Evolution - The Survival Of The Fittest
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
This apt phrase of Herbert Spencer is very appropriate when we are certain each time the term is used what is meant by "the fittest." As ordinarily used, it means that the species or individuals best adapted to "the struggle for life" are likely to survive for a time those which are less adapted to the conditions of any particular environment. It does not usually mean that the intelligently fit, or the morally fit, or the ethically fit, survive in every conflict. On the contrary, the fittest in strength, in cunning, in unscrupulousness, frequently survive just because of their low development.
For instance, judging by their usefulness to mankind, a cow or a sheep is more "fit" to survive than a tiger. But the facts are that if the conditions of struggle are left entirely to the animals, the tiger will survive, and further-more, he will survive just as soon as he can possibly kill the cow or the sheep.
But since man appeared upon the scene of conflict, the conditions have gradually changed. Man has decided the relative fitness of these species. He has cultivated the species which were useful to him and exterminated those which he considered harmful. Contrast the number of sheep which survive, with the number of tigers. A different standard of fitness has been inaugurated. For many centuries a tiger was "fit" and usually able to kill and eat a man, but now, armed with modern weapons, there is no question about man's being the "fittest."
However, in considering this topic, we will take the facts in the order of nature : First, the fittest to survive according to the conditions of each conflict without man's interference and without considering any moral or ethical standard but the animal's.
Naturalists and others have been very much disturbed over the fact that so many more of each species are produced than survive. They have been perplexed over "the moral indifference of nature" and "the unfathomable injustice of the nature of things." This distress exists because they do not see enough of nature and do not perceive the purpose conserved by the infinitude of life.
Nature is not hostile to life. After ages of "The Struggle for Existence" and "The Survival of the Fittest" so-called, there is no diminution of life even in its weakest physical forms, nor is there lack of sustenance for life. Malthusianism is based upon such a small proportion of the actual facts that it is superficial as a theory and inadequate as a basis for a philosophy.
Certainly no forms of life are permanent and there are many reasons why we should be glad that this is so. The lamentations of evolutionists are very inconsistent. A further understanding of the principle and its results reveals that the actual evolution is worthy and satisfactory. The past readings of nature's processes have been unsatisfactory because of limited observations of the ends actually attained. Nature's justification may be found in nature.
A succession of harvests is necessary to sustain the human race. Nevertheless, "harvests" mean the use of lower life forms and the "death" of some to preserve others. Regular harvests gathered by human hands are not different in their essential features from the apparently irregular harvests gathered by nature's processes in every department. Any prolonging or perpetuating of plant and animal life would be very unfortunate, to say the least. Suppose that no "crops" were gathered, no animals slain and eaten or otherwise disposed of, what would become of any future harvest, any possibility of better and greater results? What would become of plant life, of animal life, of human life?
It is impossible to answer these questions, of course, because we cannot comprehend even the present process, and it is entirely beyond our abilities to think of what the first forms would have become by this time, if there had been no "death." If death had not removed preceding generations we would never have been born, for long ago there would have been no vacant place to live. Is there one who would take the responsibility of abolishing death now, if he could?
If our predecessors had had the power to prolong their lives and abolish death, they would have completely altered nature's plan. But this is unthinkable. Birth and death are the two doors of this plane of existence, the entrance and the exit. Death is a part of life, a necessary result and sequence according to the prevailing and unalterable plan.
Reflection will show that the number of births regularly determines the number of deaths. Also the number of deaths regulates the number of new forms which can find place and accommodations on our small planet. If births are to continue, deaths must continue. Each generation uses this earth and its various conditions and opportunities long enough to accomplish about all it could accomplish here and then passes on, while another generation takes its place with some greater advantages and possibilities. That is Evolution. In other words, to sum up, Evolution is a method of individual and universal progress, in spite of apparent variations, and death is a necessary factor and an essential part of the process.
"Surviving" is a doubtful blessing, if one at all. The element of time between birth and death is over-estimated in importance many times. Length of life is not always desirable from the highest standpoint. Early death is not necessarily an unmitigated misfortune nor a gross injustice. In fact, viewing life as a whole with its many relations and mutually dependent parts, it is no greater misfortune for animals to be eaten while young than it is for early corn. No one hesitates about the latter. In view of nature's inexhaustible resources, is there any reason why animal life should be considered any more sacred than plant life?
Even great and good men might finally obstruct the development of the younger generation. The tendency of the old to be reconciled to present attainments and opposed to innovations, is a matter of universal noting. It is evident that each generation needs to face life's problems anew and attempt to solve them afresh. Each individual needs to assume the responsibility for the solution just as though he were the only one who had ever attempted it.
There is an "infinity" of Life just as truly as the other great infinities, Time and Space. There is an "infinite" variety of every species. In fact nearly everything is "infinite" compared with our understanding.
In Nature's processes the same material elements are used many times in various stages of development and refinement. Very probably the same ethereal elements have many incarnations. If not, they need not be considered as destroyed but rather as returned to their original sources after having passed through a process of possible refinement, just as truly as the material elements return to original or non-individualized states.
The effort of all life to sustain itself is a foundation principle upon which depends the success of the whole earth life and its possible developments. This necessitates the use of other forms as food. Although there are exceptions, in general the seeming loss of each lower form enables a higher to succeed.
As a matter of fact, all forms of life sustain a valuable relation to the whole of life. All forms of life accomplish some measure of the grand, inclusive, ultimate purpose. Nature's ethereal life elements serve part of this purpose by assembling materials for vegetable and animal forms. Thus matter is refined, through a natural process, for the use of higher forms. Though "death" is a part of the process, the materials thus assembled, refined and vitalized with a higher element, are used to sustain a higher life. "Death" releases the life elements which assembled, integrated and vitalized the material elements.
O, if it were only possible to "see life and to see it whole." Watch the rapid transformations as briefly noted in the following word panorama of Life on the Ascending Scale, one sentence given to each degree.