Natural Selection

I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about Natural Selection lately. One concept in particular that has been irritating me to no end is the phrase “survival of the fittest”. I have never really liked the term “fittest” for two reasons. First of all it seems to imply that the biggest, fastest or strongest creatures should be the ones that survive. This is clearly not always the case; just look at the dinosaurs. Secondly it seems to suggest that there can be some sort of ranking done to determine which species is the “fittest”. It seems to me that one could be easily mislead into thinking that certain adaptations are “better” than others if those adaptations make a species the “fittest”. But which is better, the long neck of the giraffe or the speed of the cheetah? Does the giraffe’s long neck make it “fit”?

Instead of “survival of the fittest”, I am finding that I prefer the phrase “survival of the useful” when discussing Natural Selection. Adaptations that prove to be useful in their local environment will be more likely to lead to success for the organism, so these useful adaptations will be more likely to proliferate. A long neck has proven to be useful to the giraffe just as tremendous speed has proven to be useful to the cheetah. One is not better than the other; they each simply prove to be useful relative to their environment.

Any thoughts?

I think that it really is survival of the most adaptable. I don’t think that Darwin ever said “fit” in regard to evolution. Am I right?

Hi Double Snowman,

Not necessarily. I think “fit” refers to the ability to survive during a period in time. Hence, the definition of fit changes as the environment changes.

There was a discussion on this topic a short while ago. It was pretty interesting, you might want to read it. Just go back a few pages.


Rina hit the nail on the head.
Fittest, in this context, does not refer to the fixed definition of ‘big,strong, fast’ , but the most fit to survive in specific enviromental conditions.
An example:
The biggest, strongest, fastest creature on earth (lets say a siberian tiger) would quickly flounder and drown in deep oceans, when a jellyfish might thrive. Obviously a jellyfish is neither bigger, nor stronger nor faster than a tiger, but it remains fitter to survive in deep water conditions.

youve confused “fittingness” with “usefullness”, d snow

they actually mean the same thing. you seem to be saying that there is no universal ‘fitting’ or ‘use’, only local ones.

i think fit is a better word, however, because the ecosystem is a puzzle. if you made the wolf super strong because that would look cool, and humans happen to enjoy strength, he wouldnt fit into the puzzle. this would be undesirable for no real reason other than the irrational worship we all have for leaving the environment somewhat the way we found it.

edit: crap. sober future man would like to comment that this is one of the worst things ive ever written. i dont remember writing it, but i know that i knew exactly what to say and was unable to write it here. drugs are bad.

If you confused “fit” with “sexy”, then it should be alright in some context…



Right, Darwin said adaptable.

This is not completely accurate.

[i]“The expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient.”

Charles Darwin, Theory of Evolution by Natural Nelection. [Dont have page,line] (1809-1882)[/i]

Darwin actually used survival of the fittest, however, he was confused as to the meaning behind the words.

It would be better to find the Darwin quote.

What do you mean? Those are Darwin’s words, right out of Theory of Evolution by Natural Nelection. I dont have the book anywhere near me at the moment, (At work) so I cant really give you the reference page…

that’s not entirely true

the ‘fittest’ is in fact the one who can make sure the most copies of his genes are spread
it’s often interpretated as: the individual who can produce the most fertile children
→ explains the existance of species like certain insects who don’t live long at all… they grow, become adult, reproduce and die, those last stages sometimes happen in one single day

what to say of bees? most of the individuals there don’t reproduce…

their genes are spread through having more sisters more efficiëntly than through having more children,
thus they help their mother raise their sisters
this system gives them the highest ‘fitness’ in the neo-darwinistic approach, the selfish gene

and yes, i’ve had an exam on this recently :wink:


Misconception 1: Darwin never used the term ‘survival of the fittest’. It was coined by a 20th century biologist and has since been dismissed.

The term ‘fit’ actually means ‘the organism best suited to its environment’.

This is why only an idiot would consider thinking of Homo sapiens being in any way ‘better’ than any other species on the planet. We may be able to built cars but i doubt that there’s anybody on this forum capable of swimming as fast as a dolphin of climbing a tree at the same speed as a chimp. Maybe one of you is able to see in the dark using your ears?

Thought not. So, does this mean that these animals are all ‘better’ than humans then? No. They are simply better suited to their environments.

Something else I’ve picked up on is that this forum seems to be a hiding place for groups usually referred to as ‘Nazi F**kheads’.

I can’t believe that in modern society people still believe in races. Race is a pure cultural construct. How do we defing race? Let’s try skin colour. I have blonde hair and pale skin, does this make me a different race to my friend with more of a suntan? No.

Ok, so how about country of birth? I was born in England but my younger sister was born in Singapore, are we different races? No.

Body morphology? I’m 6 foot 5 and muscular (university swimmer) but have a housemate who is about 5 feet tall. We’re not different races. He has different shaped eyes to me and yet we both tick the ‘White British’ box on passport forms.

Religion anybody? I was christened C of E but am a self declared atheist. A friend of mine is a practicing buddhist, are we different races? No.

This is the reason the word ‘race’ will not feature on the US census after 2010, it exists only in the minds of those insecure enough to want to belive they are in any way better than others.

Sorry, I’ve finished my rant now, I just get so angry when people throw around terms of which they have little understanding.

Right Wicca, most scientists have debunked the concept of race, as humans have the same chromosone structure, can mate and produce children regardless of skin color. Granted, there are some diseases that run in certain groups, high blood pressure, kidney disease, etc., but were are all homo sapien.

Hum, your name is Wicca, but you claim to be atheist. Are you Wiccan? If so, can you provide insight?

Sorry, I’m not wiccan. I just thought it might be fun to have a slightly contraversial name for a while. I have to admit I’m depressingly ignorant when it comes to pagan beliefs. It’s not something I’ve ever really found a huge amount of information on.

Hey, nothing to be sorry about, keep on posting. Chuckle, the older I become, and the more I learn and read, the more ignorant I feel.



EDIT: turns out i already said this before in this thread
must be an old one… :stuck_out_tongue:
sorry about that :slight_smile:



but in reality, an organism’s ‘fitness’ is the answer to the question that asks
how many fertile children you can produce

in other words, being fit has everything to do with your offspring

there is surely a link to being suited for the environment, but that’s not what fitness really is (in the biological sense)]

yes, evolution is due to offspring. An animal must reproduce successfully, not survive, in order to pass on its genes.

Take one of the ‘birds of paradise’ (relying on plumage to attract a mate) if a bird lost its excessive plumage and thus become a more effiecient flier, stronger, fitter and more able to avoid predators. It is ‘fitter’ from many viewpoints but an evoluntionary dud if it can’t mate.

the difference between what wicca and i said is that he more or less worded what darwin said, while i see these things from the neo-darwinistic perspective