Science and God: The Survival of Fittest

            If we are to arrive at the truth regarding this natural world and our place in it, if we are to discover evidences that point toward ultimate purpose and meaning in life, then we will have to approach the current fact-based data produced through the modern scientific enterprise today…with an open mind. 

            But getting free of past biases and prejudices is difficult.

            There are things in our worldviews that we take totally for granted, that we cannot even see as issues that we need to dig a little deeper into.

            One such issue within the Darwinian story is the survival of the fittest.

            Survival of the fittest is one of the important components in the argument for the mindless and undirected processes of macroevolution through mutation/selection…that Darwin postulated to produce the vast diversity of life on earth

            But the concept of the survival of the fittest as articulated by evolutionists has been criticized as being merely only a tautology…of being a circular argument devoid of telling us anything useful.   

            The survival of the fittest concept within the Darwinian story says that the fittest is defined as those organisms that produce the most offspring…those organisms producing the most offspring being the fittest.  This is a circular re-statement telling us nothing except X = X…a tautology.[1] 

            The larger question is why did Charles Darwin enlist and integrate this obvious phenomenon of the survival of the fittest in the living world into his theory for macroevolution?

            And why has countless philosophical materialists after Darwin adopted survival of the fittest as an argument in favor of macroevolution, when this concept is saturated with the directional trajectories of purpose aimed at definitive outcomes…in a materialistic universe supposedly devoid of purpose and meaning?

            Darwin enlists this concept of the survival of the fittest into his theory for the origin of the vast biodiversity of life on earth, without first questioning how and where this incredibly innovative idea would originate from. 

            Darwin placed it in the column of random and undirected cause/effect explanations…seemingly without giving it much thought.

            If Darwinian macroevolution uncritically adopts into its theory the notion of the survival of the fittest, which is universally apparent in the natural world…then how and why would a blind Mother Nature be the originator of this very strange reality?

            In my opinion, this has to be one of the worst cases of taking things for granted, in the history of human thought. 

            This has to be one of the worst examples of critically unexamined evidences…in the marketplace of ideas.

            In a random and undirected reality created by a blind and indifferent Mother Nature, produced solely through materialistic causations…how would the balanced predator/prey relationships in the natural living world arise by accident? 

            By a process of accidental happenstance, how would these relationships become so coherently integrated into an exceedingly complex biodiversity and an independent system of equally complex ecological niches?

            How and why would some creatures eat plants, and other creatures eat each other…in a natural living world so coordinated that it shouts-out for intelligent design and not self-assembly through accidental chance?    

            After the publication in 1859 of The Origin of Species, the new Darwinists did not “bat an eye” over the idea that the survival of the fittest…the fight for survival…could be a reality originating solely from a naturalistic explanation instead of coming from intelligent agency.

            But the clear question should hit us in the face…as to how matter-and-energy alone could invent such a reality?

            Darwin enlisted this reality of the survival of the fittest as the motivating fuel behind the mutation/selection process to produce the vast diversity of life…but the fight for survival is overflowing with directional purpose…purpose supposedly being left-out of pure science.

            The function of fighting for survival is nothing if not purpose-driven.

            If we are looking for a blind, mindless, unguided, indifferent to outcomes, trial-and-error, and purpose-free program to fuel the naturalistic mechanism in support of the theory of macroevolution…the very last thing we should choose is the purpose-saturated concept of the survival of the fittest. 

            The argument here is that Darwin actually goes against the Francis Bacon imperative of leaving purpose out of the scientific method, in adopting the survival of the fittest as one of the central planks in his theory of macroevolution.  The idea that survival pressures would naturally push organisms towards ever improving function is an idea saturated with directional purpose.

Methodological materialism

            In 1859, the obvious go-to default choice would be to side with a program that fits within a naturalistic worldview, in conformity to the direction that all other scientific discoveries appeared to be heading through the research format of methodological materialism. 

            This is a lengthy term that merely describes the generally accepted methodology of science focusing upon matter-and-energy explanations of phenomena in the natural world. 

            The irony here is that science cannot divorce raw data from purpose.  Methodological materialism cannot operate within a purpose-free zone.  

            Science requires skeletal explanatory frameworks to connect the dots of specific data, to formulate hypotheses that have meaning.

            The concept of the survival of the fittest appears to be a critical piece of data that has been mistakenly placed within the wrong hypothesis of naturalistic materialism, when it should rightly be placed within the skeletal explanatory framework of theistic creative agency.

            Darwin could not possibly peer into the future to see that modern science would eventually discover complex, highly specified, and coherently integrated systems of information everywhere in biological life.

            One of the contentions of this book is that the intelligently designed mechanisms in living cells incorporate the on/off switches of gene regulatory networks that correctly explain the gradually increasing number of different cell types. 

            This then produces new architectural body-plans within a program of common descent over time.

            The intelligently planned release of genetic information contained within living cells, more plausibly replaces the component of the survival of the fittest married to mutation/selection as the prime motivating force behind the vast diversity of life.

            The concept of the survival of the fittest needs to be looked at a little more deeply, as something that does not fit smoothly within a naturalistic program, but rather is plausibly explainable only through the creative intelligence of a mind.

From the book Pondering Our Creation: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.


[1] Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial, 3rd Edition (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2010), 39-43.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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