Saturday, November 24, 2007
Who are the fittest?
On November 24, this day, in 1859 Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published his famous book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." His theory of evolution was also known as the 'survival of the fittest.' In this book he wrote:
As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.
Thus, a human being is constantly evolving, developing. In this struggle or evolutionary process, only the so-called 'fittest' will survive. This theory, in my opinion, was the precursor of Nietzsche's philosophy on the 'Übermensch' (the Superhero). It was also an outspring of the Renaissance/Enlightenment theory about the human being and the vast human potential.
However, the 'survival of the fittest' is also a dangerous theory. At a given time in a society we have those who are at a disadvantage in this struggle. Racial minorities are the first group. Does that mean that they are rendered to extinction and the white race is destined to survive? Who are the 'favored races' in this evolutionary process-- those who are in power or those who are the most intelligent? All I am saying is that while it is true that this struggle and the inner ability of the human being to survive in this struggle will determine the future of humankind, it is also true that this theory leaves those disadvantaged groups at the mercy of the 'fittest.' Therefore, I think the Darwinian theory, while unfortunately, realistic, is also cruel and unacceptable in a humane society.
I would hope that those who are able to survive would also have the inner morality and compassion to embrace those who were weaker and share their fortunes with them!