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Survival of what?

Radford Neal radford at cs.toronto.edu
Wed Aug 23 10:59:27 EST 1995

In article <41dv1v$1ip4 at huey.cadvision.com>,
Deep Throat <carterb at cadvision.com> wrote:

>   There is no doubt that Darwin's theory concerning the survival of the
>fittest is correct when applied to organisms living in nature, but it
>loses all of its integrity when applied to humans living in today's
>society's...  in human societies, we treat everyone as equal and go out of
>our way to aid the helpless in extending their lives and leading a
>normal life... Unless things change, human's may evolve in negative
>ways, and we may not become the creatures we would like to be.

You are confused about two things.  First, Darwin's theory is a
description of how the world works, not of how the world *should*
work.  Species evolve.  Whether the way they evolve is "negative" or
not is entirely in the eye of the beholder.  It has nothing to do 
with scientific theory.

Secondly, Darwin's theory is about natural selection on the basis of
reproductive success, not about "survival of the fittest", if by
"fittest" you mean only big, strong, etc.  Natural selection is operating
just as much now as ever.  It should be obvious to everyone that
reproductive success is far from uniform in today's society.  It is
quite likely that some of the observed differences are heritable.  If
so, natural selection is operating, in a typical Darwinian way.  For
example, if the current social environment in the developed countries
persists (a big if), we may expect that in a few hundred years, most
people will find the idea of having children much more attractive than
many do now, since desire for children is a trait that is highly
selected for in an environment where effective contraception is easily

    Radford Neal

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