Television viewers have an opportunity this fall and winter to witness two very different sets of games from the land down under. Both will provide tests of mental and physical endurance, and both will provide previously anonymous competitors a few minutes of fame. But the games will be very different: one ancient, the other (post)modern; one about highly trained athletes chosen for their skill, the other about "real people" chosen for group dynamics. One is the Olympics; the other is Survivor II: "Swifter, higher, stronger" vs. "outwit, outplay, outlast."After establishing itself as the highest-rated summer series in television history, CBS's Survivor will return this winter with new castaways, this time "stranded" in the Australian outback with a TV crew again taping them at random. As before, one individual will be "voted off" each week, and the final survivor will win $1 million.Thousands of men and women have sent in applications to be a part of the show, and millions will watch the carefully edited program, which is scheduled to begin airing in January.The possibility of fame and fortune has always made people do silly things, so it's not surprising that self-respecting persons would willingly abandon the comforts of home for a diet of rats and rice in the company of contentious strangers. Others have done worse for less reward.But why do we bother to watch? And what can we possibly learn in the process? In particular, what can we learn about human nature, and what lessons might that provide for the church?
In Darwinian terms, the "survival of the fittest" is accelerated by competition for resources. When the food supply is limited, some people will go hungry, and when they die, we surmise they must ...1