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The Survival Of The Fittest: Objections


The survival of the fittest often is proffered hand in hand with the theory of evolution.

It is defined in various ways, typically: "In evolutionary theory the survival of only those organisms best able [e.g. fittest] to obtain and utilize resources".

Attacks on the theory range from arguments that it is plain wrong, to that it is a truism and therefore correct but trivially so.

For instance, many reduce it to the weaker: 'that which survives is that which survives' - whether this is a valid move depends largely on how the term is defined, but certainly if fitness is defined as 'propensity to survive' than one can see it tells us nothing.

For those who do not reduce 'fittest' to 'propensity' to survive, then there are other attacks that can be made.

One of these is that the theory is actually wrong. There is a great deal to be said for the rival theory, Survival of the Luckiest. Let's put this in context:

All of us alive today are profoundly and absurdly lucky. Nevermind the lottery or any other game of odds, the chances of us being alive today is purely due to the indisputable fact that every single one of our forebears back to the dawn of life has never failed to reproduce.

Think of all those natural disasters that have occurred over the staggering period of years. Think of all the predators. The changing climate. The impact of meteors and so on. To survive over that period of time, the biggest thing that each of your forebears has needed is luck, and lots of it.

In terms of fitness, you could be the most 'fit' by a trojan mile but if a meteor comes and slams down in the vicinity you are still going to get vapourized.

The mild objection from the Survival of the Luckiest is that the survival of the fittest is not the full story - that it is informationally deficient on its own and needs to be bolstered by the Survival of the Luckiest to accurately represent the phenomenology that is life.

Others go further and object that the competing theory Survival of the Luckiest is correct on its own and therefore that Survival of the Fittest is wrong. They would argue that more often than not, the 'fitter' creature is not the one that survives, but the luckier.

If two birds emerge from the nest a few seconds after each other, the passing crow might take bird one and a second later, bird two lives... despite not being the first to fledge.

Overall this Survival of the Luckiest theory may fall or rise on interpretation of 'more often than not'... objections to this theory concede that luck is needed for survival but that a Lucky AND Fit individual is more likely to survive than one which is just Lucky.

By: Stephen

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Doesn't the problem arise from the way that "fittest" is defined? Sure...
- Wed, Mar 19th 2008

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