Survival Of The Fitters

A common misunderstanding is to quote Charles Darwin for introducing the concept of survival of the fittest. In fact, he meant survival of the fitters.

(I don't have a source for this statement. Maybe one of you can supply a reference?)


Wasn't it something along the lines of: not the fastest, not the strongest, but the best able to adapt to change?

ExtremeProgramming is SurvivalOfTheFitters.


The modern synthesis and the ongoing debate over details are so widely misunderstood in general that you could easily spend all day every day correcting misconceptions, misunderstandings, and miswordings on the topic of evolution. Every popularizer and/or basic textbook that I've ever read on the topic is riddled with mistakes. 99.9% of TV, web, magazine, and newspaper articles fall in this category, too. Even many biology professionals routinely misuse terms and ideas in their text. -- MichaelHill


I'll volunteer the Dumb Question: What exactly is meant by "fitters"? Those who are more fit?
More fit ... okay, not the fittest because that would be just the "top one" ... but the fitters because that would be the upper section. Is this right?

If this is what is meant, then yes I can see it. Perhaps I'll start using "fitters" instead of "fittest" ... but I don't think that I'll bother correcting anyone else. My understanding of the subject matter already encompassed the more correct meaning, in spite of the imprecision of the words with which it had been expressed to me .... I'm guessing this to be true of others as well. -- EricHerman


As StephenJayGould often points out, "Survival of the fittest", (which Darwin never used) is a semantically empty term. If you take being "fit" as "being best able to survive" then the phrase amounts to "survival of those able to survive". -- KyleBrown


I took "fitters" to mean "those who practice the act of fitting". That, at least, has some semantic meaning. -- PhilGoodwin

As in "the act of fitting a niche", right?

Yes, that's how I read it, too. As implied by "not the fastest, not the strongest, but the best able to adapt to change" above. It makes perfect sense to me: if you are able to fit a particular niche precisely, and the niche itself changes for whatever reason, then your continuing survival is based on your ability to adapt yourself to fit the new form of the niche (or a different one entirely). For example, the "Y2K Consultant" niche will probably be closing up pretty soon.

''But many species (and individuals) survive not because they *can* adapt, but because they *are adapted already*. Perhaps the phrase needs to be reversed - death of the unfit?

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