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Secular Science and Survival

QUESTION: Secular Science and the Struggle for Existence and Survival


Inherent in natural selection is the notion that those life forms best equipped to survive will win the struggle for existence. This explains why living organisms have become better equipped to survive as time passes. Corliss Lamont, explains, “The processes of natural selection and survival of the fittest, with the many mutations that occur over hundreds of millions of years, adequately account for the origin and development of the species.”1

However, some Humanists are more cautious than Lamont about expressing their views on “survival of the fittest.” That is because of the ethical implications: the only moral good becomes survival. Survival of the fittest is bloodthirsty; it does not care for the weak or the poor. As one would expect, survival of the fittest became the framework for both Engels’ Marxism and Hitler’s Aryan policies.2

Secular Science – Survival of the Fittest
There is also another problem with survival of the fittest. Asimov describes it this way: “In the first place, the phrase ‘the survival of the fittest’ is not an illuminating one. It implies that those who survive are the ‘fittest,’ but what is meant by ‘fittest’? Why, those are ‘fittest’ who survive. This is an argument in a circle.”3 In other words, when you say “survival of the fittest,” you really aren’t saying anything of consequence. It is a tautology—an explanation that includes its own definition.

Obviously, Humanists would like to avoid discussing the struggle for existence whenever possible—but at the same time, there is a need to explain natural selection as a mechanism for evolution, so it seems they are stuck with it.


Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism, rev. ed. (New York, NY: Frederick Ungar, [1949] 1982), 120. For the counter point on whether or not mutations can carry Darwin’s theory see Stephen C. Meyer, “The Origin of the Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories” in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (August 28, 2004).

2 See Richard Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (New York, NY: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2004).

3 Isaac Asimov, The Wellsprings of Life (London, UK: Abelard-Schuman, 1960), 57.

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