimate survival and thriving of the species.

This assumes that intelligence is hardcoded and their thinking hierarchy is basically like humans only they are more destructive but not insanely so.

Basically if you ask a random member of them why do you guys have laws regarding protection of nature he will tell: "Sure I'd like to burn the whole planet. But we know that without a certain level of protection then we will eventually die. So once we can exist without need for nature I'll be the first to burn this mother"

Can they keep dogs? Maybe. They are useful and they can be, the species, crueler masters. But even dogs will only tolerate cruelty to an extent so they will push it further but only to a certain point.

Wait. Does that mean that they will learn the lesson that they can't do whatever they want?

Que Doctor Manhattan saying "I can change almost anything...but I can't change human nature." With the name of the species instead of human

Will they end up changing because of selective malice?

Again this is difficult as this little species of homo sapiens is like a quarter of a million years old. We don't know how we will evolve or not so that's a tough one.

So to sum it up: intelligence is the biggest factor here and as long as they are smart they will insure their survival while perusing secondary goals.

Ours is playing Skyrim and eating hamburger while theirs is torturing little kittens and burning trees. But neither changes the grander scheme of things.

To how far can you push it before your point of malice changes things?

I'd argue if they follow our evolutionary tree not much.

We breed for intelligence and it is the factor that made us what we are.

I'd even argue that pure and destructive nihilism is a sort of intelligent thought and thus you can't have it before having the basic intelligence level of self preservation on the larger scheme like humans.

I hope the bolding of passages is not random and that I answered the question.

I think our artistic examples only show this.

The Joker was smart enough to oversee his own plans and demonstrate it. Khorne from warhammer 40K only cares for the blood flowing but insures that his subjects are given powers to burn the galaxy. The Necrons, same universe, also corporate and plan and execute maneuvers and do all sorts of technological things and repair to insure their dogma of destroying all organic material is fulfilled. Even the Reapers from Mass Effect do something similar and don't even target lesser intelligence species.

Those examples are the best I could come up with now. So if they don't fit then I just wanted to show my point.

Of course context rules here so if you have a species with specific properties then things might be different.


Normal animals kill to eat, when their hunger is satisfied they go on doing what they do. These creatures get some kind of endorphin hit when they kill and/or destroy. In the beginning, they couldn’t know what was, or wasn’t, useful to them. They kill animals for fun, eat them as an afterthought. Continue to kill every animal they can get to until the local environment no longer has any available game. Same for vegetation, they eat what they want and destroy the rest. So they migrate. This works for a while but it wouldn’t take long for animals they couldn’t catch to dominate the available environment. Having destroyed the vegetation and with no animals they could catch leaves them at risk of simple starvation. The absence of vegetation would create a desert. No food, no water. Game over. They wouldn’t have the opportunity to evolve.


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