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Is Survival of the fittest a Paradox?

  1. Feb 18, 2008 #1
    How do we measure a species' fittness? Is it not that me measure their fittness by their ability to survive? And what contributes to its survival? Well it's fittness? I don't know if this is just a load of rubbish, but it would be interesting to know what people think of this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2008 #2
    I think that intelligence and also blind luck have a lot to do with survival
    but if you have enhanced senses, the ability to see hear smell better than other people do, and enhanced physical abilities- ie fitness- than I think that would also highly help a species to survive.

    I don't know how you would measure "fitness" maybe by the muscular strength of a creature and by it's speed and other physical attributes like that
  4. Feb 18, 2008 #3
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  5. Feb 18, 2008 #4


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    Fitness is indeed ultimately defined by that which can reproduce its species. It is not limited to strength or anything else. Indeed, the point is that a creature mi8ght have one or many of an almost unlimited toolset of survival techniques.

    The key element is that there must be pressure , be it in the form of predation or competition for limited resources or other. In an ideal eden where there is no pressure to survive, there is no selection process.

    It is important to note that 'survival of the fittest' was a mechanism proposed in the very early days of evolutionary theory, when it was speculated that individuals of a species evolved merely due to their fitness/unfitness. This has been shown to be only one (relatively minor) factor in evolution. This was in the days before the science of genetics and mutation theory.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2008
  6. Feb 18, 2008 #5


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    And the main thing is that it's survival of the species rather than the individual that matters, over a very long period of time. A 'wounded duck' leading a predator away from her nest might very well get eaten for her trouble. That's not really great for her own survival, but gives the kids a chance to get out and party.

    edit: Hi, Dave. You sneaked in on me again.
  7. Feb 18, 2008 #6
    "Survival of the fittest" is an outdated conversational term that has been replaced by natural selection. It is also not fundamentally about the survival, but differential reproductive rate and "fit" in this context does not mean "strongest".

    The only area where the term could have any relevance today is in artificial selection, where the fittest are the ones that survive, and the fittest are defined as "whatever type the artificial selector wants" when breeding dogs or cows etc.

    Now we are getting into multiple-level selection theory. Being a gene selectionist myself, I'm not sure how valid that kind of group selection thinking is. Although it might be other forms of selection in disguise. Who knows.
  8. Feb 18, 2008 #7
    No, it's not a paradox. At worst, it can be argued to 'beg the question' (conclusion is presumed in the premise), or be reduced to a tautology - empirically untestable truth by definition, like "a bachelor is an unmarried man". In other words, the notion of survival can be analytically derived from the notion of "fittest" without any need to go to the Galapagos to make any observations.

    Even so, this is really a word game employed by creationists to attack the theory of evolution. It's really like arguing that the coin toss is not really random, as you can certainly predict the outcome if you put sensitive enough equipment to measure the force of the throw and other initial conditions. Well, yeah, but I still call the coin toss random simply because I don't have that equipment, I'm just making a pragmatic distinction. The same goes for the survival of the fittest. Well, yes, you can technically accuse me of begging the question, but I'm simply making a shortcut in the word game to bypass a more elaborate statement which would have to describe how mutations and variations affect phenotype, which in its turn affects the number of offsprings it produces.

  9. Feb 18, 2008 #8


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    I'm afraid that I've never actually heard of that specialization. (I don't get out much. :redface:) I'm guessing that it's a sub-topic of genetics in general, but I don't know what it means. What is it that you do? Pre-partum genetic screening?
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