Why Survival of the Fittest is a Bad Concept

Survival of the Fittest Ignores Two Huge Factors in Life

Why Survival of the Fittest is a Bad Concept

Have you ever watched any of those wildlife shows on TV where they show two males of a species battling it out to have the right to mate with all the females? The announcer dutifully informs the viewers how this ferocious battle ensures the survival of the species as the strongest male who wins can then pass along his superior genes to future generations.

What total nonsense that is. It's total nonsense because it completely ignores both luck and randomness in life. The winning male in the battle is just as likely to be there to fight and to win the battle due to luck or randomness as he is to any superior fitness he has over his competitors.

Why Survival of the Fittest is a Bad Concept

To illustrate the magnitude of luck and randomness in life I'll use the king of the jungle (really savanna) the lion. In theory, the most superior lion defeats all rivals and then mates with all the females in a pride to pass along his superior genes.

In reality, it is the luckiest lion that mates with the females and passes along his genes, superior or not. A magnificent lion with superior genes can and does encounter many random events that can and do prevent him from passing along his genes.

The superior lion can accidentally step into a hidden hole in the ground and break his foot. A male lion with a broken foot is obviously vulnerable to another male lion who is much inferior to him. The inferior male can defeat a superior rival with a broken foot in battle or if he is smart simply wait out the natural process that occurs to a lion with a broken foot.

A superior lion can also get kicked in the jaw by a zebra while trying to kill the zebra and a lion with a broken jaw has less chance of survival than a lion with a broken foot. Again, the injured superior lion can then be defeated one way or another by an inferior rival who then mates with all the females and passes along his inferior genes.

A superior lion is also subject to the randomness of mother nature. He may have defeated all his rivals in battle but a severe drought in his territory can drive away all the game and without food he becomes weak and vulnerable to any inferior rival from an area where there is no drought. Likewise, brush fires can also ruin a superior lions territory and drive away all the game and make him vulnerable to inferior lions.

A superior lion who acts alone, as a superior lion always would, is also vulnerable to male lions who work together. Two inferior male lions who are brothers who could never defeat the superior male lion separately can team up and defeat a superior lone lion without too much trouble if they act together. One lion can distract the superior lion while his brother rushes in and delivers a devastating bite to the superior lions leg thus rendering him not too superior anymore.

The brother lions can then easily defeat the injured male lion and then they mate with the females in the pride even though individually each was far inferior in battle to the superior male lion. So the inferior male lions are the ones passing along their genes in that scenario.

In another scenario showing how luck or randomness effects a superior lion, in older times the king of a tribe of humans decides he wants the largest lion pelt he can get and tells his warriors to kill the superior lion. The superior lion may kill a few of the warriors sent to kill him but eventually the warriors will kill the lion and another inferior lion will then come along and mate with all the females.

In more modern times, a hunter like Teddy Roosevelt could randomly come along upon the unlucky superior lion and just shoot him dead and have him stuffed and put on display. Again, another inferior lion who was lucky would then come along and breed with the females passing along his inferior genes.

You see how foolish the idea of survival of the fittest really is? Any idea or theory that does not take into account the roles of luck and randomness in life is simply incorrect.

wild animals
Joe Dorish
Joe Dorish
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Joe Dorish

Joe Dorish is a native New Yorker who has traveled to all 50 states and beyond.

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