Some Methodological Criticisms of Darwin’s Theory

Part of the The University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 47)


The Principle of Natural Selection, (T12), is the central thesis of Darwin’s theory of the evolution of the species by natural selection. The whole theory has, however, been subject to a great deal of misunderstanding. To be sure, our reading of Darwin’s argument is a common one among biologists. For example, the central structure that we have found there is essentially the same as that found by Sir Julian Huxley,1 though, because it is more to our purposes than Sir Julian’s, we have been far more explicit than he on details of logical structure, of confirmation and evidential support, and of explanatory connections. On the other hand, one of today’s leading biologists takes quite a different view of the theory:

The meaning of natural selection can be epigrammatically summarized as ‘the survival of the fittest’. Here ‘survival’ does not, of course, mean the bodily advance of a single individual, outliving Methuselah. It implies, in its present-day interpretation, perpetuation as a source for future generations. That individual ‘survives’ best which leaves the most offspring. Again, to speak of an animal as ‘fittest’ does not necessarily imply that it is strongest or mosy healthy, or would win a beauty competition. Essentially it denotes nothing more than leaving most offspring. The general principle of natural selection, in fact, merely amounts to the statement that the individuals which leave most offspring are those which leave most offspring. It is a tautology.2


Natural Selection Actual Survival Reasonable Expectation Methodological Criticism Existential Quantifier 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of TorontoCanada

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