Survival of the Fittest

We all know the expression “survival of the fittest” which Herbert Spencer coined, more for its use in social discussions than for its inaccurate usage in natural selection.

In natural selection, the better expression is “propagation of the most fertile.” That’s more faithful to Darwin’s finding and theory. It’s the subsequent generations of the most fertile that benefit by increasing numbers, rather than the current member being lifted in non-procreative life aspects.

John Rockefeller said, “The growth of a large business is merely a survival of the fittest…the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.”

This is a great example of the slippery language of cloaking one’s desires as the result of science. It’s slippery language because the survival relates to more descendants, not to perfection of the individual.

It’s worth substituting “propagation of the most fertile” in place of “survival of the fittest” to see if the casual conversational use retains truth along with any vigor.

Rockefeller is making claims about an existing business but the evolutionary analogy relates to descendants, not the original ancestor. The substance of Rockefeller’s quote becomes, “The growth of a large business is merely the propagation of the most fertile … ” which makes no sense as an analogy.

Science Thinking in Daily Life